Best Ways to Use Satellite SpeakersNovember 01, 2016
What are Satellite Speakers?
Satellite speakers typically have the smallest cabinets of any speaker powered by an AV receiver and their size gives them great flexibility to play many roles in a home theater. Also known as “mini-bookshelf speakers”, satellites come in many different shapes and the sound and build quality can vary greatly from speaker to speaker.
The satellite speaker category has traditionally been dominated by a lot of boom and sizzle. They often sound great in a store demo under perfect conditions with an ideal supporting cast, but when taken home, the performance is much less convincing.
Part of this is a presumption by manufacturers that someone who’s buying satellite speakers doesn’t care as much about sound quality or an immersive audio experience as someone who’s considering bookshelf or tower speakers, so they aren’t built with the same attention to detail or specifications.
Fortunately, by understanding a few key factors, you can find great sounding satellite speakers with amazing dynamics and sound quality that also offer tremendous range and flexibility.
Advantages of Satellite Speakers
The primary advantages of satellite speakers all have to do with aesthetics and installation:
- Wall and ceiling mountable
- Work with almost any type of furniture
- Capable of producing excellent sound, especially in combo with a subwoofer
Best Uses for Satellite Speakers
Satellite speakers are great for creating immersive surround sound in small to medium sized rooms, often in a 2.1, 5.0 or 5.1 arrangement. They can also be used as side or rear surround sound speakers in a larger system that uses tower or bookshelf speakers as the mains.
But they aren’t just limited to multi-channel use. Satellite speakers also work great as part of a desktop system and pair well with turntables, PCs, gaming consoles and other nearfield listening experiences, especially given their compact stature.
What to Look for in a Satellite Speaker
Weight isn’t everything, but a light and flimsy satellite speaker with extruded plastic cabinet and cheap paper drivers will not create an immersive experience. Satellite speakers should “feel” heavier than they look and pass the knock test without any unwanted resonances.
From a sound quality perspective, they should produce a full, neutral and balanced sound with thrilling dynamics that make you believe the sound is coming from a much bigger speaker. The neutrality should also allow them to seamlessly blend with other speakers as a surround, height effects and/or other home theater speaker. The best satellite speakers don’t call attention to themselves, but rather become invisible as the listener is immersed in convincing and highly impactful sound.
Since their size prohibits satellite speakers from producing truly deep bass, it’s important to listen for a dynamic and detailed mid-range, where 80% of musical content occurs, and also sparkling high frequencies which let you know it was built with a high-performance tweeter.
Do I Need a Subwoofer?
The smaller size of the drivers and cabinets in satellite speakers generally don’t allow them to have enough dynamic range to be considered full-range speakers. Although they can be used by themselves and provide a great listening experience, satellite speakers sound their best when supported by a powered subwoofer.
The added bass muscle allows satellite speakers to emphasize the mid- and high-range frequencies, which they are much better equipped to handle. When paired with a subwoofer, satellite speakers in a 2.1 or 5.1 set-up can be part of an amazingly detailed, inexpensive and room-friendly home theater and/or music system. If you don’t have the ability to add a subwoofer, you may consider moving up to full-range bookshelf or tower speakers, which have more bass output and benefit less from a subwoofer.
The Final Word on Satellite Speakers
Many people considering a compact, lifestyle-friendly speaker system end up settling for a soundbar because its form factor requires a “path of least resistance” towards what they think is a great audio experience. The reality is, high performance 5.1 or 2.1 satellite systems can be had for the same price as a quality soundbar yet deliver a much more impactful, head-turning home theater experience. All without taking over the room physically.
With SVS, you can hear just how big a pair of SVS Prime Satellite speakers or Prime Satellite 5.1 surround sound package can sound at home with our 45-day risk-free in-home trial, before you commit to buying.
Satellite speakers are perhaps the most versatile speakers of all, so if you have any questions about their uses or set-up, please contact our Sound Experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.