So you’re an average consumer, and you’ve decided you want some surround sound in your life. After all, that’s whats in movie theaters, and you’d like your movie watching experience at home to be more like the movie theaters. Its not something you care all that much about, enough to spend a few hundred dollars on at most. You look online, or go into an electronics store, and you find it. One box that has everything you need. One swipe of the credit card and your desire will be satisfied. Every marketing person at every electronics firm knows there are a significant number of people who will act this way; people who want better audio in their lives but don’t know where to start. They take advantage by selling something that looks right, without there being any good way for an average consumer to tell whether or not it is a good product. Its not like you’re going to listen to it beforehand, much less make any objective comparison among several samples. They sell convenience in satisfying your consumer urges, not actual audio quality.
One of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in audio are the wattage figures that show up on amplifier, receiver and speaker advertisements and specifications. The most common thing we think of when it comes to wattage are light bulbs. The socket has a specification, you buy a light bulb that matches, or is smaller than, that number. That’s the wrong way to think about speakers and amplifiers. Depending on how loud a speaker is playing, it uses a variable amount of power (measured in watts), and the amplifier supplies it. So all you need is an amplifier or receiver that can deliver as much power as the speaker needs to create sound.