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Movies; which speakers are best?

When watching a movie at home your most important speakers are the center channel, subwoofer and to a much lesser degree the main speakers and surround sound speakers. Thru rigorous testing we have found that having large main speakers will not really be necessary when watching movies. For music, however bigger is better.

The single most important speaker for movies is the center channel. This is because 70 to 80 percent of all the sound in a movie is designed to come out of the center channel. This speaker is for dialogue and action to be recreated directly in front of you. The subwoofer is the 2nd most important speaker for movies. This speaker will create all the explosive sound effects and rumble that you should hear and feel. Now that we use smaller speakers (satellites mainly) we need a good powerful subwoofer even more than before since these smaller speakers are unable to handle bass. For even better effects consider this article written earlier this year.

The rear speakers and side speakers, if you are lucky enough to have a 7.1 channel receiver, are important for all the action not focused in front of you. The main speakers (front left and right) are surprisingly not as important as you might think. Granted any surround sound setup without all the pieces (speakers) will be sub-par so these are still needed. However, with movies if the main speakers are 12’s, 10’s, 8’s or even really good 6’s or 5 1/4’s there really is no dramatic difference. In fact the smaller the speaker the quicker it is at recreating the sound to be heard. Also, the larger the speaker the slower it is at re-creating the effects found in fast moving action films. For this reason, Premium Audio suggests having a separate music setup from movies. For movies, we recommend the main speakers not being larger than 6 1/2’s for most setups. Not to say that you cannot use bigger speakers when properly equipped with a powerful enough receiver.

Satellite and bookshelf speakers have come a long way for movies. Premium Audio recommends for optimal surround sound nothing larger than   6 1/2’s for each speaker (except the subwoofer or subwoofers) for surround sound setups. This is so you get the best balance between clean clear highs, good mid-range and quick movement of sound all around you when enjoying a film.

Of course, not everyone has the room for even medium sized speakers so we also offer smaller speakers commonly referred to as “satellites.” Satellite speakers do not use anything larger than 4″ woofers. This means you can really keep down your expenses and get a less powerful receiver and spend your money mostly on a good subwoofer and either television or projector. If you do not want to pick and choose your setup, we offer Home Theater in a Box solutions or (HTIB). With this setup everything matches (color, style, and voice matching). Just connect a few wires and you are ready to go! Home Theatre in a Box setups are normally for bedrooms, but can be used in any room you see fit.

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For music, bigger speakers are simply better.

BIC 15" Eviction RtR Series

I know I seem to be harping a lot lately about dual 12’s (12″ woofers), but it is merely to prove a point. That point is this…for music, bigger speakers are simply better. This is not entirely true with movies however. We will delve deeper into why it’s not as important with movies in a future posting later this month.

Today we are focusing on music and using super big speakers. If properly configured these speakers will sound awesome! If, however you just take big speakers and connect them to just any old receiver you will not do your speakers or your ears justice. For starters, you need a powerful clean sounding amp. Sadly, the receivers sold at Premium Audio are not powerful enough for really big speakers. The receivers we offer are good for bookshelf speakers and of course satellites and will sound really good with movies. Next you will need really good gauge speaker wire.

So, I’m sure you are at this point confused why I would right about big speakers that we do offer and then tell you not use our receivers for them. Instead of using super big speakers you can get a good balance of movie and music sound with small to medium sized speakers when paired with our receivers. The problem here is that a receiver is not a dedicated product. In the 70’s and 80’s we had separate components for the radio and the amplification. The radio was referred to as a tuner. The tuner had no volume control, it had a dial to turn to adjust the station you wanted to listen to and had a AM and FM selector. This tuner needed to be connected to a separate component called an amplifier or amp for short. Because you were using a separate amp and connected the tuner, turntable, cassette deck, and cd player to it everything just sounded better. This is because the amplifier was much cleaner and more powerful. Receivers were made to save space by combining the tuner and amplifier into one component. This was never done to improve the sound. Sure some amps have more power than others and some even use cleaner sounding amps referred to as high current amps, but they are not rated for 8 ohms. Instead they are rated for 6 ohms which is more efficient and less powerful since most people have satellite and bookshelf speakers that simply are not as powerful.

In order to drive the bigger less efficient 8 ohm designed speakers you need a really powerful 6 ohm receiver rated much higher than 100 watts per channel. Even still you may not have the power needed when you get into larger speakers. To do this properly with these large speakers you should be running a amplifier or preamplifier to drive them. Use this setup just for music and your music will sound better than ever. For movies use one of the receivers we offer with either satellites or bookshelf speakers. If you get a receiver that is well over 100 watts per channel large speakers depending on the setup and size of the speakers may still be ok. To be clear a large speaker would be any speaker using at least an 8 inch woofer.

For your musical pleasure we recommend these 15″ speakers driven by these preamps that we are now carrying.

 

 

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Speaker tone and how it can effect what you hear

When it comes to speakers, the first question people always think to ask is “what size is the speaker.” Although that is certainly an important aspect of speakers, today we are focusing instead on “how does it sound?” You can look at specs on paper, but if you have ever tested two similar speakers you have undoubtedly come to the realization that they can actually sound quite different from one another. Since this article is not a review of an actual speaker, nor is it a comparison of two or more speakers, we will instead focus on what you can expect to generally hear out of a speaker based upon it’s size and location.

Speakers playing loud and with little bass are great for 7.1 sides due to rapid sound placement really standing out. These are also great for sitting up high for the rear center and for sitting up high for the front left and right “effects” speakers. They are also good for recreating “live” sound effects from concert videos and music that was recorded live. The purpose of “effects” speakers is to make it sound more lively to create that “you are there” feeling. Typically these will be small or smaller speakers than what is used in the rest of the your home theatre. For instance, try testing this out with speakers that use only 6.5″ to 8″ woofers. I cannot recommend super small speakers as rear speakers unless the room is small or you are just starting out and plan to upgrade later.

Now try them again only this time using 3″ to 5 1/4″ woofers in the same location and at the same height. How did they sound? Odds are the larger speakers had more mid bass tone to them, needed more power to drive them so the volume was turned up higher and they were not as quick (possibly) at recreating quick moving sound effects. If using the smaller speakers they were not as rich in tone quality and therefore did not sound any near as good and left you with the feeling that something was missing from the sound you should be hearing, but not sure what it would be (until turning up the volume some with larger speakers). Not to knock the smaller speakers for they do have their advantages too! 1) They are most likely wall mountable which saves space, they cost less money, they required less volume to drive them and therefore did not need a high current receiver which also costs more money. Also, if you move frequently packing them up and moving them is much easier. Right now as I write this I am getting to move from one apartment to another and have started packing. I disconnected my massive speakers (8’s, 10’s and 12’s) and for now am running only a 7.2 channel system mostly comprised of satellite speakers (2″ maybe?) with 6 1/2’s for the main speakers and full size center with dual 4″s in it. Listening to this I can tell you that lots of sound is missing, however what little sound that is still there does move around quickly.

Tip: – Experiment with the height and angle and size of speakers. Keep in mind no two rooms are exactly the same.

Tip: – Make sure your receiver is powerful enough to properly drive your speakers. Check the ohms and wattage on the speakers to. A “High current” receiver is always better than one that is not “high current.” If it is not a “high current” receiver an Equalizer (EQ) can help immensely. If however, you are running satellite speakers there is no reason for an EQ or a “high current” receiver since you will not notice a difference and even if you do it will not be enough to be beneficial.

When considering the size of speakers you are after, first think of the tone quality you want to hear. Tone is a matter of personal preference so keep in mind there is no right or wrong answer. For me personally, I have always liked good mid base with accurate natural sounding highs. Based on this I prefer medium to large sized speakers. Others prefer super loud and clear, or as I refer to as overly clear, unnatural and tinny sounding speakers. Note: This is pronounced as “tin-e” and is not a typo in my spelling. For them a smaller speaker might just be what they are looking for. Keep in mind the sound you are after and hope to re-create is whatever is the closest match to what you want it to sound like within your budget. The sound you are after is not necessarily what I or someone else wants and that is ok since it’s your home theatre to enjoy however you so choose.

Curious to see what different speakers are available? Check out the Premium Audio online store to learn more.

What is your tone preference? Premium Audio would like to know!

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Why a 15.2 channel surround sound can be so cool!

15.2

     If you have not already heard, I designed a 15.2 channel surround sound setup and successfully tested it. This article will discuss a reason why you just might want to set it up in your living room too. Please read on to learn more….

    First off let me say this, creating this setup was fun! For most people this will seem truly uneccessary and for most people I would agree that they do not need this setup. Let me say that again…for most people I would agree that they do not need this setup. So why, you may ask, would I write about something that I don’t think you will need? Shouldn’t I be trying to sell you something? I am writing this article to open your minds to the almost limitless possibilities out there, not only for home theater, but for anything you choose to do even if it has never been done or seems impossible.

Most living rooms do not have room for this setup. Being the home theater nut that I am I chose not to let reason get in my way of creating this! I put this in an area that is really only about 15′ x 12′ at best (the rest of the room is divided off with furniture for a home office and dining area). To make matters worse I didn’t use satellite speakers, I used large old school speakers that take up lots of floor space. I took some speakers I had laying around and just starting wiring it up and then spending my time sound testing over and over and over again with both music and movies trying to get that perfect sound for my living room.

My speakers ranged in size from a pair of 5 1/4″ speakers all the way up to dual 12’s. Other speakers included 10’s, 12’s, 8’s, and 6 1/2’s. This is without a doubt not the traditional surround sound setup. For one thing everyone always says to “use matching speakers.” I discuss many points in my book, “Customize Your Home Theater 5.1 channel to 15.2 and everything in between”, including this subject on matching speakers and what I think of this concept.

My setup, unfortunately, or fortunately, (depending on your take on the 15.2 channel surround sound setup I came up with), calls for additional speakers strategically placed in the room to make sure you still hear the sound effects by basically creating walls of sound. The room I worked with was a “L” shaped great room with a partially vaulted ceiling, carpet and lots of open space leading to the adjacent kitchen. This is definitely not the environment you would want to choose for your surround sound.

In the end it actually ended up being rather cool, especially with action movies where sound truly surrounds you like never before. For example during one recent film a helicopter was to go from right rear to left rear then back to right rear and finally back to the left rear again (if using a 5.1 channel setup or two additional speakers if using a 7.1 channel setup).  In my setup it didn’t play thru just two speakers, or even four. Instead it played thru eight (8) speakers which really made the helicopter circle around you instead of just along both sides of you and back.

The standard 5.1 channel setup is supposed to “surround” you with sound. 7.1 is in my opinion a significant improvement. However, if you setup a 7.1 channel setup like they advise you when you scour the internet for proper speaker placement and set it up I do not think you will be overly impressed. I tested this too while writing my book and found a better placement of the speakers. With my setup it is much better. Even still, a 7.1 or 7.2 (if you use two subwoofers) does not truly “surround you” like they want you to believe. If you really want to have “surround sound” you should setup a 15.2 channel setup, maybe not with the giant speakers I used that take up too much floor space, but you should set it up. In 15.2 you sit in the middle of a circle of speakers. Now that’s what I call “surround sound.” Another reason for this setup is just so you can say and prove to your friends that you really have such a setup. Seeing and most importantly, hearing this setup will turn them into believers. Be prepared for your nearby friends, family and neighbors to suddenly start inviting themselves over just to watch a movie.

Let us know your take on 15.2. Do you like it? Do you plan to set it up in your home?

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The importance of planning your home theater setup

5.1 channel to 15.2 and everything in between

When setting up your home theater it is important to plan ahead. By doing so, you can properly account for proper speaker distance from your seating area for optimal surround sound effect. Always measure the room dimensions and the furniture to see what will fit and where. If you have large speakers, better measure them too.

Other reasons to plan ahead include:

  • Proper seating arrangements. Most people build their living room around the furniture they plan to have in the room. I however, do not start there. No, I start with speaker arrangements and where to place the TV or projector and then deal with what to sit on and where. Whatever order you choose to start with, make sure you and your friends have a place to sit and relax.
  • Overcoming acoustical disasters, before they occur. One of the reasons for my creation of a 15.2 channel surround sound was because I wanted to fill in the gaps created by one of the worst possible living room designs possible. If I had a “normal” room to work with this probably never would have come to be. I am for the purpose of this article referring to “normal” as a 10′ x 10′ or perhaps 12′ x 12′ living room. Try to avoid “great rooms.” “Great rooms” are way too open for a 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound setup. Also avoid “L” shaped rooms if possible too.
  • Determining just how many speakers you will need to achieve the proper sound in that room. Remember every room can potentially be different. Is it a rather large room? What shape is the room?
  • Does the room contain a partially vaulted ceiling? Why does this matter, you may ask; well do you like echo’s in your music and movies? I don’t and odds are you won’t either. A raised ceiling, say 9 or 10 feet but level in height throughout the entire room is fine. If part of the ceiling is higher then the rest you want to avoid this.
  • Does the room contain carpet or tile? Carpet, just like too much furniture, will muffle the sound which means it will require more volume to be heard. If your speakers and or receiver are not that powerful then this could possibly damage them when you turn them up more than you should have to. Tile flooring will do the opposite of carpet and instead make the volume appear much louder even at lower volumes. Too much tile might create an echo.
  • What size speakers to choose? Will they fit? How and where do I hide the speaker wire?
  • What elevation will the speakers sit at? If they sit too low they will not be heard very well and may require wall mounts or speaker stands.
  • Where will the subwoofer go? Can I get two subwoofers into the room and if so where? In a previous article the importance of the subwoofer was discussed.

In conclusion, I hope you enjoyed this article and that you do take the time to plan ahead. By planning ahead you will not waste your time in wiring everything up only to find a flaw in your plan and having to rearrange furniture, speakers and the TV or projector and then rewire everything. Most importantly, remember this, the time wasted rearranging could have been used for the best part of all….the sound check! I love this part…testing your new setup with a good movie or some music to find out just how it sounds and then fine tuning it ever so slightly to make it the best it can be.

For more information on how you can setup your very own surround sounds, download my book       “Customize Your Home Theater 5.1 channel to 15.2 and everything in between”.

As always, any comments, or questions on the article you have read, or any others posted here, would be greatly appreciated!