Optimizing my setup

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Barry II, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. Barry II

    Barry II Extra

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    I know my speakers are *cough* not good. But I can't afford right now to upgrade them. Unless $100 could make a big difference. I'd much rather get my existing equipment sounding the best it can. If you look at my equipment list you can see what I have in the way of components. I'd also like to know how much of a difference using a sound meter, like the Radio Shack SPL, would make. What settings would work best for my speakers. (i.e. Large vs. Small) I'm currently without a subwoofer. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

    --Barry II
     
  2. Jeffrey Stanton

    Jeffrey Stanton Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Barry:

    I'm really not trying to be a smart-ass or anything, but you can't get blood out of a turnip...

    First thing I would do is save up and get a half-way decent subwoofer. For $100 maybe you can get one on e-bay or something. That would be the one thing that I can think of that would make the most marked improvement in your system. I'm not familiar with your speakers, but in terms of "large" vs. "small" settings, since you have no sub right now there would be no sense in using a "small" setting unless they are real dinky speakers that cannot handle ANY bass.

    As for a rat shack SPL meter, I would think it's not gonna improve anything much, all you might be able to use it for with your present set-up is for balacing the sound level for your center and surrounds with your mains, which I personally do "by ear" anyway. I have a SPL meter but am going to use it to calibrate my sub with the rest of the system, which I have yet to do. Someone else may have other suggestions, but I do not see any point in it if you do not have a sub.

    I would concentrate on getting a sub...[​IMG]


    Jeff Stanton
     
  3. Kevinkall

    Kevinkall Second Unit

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    I would suggest getting or borrowing an SPL meter. I tried to set my speakers up by ear and then by using an SPL meter and the difference was a noticeable improvement by using the SPL meter. Proper speaker setup is important no matter if your setup costs $100 or $10,000. Since I don't have GOOD speakers I know where you're coming from and with some tweaking my setup has improved AOLT. You may also want to reposition your speakers(this can also make a big difference in sound). I would also suggest picking up a sub(then you should set your speakers to SMALL). Setting up your speakers properly and adding a sub should be a BIG jump in sound for you. Hope this helps.
     
  4. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    The single biggest improvement in my system and in the several others I've calibrated is calibration. Every system will benefit from calibration, if only to get it standardized. Doing it "by ear" is suspect. You may be close or you may be way off, but one thing for sure, you will not know how far off you are until you calibrate it with an SPL meter. Look only to Kevin's experience for proof of this.

    Jeffrey Stanton, I respectfully disagree that an SPL meter will not improve his sound for the reasons stated above. I also suggest you calibrate, especially if you already have an SPL. You may be surprised at how off your "by ear" settings are.

    If you had a crappy car, would you complain about it running rough and yet not get a tuneup because it's only a crappy car??
     
  5. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Barry I also would get an SPL meter to balance your speakers. Even an inexpensive setup will benefit from the right balance. My suggestions in priority order (most of these cost money):

    1.Set your receiver to the following: front speakers, ‘large’; center, small; surrounds, small; subwoofer, off (natch); crossover, 150hz (you should experiment here—but I don’t think that those Sony’s will go as low as you might like).
    2.Borrow a Video Essentials or AVIA disk and a SPL meter
    3.Buy the above if you can’t borrow.
    4.Use these to calibrate both your TV and your sound.
    5.Buy an inexpensive sub—you might find something in the used market, inexpensively or otherwise the ~$200 range should get you something good enough to improve your setup.
    6.Change the settings to: fronts, ‘small’; center, small; surrounds, small; sub, on, crossover 100hz (again experiment for the right setting—80hz might be right).
    7.re-calibrate your audio system.
    Now you can follow an upgrade path at your option and as you have money.
     
  6. Barry II

    Barry II Extra

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    Thanks for all the responses.

    I just finally made these placment changes. I positioned the center channel so it actually was in the center! I lined up all the speakers geared towards a single listening position as stated at http://www.dolby.com/ht/Guide.HomeTheater.0110.html except the front/right are just pointed towards me and not actually closer. I inputted the correct lengths between me and speakers. Don't assume lengths like I did [​IMG] and I set all speakers to large although I guess I should change that those sourround speakers don't have much bass. The front left/right has a response at 50hz if that helps. I will try to get an SPL meter. I'd like to get Avia or VE, but $50! That seems kinda steep. I'd expect some free popcorn or something. I really do want to get a sub. Hopefully soon. (If I hear those seismic charges in episode 2 without some freakin' bass one more time. I don't what I'll do!)

    I don't even think I fiddle with the crossover, if I can please tell me how.

    -Barry II
     
  7. Jeffrey Stanton

    Jeffrey Stanton Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Jeff Gatie:

    I am fairly new to the idea of calibration, but understand fairly well the reasoning behind calibration/equalization of a subwoofer in a system. But he doesn't have a subwoofer. Subwoofer calibration and equalization, of course that's going to make a MAJOR difference. I proved that to myself by Auto-EQing my sub with a Behringer DSP8024. Wow, what a difference. No more "one note bass", for one thing. It made my subwoofer sound like a completely different piece of equipment.

    I did recently purchase a Rat shack SPL meter for the purpose of system calibration. Mainly for the subwoofer, but I intend to use it eventually on the entire system. Don't have the AVIA test disk yey, but will soon.

    As far as "doing it by ear", I guess that would mean any sort of calibration done without an SPL meter. My way of "doing it by ear" is maybe cheating a little, so to speak. I have a Yamaha DSP-A1 AV receiver and it has a test tone which cycles between the mains, center, & surrounds, one at a time, and I raise or lower the output of each speaker until the PERCEIVED sound level between all of them is equal. As far as I'm concerned, it does a pretty good job. And I can tell you that changing the surrounds or center by a dB or two as compared to the mains does not make a real big difference in the overall sound of my system. I suppose that if one did not have this feature (without a test tone), doing it "by ear" would be a lot more inaccurate.

    My current "ear" method of balancing my speakers is only possible because of the feature on the Yamaha amp that I described above. By cycling the same tone to all the speakers, it is easy to set the same perceived sound level for each set of speakers. It would much different if you were to try to do it without a test tone. Still, it is "by ear".

    Come to think of it, now I can use the SPL meter along with the tones and compare that to my "perceived" levels (or "ear-method") of system balancing.

    Anyways, I guess I mis-spoke saying it wouldn't improve his system much, he could be WAY out of whack and not know it. And I forgot that not everybody has the spaeker balancing that my DSPA1 has. I know if mine was out of whack, I would HEAR it...[​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  8. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Jeffrey Stanton,

    Actually, most if not all A/V receivers have test tones that will cycle through the speakers and allow you to match the levels. Matching these levels by ear is better than nothing, but doing it with a SPL meter is much more precise and you may be surprised to find how off you ear is, even when listening to test tones. I too balanced my system by ear using cycling test tones before I got a SPL meter and I was not even close. This is especially true if you have a sub (most people crank the sub off the chart, 10-20 dB over the reference point).

    All I can say is that if you have an SPL meter, there is no reason to do it by ear. You may change the levels slightly to suit personal taste, but at least you will have a precise baseline to work from. As far as being able to hear if it is out of whack, how would you know? If all you've listened to out of whack, how do you know it is out of whack. That's whre the SPL comes in[​IMG] .
     
  9. Jeffrey Stanton

    Jeffrey Stanton Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Jeff:

    It's not out of whack when I can hear all speakers equally, while having none of them overpowering or being perceptibly louder than the others. On the DSP-A1 everything is referenced to the mains, only the master volume controls them. I start at O dB for all speakers. If I cannot hear the surrounds, I turn 'em up until I can hear them, and still hear the mains. With the center, I turn it up until I can distinctly hear dialogue and still hear(simultaneously) the mains (and surrounds).

    I am going to use the SPL meter eventually, right now I can do nothing because we lost our remote [​IMG] (go figure) and you cannot adjust speaker levels on the DSP-A1 without it. Luckily the levels were at an acceptable setting when the remote disappeared!![​IMG]
     

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