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A simple way to improve your music

Everyone seems to have advice on how to make your sound just so. Because of this today I present you with a simple way to improve your music. In the past I have provided over the top options for both audio and home theatre. Instead today it’s back to the basics.

A simple way to improve your music

Today while I was listening to some music I remembered something I did about 13 or 14 years ago and it really helped. Best of all the only expense was the cost of the speakers and some speaker wire. Since I already had both just lying around I was out no additional money to try this out with. When I implemented this it was to for both movies and music to make them both sound clearer.

Back then I was still using my beloved BIC RTR-1230’s. This was my first pair of 12’s and I bought them new. Luckily for me I worked for a wholesaler distributor at the time and as an employee I got them at the same cost as our business customers did. I was powering them with my Yamaha RV-1105 (5.1 channel receiver). This receiver was all about the bass (bass and treble knobs each individually adjustable plus or minus 12 DB’s, and a loudness switch for an additional 6 db’s of bass). Think about that a moment – 18 db’s of bass and a high current 85 watts per channel at 8 ohms amp built into it. Obviously this system had plenty of power and my speakers were meant for it with each cabinet containing a 12″ woofer, 4″ mid, 2.5″ tweeter, MDF cabinets and a bass port.

Here lies the issue I ran into….

I wanted better clarity when listening to dialog in movies. Cutting the bass and boosting the treble and volume only did so much. The solution was to run a second pair of main speakers at the same time. Luckily no switch box was needed since my receiver had an a/b switch built into it. My second pair of speakers sat directly on top of the BIC’s. Elevating them much higher than the big speakers did not create the seamless source of direction for the sound that I wanted. The second pair was also a pair of BIC’s but much smaller (4″ two way wall mountable speakers). They were not bassey, but were clear enough when paired with the big BIC’s to help in hearing what was being drowned out with bass.

After 13 years of experiencing the receiver slowly lose more and more functionality I finally threw it away. Just before tossing it all it could do was music in mono. I should’ve kept it and had it serviced. I had paid $400 for it about 20 years ago which was alot of money at the time (but also a great deal because it was normally $800 and was simply missing the remote). I wish I still had the BIC’s too (the big pair not the small ones). Oh well, it’s not like I am lacking a pair of 12’s to use. Currently I test out via a speaker switch a pair of Pioneer’s, Fisher’s,  my custom dual 12’s and my single MTX dual 12″ speaker. Not in use at the moment are a pair of Onkyo 12’s and another pair of Pioneer 12’s. I have no need for some of these speakers but just enjoy knowing that I have them just in case I want to try something different perhaps in another room.

The same thing I did for movies could be done for music too! Just hookup a second pair (smaller pair) of speakers to the front and either sit them on top of a pair of 12’s or wall mount them. When wall mounting expect to do lots of sound test to find the optimal spot or perhaps go back to having them sit on top of the bigger pair of speakers. Be mindful of the volume since the little pair will get an equal amount of power to what the bigger pair gets. So there you have it a simple way to improve your music.

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The difference between monotone and stereo

This post is for all of those people who don’t seem to care about what something really sounds like. Perhaps you know them or know someone who does. This post is not about surround sound it’s about The difference between monotone and stereo.

Please pass this article on to them to help them. I have spoken with many people who just don’t get it – why sound quality matters. They all tell you that they are not into having speakers. Maybe it’s the size, maybe it’s the expense or in most cases I have found it to be that they really don’t care about what sound they hear (or could be hearing). 

These people are not just against having an over the top custom surround sound, they do not have a surround sound system at all – not even a soundbar, nor do they want to! These people are somehow satisfied with the sound (what little there is) that is emitted from that tiny hidden speaker in their tv’s, cell phones, laptops and tablets. To them I say “Don’t settle for poor quality sound when you don’t have to.”

This post is not about surround sound it’s about The difference between monotone and stereo.

Monotone is just that mono. Mono means one. That’s it – just one speaker for all sound.

Stereo is two speakers instead of one. But that’s not where it ends – it’s not just louder because you have doubled your number of speakers, it’s much more than that! Stereo gives you different sound effects out of each speaker simultaneously. With stereo you will hear things that you did not hear before because it just wasn’t there before. 

Weather you choose to watch a tv show or a movie (which is what most Americans do all to often) or just listen to music why not take pleasure in hearing it in stereo? Your car stereo comes in stereo not mono, and computer speakers are not sold as a single speaker so why settle for monotone when you can have stereo instead?

 

 

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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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How to improve your home theater

How to improve your home theater that is the question that you are most likely asking yourself. You have probably been given some tips over the years by various people, but how useful were these tips? Seeing as how you are reading this post (and probably others from us), here at Premium Audio, I am guessing that the tips were not that good since you are still seeking out advice. Luckily for you you have finally come to the right source for this issue. We have years of experience with this (established in 2005) with our focus on not just selling products, but making even the products you already have sound even better than before with little or no cost involved.

Here are some general tips that we have tested and proven to work in most situations:

The order of these suggestions do not matter. Try one, try none, try them all – the choice is yours!

  1. Upgrade your speakers. Perhaps they are too small or just not very good. Cheap speakers are just that …. cheap and it shows. Start with the center since it is the most important. Then work on the front speakers. After that upgrade your rear speakers and or sub.
  2. Upgrade your receiver. It may be lacking in power or just not very good. Clean amps from top of the line brands always sound better even at low volumes.
  3. Upgrade your speaker wire to at least 18 gauge wire. 16 gauge is even better.
  4. Relocate your home theater to a room with better acoustics. Rooms that are overly large, odd shaped, have vaulted or partially vaulted ceilings or are just plain open (great rooms) are less than ideal for home theater. Bedrooms and finished basements work best because they are generally square in shape (or rectangular) and you can close the door to keep the sound in the room.
  5. Does it sound like an echo chamber or like it’s all muffled? Flooring choices can make a HUGE difference!

Need additional assistance?

Check out our other blog articles in our blog directory to find just what you need. Also don’t forget to download our FREE HOME THEATRE E-BOOK.

Still need more help?

If so, we suggest you download these affordable books:

Customize Your Home Theater 5.1 channel to 15.2 and everything inbetween

The Evolution of Home Theatre: 22.8, 22.4.4 and 22.6.2 channel surround sounds

Custom made speaker stands