7 most common mistakes you’ll make when you shop for your first home theatre or audio system

Shopping for your new home can be exciting, but first-time home owners may also be overwhelmed because of inexperience. There’s so much that you don’t know that you won’t even know where you should even be looking for information from.

We get it. And if you’re shopping for your first audio system or home theatre for the new home, read on. We asked the experts at Yamaha Music to share insiders’ tips that will help make the process so much easier.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that newbies may make when they shop for their first audio system. Make sure you avoid these pitfalls!

1. You didn’t consider your space availability


Jules Ang, Assistant Manager, AV Sales & Marketing at Yamaha Music says that the first consideration should be the available space for your home theatre.

If you’re still choosing a room to house your home theatre, consider this: Ang says that sound travels best in a rectangular room with uneven dimensions.

“For example, one that is 3 metres wide by 4 metres long with a 3.5-metre high ceiling,” she explains.

“Avoid square rooms,” she adds. A square room would be one that is 4 metres by 4 metres by 4 metres, for instance.

The dimensions of your room will also determine the size of the screen.

“Buyers don’t want to get a screen that is too big as the image will appear grainy. However, buyers also don’t want to go for too small or they’ll be disappointed,” she says.

“Users should choose speakers that match the size of their room. Floor-standing speakers are ideal for large, open spaces. On the other hand, stand-mounted, on-wall, or in-wall speakers are well-suited for smaller rooms.”

2. You didn’t think about the other functions of the room


Your home theatre room may not be just dedicated to this one activity. This is why Ang reminds buyers to consider what else the room is used for.

“Is this the family room where the kids will hang out? Then you might want speakers mounted to the wall that are out of the way,” she advises.

She recommends compact speaks if the room is not used only for TV and sound systems.

“Compact speakers offer unobtrusive placement options (and they) easily blend into the décor and leave plenty of rooms for other activities,” she explains.

She recognises that there’s a preference for surround sound system because “hearing a movie’s soundtrack the way that director intended to be is a powerful part of home theatre experience (but) surround sound traditionally involved running wires and cables all over the room.”

“Users often have to put aside some budget to carefully hide their systems’ wires to allow the listening room to look aesthetically pleasing,” Ang adds.

For buyers who don’t have a room for multi-speaker surround sound system, she recommends getting a sound bar, which can help amp up the audio experience for both music and movies.

“Yamaha offers a variety of compact surround sound systems that are self-powered and don’t require a separate home theatre receiver running long cables to each of the speakers placed around the room.”

“Some sound bars can actually reflect sound off the walls to trick listeners’ ears thinking there are speakers all around them. In some cases, this effect can even be customised to the listeners’ space. Yamaha offers a wide variety of sound bar models to suit all users’ requirements, room conditions and spending budgets,” she recommends.

3. You forgot about the audio experience


Ang observes that some first-time buyers may be more “visual” when it comes to shopping for a home system. This makes them opt for the biggest flat screen or even a home theatre projector. She emphasises that how the sound feels when you’re watching movies or listening to music is important too.

“It is good if they can first designate a point in their home where most likely they will be watching or listening and from there, make their audio design plans. There are home theatre systems that can do sound check for users and optimize their systems based on the sound it receives from supplied microphones. This option is not only good for a newbie but also for serious home theatre audiophiles too, as it is not unheard that people do enjoy doing sound check and making their own fine-adjustments manually.”

4. You only pay attention to the sub-woofer


Even if the deep bass of the sub-woofer sounds great, most of the high-frequency and mid-range sounds come from the main left and right speakers.

“Before purchasing a home theatre system, buyers should listen to the voices (of the system) to see if the sound is natural and easy to understand. Buyers won’t be wowed by speakers just by deep bass, but also hollow or unnatural voice sound.”

5. You haven’t considered the people who are using the system


How many people will be the primary users of the new home theatre? The answer could influence seating and equipment choices, according to Ang.

“Are the listeners discerning music buffs? If so, it could impact the kind of speakers they need. Are the users comfortable with technology or technically challenged? Be upfront about their level of knowledge,” she explains.

If you have trouble discerning about the right equipment for the usage level required, speak to an expert for recommendations on equipment that match users’ comfort the best.

6. You don’t have a budget in mind when you shop


Ang has a general guideline that may help you decide on your budget.

“Expect to spend about the same amount on the audio as you will do on the visual. In other words, if you spend $1,500 on a projection system, it is recommended to put aside a budget of $1,500 on surround-sound system, including receiver and speaker.”

7. You didn’t seek an expert’s help


It’s normal for a first-time buyer to feel daunted by the process. After all, the number of options and the information available can be rather overwhelming. This is why Ang suggests that you can seek help from an expert.

“A conversation with an expert could cost the first-time buyer as little as nothing, or at most, a couple of hundred dollars for a consultation session. In contrast, bypassing expert advice could cost the buyer thousands, especially if they spend money on the wrong screen, sound system or even room construction,” she explains.

Bonus: Tips to testing the system correctly

Finally, you’re in the store and ready to test out the system. What should you look out for?

“Shoppers should bring the material with them, so they won’t be stuck on listening to whatever there are at the store,” Ang advises.

And here are more tips from Ang that can help you test the system better:

  • Start with listening to music, even if the main use of the system is for movies. Music can show flaws in speakers in a much more reliable way and readily than movies. Listeners should choose materials that they are familiar with or find new material and become familiar with it.
  • If shoppers primarily listen to heavily compressed music, they should consider bringing along an audiophile friend (or borrow some of their music collection) that has a wide diversity of quality recordings so that they can use higher quality source material to appreciate the speakers’ qualities when doing a comparison.
  • Take the same song selection from store to store and listen to them from different speakers. Also, choose a variety of songs. Don’t be afraid to try music that you don’t typically listen to. For example, Jazz may not be your “thing”, but then you may find yourself liking it more when listening it on great speakers. By listening to the same thing over and over, the listener will start finding what speakers they like or don’t like.
  • Understand that some music is so compressed or poorly recorded that it is not a good demo material (hence heavy metal is usually not appropriate for demo). While the listeners’ favourite collections are screaming metal and hardcore music, they might quickly find out that just because they like the music, it doesn’t mean that the music could reveal subtle differences between speakers.
  • If the listener is listening to a pair of speakers, try to sit in the position that allow the two speakers and listener to form an equilateral triangle shape. The two speakers should not call attention to themselves. Instead, the listener should be able to hear an almost three-dimensional soundstage in front.
  • If everything is set up properly and the demo material is good, listener should hear separation between different musicians and instruments. Typically, the vocalist is in the middle of the soundstage. Over time the listener will become familiar with their demo material and know where each musician is supposed to be. Take the time, listen to multiple songs, try different volume levels, move around a little bit. This part is supposed to be fun! While it is time consuming, it is fine to not make the judgment right away.

Yamaha Audio Visual has opened its first lifestyle concept store in Singapore. The Yamaha Experience Studio (YES), the first of its kind in ASEAN, will provide a space for audiophiles to share their passion for music and experience the performance of high fidelity audio, including its highly acclaimed AVENTAGE AV Receiver series and new MusicCast system.

The 58-sqm flagship store is located t Plaza Singapura. It will allow visitors to hear music as if the artist was in the room with them, as well as to learn how to reproduce this experience in their own environment.