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gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
Tips Update

Wow this is an awesome job you are all doing. I thank you for your efforts.

I realized however that most of these tips need at least a couple of more sentences to make for a full post. My fault since I asked for them to be short.

Here is what I need if you can be so kind to indulge:

  • The first 3-4 sentences should be a concise tip I can use at the intro text for the homepage.
  • The next paragraph can be a more lengthy explanation (at least 2-3 sentences long).

Thanks again guys! Keep em coming.
 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Protect your hearing
Second edition:

Protect your hearing

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or in this case, their hearing. Remember folks, even a modest sound system is capable of delivering sufficiently high SPLs to cause significant damage to your hearing over time. While it may be entertaining to dial things up to 11 today, you might be kicking yourself down the line.

One item that can assist in maintaining the health of your ears is the simple SPL meter. Investing in an SPL meter can be useful for things like system setup/calibration, but it is also an important tool to let you know whether you are indeed getting too much of a good thing. According to the NIH (US), prolonged exposure to levels of 85dB or more can cause hearing loss; in other words, if the meter spends more time above 85dB than below, you might be wise to turn the volume down a few notches. Have fun, but be careful!

For more information on noise induced hearing loss:
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/noise.aspx

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Keeping Cool
Second edition:

Keeping Cool

As most people are aware, the lifespan and reliability of electronic equipment can be improved by keeping temperature under control. Unfortunately, in many setups, aesthetics wins the day, meaning that your fancy heat producing receiver is locked away in a cabinet with little or no ventilation. It's only when problems crop up that we start to take notice, and by then it may be too late. The answer: more air flow!

If your electronics are destined to end up in a cabinet, try to pick a model which specifically makes provisions for air flow; companies such as Sanus and Salamander market specialized cabinets that are designed to keep your equipment cool. Of course, if you already own a cabinet that lacks proper ventilation, a drill can come in quite handy; an inexpensive but good quality 120mm fan or two set to low speed can also improve air flow without adding significantly to background noise. Remember, if your equipment is too hot to touch, you're not doing it or potentially your wallet any favors in the long run.

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Keep it down man
Second edition:

Keep it down man

No, not your sound system, the background noise. While a lot of people people talk about room acoustics or the noise floor of electronic equipment, one thing that often goes unmentioned is the noise floor of your listening room. If you're after clear and detailed sound, it may be a good idea to break out your trusty SPL meter, and see what's going on in your space.

To start with, measure your room at a dead quiet: depending on various factors, a level in the 20-30dB range is pretty typical. Now switch on your HVAC; odds are your 20-30dB just shot up into the 40s. Another common culprit for adding noise is a refrigerator humming along in a corner. Suffice it to say, the simple act of turning off your central air while you're listening to music has the potential to make a significant improvement. It's also worth keeping in mind the noise floor of your room when you're considering electronics purchases; suffice it to say, in most cases, it probably isn't worth agonizing over the differences between receiver A with a 90dB signal to noise ratio, and receiver B with a 120dB signal to noise ratio, all else being equal. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Mixing And Matching
Second edition:

Mixing And Matching

As a general rule, mixing different brands (and even different lines within a brand) of speakers is not recommended. When building a sound system, you want your speakers to be timbre matched, ie they should have the same sonic signature. As sounds pan from left to right for example, you want a consistent presentation. A bad match, say a pair of Bose cubes and a Klipsch La Scala center, will simply yield lousy results.

It is worth noting that matching is particularly critical for the front three speakers. Because the location of your surround speakers is drastically different with respect to your front stage, timbre will already be altered; of course, matching doesn't hurt anything, and can be advantageous aesthetically. With respect to the subwoofer, timbre matching is not a factor as it is not overlapping with your other speakers over a wide range. As such, it is safe to use a subwoofer from a specialty manufacturer such as SVS, Hsu Research, Rythmik, or Velodyne (among others) whose products may provide more value than a pre-packaged subwoofer. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Mix of "Go Big Or Go Home" and philosophical advice:

Don't Psych Yourself Out

Perhaps the most important advice anyone can give is to enjoy yourself and to be happy with what you've got. This sentiment is quite applicable to audio as well: if you're analyzing the performance of the speakers, you're not enjoying the music or the movie, and missing the point of the hobby.

This kind of advice is perhaps easier to give than to actually follow, but there are some things one can do to avoid falling into the above trap. For starters, it's always a good idea to buy the best equipment you can up front (though I do not advocate going into debt for this hobby), as you're less likely to be left wondering "what if...". As an example: its doubtful you'll find anyone that ever bought a SVS PB13-Ultra pining about what could have been if they had only gotten a PB12-NSD. As a side benefit, if you buy the best you can reasonably afford, the odds are improved that you'll only have to buy once. Other than that, just sit back and relax. Some of the best sound I've ever heard involved a couple of cold beers and just enjoying what was playing. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Don't Blow It
Second edition:

Don't Blow It

Every so often some variation of the question gets asked: will I blow my speakers if I use amplifer X with speaker Y. Either the person is concerned they are going to underpower a speaker because it is rated to handle more wattage than their amplifier/receiver can deliver, or they are concerned they will blow their speaker because their amplifier/receiver is rated to deliver more than the speaker is rated for. In the end what matters is whether or not the the amplifier can drive the speakers to the volumes you want without clipping, and can the speaker deliver those levels cleanly.

Naturally, the easiest way to tell whether the combination will work is to listen: if you don't hear any strain or distortion, then you're not going to have a problem. If you start pushing things to the point where you can hear audible problems, then it's time to turn the volume down. So long as this simple advice is heeded, the odds are good your equipment will last for years to come. So to sum up: no, the simple combination of a 500 watt amplifier to a speaker rated for 100 watts of input power isn't a recipe for disaster, nor is the reverse. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Replaces Money Versus Engineering And Science and Monster Cable

Dollars and Sense

There's a saying: you get what you pay for. Oftentimes, this is true: a good quality, well engineered product as complex as a loudspeaker or amplifier does tend to cost more than a value meal at McDonalds. Unfortunately, there are many vendors out there willing to sell you snake oil at exorbitant prices, and it can be difficult to tell these products from truly good products. In these cases, a good BS detector can help.

Naturally, knowledge is a great inoculation against scam artists looking to sell high priced wires, fancy rocks, and Casio clocks with red dots on them. I would recommend to those with more than a passing interest in audio to visit the AV University section of the Audioholics website, as it is a great resource for learning all about audio. On the other hand, if you're not technically inclined, there is still some hope. The reproduction of audio is a science, and science demands more than a few subjective testimonials on a website; science is about measurements, preferably verified by a credible third party reviewer. If the only "reviews" available for a product consist of all fluff and no fact, it may be worth doing a little more digging to make sure you're not buying snake oil. As is always the case: buyer beware.


 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Small Towers???
Second Edition

Are your speakers large or small?

As a general rule of thumb, if you have a subwoofer, your speakers should be set to "small" in your receiver. Even if you have large towers with big woofers, re-routing your bass to a dedicated subwoofer has several benefits. This also applies if the auto-calibration system of your receiver has set your speakers to large.

So you might ask yourself, if I purchased big floorstanding speakers, why would I want to set them to small? Well, here's a short list of the most pertinent reasons:

  • You will achieve more consistent bass response. Even identical speakers in different locations can vary in their sound due to the way they interact with the room; redirecting bass to a subwoofer can avoid this issue.
  • Typically people place their speakers where where the best imaging can be achieved. Unfortunately, this may not be the best place for bass reproduction, so a separate subwoofer can have a significant advantage.
  • In a balanced system, a dedicated subwoofer can typically produce more output with less distortion than a tower speaker. As an example, it isn't a difficult task to find a subwoofer costing less than $1000 that can reproduce 20Hz with reasonable authority. Few, if any $1000 towers can achieve the same feat.
  • Rerouting bass to a dedicated subwoofer will reduce the workload of your main speakers and their partnering amplification.

Don't get me wrong: large speakers have their uses; however, deep bass reproduction is best left to a dedicated subwoofer. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Starting Out
Second edition:

Starting Out

It seems like at least once a day, someone signs up on the Audioholics forums and asks how they can best spend X amount of dollars. In the case of a more modest budget, a smart way to approach things is to buy a surround receiver but start with a 2.1 system, ie two speakers and a subwoofer. There are of course advantages to surround sound; two speakers, no matter how good, can never give you the same effect. However, quality does have its appeal too, though it takes some patience to see it through.

On a basic level, there is no doubt: splitting up your money for fewer speakers means you're going to get better quality. At the budget end of the spectrum, one or two hundred extra dollars can very much mean the difference between speakers and a subwoofer that do mediocre work, and set that really satisfies. Of course, as the budget allows, you can pick up a center and surround speakers to have a complete 5.1 system. Ultimately, this advice is about saving money in the long run: if you buy a 5.1 system that doesn't satisfy you, you're going to eventually replace it. If you start with two good speakers and a subwoofer, this is less likely to be the case.

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Size Matters
Second edition:

Size Matters

In the world of loudspeakers, it is important to remember that you can't break the laws of physics. As many of us rush towards ever smaller cube-type speakers ala Bose, there is one rule we should keep in mind: Hoffman's Iron Law. In short, you cannot have a very small, high efficiency speaker with deep bass extension. Diminutive cubes thus are fighting an uphill battle against physics.

OK, lets step back for a moment: nobody expects a cube to reproduce deep bass; that's what a subwoofer is for! However, when you're looking at a tiny cube with a single 2.5" or 3" driver, this is a speaker that is going to struggle to get down to even the 80Hz-120Hz needed to successfully blend with a subwoofer. In this respect, even a small bookshelf speaker like the NHT SuperZero or the Ascend HTM-200 represents an immense upgrade over the small cubes. Summing it all up, unless your idea of good sound includes a nice hole smack dab in the mid-bass, you're best served to avoid the tiny cubes. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Respect My Authority
Second edition:

Respect My Authority

If there's one thing I'm certain of its this: everybody likes to save a buck. Thanks to the internet, it is possible to sell products online at a reduced price to the consumer, given that an e-tailer has significantly fewer costs than a brick and mortar store. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this, unauthorized resellers, aka the gray market. Buyer beware!

So what's wrong with the gray market? Well for starters, manufacturers will usually not honor the warranty of a product purchased through gray market channels. Worse, if you're purchasing products through a random website, you open yourself to a whole host of problems including counterfeit goods and credit card fraud. A word to the wise: if you find a price that is too good to be true online, it may be worth checking the manufacturers website to verify that the seller is an authorized dealer. It is also worth mentioning that this isn't restricted to the internet: one should never, ever buy speakers out of the back of a white van, for example. Of course, if you're eager for value, it is worth considering used goods; well cared for equipment can potentially last for decades, and some manufacturers do offer transferable warranties which can provide a safety net. Happy listening!

 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
And to round out the anthology...

Second edition:

Goals and Tools

When considering the purchase of components for a sound system, it can be useful to think of each component as a tool: you need the right tool for the right job. To that end, you first need to start with a goal: what are you trying to accomplish? Once you've got a defined goal in place (preferably something more than "good sound"), you can get to work selecting components.

Of the components you can purchase, the speaker requires the most thought and effort in selecting: the speaker combined with the room determine the sonic signature of your system, and in that respect, it is more than just a tool. Still, from a practical standpoint, you need a speaker that can play loudly enough in your room while maintaining composure, so you wouldn't want to pick a small speaker to try and fill a huge room. From there, things get easier: the characteristics of the speaker (namely sensitivity and impedance) combined with your volume requirements determine what you need in terms of amplification. The speaker combined with the length of the wiring run determines what you need in terms of speaker wire. The CD/DVD/Blu Ray player simply has the job of reading the disc and transferring the contents to your processor/receiver.

Approaching things from this standpoint can be a big money saver: if you're not interested in high volumes, there's usually not much need for a high power amplifier; if you're running an eight foot run from your amplifier to your speakers, odds are good that you don't need 10 gauge or thicker cabling. Pick the wrong tool for the wrong job, and you'll either have spent more than you needed to, or you'll end up unsatisfied and probably buying again. Buy the right tool for the right job, and you'll only have to buy once. Happy listening!

 
psbfan9

psbfan9

Audioholic Samurai
Steve81,

Seriously, you should start a blog. Or send your resume to Gene.

I appreciate reading these!
 
GranteedEV

GranteedEV

Audioholic Ninja
Watt`s up with spec sheets?

Speakers produce their power in the form of both heat and sound. So be wary when "watts" are part of a product description - you're not interested in how quickly it can boil water because you're not buying a microwave oven. Further, sometimes these marketed power specs were determined using misleading standards in the first place.

If you are looking at a spec sheet, the speaker's efficiency and impedance, as well as the amp's output - will matter more as far as "enough power". These can be difficult to evaluate so feel free to ask on the forums.
 

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Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
I appreciate reading these!
Thanks!

Seriously, you should start a blog. Or send your resume to Gene.
In all seriousness, while I'd like to think I've got some of the basic concepts down, I'm aware of my limits; I can't claim to hold a lot of the really in depth knowledge that some of the guys here can.

Still, my wife has dreams of moving back to Ohio some day, and the thought had crossed my mind that I should try to get a job somewhere like SVS, PSA, etc if and when that should happen.

For now though: "There is no charge for awesomeness... or attractiveness." :D
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
Consider Future-Proofing your investment in new Receiver: Pre-Outs

While on bargain hunt trying to get most bang for your buck, do not forget about pre-out. They are really simple to add, but majority of lower end models are missing them due to product positioning, rather than technical reasons.

While there isn't such thing a truly future proofing any piece of electronics, there are few simple ways to gain some advantage. Consider a Receiver without Pre-Outs - It will probably work fine with your current speakers and room, but moving to harder to drive speakers and/or bigger space you could end up in need for more robust amplifier.
You could just go ahead and plug-in a robust external amplifier and bypass internal amplifiers in you AVR, but if your Receiver don't have pre-outs - you are out of luck and will need to replace it and buy a new one instead.

 

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