Installing Home Sound Systems Without Damaging Your Home

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By Sam Bocetta / Published by Sam Bocetta
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Whether you are new to high-quality sound, or a confirmed audiophile looking for your new system, it is worth considering how far a few bucks will get you when it comes to setting up a great system.


In general, there are two things to consider when it comes to setting up a new system for under $500. Firstly, you need to invest in equipment which will give you great sound performance without breaking the bank. Whilst this may sound like the most important thing in setting up a system, in fact many expensive systems suffer from being poorly set up. It is therefore incredibly important that you consider ways to get the best possible sound performance from the equipment you already have.

Of course, the type of system you will get by spending a few dollars, even if it is set up and optimized perfectly, will never match the quality achieved by a $20,000 rig. But if you not, quite yet, able to spend that kind of cash on a home stereo system, you can still get great quality sound by following these steps.


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Equipment

The first thing you are going to need, pretty obviously, is some audio equipment. Whilst serious audiophiles who spend thousands of dollars on their setups will tell you that you require dozens of items, from pre-amps to grounding devices to separate power supplies, here we are going to focus on the things that actually matter – a media player, an amp, speakers, and the cable to connect them all together.

Media Player

Your choice of media player depends on the way in which you listen to your music. If you have a vast collection of CDs, then getting a good quality CD player is a must. Luckily, however, when it comes to saving money this is one of the easiest steps, because most of us have a pretty high-quality media player available anyway – our computers.

In fact, one of the biggest savings you can make when setting up a budget system is to rely on the equipment you already have. Any modern laptop will produce good quality sound, but if you have a little money spare it could be worth investing in a DAC Amp, which cuts out the noise produced by the circuitry inside your computer.


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Amplifier

This is the second most important part of your minimal set up, behind your speakers. Choosing an amplifier can be a daunting task, and we highly recommend reading up about the various types available on a good review site such as bestamps.net – in this area, a little knowledge goes a long way.

For a set up like this, the most important thing to remember is that modern amps are expensive not because they necessarily give better sound quality, but because they come equipped with a vast variety of input and output connections. For the type of stereo system we are talking about here – one uner $500 – you don’t need this.

Our recommendation, therefore, would be to get an amp that is Class A – the highest quality type of amplification available – but a few years old. You really don’t need to complicate matters further, because even amps from 2000 are comparable in sound quality to those of today, and often a lot cheaper. 


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Speakers

The most important part of your setup, and for this reason one of the most expensive. The quality of your speakers can really make or break the sound quality of your system, and it is therefore worth paying special attention to choosing a pair that works for you.

One thing that many people forget when setting up a budget system is that the largest speaker stacks are designed to project sound in huge venues. For most of us, this is totally unnecessary, because in most cases we will be listening to music in our humble living rooms or offices. One great way to save money, therefore, is to avoid speakers that can handle huge power outputs.

In truth, speakers that are rated for 40 watts of output will be more than loud enough for most people. Whilst it might sound great to have a pair of 100 w monster stacks in your living room, in reality you are never going to push them to even half the available volume.

Cables

Sigh, cables. Flick though any serious audio magazine, and you will find pages dedicated to discussing the quality of different types of cables. In our view, at least, a lot of time and effort is wasted in such discussions – whilst it is possible to spend a few hundred dollars on cables, it is not worth it. Honestly, a pair of cables picked up from you local home depot will work fine.

Another trick to save money, here, is to limit the length of the cables you run. It might sound obvious, but the more cable your signal has to run through, the worse your sound quality will be. Whilst your speakers should be positioned properly, always cut cables down so that you are using the least amount that is practical.

Setup

So, you have your budget setup, ready to go. Don’t think, however, that you will get great sound quality by just hooking it all up together – even the best quality systems will sound horrible if they are positioned incorrectly.

The most important thing to think about here is the room that your new system is going to be in. Different rooms can have completely different sonic qualities, depending on their shape, size, and the type of furniture they contain. Place your speakers in positions to maximum the already existing sonic qualities of your room. Whilst this can be a somewhat complicated task, there are plenty of guides available.

Secondly, make sure that your new set up is as far away as possible from any source of electronic noise. A lot of us give in to the temptation to put all of our audio equipment in one cabinet, but doing so can really destroy quality sound. Whilst your amp and media player should be close together to minimize cable length, DO NOT put your amp underneath your TV – the radiation produced by the TV will bleed into the amp, and give you unwanted noise.

All in all, it is more than possible to achieve great quality sound for under $500, as long as you keep your system minimal, and set it up correctly.