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The problems that you create when using a powered subwoofer

I guess I am old school when it comes to audio. Growing up everyone wanted to have a pair of 12’s or at least 10’s for their speakers. Back then we did not have surround sound, just stereo. Our Televisions had built in speakers and most people never even thought of trying to connect a stereo receiver of any kind to the tv so that the sound could come out of their 10 or 12 inch speakers (or smaller if they even had any).  Today tvs have speakers, but good luck locating them since they are so small. Nowadays we do add a receiver to the tv for surround sound, but typically with small speakers. Usually we run satellite speakers or perhaps bookshelf speakers. Because we use these small speakers they are incapable of producing any really deep bass so we then have to run a powered subwoofer.

Two problems with powered subwoofers:

1) Too much bass with music. I can’t stand booming bass that overpowers the music itself. I want it to all be somewhat balanced.

 2) Too much bass for movies. This can at times overpower the rest of the sound effects found in whatever film you are watching especially if it’s an action, adventure, or sci-fi film where the sub is needed more.

So what then is the solution?

I believe it is all about balance. Balance in the size of speakers you choose to use, balance in the volume you turn up the sub, balance in how much gain you use on the sub. I choose to use 5 1/4″ book shelf speakers for my surround sound because they can recreate almost the full range of sound with the exception of the deep bass. I use a powered sub in one of my surround sound rooms, but with the volume and gain adjusted to give it just a little boom without overpowering everything else. Of course, acoustics matter too so trial and error is needed to get it just right. For music I do not use a sub at all! I use a pair of 12’s or dual 12’s or 8’s depending on what I am listening to and how I want it to sound. Keep in mind that if your goal is just lots of bass a powered sub makes sense. For instance, rap and some hip hop are usually loaded with lots of deep bass if that is what you are looking for.

How do you like to listen to your music? Do you use a powered sub? A passive sub? No sub at all?

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A twist on how to improve how your music can sound

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.



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The Importance of Surge Suppression

Today I will discuss the Importance of Surge Suppression.

Most people never think about the importance of surge suppression, instead they simply plug their electronics into a wall outlet. It’s protected right? The answer is yes and no. If it is a modern plug (in the last couple of decades or so) then it is a three prong outlet meaning that it has a ground connection. But is it really grounded for additional protection? Most electricians did not actually connect the ground wire when installing electrical outlets on new homes in the 1990’s. Behind that wall outlet their probably is a ground wire, but it is not connected to anything to actually do anything.

What can be done to fix this problem?

  1. Have a licensed electrician check out the outlets with a polarity checker device. It plugs into the outlet and uses a color code to check if the wiring is not only connected properly for polarity, but also confirms if the outlet is grounded properly.
  2. Do NOT take it upon yourself to rewire this outlet if it is not installed or working correctly. Premium Audio does not take responsibility for you doing this project yourself. Instead we advise you to hire a licensed electrician to handle this for you.
  3. Once the outlet is properly wired you can move onto the next step.

The next step:

To further protect yourself and your electronics from potential harm we recommend a surge suppressor and not a surge protector. The two look vary similar at a glance, however the surge protector is basically just a way to use one outlet to connect multiple electrical cables to at once. Most have a power switch to turn off or on the devices plugged into it.

A surge suppressor on the other hand does so much more! It will most likely have an indicator light to alert you if the outlets are not properly grounded. Any really good surge suppressor will also come with a warranty if it fails to protect whats plugged into it. Typically they offer anywhere from a $20,000 to $300,000 replacement guarantee. Also some include a line filter to minimize any hum on the line (which is also a safety feature).

Surge suppressors are designed to handle a much higher joule rating than a surge protector. In fact surge protectors most likely will not even mention the joule rating. The higher the rating the better it is for protection. 900 joules is ok for say a laptop when traveling, but not enough for much else. 1500 joules or higher is ideal for a desktop computer with monitor (or dual monitors), computer speaker package, and a printer. This can also be used to protect your home theatre (using a separate one from the computer setup).

Since a decent surge suppressor can be had for $50 or less you owe it to yourself to purchase one to protect your electronics. Click here to see what is available. Remember to replace the surge suppressor if you suspect it to no longer we working properly or if it has been in use for quite some time.

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Obscure tracks for sound tests

In the past I have mentioned several times the CD’s I suggest using for musical sound tests. Today is different. Today I list the obscure tracks for sound tests that I have discovered since my prior recommendations. Below that I also list other great CD’s to listen to that I have not mentioned before.

Keep in mind I am not only a “home theatre nut” as I like to refer to myself as, but I am also an “audiophile” which allows me to dip into multiple genres. Being an audiophile I of course choose to use a completely different system (speakers and amp, not receiver) for listening to music with. In fact I take it one step further and use different systems for different music depending upon if I want more bass or not.

Obscure tracks for sound tests (listed in random order):

  1. Evanescence – “Bring me to life”
  2. Rhianna – “Love the way you lie”
  3. Nicki Minaj – “Moment 4 Life”
  4. Sugarland – “Something More
  5. The Band Perry – “If I die young” & “Better dig Two”
  6. AC/DC – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train”
  7. Halestorm – anything from in the live room. These are live acoustical versions.
  8. Pink – “Raise your glass”
  9. Greta Van Fleet – “Safari Song”
  10. The Pretty Reckless – “Take me down”
  11. Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”
  12. Seven Mary Three – “Water’s Edge”
  13. Evanescence – “Bring me to life”
  14. Jewel – “Hands”
  15. Van Halen – “Me wise magic” & “Right Now”
  16. Dixie Chicks – “Not ready to make nice”
  17. Alison Krauss & Union Station – “When you say nothing at all”
  18. Def Leppard – “Rock, rock till you drop”
  19. Five Finger Death Punch – “The Pride.” This song is not on their greatest hits album but is really popular.
  20. Scorpions – “Rock you like a Hurricane”, “Wind of Change”, “Send me an angel” & “Passion rules the game.”
  21. Skid Row – “Youth gone wild”

Here are some solid albums listed in random order to enjoy as well! 

  1. KISS – Psycho Circus
  2. Led Zeppelin – I, II & III. Really the entire 10 studio albums are worth owning, but the first three I believe are the best!
  3. DIO – Holy Diver & The Very Best of Dio
  4. Tesla – Time’s Makin Changes – The Best of Tesla
  5. The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill
  6. AC/DC – Back in Black, The Razors Edge & Highway to Hell
  7. Bon Jovi – Young Guns II Soundtrack
  8. Disturbed – Indestructible, The Sickness & Immortalized.
  9. Def Leppard – Hysteria
  10. Judas Priest – Painkiller
  11. Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
  12. Five Finger Death Punch – A Decade of Destruction
  13. Enya – Paint the Sky with Stars
  14. Motley Crue – “Dr. Feelgood” & “Decade of Decadence”

So there you have it, this is my personal list taken from my own collection of music.

What is on your list?



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Final comments about my 13 speaker surround sound system

I have continued to tweak this system and ultimately have decided to run the sub woofer in a rather unique way. I am using a sub woofer cable on the sub woofer input on one of the two receivers (the one using the smaller speakers which run at ceiling height). What’s different is what I am doing after that; instead of connecting the other end to a sub woofer here is what I do. I connect it to an input on a different receiver (a third one). From their I connect my sub woofer via speaker wire. To do this I use an adapter. This adapter allows you to run the speaker wire into an RCA cable that you solder together.

Here is why I chose to do this:

  1. My “sub woofer” is actually an MTX dual 12″ woofer setup with a horn tweeter and a mid range speaker all in one very tall and very heavy cabinet. It is half of a pair of main speakers and so I decided to re-purpose it as a sub.
  2. My “sub woofer” is not an actual sub. There is no amp built into it. There is no sub woofer cable input port on it. Instead it runs off of speaker wire. So the way I connect my “sub woofer” is by using speaker wire that connects the sub to the left main speaker on the receiver. For the record you could instead connect to the right main speaker on the receiver if you prefer. Either one will result in the same outcome. This receiver being used is a stereo receiver, not another surround sound one.
  3. By connecting the sub cable to another receiver I am able to boost the volume and bass going to the speaker. This compensates for it not being a powered sub.

One final not about this surround sound and then I promise to stop writing about it….

….I recently learned after my last posting that Denon created a 13 speaker surround sound receiver that is available for sale this year (2018). This means it can do what I have been talking about using two receivers for. The difference being that their version uses only one receiver. For the record I invented this surround sound not them. My original post is from 2016 on this idea. I actually thought it up back in 2008 or 2009, but didn’t write about it until 2016. The posts I am referring to can be found here, here and here too.

So why use my surround sound instead of Denon’s?

Because mine is super affordable. If I highball it I would say you can get two 7.1 channel receivers for about $800 new. The Denon version costs $4,000 at Crutchfield. You go ahead and spend that money if you wish to save space, I prefer to save money. If Denon is able to make my 13 speaker surround sound a reality while using only one receiver, I cannot help but wonder what other ideas of mine they will decide to use as their own. I guess only time will tell.