Consumer Electronics & Appliance News, Reviews & Information.

Apr 12

Simple tips to help you make your audio efficient

Definitive Technology bp8060st and Onkyo TX-NR809

Okay, maybe not "easy"

You’ve learned some tricks for making your living room and home theater room more efficient, and you even know what to look for when searching for the best flat screen TVs.

But what do you do when it comes time to track down the best speaker system when you’ve got efficiency on the brain?

Unfortunately for environmentally conscious audiophiles everywhere, there’s no little yellow sticker to help you track down which speakers, receivers, and cables are going to give you the most boom for your buck. Luckily, even if there aren’t hard and fast rules for keeping your audio energy at reasonable levels, there are a few things you can look for to find the best speaker systems and home audio components around.

1. Speaker sensibility

It just kind of makes sense that fewer speakers means less power draw, but how do you decide how many is enough?

When it comes time to set up your surround, 7.1-channel, 5.1-channel, 9.2-channel are all perfectly valid speaker setups — sometimes. But when all you find you’re doing with your system is listening to music (with a movie thrown in every other weekend), it makes more sense (environmentally speaking) to cut down to a pair of speakers.

Not in a very large home theater room (because, for example, it’s also your apartment’s living room) but still love big surround in you movies? You can probably get away with a fairly simple 5.1-channel, rather than using additional speakers for fill you don’t need.


What type of amplifier will you use?

2. All about the amplifier

Amplifiers come in all shapes and sizes, and whether you’re listening to the latest Blu-ray through your Yamaha RX-A1010 or rocking out with a combination processor/amp from Peachtree, you’ve got one running. No matter what kind of amplifier you’re using, it’s been designed for power draw, so how could you possibly make that more green?

Different amplifier types have different efficiencies. For example, a Class AB amplifier tends to be less efficient than a Class D amplifier. So, the obvious answer would be to always use a Class D amplifier, right? The problem is there are sound trade-offs. Class AB amplifiers tend to sound warmer than Class D amplifiers, leading to a better sound quality (at least according to most listeners).

So what’s the right answer? There really isn’t one. Many devices with Class D amplifiers include additional processing to bring your audio closer to the sound you’d expect from an AB amp, but ultimately, it’s up to you whether you’re willing to trade sound quality for efficiency.

3. Wires, wires, everywhere!

It wouldn’t really be a great discussion about audio efficiency unless we talked a bit about how you’re connecting your speakers. Because this ground is already so well travelled, I’m just going to reiterate the point I’ve made before: make sure you get good quality wires, and keep your runs as short as possible.

Odd audio, photo by misocrazy used under Creative Commons

We're not even sure what most of this equipment is... (photo by misocrazy used under Creative Commons)

4. Clearing out

This one’s mostly for the older audiophiles out there, but if you’re just starting out on the road to efficient audio, it’s good to keep in mind. Keep your audio peripherals simple. Just because you happen to have a tape deck, 8-track player, and laser disc doesn’t mean they have to be hooked up — especially if all you’re doing is streaming music from your home computer and listening to the occasional LP.

Keep the esoteric audio equipment out of your system, or at the very least unplugged. If it’s one album that you just can’t live without, consider converting it to another media.

So, while keeping the environment in mind when setting up your best speakers, receivers, and other equipment isn’t easy, it’s plenty do-able with just a little planning and knowledge.

Do you keep efficiency in mind when you set up your audio? Let us know in the comments!

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