When Good, Better, Best is NOT Good Enough!

Speakers – and many other products – are often sold on a ”Good, Better, Best” basis. That is, Choice A is a good option at a given price point, Choice B is an upgrade with a price plus factor, and Choice C is the ultimate, often with a price to match.

While that is a good way for a dealer – or manufacturer – to demonstrate speakers, it is probably not the best way for a consumer to approach them. A dealer works with a controlled environment in which to demonstrate a speaker. The room and its acoustical properties are constants. It is relatively easy to select and show off the attributes of a speaker and the value of spending more for a “better” speaker.

The problem can happen when the speaker comes home. Rooms are different and not every “Good, Better, Best” scenario works in a home room reality. A better way to look at speaker selection is to understand that rooms of different sizes require different speakers. Even the “Best” speaker does not deliver the same sound enjoyment in every size room. If it did, the same speakers would be used in recording studio control rooms and in Madison Square Garden.

I suggest that rather than “Good, Better, Best,” we look at “Best Possible” for Small, Medium and Large size rooms. We can define a “Small” room as one under 2000 cubic feet; a “Medium” room has a volume of 2000-4000 cu. ft.; and a “Large” room measures 4000-8000 cu. ft. These are rough rules. And music type also impacts the demands on the speakers.

A speaker that has been designed to fill a Large room with quality sound and impactful Sound Pressure Levels will overpower a small room and sound worse than a possibly less expensive speaker intended for small room use. Likewise, a speaker that sounds great in a Small room will most likely sound thin, distort, and perhaps fail completely if driven at levels required to fill a large room.

If looked at as trying to find the best speaker-to-room match, the consumer is able to find the best highest sound quality for his or her money. Given real world budgets, a “Good, Better, Best” formula also might be used in conjunction with room size. And, music lovers with small rooms may actually save some money to put toward music to be enjoyed via the new speakers.

Enjoy and good listening,


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John Strohbeen Author

John Strohbeen was the President and Chief Engineer of Ohm Acoustics from 1978-2023.

John Strohbeen

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