Have you done everything you possibly can to make the most out of your music?
Odds are you only think you have which is why I will cover in this post what you should be doing along with providing a twist on how to improve how your music can sound. This twist is something I have recently experimented with and had great results with. But first let’s make sure your doing everything that you should normally be doing.
- Always start with the room acoustics. Over the many years of testing which eventually led to my creation of Premium Audio I have learned that this is the single most important step you can take to make the most out of your music. I have talked about this time and time again because of just how crucial it really is. For tips on this please purchase the first book I ever wrote for Premium Audio – Customize Your Home Theatre: 5.1 Channel to 15.2 and everything in between. Remember when this step and the others that follow are all applied you can take a not so great speaker and make it sound much better than it should, often times rivaling at low volumes speakers costing three or more times as much!
- Determine how much space you have. Will you be able to fit a pair of 12’s in the room or will it be something much smaller? If smaller, how small – will it be a pair of 5 1/4 bookshelf speakers or will it be satellites? Will you have room for the powered sub woofer that’s needed for the satellites? Do you want to try out the sub with the bookshelf speakers? Whatever you choose you need to make sure the left and right speakers are ideally at least four feet apart. The further apart the better. How far away from the speakers will you be sitting? Ideally you should be at least four feet from them if they are bookshelf speakers and even further from them if they are much larger.
- Is your receiver going to be powerful enough for the speakers you chose? In general a 100 watt per channel receiver should do just fine. However, be sure to check the ohm rating for both the speakers and the receiver. Big speakers run on 8 ohms, medium size speakers could run on 4, 6 or 8 ohms (usually 8 ohms). Satellites run on 2, 3 or 4 ohms typically. Ohms matter! The higher the ohm rating the more power the receiver has and the more power the speakers will need to produce the full range of sound they are capable of. If the receiver is too weak for the speakers then the bass will be lacking considerably. For instance I recently purchased for the family room a 155 watt per channel surround sound receiver (5.2). Sounds impressive doesn’t it? It would be if I ran 6 ohm speakers with it, but I don’t. Instead I run 8 ohm speakers. Despite being only 5 1/4″ they still need a powerful receiver to unlock their full range of sound. Sadly this receiver does not bring these speakers to justice. This is because this 155 watt per channel receiver (at 6 ohms) is really only 80 watts per channel at 8 ohms. Had it been 100 watts per channel at 8 ohms it would have made a big difference!
- Don’t skimp on speaker wire. 14 Gauge is not going to cut it, get 16 gauge wire. 18 gauge is supposedly better, but in my experience it’s more expensive and much harder to use, because it’s too fat to fully fit into most speaker and receiver speaker connection ports. As a result it sounds the same or worse than a 16 gauge wire that fits properly.
- Quality of speakers. Do the best you can to get something at least decent. Avoid the store brand speakers, Sony, and Aiwa if you come across any. Sony products are normally really good except in two instances – speakers and receivers. The receivers are ok and will last almost forever, but the speakers are either flat sounding or all muddy bass. There is never any quality sound coming from the tweeters so as a result the sound is diminished greatly.
- Don’t forget the surge suppression. You bought the equipment why would you want to have to buy it again when static might zap it? Get a surge suppressor and reduce your risk of fried electronics.
- Get a good quality CD player or turn table. Price really does matter in this case. I have used a DVD player as a CD player ever since my 300 disc CD changer died on it’s own from Arizona dust in the home. If you have never been to Arizona that’s good don’t go there it’s a dry heat (110 to 115 everyday on average from May to Halloween night). Along with the heat there is excessive dust constantly and that too can kill electronics. A CD player will sound much better than a DVD player. I have found that DVD players (and I have tried three different name brand ones) lack the clarity that should be there. As a result they create a muddy bass sound that you are left to try to overcome by fine tuning your receiver as best you can. Get a CD player instead!
- Add an EQ. This is a great way to make up for any lack of bass or lack of clarity (depending on how you adjust it). Keep in mind it will play a little louder with an EQ so be prepared to turn it down some (especially if using smaller speakers). I have never tested any EQ with speakers smaller than 8’s so I would suggest starting out with a really low volume if using bookshelf speakers. I would avoid the EQ entirely if using satellites. Want to know more about an EQ? Check out my prior posting on this topic here.
Now for the twist:
Take a pair of speakers that are clear and loud playing, but lack bass and pair them up with a loud bassey pair. Do not wire them up as pseudo subs. Instead hook up one pair to speaker A on your receiver and the other pair to speaker B on your receiver and play them at the same time. If you do not have a way to connect two pairs of speakers than get a speaker switch so you can run them together.
Here is what will happen. The bassey pair will be slightly less bassey than if they had been played by themselves. The clear pair will be slightly less clear do to the bass also being heard. You will need to turn up the receiver a little since you a running two pairs of speakers instead of only one pair (you splitting the wattage between them).
Tip: If your clear pair is small enough why not elevate them directly above the bassey pair? Experiment with how high to elevate them based upon your sound preferences. The sound will appear more natural if the two pairs of speakers are close to each other (ideally one pair above the other). Never aim them at each other.
I recently discovered this could work nicely because I wanted to make my favorite pair of speakers sound even better. I am currently using for music a 100 watt per channel Kenwood 5.1 surround sound receiver. It’s old and it runs at 8 ohms. The sound quality is a muddy bass which is truly disappointing. I wired up my Sansui 14 Band EQ to it and it got better sounding. Then because my dual 12’s are surprising without much bass in comparison to almost any pair of normal 12’s I have ever owned I decided to add another speaker to compliment it.
My dual 12’s have really good mid bass (4″ mid) and have one of the clearest tweeters (2 1/2″) I have ever heard. Surprisingly they are paper tweeters and have somehow after all these decades failed to heat up and get fried like one would expect. The speakers I chose to use for bass are actually not a pair of speakers, but are instead a single speaker. This massive MTX is a floor standing tower speaker containing dual 12’s, a 4″ mid and a 1″ horn tweeter. I wish I had a pair of these but I don’t so I found a use for the one speaker. It is rated at 600 watts peak power so that should be around 300 watts that this one speaker can handle all day long. It is rather bassey but loud and clear at the same time.
To wire up this MTX single speaker I ran a pair of speaker wires from the speaker switch box and then paired the wire together (left to left and right to right). I then connected a third speaker wire. This wire connects like normal to the speaker and the other end pairs up with the speaker wire from the switch box. This means I have three left sides (1 per wire) and three right sides (1 per wire). I adjoined all of the left sides together at one end and then all of the right sides together at one end. This enabled me to have the sound go out of the speaker switch box in stereo and bring all of the sound that should go to a pair of speakers to this one massive speaker instead.
Because acoustics matter I have this setup in a 10 x 15 room with hardwood floors, wood paneling, 9 foot high flat ceiling, window curtains with eclipse sound proofing/room darkening curtains over them and a door to contain the sound in the room with. My speakers sit about 8 feet apart (sitting in the corners at opposites ends of a wall). In between them sits (laying on it’s side) the MTX giant speaker. I have the MTX sitting 6 inches from the wall with the grill facing the wall rather than towards me.
As a result I have loud crystal clear sound from the pair of dual 12’s and lots of bass from the single MTX dual 12. Sure I lost some of the sound qualities (slightly less clear and slightly less bass), but they blend together so well it’s worth it. I am able to shake the floor and my chair while enjoying all the subtle sound effects that most people never even know they are missing.