November 07, 2012
| by EH Staff
As higher-end sound becomes a mainstream demand, the home audio market has seen a shift toward products that are discreet and simple to use. The average consumer is looking for an alternative to a traditional sound system. This is why products like soundbars, wireless speakers and active computer speakers are the hot products today in home audio. They provide unobtrusive sound solutions.
It is hard to find a speaker manufacturer today that doesn’t offer a soundbar. Soundbars had a rough start, because they were too much of a compromise for traditional home theater enthusiasts. They offered virtual surround-sound instead of the real thing, and this just didn’t cut it for hardcore audio enthusiasts. As the technology improved, however, the general view of soundbars did, too. To propel the soundbar even further, as flat-panel televisions gradually grew slimmer their sound quality suffered significantly, so soundbars offered a great solution to the general poor sound quality of a modern flat-panel. Today’s soundbars offer high performance and generally cost less than investing in a traditional surround-sound setup. Everything you need is in one package. The highest quality soundbars house an array of speakers that can create very realistic surround sound using advanced sound beam technology. There is no longer a need to buy an amplifier, because sound-bars have internal ones that are designed to work with its speakers. Soundbars also have you covered in the processing front. The majority on the market today can handle all of the latest audio codecs as well as 3D.
Golden Ear SuperCinema 3D Array soundbar
PREMIUM IPOD DOCKS
As we transition further away from physical media, digital music files have become the standard way we enjoy our music. Smartphones and computer-based servers allow unparalleled access to your music collection and offer a great way to discover new music. Music services like Spotify and Pandora offer more access than ever to a vast selection of music choices. A wide variety of products serve our digital needs, but the most popular is the iPod dock. The original iPod docks offered an easy way to have music anywhere in your house because they were small and portable. The sound quality, however, was mostly mediocre. Today’s iPod docks not only sound better but can stream music files directly from a device via its dock or wirelessly. Both options have drastically improved sound quality, because iPod docks no longer have to rely on the inferior digital-to-analog converters found in most smartphones. The internal circuitry isn’t the only change. Advanced designs from more expensive speakers have found their way into these products. In addition, the use of higher-quality materials have played a huge part in improving sound quality. Companies like Bang & Olufsen, Bowers & Wilkins, Bose, Samsung and Sonos have taken great strides in making very high-quality iPod docks.More affordable brands like Sony, Yamaha and Pioneer offer great alternatives as well.
Samsung DA-E750 tube-based wireless audio dock
The latest change in speakers has been the introduction of wireless. Wireless technology has finally evolved to the point where it can operate seamlessly without dropout, but more importantly, wireless transmissions can now match the sound quality of direct cord connections. This versatility is opening up endless options for speaker placement within your home. No longer do you have to keep your music files near your stereo, and what’s better is that you can control the music from the comfort of your couch. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy.
Pioneer A4 wireless speaker with AirPlay
The wide variety of wireless speakers available today is quite staggering. If you have an acoustic need, odds are there is a speaker that will work perfectly for you and will sound great doing it.
While soundbars and iPod docks have finally come of age, we can’t forget about traditional speakers. They have progressed leaps and bounds over the past decade. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most noticeable changes has been size. Home speakers have progressively gotten smaller without sacrificing fidelity. Traditional large speakers, in most cases, weren’t very room-friendly. Historically, they took up too much space in a living room, and unless they were really expensive they weren’t very visually appealing. In the past few years, manufacturers have been addressing these issues by introducing compact and slim speakers that produce sound quality on par with larger speakers. It has taken a lot of research and development, but if you survey the current speaker market, it is clear that manufacturers have achieved this goal. A lot of speakers look like they went on a diet (why trust a skinny opera singer, right?), but they produce sound that is improved and louder than their predecessors. You can find speakers that are as thin as a flat-panel television and look just as visually stunning. Size isn’t the only thing that has changed for traditional speakers. The materials being used have become more exotic as well. Modern speakers use everything from Kevlar, rare woods, beryllium, cobalt, pure-silver, rare earth magnets, aerospace-grade aluminum and even diamond. Granted, some of these materials are only found on very expensive speakers; nonetheless, materials used in speakers have definitely increased in quality, which has directly improved sound quality.
Bowers & Wilkins PM1 speaker