At first this article seemed to be too broad. In fact, you may be thinking: “How can you write a guide to shop for ALL electronics?!” Well, for starters there is a lot of overlap between shopping for speakers, AV receivers, table radios and even headphones or gadgets. I realized this as I fond myself starting with the same responses to many of my friends and family-and it didn’t matter whether they were asking me about a projector or a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
So how do you shop for electronics? You start by answering the following five questions:
1. What’s your budget?
The first thing you want to admit is that you have a budget. I don’t care of you’re a millionaire or you work as a plumber-when it comes to shopping, you’ve got a price range in mind. Nail this down, state it clearly, and then stick to it. It will help you constrain the purchasing decision and narrow down your options.
2. Do you plan on upgrading this product or system in the near future? Would you consider that?
One of the things I try to impress upon my friends is that they don’t have to buy the very best, at least not right away. If you are careful and thoughtful, you can buy products that will let you enjoy things like surround sound right away, but leave you room to upgrade down the road.
A great example of this is sacrificing some budget for tower speakers in order to pick up a subwoofer, knowing that you can eventually move those front speakers to the back and upgrade the entire system.
Another example is choosing an AV receiver that meets your needs now, but holding off until you’re ready with the rest of your components to go with a flagship product. I’ve know guys who have done this and ended up getting separates. You also benefit from the latest technologies when you wait!
3. How do you intend to use the product or system?
If you really, truly answer the question of how you’re going to use the system, you’ll often discover what you really need to prioritize. Take a projector, for example. Are you going to watch a lot of daytime television? Is it going to replace your television as a primary display in your home, or is it only going to be used for movies? Remember, you can’t “project black” so if you want to use a projector as your main display you’ll have additional concerns like light control.
If I was talking to someone about a Blu-ray player I might ask them if they’ll be interested in using it for streaming media or just Blu-ray. I’d also inquire as to the rest of their system. Often, a very basic player does just fine when your display is top notch.
4. Who’s going to use it?
I never recommend a high end product when I know the person using it won’t use the features it provides. I’ve had people ask me about televisions only to later realize they wanted it for their grandmother. Now, you can do what you want, but I don’t tend to give octogenarians products with tons of options and features. They’re used to simple, so I try to give them simple. It’s not that they’re not smart enough to figure it out, but if they didn’t want to be bothered in the first place why force complexity on someone who likely appreciates the simple things.
5. How do you want to control it or use it?
I have also talked to people who wanted a sophisticated system but who didn’t apply any thought as to how to control it all. That’s important, and it can lead to all sorts of new considerations for remote controls and the like. That may be an obvious place for home theater systems, but what about tabletop radios? Bluetooth is nice, but of you’re an all-Mac household then you may want the advantages of AirPlay. If we’re talking a television then you may want it as a strict display only, or you may want it to be the hub of a surround bar-based system, with streaming media accounts engaged, etc.
Well, that should at least get you started. I get these questions an awful lot and trying to put down every permutation may be a challenge. In the end, what you’re trying to do is get at the root of you needs and wants. Hopefully this helps you get there more quickly.