Field Report: Summer Audio

No matter what you’re doing this summer, chances are some tunes will make it that much better. The thing is, the places where we want to listen to music in the summer aren’t in our living rooms, home theaters, or our listening rooms. Its on the beach, at a BBQ, on a boat, out at a campsite, or on our deck. I kicked off my summer this year at a rented house over Memorial Day weekend with a group of people. I decided to make use of some speakers I had from an early review and spend a little bit of money to make sure we were never at a loss for some quality audio.


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Home Theater Theory: Speaker Directionality and Its Effect on Sound Quality

One aspect of sound performance that is often overlooked is the effect directionality has on sound performance for people sitting outside of the “sweet spot”. At your desk, you can make sure your speakers are always pointing at you. In a room with one seat, you can obviously point all of the speakers at the listener. But most of us listening to audio in our homes have rooms with multiple listeners, and that makes directional effects important to understand. Also, directional effects determine the strength of reflections, always a problem for speakers indoors. The topic of directional effects in the propagation of waves is something that has been both an academic and professional interest of mine, I hope this article sheds a bit of light on how this theory applies to home theater.

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Wattage Numbers and Amplifiers

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.

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Dayton B652 Review (Updated 3/21/2016)

Dayton Audio B652 6-1/2-Inch 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker Pair – $39.80

When you’re looking to buy a set of speakers on a tight budget, it is important to squeeze as much performance as possible out of them. You want something that will sound pretty good that you can use for playing music at parties or for taking your first steps towards an awesome system for your TV, but at the same time won’t cut into your monthly budget.

These speakers are my choice of speakers for you if you’re looking for something which does a reasonable job for playing music, playing video games, or watching movies, and want to spend as little money as possible.  Dayton Audio is a company which makes a wide range of audio products, many of which I review here. They are a company which regularly puts out great bang-for-your buck products. You have to be careful and read reviews though, because some are better than other.

That said, at $40, these are necessarily pretty cheaply made speakers and it shows. The box is made of Plywood. While this is better than the common plastics used in other cheap speakers, it isn’t the first choice of material. The speaker design is what is called a sealed box design, which doesn’t extend the bass as well as more intricate designs, but is less sensitive to manufacturing variations. A single capacitor on the tweeter (the top, high frequency driver) serves as a crossover, which prevents the tweeter from breaking, but doesn’t create a smooth transition from the big 6.5″ woofer to the tweeter.

However, the speaker does include wires to hook it up to an amplifier, which most speakers do not. It is a nice inclusion for $40 speakers that makes these a much nicer buy for people who aren’t comfortable cutting your own speaker wire from a spool. (NB if you are confused by this paragraph and are wondering why you need an amplifier, check out my post on an inexpensive stereo build.)

I took some time to listen to my favorite songs and some Netflix shows with these speakers. I was honestly quite impressed with the quality of the sound you get for the price. They sound much better than mass marketed audio products at two or three times the price.

Most people will think these sound pretty good in a typical living room space. They are so much better than what a majority of people have in their houses, you’ll impress your friends and family even at this low price. So if you’re looking to get something reasonable sounding at a low price, this is the speaker to go with. Its why I included it in my build for my inexpensive stereo build.

When I listened with a critical ear, I keyed in on one major flaw, and that is the high frequency response. Voices and higher frequency instruments just don’t have the realistic, natural sound I’m used to hearing on high quality speakers. This leads to instruments a bit muddled versus higher quality speakers as well. The measurements that follow really highlight that point.

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Inexpensive Stereo Build: $60

Many of you may be coming here looking for the cheapest possible stereo system to play some music or outperform the speakers built into your TV or something to buy in lieu of a soundbar. This is the build for you. Reviews are forthcoming, but all of the items on this page I have personally tested. All of the items listed here can be purchased at my store.
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