Hi-Fi stereo or Home theater speakers

Top of the range speakers are available for both stereo Hi-fi and Home Cinema. Depending on personal tastes, loudspeakers can be used in either of these two configurations.

Hi-fi stereo Audio systems

Hi-fi systems generally comprise 2 loudspeakers. They are essentially designed for listening to music which signal (sound source) is intended to be listened to in stereo (known as 2.0), i.e. a right channel and a left channel. For optimal music reproduction, it is often best to choose floorstanding loudspeakers. More voluminous, floorstanding loudspeakers can incorporate a greater number of speakers. Each speaker has a dedicated frequency range (bass, midrange, treble….). Bass speaker volumes also require the use of larger diameter speakers to facilitate good bass reproduction. If you pitch on bookshelf loudspeakers or compact loudspeakers (more discrete and therefore smaller), it is advisable to use a bass speaker (subwoofer) for good bass frequency reproduction. 

The goal of a High Fidelity installation is, in addition to offering daily music listening pleasure, to get nearer to source sound quality and be faithful to the instruments, channels, choices of recordings and mixes.

More details on the positioning of Stereo hi-fi speakers.

Home Theater Audio systems

A Home Cinema configuration uses a greater number of loudspeakers. Since the explosion in digital technologies and accessibility of Home Cinema installations to consumers, most audiovisual broadcasts (DVD, television channel…) are in multi-channel. Multi-channel broadcast splits the sound signals to the different speakers, assigning a highly specific role to each one.

  • The right and left front loudspeakers (or main loudspeaker) reproduce image-related sound effects and ambiances. They also reproduce musical passages.
  • The centre loudspeaker reproduces the channels and provides transition between the 2 front loudspeakers.
  • Surround/effect loudspeakers, positioned behind the spectators,  immerse them in the soundscape and action of the film. They reproduce additional and actual (background sounds, rain, vehicles, etc.) sound effects.
  • The bass loudspeaker (or subwoofer) handles low frequencies (bass), giving more power and impact to the soundtracks. The bass is also capable of taking over from other speakers on lower frequencies when the latter are no longer able to reproduce them.

This is known as a 5.1 system (5 channels and a bass loudspeaker) although more complex systems (7.1, 9.2 etc...) do exist. For example, some cinema theatres are equipped with numerous surround/effect loudspeakers to create ambiance or add movement to effects (e.g. an airplane taking off from the back, arriving on the screen).

One or the other?

Stereophonic and Home Cinema configurations have very different end purposes. Each is dedicated to a different art form and pleasure: music or film. Although quality loudspeakers can re-transcribe Stereo and Home Cinema sound signals equally well, it is the quality and type of amplification that make the difference.