Traditional "box" loudspeakers still offer the best sound quality for the money and are the most practical. It's hard to predict how custom installed speakers - even high-end ones - will sound until they have been fitted. There are limits to how far electronic systems can compensate for physically restricted output capacity, directivity and placement issues, and signal loss in cables. Overhead sounds are filtered by our ear lobes and subsequent neural processing differently from sounds that principally arrive head on.
Music lovers will want to experiment with room layout and loudspeaker placement. If you relocate regularly, being able to take your speakers with you when you move matters if you seriously listen rather than regard music as background sound.
The construction of the cabinet and its finish is a large percentage of the cost of a loudspeaker. Craftsmanship is required for cabinets with bookended veneers and rich finishes. The cost of raw materials (especially exotic real wood veneers and magnetic materials), labor, shipping and warehousing has meant that the cost of loudspeakers has steadily risen more so than electronic components. The relatively low manufacturing costs in Asia have kept costs lower than they otherwise would be although this is gradually eroding as standards of living and wages increase. There may be changes in tariffs ahead. For speakers selling at lower price points, the designer has to decide between the cabinet size and finish, and the driver and cross-over quality.
Precision manufacturing is required in the drivers themselves. There is always variance in fabrication of cone materials, the proximity of the voice coil to the magnets, and magnetic strength from one batch of magnets to another. Some magnetic materials have risen in cost due to their limited availability. Stable stereo images require the right and left speaker to output the same volume at all frequencies so the sound doesn't drift from one side to another. Reference speakers are more closely matched with grading of drivers and hand tweaking of cross-over networks extending the time it takes to build a speaker. Note most speaker measurements that you see are for an individual speaker.
The UK has always been a center of excellence for loudspeaker design. This is due to high broadcasting standards, exposure to musical education in schools from an early age, and a supply of dedicated acoustical engineers graduating from universities offering specialized education in loudspeaker design. Specialized manufacturing technology development has accelerated in Europe and the West particularly in technology parks which offer cooperative endeavors sharing modern materials and fabrication methods across different industries.
For dynamic driver loudspeakers, the basic parameters of cabinet volume (size), bass extension, bass output capacity, distortion, efficiency and power handling, and loading is fairly well understood. Compact "bookshelf" and stand-mounted speakers work well in small/medium-sized rooms provided the absence of low bass fundamentals is acceptable. Dynamic range is restricted by air compression in a smaller box. However smaller boxes are easier to make more rigid and cabinet vibrations, which can muddy the sound are reduced. Floorstanding speakers are generally more suited to larger rooms and they offer more bass extension, power and efficiency. Though more efficient, a more powerful amplifier is needed especially when there are multiple drivers with larger heavier diaphragms. It is harder to make larger cabinets rigid since its easier to vibrate larger panels so cabinet design and bracing is more important.
Electrostatic loudspeakers are panel speakers that sound forwards and backwards (dipole). Issues of cabinet resonance and cross-over (for full-range electrostatic speakers) are eliminated and they are more linear in response with a much faster reaction time since there is very little inertia. A high voltage electric field is needed to create an electrostatic field and to overcome the large air load on the membrane and they present a more challenging load for an amplifier to drive. But installed well in a suitable environment with the right electronics, many consider them to offer the best natural high fidelity sound
The typical useful life of loudspeakers is about 15 years and so the cost of ownership should be amortized over this period of time. Taking the time to audition speakers will pay off in that you will hopefully enjoy them for quite some time. However most people over-allocate the proportion of the budget for loudspeakers when putting together a system. The source components, amplification and infrastructure make a big difference to how speakers perform and the overall sound of the system. Whether you plan for a "one-time" purchase of a complete system or build a system up over several years is an important consideration in how far to go with your speaker purchase.
Auditioning loudspeakers at kemela is done in a "controlled" manner whereby the customer can compare speakers with all other aspects kept the same. The type of amplification and source components will be discussed ahead of time as part of the level service and effort made by kemela for customers.