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Audio Resources, Services, and Reference

[Safe Noise Levels]
[Test Tones]
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Resources for Life offers ‘Audio Services’ to assist people with existing home audio systems as well as help with purchasing a new audio system for your home or office. So, we work with the niche market of ‘non-invasive audio systems’ at somewhat lower prices.

On-Site Demo Service

When listening to an audio system in a store, it’s hard to imagine how it will sound at home. So our o-site demo service is really helpful.

Once we know your general budget for a sound system we can bring a demo system out for you to listen to. It will be what we consider the best in that price range. See suggested systems listed below. To save time, we don’t present you with multiple systems in the same price range with similar sound. Instead, we pre-select best-in-class equipment and all you need to decide is if it meets your needs. When it’s time to purchase we let you buy directly from your preferred vendor (such as Best Buy or Amazon).

For those who are undecided on what system to choose, we can provide in-home comparisons. This can be helpful when trying to establish a ‘right sized’ system for your space. Some speakers are better suited to certain spaces so a comparison is helpful. We have much of the equipment necessary for side-by-side comparisons, and some demo speakers in our inventory, but for more options you may need to purchase speakers directly from online or local vendors and make use of the 30-day return policy in order to perform in-home comparisons with our assistance.

What We Don’t Do

The systems we recommend are exceptional and we believe will rival anything costing much more. If you’re purely interested in great sound at an excellent value, we can help.

However, if you’re interested in speakers based on how they look, and wanting them to fit in with a certain decor, or wanting a certain kind of wood finish on the speakers, we don’t really do that, but could offer some recommendations of where you can get help. The speakers we demo typically come in black although sometimes wood grain is available.

We do not perform larger installations in restaurants, homes, offices, or businesses, and don’t offer installation of in-wall or in-ceiling systems. We don’t provide wall-mounting of large televisions. We only work with smaller audio systems and televisions that people can basically setup and move on their own. If you’re looking for a larger commercial installation, we can offer some recommendations.

Our goal is to provide the training and assistance needed so you can be independent in the future if ever needing to expand your system or move it to another room.

Music With a Purpose

In addition to assembling very impactful and engaging sound system, we help customers discover Music With a Purpose by suggesting new music and playlists for exercise, relaxation, efficient work, creativity, or rejuvenation. Listening to high quality music on a high-end sound system can really have a positive physiological impact on a person’s body and mind. Listening to flute music, piano music, or sounds of nature accurately reproduced on a quality sound system can really take you to a mindset of deep relaxation.

A Lasting Investment

It’s not uncommon to spend $1,000 or more on a computer or high-end smartphone. In two or three years, it needs to be replaced. With computers and mobile devices, it seems like a person is constantly installing updates and old software quickly becomes obsolete. Many of the services we rely on require subscriptions. However, with music, content is readily available for free. A stereo system doesn’t need new software, monthly subscriptions, or weekly upgrades. It’s an investment that should last many years.

Education and Reference

Audio General Resources

  • Audio Frequency – This Wikipedia page offers information about different audio frequencies with some examples of instruments.
  • Audio Spectrum Explained – This is a helpful article that explains the audio spectrum in detail. Sample sine wave audio examples are provided.
  • Dolby Digital – This Q&A PDF document about Dolby audio is helpful. Visit Dolby.io to learn more.
  • Subwoofers – An article about subwoofers.
  • Tom Nousaine (1945 – 2014) – Remembering One of the Most Controversial Audio Writers of All Time. Article by Brent Butterworth. Updated October 18, 2016.

Audio Equipment Terminology

  • SPDIF – This a digital audio cable standard also known as the Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format. It is a common input on receivers and output on televisions and video components either using a coaxial cable with RCA connectors or a fiber optic cable with TOSLINK (Toshiba Link) connectors. An AV receiver can decode two channels of uncompressed lossless PCM audio or compressed 5.1/7.1 surround sound such as Dolby Digital Plus. Something that can cause some initial frustration or confusion is when a two-channel amplifier has SPDIF inputs (fiber and coax RCA) and then someone connects a Dolby 5.1 surround signal. The amp probably isn’t able to decode the Dolby so it just makes static. A Toslink to analog adapter is needed.

Audio Fidelity Terminology

Here are a few links offering a glossary of terms people use to describe audio. This list is ordered according to the source of the material.

  • AudiophileOn.com – “How to Describe Sound – An Audiophile Terminology Guide”
  • Head-Fi.org – “Describing Sound – A Glossary” (forum discussion)
  • Stereophile.com – “Sounds Like? An Audio Glossary Glossary”

Audio Standards Terminology

  • Dolby – Dolby pioneered the creation of cinema sound technology, from stereo to surround sound.
  • Dolby.io -“Experience Dolby-quality sound in your apps through the power of Dolby Voice®, an award-winning audio communications technology backed by decades of science and innovation. Dolby Voice® includes spatial audio, noise suppression, and dynamic audio leveling capabilities that are available in the Dolby.io Communications APIs — out-of-the-box — making it easier than ever to give your users a high-quality voice experience they’ll love.” 
  • THX – THX Certified Receivers deliver the exact volume level used in the mix room by the sound designers ensuring that you hear exactly what the sound engineers and artists heard at the time of production.
    • “THX is almost a quarter century old, and its Consumer Branch has been around since 1990, yet people still do not have a proper understanding of THX. Maybe that’s THX’s fault, maybe it’s ours (the press), maybe it’s the sales people’s at the local A/V store. Probably, it is a combination of all three, so we’re going to at least do our part and tender to you, our readers, this explanatory article.” (Source: HomeTheaterHiFi.com, Brian Florian, 30 Nov 2007)
    • “Reference level is a calibrated volume setting used for both movie production (in dubbing stages and post production houses) and reproduction (in screening rooms and theaters). The human hearing system is non-linear, especially in the bass, so having a consistent playback level – a reference – is critical if the mix is to translate from one production house to another and audiences are to hear the director’s intent in terms of the balance in the soundtrack between dialog, effects and ambiance.” (Source: THX reference level explained, Acoustic Frontiers, 18 Mar 2013)

Audio Testing – Speakers

  • Auditioning Loudspeakers” – Excerpt: “There are a few inescapable guidelines for auditioning loudspeakers. It’s not snobbery or merely tradition that orchestral music is used as a first choice. It’s because full orchestra, with dozens of musicians, concert hall reverberations, wide swings of loud & soft, and complex textures will challenge a speaker’s ability to resolve all the dense layers, dynamic range, and fine details present. Resolution is a distinguishing characteristic of quality. Many speakers get bogged down when asked to reproduce full orchestra. Solo piano is also a very revealing instrument. Distortion and tonal balance are quickly and decisively perceived with the piano, as well as transients, dynamics, and bass definition. Next in line is vocal music. For checking vocals, A Cappella S.A.T.B. (unaccompanied Soprano – Alto – Tenor – Bass) is recommended. This covers all the vocal ranges and will clearly demonstrate a speaker’s ability to render delicate tonality, diction, the unique timbres of individual voices, and the critical balance from mid-bass through upper midrange without the added distraction of other instruments. Percussion is good for checking dynamics, transients, and detail resolution. Of course, all this assumes good recordings. Try to select acoustic recordings made with a minimal amount of processing—simple, unmixed, unequalized, 2-microphone recordings.”
  • How to Audition Speakers” — Excerpt: “… if you’re prepared to accept ‘accuracy’ as the loudspeaker ideal, you should find the following helpful in finding speakers that exemplify it. Accuracy in this case can be defined as reproducing the nuances of tonality, dynamics, and ambience in the original recording with as little change as possible, over as broad a useful frequency range as possible, within the relevant constraints of cost and size. Of course, this definition is circular, because how can you know what the recording ‘sounds like’ until you play it back on some speakers?”
  • How to Listen to and Compare Loudspeakers in a Retail Store” — Excerpt: “Shopping for speakers can be a daunting experience for newcomers to home theater, and even some veterans for that matter. There are a myriad of brands, styles, price points, and plenty of people willing to give their opinions. For many, the most exciting part of shopping for speakers is sitting down and demoing them. We have to agree. Unfortunately, walking into a HiFi shop and asking to listen to some speakers probably won’t get you very far. Sure, the sales person will be happy to crank up some Pink Floyd from their iPod to ear bleeding volume levels and ask if it is the most amazing thing you have ever heard (yes, this happens quite often), but how do you know what you are hearing is because of the speakers and not the receiver, room, iPod, etc… A few months ago I purchased new speakers for my 2 channel system. The first time I went in to listen to the speakers I eventually purchased, I thought they sounded awful. Why? They were setup completely wrong in the demo room.”
  • Pink Noise Versus White Noise” – Excerpt: “So it’s not that pink noise is calibrated to the human ear’s frequency response per se. It’s just calibrated to how we hear, which is very well grounded in math. Each time the frequency doubles we hear that as an octave. From one octave to the next we expect to hear an appropriate amount of sound energy (depending upon the program material), which is why we calibrate our audio systems to pink noise.”
  • Test your speakers like a Cambridge Audio Engineer” — Excerpt: “Whether you’re new to the speaker game or been living and breathing Hi-Fi since inside the womb, you don’t buy a new audio product without putting it through its paces. So what are the best songs to test your speakers with? There’s no definitive answer, but we can let you in on what our engineers use for the seismically important final tuning of our products. Whether it’s a classic Hi-Fi test track, or the song you recognise in the first millisecond it’s as familiar to you as your own heartbeat, everyone’s got an opinion on which tracks help you check the quality of any audio equipment.  And quite simply, no one is wrong. The best test will always be a song you are familiar with and have heard in as high a resolution format as possible so you’ll hear where the performance excels and/or misses a trick.”

Reference and Research Materials

System Inventory

The following is a list of selected components and speakers for auditioning equipment.






Testing Resources

Test Tones and Frequencies

For learning more about tones and frequencies, refer to “Audio Test Tones – Frequencies, White Noise, Pink Noise.”


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Below are some recent audio related articles. Scroll further down for additional resources and reference materials.


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Audio System Suggested Configurations

Stereo systems with left and right audio, called two channel systems, are ideally suited for listening to music. A subwoofer can be added for fuller low frequency sounds. This is then considered a 2.1 system meaning two front speakers and a subwoofer, but the basic function is still to provide left and right stereo sound. These systems can also work for enhanced viewing of movies and television programming. For enhanced audio and better viewing experience, AV systems have two front speakers, two rear speakers, a center speaker, and a subwoofer. This produces an experience similar to watching a movie in a theater with deep bass and sound all around you. Below are some suggested stereo system configurations ranging in price from $340 to about $1,500. More powerful systems can be custom configured using the components listed further down on this page.

2.0 and 2.1 Channel Stereo Systems

It’s common in a home to have a nice two-channel audio system in a work area or the space where you spend most time. It’s possible to listen to music while exercising or working at a desk. Most of the time, our music source is a smartphone or computer. So, having bluetooth connectivity makes things simple. Here are some possible configurations. These configuration assume there will be no CD, LP, or DVD players, but a simple stereo system connected to existing sound sources. You can combine just about any of the speakers and receivers below to suit your specific budget and needs. Choose from the list of audio equipment below to make an even more powerful system.

Basic Stereo System – $340

This basic stereo system will provide exceptional two-channel audio with enough sound to fill just about any room or office space with exceptionally clear audio.

Basic Stereo System + BASS – $500

The basic stereo plus bass includes a highly rated entry-level woofer to fill out the lower frequencies where most smaller speakers are lacking. This requires a little more money and floor space, but should produce a fuller sound.

Enhanced Stereo System – $580

This system is similar to the basic stereo system, but the amp offers more volume and the speakers will provide a greater lower frequency range as well as a bit more precision.

Enhanced Stereo System + BASS – $980

This system takes the enhanced stereo system and adds a subwoofer to create more full and lifelike low frequencies.

Multi-Channel Surround AV Theater Stereo Systems

When people purchase high definition televisions, they are sometimes surprised to learn that much of the older TV programming doesn’t come in Ultra HD resolution and probably won’t look very good on a 4K TV. Well, the same is true for surround sound systems. You may get a very expensive surround sound AV system and find that the news, talk shows, and your old TV shows don’t really sound that much better. Only when watching newer television shows and movies will the benefits of an AV system be realized.

Basic AV Stereo Starter System + BASS – $700

The basic AV stereo starter system will provide exceptional two-channel audio with enough sound to fill just about any room or office space with exceptionally clear audio. The receiver is capable of more channels of audio, and to get the most out your listening and viewing experience, you’ll want to purchase additional speakers to create the full theater experience as included in the Basic AV Stereo System below. The starter system is for people wanting a great stereo and an improved television viewing experience who intend to add on to their system later.

Basic AV Stereo System + BASS – $1000

The Basic AV Stereo System features everything the starter system has, but completes the surround system with rear and center speakers. Note that the speakers are sold in pairs. When you coordinate the purchase with us, we can offer $75 cash or credit for the extra Sony speaker, or we may have a single Sony speaker you can purchase from our inventory to serve as a center speaker.

Enhanced AV Stereo System + BASS – $1,480

The enhanced AV Stereo System is a big step up from the Basic AV Stereo System and may be as sophisticated a system as anyone would need. It offers the ability to adequately fill a fairly large room in a typical home.

To make this system even more powerful, consider a more powerful receiver and speakers from the list of audio equipment below.

Audio Equipment


The SAJ audio system configuration rule states that you should spend about 1/3 of your budget on the receiver, front speakers, and subwoofer. So, a $1,500 would include a $500 receiver, $500 pair of front speakers, and $500 woofer. This is a general rule, but works fairly well. A $900 system would include a $300 amp, $300 speakers, and $300 subwoofer. If you’re not interested in a subwoofer, you could consider 1/3 on the receiver and 2/3 on the speakers (which presumably would have larger woofers in them).

So, with that in mind. the audio equipment listed below is generally considered ‘best in class’ or in other words offering really good performance and value at the given price.

Audio Amps and Receivers (Two Channel)

The amps and receivers listed here are described by their manufacturers as having the ability to power a pair of 4 ohm speakers. These are high quality two channel amplifiers providing left and right audio to one or in some cases two sets of speakers (A + B). Note that some receivers offer two digital audio inputs labeled CD and TV. This is because CD output is 2-channel (left and right) whereas televisions sometimes output Dolby 5.1 audio and would need to be decoded differently. Further testing or research on each model would be required to know if any given 2-channel amp or receiver can decode Dolby 5.1 and produce a 2-channel output.

  • Onkyo TX-8140 ($300). 80 W/Ch (8 ohms, 20 Hz−20 kHz, 0.1% THD, 2 channels Driven, FTC). 110 W/Ch (6 Ohms 1kHz, 0.1% THD, 1 Channel Driven, FTC). Dynamic power is 170 W at 4 ohms, 190 W at 3 ohms. “Delivering 80 W/Ch of high-current power from a fully discrete low-impedance amplification system, the TX-8140 plays all your audio sources with pure dynamic energy.” [Source: Onkyo] Spec Sheet.
  • Onkyo TX-8220 ($189). 45 W/Ch stereo power at 8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels Driven, FTC; 100 W/Ch at 6 ohms, 1 kHz, 10% THD, 2 channels Driven. Dynamic power is 140W at 3 Ohms, 120W at 4 Ohms. “Universal connectivity meets pure analog amplification in a simple hub that sounds a whole lot better than its modest price suggests. All the essentials are covered with digital audio inputs for TV and BD/DVD player connection, along with an MM phono equalizer, four analog line-level inputs for CD player and everything else.” [Source: Onkyo] Spec Sheet.
  • Onkyo TX-8260 ($400). 80 W/Ch stereo power (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.1%, 2 Ch Driven, FTC); 160 W/Ch (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 10%, 2 Ch Driven). Dynamic power is 160 W at 4 ohms, 180 W at 3 ohms. “Classic stereo amplification is rejuvenated with network functions that simplify audio streaming from personal devices, while adding convenient ways to cast music around the home.” [Source: Onkyo] Spec Sheet.
  • Onkyo TX-8270 ($440). 100 W/Ch. stereo power (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels Driven, FTC). 170 W/Ch. (6 Ohms 1kHz, 0.1% THD 1 Channel Driven, FTC). Dynamic power is 210 W at 4 ohms, 240 W at 3 ohms. “The TX-8270, is a beautifully engineered network stereo receiver designed to maximize musical enjoyment and drive your favorite speakers. Built around a massive transformer, audio-grade capacitors, and discrete non-phase-shift circuitry locked into a robust chassis, this amp has high-current power to illuminate cherished vinyl to Hi-Res audio and unmatched connectivity options for audio components.” [Source: OnkyoSpec Sheet.
  • Pioneer Slim VSX-S520 ($350). “Highly-efficient class D amplifier driving 80 W/Ch (4 ohms, 1 kHz, THD 1.0 %, 1Ch Driven FTC); 50 W/Ch (4 ohms, 1 kHz, THD 1.0 %, 2Ch Driven FTC)”
  • Pyle PDA6BU 200 Watt 4 ohm amp ($76 – $90)

Audio Amps and Receivers (Multi Channel)

The amps and receivers listed here are designed for home theater use, but would also work fine for two channel listening of stereo music. These receivers are THX certified.

  • Onkyo TX-NR757 ($400). “Stepping up to THX® Theater Reference Sound is easy with this Dolby Atmos® and DTS:X-ready powerhouse, which gets entertainment pumping with zero stress. Behind the front panel with its finger-friendly knobs are discrete hi-current amps delivering 180 W/Ch of distortion-free power. AccuEQ room acoustic calibration features AccuReflex to clearly focus the latest object-based soundtracks for an immersive movie experience.” [Source: Onkyo] Spec Sheet.
    • 110 W/Ch (8 Ohms, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven, FTC)
    • 180 W/Ch (6 Ohms, 1 kHz, 1.0% THD, 1 Channel Driven)
    • Dynamic Power: 220 W @ 4 ohms, 250 W @ 3 ohms.
    • THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise): 0.08% (20 Hz–20 kHz, Half Power)
    • Features AccuEQ Room Calibration.
  • Onkyo TX-NR777 ($500). “With 220 W per channel on tap, you have ample power to push a full-scale speaker system to THX Theater Reference levels without breaking a sweat. High-current amps control speaker drivers for accurate reproduction of Dolby Atmos® and DTS:X™, with VLSC™ cleansing signals of subtle noise to make Hi-Res Audio even more transparent. Elevating the 4K Ultra HD experience with object-based audio, the TX-NR777 also supports Dolby Vision™, HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), and BT.2020 pass-through for the ultimate in sound and vision.” [Source: Onkyo] Spec Sheet.
    • 110 W/Ch (8 Ohms, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven, FTC)
    • 220 W/Ch (6 Ohms, 1 kHz, 10% THD, 1 Channel Driven)
    • Dynamic Power: 220 W @ 4 ohms, 250 W @ 3 ohms
    • THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise): 0.08% (20 Hz–20 kHz, Half Power)
    • Features AccuEQ Room Calibration.
  • Onkyo TX-RZ620 ($470). “The TX-RZ620 serves smooth and confident multichannel sound with a unique Dynamic Audio Amplification system tuned for wide-spectrum 5 Hz–100 kHz reproduction.” [Source: Onkyo] ManualSpec Sheet
    • 100 W/Ch (8 Ohms, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven, FTC)
    • 170 W/Ch (6 Ohms, 1 kHz, 0.9% THD, 1 Channel Driven)
    • Dynamic Power: 210 W @ 4 ohm, 240 W @ 3 ohm.
    • THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise): 0.08% (20 Hz–20 kHz, Half Power)
    • Features AccuEQ Room Calibration.
  • Onkyo TX-RZ820 ($700). “Upgrades to the TX-RZ820 Network A/V Receiver—our THX® Certified Select™ 7.2 channel flagship—result in genuinely spectacular sonic performance. Dynamic Audio Amplification delivers instantaneous high-current power to full scale speakers for thrilling energy and lifelike transient response across a wide 5 Hz–100 kHz spectrum. VLSC™ on all channels and non-phase-shift circuitry clarify details floating in three-dimensional space.” [Source: Onkyo] Manual | Spec Sheet
    • 130 W/Ch (8 Ohms, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven, FTC)
    • 250 W/Ch (6 Ohms, 1 kHz, 10% THD, 1 Channel Driven)
    • Dynamic Power: 250 W @ 4 ohm, 300 W @ 3 ohm.
    • Features AccuEQ Room Calibration.
  • Yamaha RX-A1070BL ($1,200). “This 7.2-channel AVENTAGE network AV receiver features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surround sound realism. With the latest in HDMI technologies, experience movies in stunning 4K Ultra HD and high dynamic range (HDR). In addition, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma compatibility provide incredible contrast, smooth tone and rich, bright colors. The free MusicCast app makes it easy to access your music library and streaming music services. Add audio in up to 9 additional rooms with MusicCast wireless speakers or other MusicCast devices. Connect wirelessly via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay wireless connectivity. Additionally, a phono input for vinyl playback, advanced HDMI zone switching and Zone 2 control options provide added system versatility.”
    • The RX-A1070BL only has 18 reviews on Amazon, so it’s a little early to come to conclusions about customer satisfaction, but the current results show 0% 1-star reviews, 5% 2-star reviews. and 89% are 4-star and 5-star (67%).
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • Owner’s Manual
    • Quick Start Guide
    • Rated Output Power: 1kHz, 2ch driven, 120 W (8 ohms, 0.9% THD)
    • Rated Output Power: 20Hz-20kHz, 2ch driven, 110 W (8 ohms, 0.06% THD)
    • Maximum Effective Output Power: 1kHz, 1ch driven (JEITA) 165 W (8 ohms, 10% THD)
    • Dynamic Power: 135 W @ 8 ohm, 165 W @ 6 ohm, 210 W @ 4 ohm, 280 W @ 2 ohm (these are not sustainable levels but peak levels)
    • Note: The Yamaha specifications related to sustainable operation do not indicate any impedance lower than 8 ohms, so this system would presumably be limited to 8 ohm speakers only which for some people would be a disqualifying factor. Even so, we list it here because so many other receivers have 10% to 15% 1-star and 2-star reviews.

Speakers – Front

A basic stereo system consists of just two front speakers. However, a surround sound system will have more speakers placed behind the listener, and sometimes along side the listener as well as pointing to the ceiling. The speakers listed here are ideal as front speakers depending on a person’s budget. For a video review of front speakers, refer to “Review of Bookshelf Speakers, 6-inch woofer category” and “Review of Bookshelf Speakers, 5-inch woofer category.”

  • ELAC B6 Debut Series 6.5″ Bookshelf Speakers by Andrew Jones. ($280 Pair) “The Debut B6 takes the incredible B5 sound profile and adds an extra dollop of bass and dynamic range, making this 2-way, bass-reflex design a stand-out choice for multi-channel systems and critical music listeners seeking a superb bookshelf speaker that packs real performance and punch.”
    • Speaker type: 2-way, bass reflex
    • Tweeter: 1 x 1-inch cloth dome
    • Woofer: 1 x 6.5-inch woven aramid-fiber cone
    • Crossover frequency: 3,000 Hz
    • Frequency response: 44 to 20,000 Hz
    • Sensitivity: 87 dB at 2.83 v/1m
    • Recommended amplifier power: 30 to 120 wpc
    • Nominal/peak power handling: 50 / 120 wpc
    • Nominal impedance: 6 Ω; minimum 6 Ω
    • Binding posts: 5-way metal
    • Magnetic shielding: No
    • Cabinet finishes: Black brushed vinyl
    • Accessories included: Removable fabric grille
    • Height: 14.0 in / 356 mm
    • Width: 8.5 in / 216 mm
    • Depth: 10.0 in / 254 mm
    • Net weight (each): 14.3 lb / 6.5 kg
  • KEF Q100 ($300 Pair) “The Q100s are the smaller model of the Q300 bookshelf speakers, but don’t be fooled by their size! The Q100 prominently features our point-source Uni-Q driver array, which is engineered to produce an exceptionally accurate, three-dimensional soundstage that evenly envelopes any room. The 5.25 inch Uni-Q driver array with a 1 inch aluminum dome tweeter at its acoustic center. This Uni-Q driver array offers fast and clean midrange response, thanks to a braced magnesium/aluminum alloy cone and with KEF’s Z-flex surround smoothing the transition to the front panel. Based on the state-of-the-art HF driver developed for our flagship Blade, the Q100 boasts a much larger dome tweeter for increased sensitivity and distortion-free power handling. The KEF Q100 stands just under a foot tall, making it perfect for any bookshelf, home entertainment system, or smaller area in your home. The Q100 can also be paired up with any floorstanding speakers, center channels, or subwoofers from the KEF Q Series as a home theater system, ensuring an even and outstanding audio experience.”
    • The Q100 speakers have an excellent reputation on Amazon with 0% 1-star reviews, and 93% of all 150 reviews at 5-star or 4-star.
    • The Q100 features a 5.25 inch Uni-Q driver array, which handles frequencies from 49Hz to 40kHz from a single source.
    • Our specially crafted Uni-Q driver array extends the frequency spectrum while keeping the stereo image balanced, so you hear the same clear sound no matter where you are in the room.
    • At 11.8 x 7.1 x 10.7 inches, these bookshelf speakers are large enough to command a home theater setup, and compact enough for a modest listening room.
    • Frequency Response: 49Hz – 40kHz (±3dB)
    • Amplifier Requirements: 10W – 100W
    • Sensitivity: 86dB
    • Maximum Output: 107dB
    • Weight: 13 pounds
  • KEF Q150B. ($550 Pair) “Born from the DNA of the much-lauded Q100, the brand New KEF Q150 bookshelf speaker incorporates and successfully builds upon everything KEF fans have come to know and love about the bookshelf speaker. The New Q150 boasts a revamped Unit-Q driver array with a damped tweeter loading tube designed to smooth out treble frequencies, and reimagined crossovers to provide cleaner and more accurate bass. Architecturally, the Q150 benefits from a new port, which has been moved to the rear of the speaker to improve audio clarity, and the Unit-Q driver array has been relocated to the middle of the cabinet to reduce unwanted internal resonances. These changes between the Q100 and Q150 have transformed an already breathtaking bookshelf speaker into one that truly needs to be heard to be believed. The Q150 is available in sleek matte Black and white vinyl finishes. Grilles for the Q150 are sold separately.”
    • So far, these speakers are being received well among Amazon shoppers with 75% 5-star and 25% 4-star reviews (out of 4 reviewers).
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • Frequency Response: 51Hz-28kHz (±3dB)
    • Amplifier Requirements: 10 – 100 W
    • Sensitivity: 86dB (2.83V/1m)
    • Maximum Output: 108 dB
    • Size (H x W x D): 11.9″ x 7″ x 10.9″
    • Weight: 25 pounds
  • Klipsch R-15M ($250 Pair / $195 on sale) “Small but mighty, the Reference R-15M monitor speaker delivers big sound from a small footprint. Highly efficient, this powerful yet minimalist speaker engulfs listeners in their favorite movies and music for hours of listening pleasure.”
    • With 84% 5-star reviews on Amazon and 7% 4-star reviews, these speakers have satisfied over 90% of those who own them. There are only 2% 1-star reviews.
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • Specifications (PDF)
    • User Manual (PDF)
    • Fills small to medium rooms with powerful, lifelike performances
    • 1″ aluminum Linear Travel Suspension horn-loaded tweeter
    • 5.25″ copper-spun high-output IMG woofer
    • Dimensions: 12.5″ H x 7” W x 8.11″ D
    • Brushed black polymer veneer cabinet
  • Sony SSCS5 Bookshelf Speakers. ($150 Pair) “Introducing a speaker series versatile enough to deliver an unprecedented and real audio experience, and with a soundstage so expansive you can feel the energy and passion of the original performance, all while staying in harmony with your existing living spaces-no special listening room or setup required.”
    • 3-way, 3-speaker bass-reflex system, 5-1/4″ Foamed-Mica Cellular Reinforced Woofer, 1″ Polyester Main Tweeter, 3/4″ Sony Super Tweeter for immersive sound staging.
    • Frequency Response: 53Hz–50kHz
    • Hi-Res Audio Reproduction to 50kHz (for High Resolution Audio)
    • 6 ohm Speaker Impedance

Speakers – Subwoofer

Some speakers attempt to combine lager drivers (woofers) as well as mid-range and high frequency (tweeter) speakers in one enclosure. This can necessarily take up a lot of room and constrain speaker placement. By putting tweeters, midrange, and lower midrange speakers in a smaller enclosure, the speakers can be ideally placed for the listener. The lower frequencies reproduced by a subwoofer typically emirate throughout a room without any location or positioning that can be identified by the listener. They are larger, and while some locations are better than others for their placement, a subwoofer can be moved to a more convenient location if needed. The AVS Forum article “9 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Subwoofer” is a fairly extensive list of points to consider when buying. Some good choices for subwoofers at different price levels are listed here. For our subwoofer review video, refer to “Review of SVS and Klipsch 12-inch Subwoofers.”

  • Dayton Audio SUB-1200 12-Inch 120 Watt Powered Subwoofer. ($163) “The Dayton Audio SUB-1200 12″ powered subwoofer system is capable of delivering realistic, room-shaking home theater bass effects-even in larger rooms. The Dayton Audio SUB-1200 12″ powered subwoofer system is the perfect addition to any home theater system. This powered sub features a bottom-firing, flared port, bass reflex design for reduced port noise and increased bass response. It also utilizes a long-throw 12″ woofer and up to 120 watts of house-shaking power. The amplifier features high and low level inputs and high level outputs, a phase switch, independent volume control, an auto on/off switch (activated by an input signal) and a variable 12 dB electronic low pass filter. This compact sub is finished in an unobtrusive black vinyl that will complement any decor.”
    • The Dayton SUB-1200 has an impressively low 2% 1-star, and 2% 2-star reviews on Amazon with 91% of 116 reviews indicating 5-stars. These are budget priced subs that should offer good results.
    • The lower price of the Dayton comes with some compromises. it’s fairly large (about 17″ x 17″) and heavy at 44 pounds.
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • User Manual (PDF)
    • Frequency response: 25-140 Hz
    • Power output: 120 watts RMS
    • Box design: Ported
    • Inputs: RCA line level & speaker level
    • Outputs: Speaker level
    • Crossover frequency control: Continuously variable from 40 Hz to 140 Hz @ 12 dB/octave
    • Phase switch
    • Auto on/off
    • Power requirements: 120 VAC, 60 Hz
    • Dimensions: 16.75″ tall x 16.2″ wide x 17.75″ deep
    • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Klipsch R-12SW Subwoofer ($350) “The Reference R-12SW subwoofer uncovers what you’ve been missing in your music, movies and games — clean chest-thumping bass. The high performance subwoofer provides deep bass and placement flexibility thanks to its front firing driver and all digital amplifier.”
    • Powerful 12″ copper-spun front-firing woofer
    • All-digital amplifier delivers 400 watts of dynamic power
    • Equally impressive with music and movies
    • Low pass crossover and phase control
    • Line/LFE inputs for compatibility with most receivers
  • SVS SB-1000 – 12”, 300 Watt DSP Controlled, Sealed Box Subwoofer. ($500) “Enthusiasts worldwide have been asking for a truly compact SVS subwoofer. The wait is over – introducing the SB–1000! This little powerhouse measures only 13″ on all sides – making it the first micro subwoofer boasting world–renowned SVS performance! And with quality components like a long–stroke 12″ driver and a powerful 300W Sledge DSP amplifier, the SB–1000 is big on bass! The SB–1000 delivers an unbeatable combination of extremely compact size and great performance at a new low price. Only from SVS – where passion and expertise combine to create extraordinary audio products. It’s the most SVS-bass that can be condensed into a 13 inch package. Pumping out loads of fast, clean, bottom end—action-scene punches hit you right in the gut. When it’s time to party, your music comes to life—bass lines are tight and drum beats never muddy. Elegantly finished in premium black ash or gloss piano white, it fits with any décor. And yet, it’s small enough to tuck in a corner, if you need to keep it out of the way. To maximize the slam and impact of your home theater—with a minimal footprint—two SB-1000s can be paired—one on either side of your room. (Special discount available.) For big movie and music enjoyment, in a small package, go with the SB-1000.”
    • The SVS SB-1000 has 91% 5-star and 4-star reviews on Amazon with only 3% 1-star reviews, which suggests it is liked by those who have purchased it.
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • Owners Manual (PDF)
    • Quick Start Guide (PDF)
    • Frequency Response: 24-260 Hz +/- 3 dB
    • FEA–optimized motor technology for low distortion.
    • Long–throw suspension for high output at deep frequencies.
    • High–power voice coil for excellent thermal management.
    • Lightweight 12″ cone for enhanced sensitivity and transient response.
    • Rubber surround for durability and long–life.
    • Efficient and cool–running Class D topology.
    • 300 watts (720 watts peak dynamic).
    • Green standby mode with less than 0.5 watts consumption.
    • DSP control for accurate response and refined behavior under all operating conditions.
    • Stereo line–level RCA Input & 80Hz High Pass Filtered Output connections.
    • Stereo speaker level 5–way binding post input connections.
    • Continuously variable low pass filter frequency with disable/LFE setting.
    • Continuously variable volume and phase controls.
    • Premium black ash finish.
    • Black cloth grille.
    • Dimensions: 13″ (H) x 13″ (D).
    • Weight: 27 Pounds.
  • SVS SB2000 12” 500-watt Powered Subwoofer. ($700) “As a 2000 Series subwoofer, it’s part of the recent expansion of the SVS line up. Inspired by the design philosophy behind the Ultra series, it has been rigorously engineered and exhaustively tested. It has earned its SVS stripes by delivering astonishing performance at its price point. With 1100 watts peak power, it detonates waves of slam and impact that put you at the epicenter of the action-movie nirvana. Musically, the optimized pairing of STA-500D Sledge amplifier and all-new driver deliver deep, clean and lightning fast bass. Percussion and bass lines are rendered with subtlety and nuance that expand and deepen the soundstage.”
    • With 90% 5-star reviews on Amazon, this is a popular subwoofer with those who own it.
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • Owner’s Manual (PDF)
    • Quick Start Guide (PDF)
    • Frequency Response: 19-220 hz ±3 DB
    • Dimension: 14.6-Inch H x 14.2-Inch W x 15.4-Inch D
    • Driver: 12-Inch ; The Sledge STA-500D is the sonic engine that brings an unprecedented amp technology and sophistication
    • Amplifier: 500 watts rms (1100 watts peak) ;
    • Standby mode with less than 0.5 watts consumption. Sealed box subwoofer.
  • SVS SB12-NSD – 12″, 400-watt DSP Controlled, Sealed Box Subwoofer. ($400) “NSD–12 Driver – Best In Class Performance SVS never stops improving the breed, and our newest NSD–12 has even better all–round performance than its predecessor. A more linear force/displacement profile, improved transient response with less ‘overhang’, and even wider bandwidth elevate the NSD–12 transducer to best–in–class performance. What does all this mean to the enthusiast– Bass so tight, clean and accurate you’ll catch yourself toe–tapping to all your classic jazz bass riffs. • Finite Element Analysis (FEA)–optimized motor with dual shorting rings and pole extenders to reduce gap induction and distortion. • 2″ diameter, high–power voice coil with high–temp former. • Nomex linear–roll super long–throw spider. • Exclusive SVS aluminum cone and composite dust cap for excellent transient response and resonance control. • Vented pole–piece for greater cooling, low noise, and reduced compression artifacts.”
    • At a cost of $240 more than entry level subwoofers, the SVS SB12-NSD offers an exceptional upgrade in build quality and sound quality. With 96% 5-star and 4-star reviews on Amazon, and 0% 1-star reviews, this subwoofer has proven to be popular with owners.
    • 23-270 Hz +/- 3 dB
    • Manufacturer Product Page
    • Note: This subwoofer is sold out and no longer available directly from the vendor, although it’s still available on Amazon at about 50% off the original price while supplies last.

Document History

  • 19 Apr 2023 at 6:53 PM — Page updated to WordPress Block Layout design. Added dolby.io resource link.
  • 22 Feb 2018 at 4:34 AM — Page originally published.