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New home theater. Great picture, TERRIBLE sound! Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by captainkidd, Dec 19, 2009.

  1. captainkidd

    captainkidd Extra

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    I just set up a new home theater and am getting a really good picture but the sound/acoustics are really bad. Words are almost imperceptible, completely drowned out by background sound effects and washed out by echoes. I tried to watch 'The Dark Night' last night and couldn't even make it half way through. It is hard to enjoy a movie when you only understand about 30% of the words.

    I think the biggest problem is that there is too much echo in the room. It is a 20' X 30' X 16' high converted garage. The walls are concrete block. My new setup consists of an Epson 8100 projector and a 124" screen that is about 18' from the projector. My receiver is Denon AVR 590 with HDMI output/upconversion or whatever you call it. For speakers I am using a 5.1 system and am using some Sony stand speakers that I have had for about 5 years. I don't know any specs on the speakers off hand. They sit close to the viewing area in the rear and near the screen about 16' away from the viewing area in the front.

    Before I go and buy all new speakers I thought I might ask for suggestions on fine tuning the set up the way it is. Thanks in advance for any advice!
     
  2. captainkidd

    captainkidd Extra

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    As I was reading through some threads on room acoustics I noticed that room shape and speaker distance from walls was often discussed so I thought I might add that the room is a big rectangle and the speakers/theater only uses about the first 12' or so. The other 18' is a game room with pool table and dart board, etc... The speakers are on stands about 8-10 inches from the walls. The center speaker is down on the floor. The flooring is tile on concrete.
    I am not trying to make it into the Sydney opera house but I sure would like to be able to understand the words while watching a movie!
     
  3. Frank A

    Frank A Stunt Coordinator

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    I can't be of any real help except to say that most people will say that the number one thing that affects good sound in your system are the speakers. The second thing they will say that affects good sound is the room/accoustics setup.

    Sounds to me like your first concern in your setup should be your room accoustics (echoeing, background sound affects, etc.). As I don't know much about that stuff, I will let someone else chime in. You might also google for information about it to see what is out there.

    Sorry, I couldn't be of any help.
     
  4. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    First of all did you use the "Audyssey MultEQ room acoustic measurement and correction system" to calibrate the speaker levels? Next you say that there are hard walls, ceiling and floor. You probably have sound waves bouncing all over the place. With everything turned off go to the center of the room and clap your hands. Does the sound echo or not? You may want to consider area rugs, acoustic panels or other sound treatments.
     
  5. captainkidd

    captainkidd Extra

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    I tried to run the acoustic correction but it kept failing on the sub woofer and I don't think I ever completed it. I intended to buy a new sub and try again but haven't had a chance. As far as echo, yes it is pretty bad.
     
  6. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    You can also set the speaker levels manually. You can buy a SPL meter and the receiver probably has test tones that it would play. If not there are calibration DVDs that have the test tones as well as picture test patterns. Place the meter in the seating area and adjust each speaker so the SPL is the same. Your surround speakers may be drowning out your center (dialogue).

    If you have a loud echo, you will need to do something about that. What is happening is you speaker produces sound #1 and you hear it, it also passes by you and bounces off the wall. Now the speaker is producing sound #2, but sound #1 is on it's way back and it is drowning out sound #2 to some extent. The most common reaction is to turn up the volume because you can not hear sound #2. This makes the situation worse because now sound #1 may bounce again with sound #2 bouncing and you can't hear sound #3 and so on...

    On the sub, do some research. That is a fairly large room and you will need a decent sized sub to move that much air.
     
  7. captainkidd

    captainkidd Extra

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    My biggest problem is definitely bad acoustics/echo. The entire room is like an echo chamber. It is even hard just to have a conversation! From the reading that I have done in the past hour I already know I am going to need some sort of acoustical panels on at least the front and side wall. Any suggestions on something that might suffice that doesn't break the bank? Also, can anybody suggest the best way to determine size and position of said panels?
     
  8. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    You can build some panels yourself with rigid Owens Corning 703 insulation panel. In 2004 I bought some from L&L insulation located in Missouri. They shipped it COD. It was around $70.00 total for 6-1" and 4-2" panels 24" x 48". I don't know if they are still selling though.
    L & L Insulation & Supply
    1705 Sulphur Ave
    St.Louis, MO 63110
    314-781-9991

    I also bought some about 2 years ago from ATS Acoustics at a reasonable price. Or you could just hang sleeping bags or quilts around the walls. As far as how many and where to place them, I am sure there are percentages of wall space that you can use depending on how much you want to "deaden" the room. The ATS site can help there. I would at least put them across the room from the speakers - where the sound from the speakers would hit at ear level while sitting.
     
  9. Jasen Chandler

    Jasen Chandler Stunt Coordinator

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    I think your reciever's distance and speaker levels are way out of whack. I've setup some systems in very live rooms and have been able to calibrate around a lot of room problems. The problems you are describing sound like serious delay issues and a horrible LFE setup. You need to run the Auddessey and get it to complete, if not hire a professional to come and calibrate for you before you go and blow a bunch of money on acoustic treatments. You need to get a base calibration first.
     
  10. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    I agree with Jasen. Acoustical treatments are useless when you have an uncalibrated system. The reason the sound effects are drowning out the dialog is because your speakers are either set to different levels (with the center set too low) or they are of significantly different sensitivities, and your center needs more power to produce the same volume level. No acoustical treatment is going to fix this. You must complete Auddyssey. Calibration is setting the timing on the engine so that it actually fires, acoustic treatments are the fine tuning.
     
  11. captainkidd

    captainkidd Extra

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    I decided to start by upgrading to some real speakers and with a twist of fate and bit of luck ended up with a pair of Klipsch WF-35s and matching center. Still using my little sonys for the rears. I don't remember if I mentioned it earlier but I also have an Energy sub.

    I set the new speakers up, ran the audessey calibration and put "the dark night" back in. The audio was much more understandable but still seems too quiet compared to the sound effects. I put in several different CDs and listened to a bunch of songs and the sound is as clear as a bell. Every word is as clear as you can imagine and the sound is beautiful, unlike anything I can remember. So music sounds perfect (to my untrained ear) and movie sound effects are good but the movies words are still getting a bit lost. My guess is that there is too much bass reflection and it is smothering the dialogue but I am no expert and have never dealt with this type of thing before.
     
  12. martindale

    martindale Auditioning

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    The room has to be toned down first. Forget Audyssey until much later in your process. There are a multitude of simple acoustic absorptive panels available from the net and get as much as you can afford to start. There is tons you can read about placement of panels and start with basic first reflection points. You can "advance" to low frequency control, again there is tons written and the basics are well documented. Get the center channel speaker off the floor if it's still there! Use the basic level setting adjustments in your receiver or player, read procedure slow and careful and yes, get a sound level meter. Turn off or disconnect every speaker except center channel and make sure dialogue sounds clear. Then add back in the rest of speakers.
     
  13. chrispitude

    chrispitude Auditioning

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    When I was first constructing my dedicated home theater, I carried my stereo gear (Sunfire, Lexicon, Magnepan) into the room to try it out. At this point, the room was sheetrocked and spackle only with a bare concrete floor. The acoustics were absolutely HORRIBLE. I could barely understand the dialogue, and it sounded like I was listening in an echo chamber.

    Once the room was completed, with carpeting and big cushy theater seats and shelving on the back walls, and 1" rigid fiberglass treatment on the walls, the echo was tamed and the room sounds terrific.

    http://www.chrispitude.net/index.php?album=theater

    All the great stereo gear in the world does not overcome the inherent nature of an echo chamber (intentional or not).

    - Chris
     
  14. chuckg

    chuckg Supporting Actor

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    I'm chiming in late...but have you tried putting down some rugs, hanging some old carpet samples on the wall, or any other cheap-and-dirty acoustic treatment?

    After reading that you have trouble understanding normal conversation betweeen people in the room, it is quite clear that room acoustics are the culprit. Music likes a somewhat live room, movies would rather have a mostly dead room.
     
  15. Chris Bedard

    Chris Bedard Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd also add that if you have the center speaker sitting actually on the concrete floor, I'd look into putting it on a stand to get it away from that immediate hard surface which is probably affecting your dialogue the most.
     

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