Satellite Speakers

Sats (as they will be shortened to)

- are not value for money (VFM)

- they usually have lousy mids especially the cheaper examples

- will need a subwoofer to fill in, some crossover at 100 Hz but if they can reach 80Hz, thats more ideal as the bass unit will be less localisable

- they can be mounted on walls or stands - I suggest hanging them first before permanently fixing them, so you can figure out the ideal spot

- they can suck up quite a bit of power, many of them being inefficicent so a good amp with at least 70-100 real watts per channel is useful

- not all of them are light so make sure your mounts can take them

- they are better for HT than music

So with so many issues, why buy them??

I ask that of our bros often when they want the cutesy thing. Simple reason - WAF -- wife acceptance factor ---- "I need to blend in with my decor" / "my wife / partner doesn't want the speakers to dominate the room" / "my kids might destroy the speakers"

Well then, that is a choice, and I respect that, but don't ask why they sound worse than someone else's setup for the same money and where the mid went

It is harder but still possible to integrate the sound, a bit more effort and a realistic expectation is needed.

Doing the demo:

First, do some reading, then select a few systems which fit your budget, and style requirements, after all this is the satellites (read STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE) thread.

So getting your wife or partner involved is essential. Then pop over to some shops to listen and audition with your favorite pieces.

Take note of how the room is setup, is it close to your own home in dimensions, the amount of room treatment etc. Some places have comprehensive room treatment and that will make a cheaper system sound much better than certain other showrooms.

Some popular shops have sales staff which have become less helpful than they should be, and their setups are quite haphazard, so take your business and spread the love around.

TEG's B/W M series is well setup, and the staff are friendly if the price suits you.

Seng Heng has a decent MS based setup which shows off what a lower end system can do, but note he uses a more expensive sub in that demo.

GP Audio's KEF is well setup and Kelvin is a friend chap.

Precision Audio's Edward is er, famous... but actually catch him on a nice day WITHOUT the other senior guy who just takes up space and looks down on newbies and try out the Radius system, which IMO is decent and the large centre with the sub have got it right.

Also if your WAF allows, consider the smaller bookshelf speakers as mentioned earlier, as they can give you better sound per pound.

After trying out a few systems, ask permision from members here, who have similar setups, and ask them to let you hear the speakers in a domestic setting, which is the most realistic. Most members here are friendly, bar a few rude chaps or unpleasant characters, and they will welcome you into their homes.

A note of warning: if you tell someone you want to come, jolly well turn up or inform earlier. I have a list of banned chaps who have stood me up before and I have passed them on to my pals. You will never be invited again.

Finally sit down with your partner, draw a realistic floor plan and together with the informatino posted on the forum on speaker placement, calibration and setting up, go out and buy. After NEVER look again at prices, or you will continue to be poisoned by the stuff posted.

Small bookself speakers versus true satellites

When you consider a system based on aesthetics, there will be compromises, either in terms of paying much more for the same kind of sound, or that you don't get that kind of effect which a proper bookshelf or floorstander speaker can provide.

But there are some ways around this. The small form factor is sought after to fit the decor in the home due to WAF reasons or is chosen simply due to space constraints. But if using a small bookshelf speaker is a possibility, then do consider it. For example the Wharf 9.0 is an outgoing speaker which is small and not too ugly and coupled with a decent subwoofer will be pretty decent. Other brands with small bookshelf sized speakers include Mission, Monitor Audio, PSB, Morduant Short, Energy etc etc.

The key is to try and accept a proper sized centre and add a good subwoofer, which I have mentioned many times are the lynchpin of HT. No mini centre can reproduce a male BBC radio presenter's voice adequately. You don't need to stick to the same brand sub, for example, small footprint subs like the Earthquake Minime and the Velodyne SPL series or the Paradigm Cubes are small yet powerful subs which will created much of what is needed in a small room. These cost < 1.5k mostly.

Finally a word of advice to those in the planning stage:

if you only intend to buy in 6 months, then whatever prices and questions on models you ask now are purely speculative and the whole HT scene will change, unless you intend to buy now then store it. And be realistic with your budget, either stick to the 2-2.5k amount and understand that it is wholly inadequate and you will compromise on sound or increase the amount. Checking out things from a vast price range discourages others from responding since it seems you are not really serious or do not know what you want.


In this modern age of auto-calibration, we leave much to the amp.

However since satellites cannot go low, and often stop being effectively at higher frequencies, we have to do some homework ourselves (actuall we should anyway, auto-whatever not withstanding).

Most small form satellites crossover - i.e. the frequency at which they need help from the subwoofer, at higher frequencies than the THX bog standard of 80Hz. Sometimes this is 100, 120 or even 200Hz. Individual speakers may also have their own crossover frequencies, eg the centre speaker may be larger and crossover at a lower frequency than the rest - 100 vs 120 for example.

If you have a modern AV amp, it may be able to take care of all this, and comes with built in individual crossover frequency settings. Even this may be insufficent if your satellite speaker is of the miniscule nature.

Then you need to make sure your subwoofer has a crossover frequency or high frequency rolloff dial. This is the frequency adjustment in which the sub hands over the sound to the tiny satellites. Turn it up to get a seamless marriage of sound between the sub and the sats.

You will need a SPL meter, and if you think it is too hard, pay for someone to do it for you.

NOTE: the higher the crossover freq, the more likely the location of the sub will be localised - i.e. you know where the bass is coming from, instead of being omni-directional.

I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.


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