Going crazy (tweak madness)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Michael Pedrosa, Feb 23, 2003.

  1. Michael Pedrosa

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    I think I'm losing my mind. Today, while listening to my recently-purchased pair of main speakers, I got the sense that the music was slightly harsh, too bright. Having the afternoon free, I pulled out my SPL meter and test tone CD and started working on some measurements and small adjustments (tone controls, speaker placement, etc). The problem is, the more adjustments I made, the worse things sounded. Eventually I just gave up and put everything back the way it was. But now it doesn't sound right at all!

    Now it feels like there's something missing, mostly in the high frequency end. Before all this I had been thinking that the high end was too harsh and now it sounds too restrained. There seems to be an overall lack of presence and diminished stereo imaging that was there before. Even DD and DTS soundtracks sound "thinner".

    Again, I put everything back the way it was but it doesn't sound the same. But I'm not sure. The difference may be subtle enough that I'm just not remembering the original sound. Can test tones damage speakers? I never went over 75dB on the SPL meter while using them.

    Was it just from tweaking so much, hearing so many different sounds, that now I can't remember what the original sound was, and nothing sounds right? This is really bugging me. Anyone out there have any experiences like this? Is it just my confused ears or is something really wrong?
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Test tones, or any sound for that matter, will only damage speakers if you've overpowered them...driven them far past their capabilities. You haven't done that so stop worrying about it.
    As far as things not sounding the same, well maybe that's because you've moved your speakers or perhaps made some change that you've forgotten about in your receiver.
    You've hit it square on the head with your comment of not remembering what the original sound was. Our senses, all of them, are fleeting in their ability to determine things precisely. We're not machines, and we just can't do that. This is why, when we're fitted with eyeglasses, we go through a rapid back and forth (better/worse) session with the optometrist. That's why, without having two towels in front of you, you can't reliably determine which of the two is softer. It's a well known and established fact that people will hear differences in a sound source even when none exists. A tawdry example is listening to a favorite song. You go out, meet this incredible female (ok, i'm hetereosexual, shoot me) and for whatever reason you have the most mind blowing sexual encounter of your life. You go home and play that same song again. Sounds even better, hell it's the best thing you've ever heard. Or take the case of you've had the worst day at work, everything went wrong, your boss reamed your ass out and now you're hearing that they plan on outsourcing various jobs overseas. You go home and that same music sounds downright different. The point is outside influences affect our senses. You find out that you've got an unexpected bill. Damned transmission repair is gonna cost you $2700. Suddenly you're wondering, do those new speakers really sound that good? Is that Odyssey amp really any different from the Parasound I'm gonna sell?
    It's not always that the sounds the same either. The same equipment, in two different rooms sound different. Gee, what a surprise, huh?
    As far as the SPL meter goes, for starters, they're highly variable with respect to placement. A slight tilt, one way or the other, and everything's out of whack. When you use it, it can't be hand held. That just won't work. Place it on a solid surface or preferably a tripod and make sure it's set up correctly. If you don't have a calibration disk, pick one up. You can certainly use the test tones in your receiver to set things up, but you're better off with the disk. Some time back, Vince Maskeeper wrote up a real nice piece on the advantages of using a disk. Maybe someone can provide a link to it.
    For starters, I'd recommend setting everything on your system to its default. I'd eliminate the center and rear channels for a moment and work on the front speaker placement. Move them front/back, closer/further away from from the sides, and work on the toe-in to get yourself a decent soundstage with respect to your listening position. Personally, I find rigging up one of those el-cheapo laser pointers on the speakers with a ruled card positioned behind where I'd typically sit to work well. Decide if you want the beams crossing right at the arbitrary zero mark or something like 2 or 4 or whatever +/- to either side. After that, work on the center channel positioning. Look towards incrementally elevating the back. Those rubber angled under-the-door stops work pretty good. Others have their own approaches. Get the angle so movies and what not sound good. Now you can work on the rear placement. Dolby has some approaches that you might find useful and then set your meter up on a rigid, non-moveable platform where you'd normally listen and calibrate. Live with that for a while and then if there are further issues, maybe they can be addressed with tone controls or room treatments.
    You're normal.
     
  3. Michael Pedrosa

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    Aah... This is what I like about this forum - thoroughly cogent answers to just about anything. On other boards I'd probably get an answer like "Well that's because your equipment sucks!"
    Thank you, Chu Gai, for putting my mind at ease. I already suspected most of what you said but in the midst of my madness, I wasn't sure of anything anymore.
    I'll probably just stay away from the system for a day then, as you suggested, put everything back to "default" and work from there.
     
  4. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well i've come to the general conclusion that unless you can hear differences where none exist then that's the definition of mid-fi. actually though, there's a not insubstantial amount of very high end, high priced equipment out there that does benefit from 'tweaking'. But I'm not sure if that's because it's necessarily better. IMHO, I think much of it has to do with poor design. On other forums I've heard people talk about some phono preamp, sing its praises while they're talking about how prone they are to hum and noise pickup. Hell, back in the 70's you'd rarely hear such nonsense.
    Some of it is inherent in the methodology employed (take tubes for example).
    You're OK...with regards to the speakers, keep in mind the venerable 'return period'. If after everything, they're not cutting it for you, take or send em back. Better to eat a little s/h rather than the depreciation of 6 months down the line when you finally realize you just don't like them. Best of luck [​IMG]
     
  5. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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  6. TimForman

    TimForman Supporting Actor

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    Perhaps he has trapped electrons hitting the outside edge of the speaker cables. Have you emptied your electron filter lately? [​IMG]
     

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