Choosing The Best Stereo System For Your Needs

Considerations to assist with the purchase of the right stereo system for your personal needs, based upon some key technological and personal choices.

Whether you choose a full Dolby Home Theater Surround-sound, Audio/Visual system or a small compact bookshelf system can depend on a number of factors. Price, quality, and design are but a few of the considerations taken into account when you are shopping for a stereo system.

There are so many features to consider these days, it would take much more than this article to review. However, if you ask yourself a few questions before you begin shopping, you can narrow down your choices.

Do I want to build a component system that requires several purchases to complete my system?

Do I want to connect other devices to my stereo, such as a DVD player or the television set?

Do I want my system to be able to play MP3 formatted music?

How much space do I want my stereo to use in my home?

Go into just about any electronics store, and take a look at the seemingly unbelievable sales prices displayed, playing upon your desire to get the best value for your money. Remember to consider the markup value the store has added to the price they have so generously discounted. But if you do a little research, comparison shopping can save you a significant amount of money, and it will allow you to upgrade your stereo options.

One of the first things you should consider is the size of the area you are going to place your stereo. A true 500-watt RMS (Root Mean Square) system will sound great in a 3500-square-foot home, but in an studio apartment, you'd be asking for a lot of neighbor complaints.



When power output is advertised for a stereo, it can be either peak or RMS power output. This can be very deceptive if you do not understand the concept. Simply put, peak power is what the stereo is capable of achieving, on occasion. It cannot sustain that power level consistently. On the other hand, RMS power is the output level the stereo can sustain consistently without any danger to the system. Having said that, a higher RMS output does not necessarily mean you have to pay more. Other features of the system add to the pricing, which is why you must do your homework, if you want the most for your hard-earned money.

If all you want is a stereo to play your music, then you don't really need a system with 7-channel, Dolby Digital capabilities. To put this into perspective, I just saw a TEN-channel, 170 Watt/channel RMS receiver for $6000.00 on the same display as a six channel, 90 watt/channel RMS receiver for $200. Granted, the more expensive model sounded infinitely better-and louder, but I heard the more economical model first, and it sounded perfectly fine. But the manual to operate this technologically superior device would take a week to read! It had features I know I would never have the desire, or money, to fully utilize. So, if you are just looking to play your music CD's, not create a home theater system, then avoid all systems with the words "home theater" in the description!

If you DO want to connect your stereo system to your home theater, you have many choices. Home theater-in-a-box offers everything you need to set up a decent home theater system. It is best to purchase name brand systems to ensure you will be satisfied. You will usually get a 5-channel receiver; DVD player; front, rear, and center channel speakers; and a subwoofer. The cost is commensurate with the technology, and the sound quality tends to improve along with the price. $400 may be the bottom price to consider if you want decent sound quality that is reminiscent of the big screen experience.

For the discriminating audiophile, purchasing each stereo component is the obvious choice. Online information can greatly reduce your search for the best units. In addition, making online purchases-if you don't mind the wait-can also reduce your total end cost through true bargain shopping. Be sure to read up on any components you already have in mind. New units will frequently be tested and reviewed for their performance. Just make sure to read several reviews get a fair assessment.

Maybe the size of your home limits your stereo choices-the speaker size to be more specific. Most component systems use a separate subwoofer to reproduce the bass, and this allows the mid-range and high-range frequencies to come from much smaller speakers. Three-foot tall, three-way speakers make great coffee tables, but are not necessary to have a great sounding system. This is strictly a matter of preference; both options will provide rich sounding music.

Should you consider MP3 compatibility? While iPods seem to be all the rage among the ME generation, only you can decide if this feature is a must-have for your stereo. The biggest upside to this feature is you can make a MP3 music CD that will play hours of your favorite music. More importantly,it does not increase the price of the stereo that much at all, making this a feature to bear in mind.

Stereo shopping can be impulsive, so have your list prepared to make sure you get all the features you want in your system before you walk into that store. With any luck, you will have enough money left over to buy some great CD's or DVD's to put your new stereo to the ultimate test-YOURS!

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