Perfect Home Theater Placement
talking musical bass here, electric and acoustic--deep, low, and
powerful, the low-frequency foundation that gives most music its
rhythmic drive and pulls us into its ongoing momentum.
Bass is innate, and primal, and seems to be almost part of our soul
(soul music?) so getting home theater placement right is as important to the enjoyment
of home theater as it is to just plain music, whether you listen
in 5.1 channels, 6.1 channels or in two stereo channels. Without
good bass, music sounds anemic and undernourished, robbed of its
speakers, certainly the big ones, pump out bass in
fairly large quantities in average rooms, and even the modest speakers,
like the M3ti and M22ti, do a creditable job on lots of music. But
when you head for the home theater or you want to fill a bigger
room, especially with dinosaur-type footfalls or the convincing
war effects of movies like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Black
Hawk Down," most of us opt for a subwoofer. The sub handles
all the serious low bass, letting your main speakers (and center
and surround speakers) do their best job with upper bass and the
midrange. With subwoofer assistance, your mains, center, and surrounds
will play louder, with less strain. And the subwoofer's power amp
relieves your receiver's amplifiers of supplying all those watts
for watt-hungry low-bass effects, allowing your receiver's amplifiers
to "coast" with the fairly modest power requirements of
midrange and upper-bass frequencies. So we all win. But the trick
is getting the blend right, and with home-theater setups, it's frustrating
and at times seems almost impossible.
a Great Setup
Help is at hand in the form of a remarkably well-produced and complete
home theater and stereo set-up DVD: the Sound&Vision Home Theater
Tune-Up (DVDI 0790), published by Sound&Vision magazine and
Ovation Software. If you aren't aware of it or haven't seen it,
you should check it out. Even for an avid enthusiast, it's useful,
and--as impossible as this sounds, it's actually entertaining! Although
this may seem like a shameless plug, it isn't. The DVD's audio test
signals were developed by Sound&Vision Technical Editor David
Ranada (an old friend and former colleague of mine). He is one of
the best-informed individuals around on the subject of digital processing,
home theater reproduction, video, and acoustics. The co-producer
of the DVD is Ovation Software, who did the original Avia video
alignment disc, heretofore one of the best video and audio alignment
time I use the Sound&Vision DVD, I find new information. It's
hosted by an engaging Bill Paxton-type actor "Dave" and
an agreeable non-shrewish actress, who plays his significant other.
Together, chapter by chapter, and in easily understandable language,
they go through the process of connecting your A/V receiver, DVD
player, subwoofer, and five or more satellite speakers, as well
as all the video connections, optical and coaxial digital links,
and the analog audio hookups. And there are really clever demos
to show the difference in video quality between S-video, composite-
and component-video connections as well as concise explanations
of interlaced and progressive-scan TV displays, High-Definition
TV standards, and compatible progressive-scan DVD players.
If anyone can make setting up those pesky subwoofer crossover frequencies
entertaining and engaging, this pair can. Even little known facts--like
setting your subwoofer's crossover control to its maximum position
to let the receiver's built-in crossover work unhampered--are not
overlooked. And some excellent basics about how to set the system
menu for all your home theater speakers to "Small" or
"Large" are also covered. Basically, any main, center-channel,
or surround speaker using woofers smaller than 8 inches should be
set to "Small." Now that's easy to remember!
had the feeling that maybe, just maybe, not all your speakers are
"in phase," their woofers perhaps not all pushing and
pulling air at the same time along with your subwoofer?
problem. The test signals gradually check phase with the sub and
between every speaker in your system so you can check 'em all. And
the tests for setting the subwoofer crossover frequency and level
are the best I've ever encountered. You can do the tests by ear
or, even better, with Radio Shack's inexpensive Sound Level Meter.
There are even clear directions on the DVD on how to set up and
use that invaluable accessory (it's about $35 or so at Radio Shack
stores). You can access test tones for 6.1-channel systems and dts
test tones as well. And excellent graphic animations illustrate
proper surround, main-channel, and subwoofer speaker placement.
I haven't talked much about the TV and video display alignment tests,
but the DVD is even supplied with a blue filter to perform the color
calibrations by eye. And who coudn't use a better-looking TV picture?
Most consumer sets are badly misaligned right out of the box! If
you're still confused about DVD movie and video-display aspect ratios
and anamorphic formats, this disc will set you straight.
to get hold of this excellent setup DVD? It's available on-line
from a number of sources, including Barnes
& Noble.com (Home Theater Placement DVD). The DVD's suggested retail price is $19.95 (US).
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