Audio Calibration – How to Get the Best Sound Out of Your System

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There’s no doubt that most news you will hear regarding the latest and greatest in home theater will revolve around how your media is viewed, whether we are discussing the newest, thinnest LCD television or your Blu-ray player’s ability to output in 1080p/24hz. Marketing around these technologies suggests using these products will transform your ho-hum movie-watching experience into an earth shattering event, but try watching your favorite movie on mute with closed captioning and see if you reel back when the bad guy pops around the corner.

See if your blood ever gets pumping as you anticipate the next battle or if your heart drops when your heroine finds out about her husband’s death at war. The fact is that sound plays an absolutely crucial role in portraying emotion-far beyond that of video. Your system, whether you’re listening through a theater-in-a-box from Best Buy or top of the line components and speakers, can differ significantly based on your listening environment. The position of speakers, walls, furniture, and you, the listener, in your theater area significantly affect the performance of your components, and if you haven’t accounted for the variables in your listening area by calibrating the audio in your home theater, your system is most likely sounding nowhere near its potential.

A properly calibrated system should display the following qualities:

Clarity. Your system should have clear and intelligible dialogue and other sounds should accurately represent the source material.

Focus. You should be able to point to where the sound is coming from and describe the width of the soundstage.

Envelopment. The proper blending of your speakers will completely encase you in the sound.

Dynamics. Your system allows you to clearly hear quiet dialogue over the sound created by other devices in your home.

Response. Your bass should have the heart pounding thump you desire without drowning out your other speakers, and the overall frequency response of your system in your room should be as true to the source as possible.

So you’re thinking you might be in need of an audio calibration; what do you do? You’ve got a few choices. First, you’ll need an audio receiver with room correction settings. Some receivers must be set manually, and some receivers come with a microphone and can auto-calibrate. If your receiver doesn’t auto-calibrate, you will need to be armed with an SPL meter and a tape measure. You can buy an SPL meter from RadioShack ($35-60, dependent on whether you purchase the analog or digital version). Then follow the calibration instructions in your owner’s manual.

These corrections will get you about 80-90% of the way to achieving the optimal audio for your system. This will likely be good enough for the majority of people. For the perfectionists out there, your best option is to pay a professional, who will have the proper equipment and skill to address more complicated issues such as tonal balance, damping, and equalization. If you would like to talk to someone about how to get the most out of the audio in your system, please give us a call at Digitech, where we have professionals certified by the Home Acoustics Alliance who would be happy to help you in this endeavor.

write by Grainne

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