Best of both worlds? Home Theatre AND Music Enjoyment? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 12:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello to all those more knowledgeable than myself.

My conundrum... My AV setup sounds incredible for Home Theatre but always feels lacking in the Music department. I know many have dedicated systems for each but I, unfortunately do not have the means or rooms for something like that. I have invested a modest amount of $$ into a one room do-it-all system that I would love to optimize for both environments.

My set up consists of the following...

Display
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 Plasma

Receiver
NAD T-775HD AVR

Optical Player
Sony PS3 Slim
Connected via HDMI

Music Server
AppleTV 3
Connected via HDMI (Tried Optical connection with no discernable difference in audio quality)
All files served via WiFi from Apple iMac
All files ripped in Apple Lossless format

Speakers
PSB Imagine T Towers (Bi-Amped)
PSB Imagine C Center
PSB Imagine Mini Rears

Subwoofer
Paradigm Reference Seismic 12

I have calibrated audio using the NAD's onboard Audyssey MultEQ XT using all 8 listening positions.

Circumstances allowed my to very recently upgrade the speakers to the set of PSB Imagines that I hoped would have made the ultimate difference in what I feel islacking from a music listening standpoint but I can't say I'm terribly overwhelmed with the improvement. At least not from a music listening position. As I mentioned the home theatre experience using DTS-Master, TrueHD or Uncompressed PCM is stunning but as soon as I switch to music I am ultimately underwhelmed. No life or realism. Just blah. I have tried defeating Audyssey altogether which makes it worse and I have tried every possible Audyssey configuration available on the T775HD including stereo, enhanced stereo (multichannel stereo), NAD EARS, Audyssey Curve and NAD Curve. So far Enhanced Stereo using the NAD Curve sounds best.

I have thought about adding an external DAC to the Apple TV output but that presents two problems, from what I can figure. First, I would lose Dolby Digital 5.1 processing on my video files and, second, feeding 2 Channel Analogue Audio to my AVR would be overruled by the onboard Audyssey software. Option 1 is to turn off Audyssey to play the true analogue signal which means I lose any room correction or, Option 2, leave Audyssey on in which case the AVR is going to reconvert the Analogue Signal into Digital to perform its calibration and back through the AVR's onboard DACs. At least that's what my research has led me to believe. Plus, there's no telling that an External DAC is going to solve my problem anyway.

So what to do? Does anyone have a recommendation? Am I overlooking something simple, or not so simple. Does anyone here have a similar setup using an AppleTV and AVR and accomplishing fantastic music?

Thanks in advance!
Jason.

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post #2 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by macmanjpc View Post


So what to do? Does anyone have a recommendation? Am I overlooking something simple, or not so simple. Does anyone here have a similar setup using an AppleTV and AVR and accomplishing fantastic music?

Thanks in advance!
Jason.

Hi Jason,

Don't give up on music, please. Let's start a discussion on how to improve your system and let others also join in.

First off, I'm heavenly satisfied with my system both for film and music. But, instead of trying to start troubleshooting your system at this early stage let's look into the main diffference between movie soundtracks and music recordings. As we know film industry works on known standards, i.e. there is always a reference level in the recordings that allows Audyssey to work properly. In this case I am referring to MultEQ + Dynamic EQ together. Unfortunately music industry does not work against such standards so the recording levels on CDs, etc. can easily be all over the map. (You may google in with the keywords "loudness war" if you'd like to get more involved.)

Therefore, although I do recommend to use DynamicEQ together with MultEQ (I also do that), you may try to listen to 2 ch stereo music with Dolby Pro Logic II, while in the menu try to set up parameters like this:

Panorama: On
Dimension: 0
Center width: 5

Care to try and report back? wink.gif If there is an immediate improvement for you in the music department then next we should talk about the music industry recording level mess and what to do about it. There is hope. smile.gif

Cheers, Feri


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post #3 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 01:33 PM
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Where does your music originate? (CD, Blu-ray, SACD, MP3, high resolution downloads?)
What kind of music do you listen to? (Rock, vocals, orchestral?)
Do you have Audyssey enabled while listening or do you have Direct enabled?
Have you done anything to physically improve the quality of the room's acoustics?

Sadly, the audio provided on most modern CDs is highly compressed (minimum sound level increased and maximum sound level decreased, thus reducing dynamics), resulting in poor quality. You have to search (i.e. read lots of reviews) to find quaity recordings. Too often, high resolution downloads aren't. They're frequently just upsampled from standard resolution recordings.

To get the best experience in your main listening position, you have to cluster Audyssey's measurements close together. When you spread them out, Audyssey tries to generate good sound over the whole area, so that the primary position's audio isn't as good as it might be.

Verify that the subwoofer's setting in the receiver is not at -12. That value indicates that Audyssey was unable to reduce its output low enough and the subwoofer is still too loud. As a side effect, the subwoofer winds up not being calibrated at all. i.e. you should turn down the subwoofer's volume control even more and run Audyssey's calibration again, until you get a setting closer to 0. Values of +/-3dB are a common goal. Uncalibrated bass isn't as noticable with movies as it is for music.

Starting with the best posible room acoustics is always a good thing. The fewer corrections Audyssey has to make, the better a job it can do. A thick rug on the floor plus diffusers or absorbers at the primary reflection points are a good place to start.

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post #4 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 02:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks guys. I will try the 2-Channel ProLogic tip and let you know.

Selden...

I have tried direct and Audyssey on in every configuration.

Music originates either from direct CD rips to Apple Lossless or FLAC downloads converted to Apple Lossless via XLD software. I then run all the music files through iVolume (http://www.mani.de/en/ivolume/index.html) to normalize the volumes across tracks (uses the Reply Gain Algorithm) which I find does a much better job prevented drastic volume fluctuations between tracks than Apple's built in Sound Check feature.

Other than plush furniture, thick carpet and drapes I don't really have the ability to alter the room acoustics. I'm married wink.gif

As for the Audyssey calibration, I've done it multiple times with different speakers, subs, locations, furniture, etc. So, I'm pretty good at it. Time of day for minimal ambient noise. I even turn off any devices such as phone, refridgerator, furnace, etc. that could introduce noise during the process. The sub has been pre-tested with the first run to ensure it's level is at 0db. My measurement positions start at center then two feet to the left and right then the same three positions two feet forward and then the final two positions about 2 feet behind exactly between position 1-2 and 1-3. All as per the Audyssey Set-Up guide found here on AVS.

Perhaps it actually comes down to the source recording/media you mentioned. I've never purchased and played Music DVD or Blu-Ray that wasn't a live multi-channel recording. Maybe that should be my next move.

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post #5 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 02:17 PM
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Maybe you need a more musical receiver? (Ducks and hides. smile.gif )

I have the personal experience of often being distracted by the visuals on concert discs so that the quality (or lack thereof) of the audio tracks isn't so easily noticed.

Some concert discs include both high-definition multichannel tracks and two-channel LPCM. You might try comparing them. And some are released in multiple formats which could be compared -- like the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" concert, and Blue Man Group's "Audio" (although I'm not sure that counts as music wink.gif )

Also, some DVDs and BDs contain audio (and video) recorded in a studio setting rather than live concert material.

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post #6 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macmanjpc View Post

Thanks guys. I will try the 2-Channel ProLogic tip and let you know.
Lookin' forward. smile.gif
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Music originates either from direct CD rips to Apple Lossless or FLAC downloads converted to Apple Lossless via XLD software. I then run all the music files through iVolume (http://www.mani.de/en/ivolume/index.html) to normalize the volumes across tracks (uses the Reply Gain Algorithm) which I find does a much better job prevented drastic volume fluctuations between tracks than Apple's built in Sound Check feature.

The normalization of volumes (aka Replay Gain) looks promising, but here are some questions/considerations to you:

1. Normalization of tracks on the same album might not be the ultimate goal, coz it can lead to loss of dynamic range. Even though the volume of a given CD may not be recorded to known standard levels like in case of film, but I always presume the overall volume level (track by track) on a CD is recorded evenly and remains constant. Never found a CD where such normalization among tracks was necessary. Instead the whole album needs normalization. I also have my CDs ripped to FLAC and while using Foobar it is very easy to do the Replay Gain for the whole album by one shot.

2. While normalization will save you from drastic volume fluctuations, the most important question is the output level after Replay Gain is set. Peaks at 0 dB or -10 dB or -15 dB? Remember we have DynamicEQ engaged. In my case after ripping I look at the output level in Foobar and apply the necessary dB adjustment in order to make sure the peak levels are not hitting 0 dB, especially not above.

Whaddaya think?

Cheers, Feri


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post #7 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 02:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Maybe you need a more musical receiver? (Ducks and hides. smile.gif

Ha ha... Very funny! That's the whole reason I bought the NAD over more bells and whistles for less money. Next step in musicality would be separates I believe, but at a much higher price point frown.gif

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post #8 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Lookin' forward. smile.gif
The normalization of volumes (aka Replay Gain) looks promising, but here are some questions/considerations to you:

1. Normalization of tracks on the same album might not be the ultimate goal, coz it can lead to loss of dynamic range. Even though the volume of a given CD may not be recorded to known standard levels like in case of film, but I always presume the overall volume level (track by track) on a CD is recorded evenly and remains constant. Never found a CD where such normalization among tracks was necessary. Instead the whole album needs normalization. I also have my CDs ripped to FLAC and while using Foobar it is very easy to do the Replay Gain for the whole album by one shot.

2. While normalization will save you from drastic volume fluctuations, the most important question is the output level after Replay Gain is set. Peaks at 0 dB or -10 dB or -15 dB? Remember we have DynamicEQ engaged. In my case after ripping I look at the output level in Foobar and apply the necessary dB adjustment in order to make sure the peak levels are not hitting 0 dB, especially not above.

Whaddaya think?

1. iVolume can normalize on an album basis if you choose but since I rarely listen to a complete album track after track (except when I first get it) it makes more sense for me to normalize on a track by track basis for my "Random Play" or "Playlist" nature.

2. What happens if the peak is above 0db? Not sure how to check that on my mac?

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Have you tried comparing the sound quality of the system using the PS3 playing a well-recorded CD to that same CD ripped losslessly and played back from the server through the Apple TV?
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post #10 of 39 Old 01-30-2013, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macmanjpc View Post

1. iVolume can normalize on an album basis if you choose but since I rarely listen to a complete album track after track (except when I first get it) it makes more sense for me to normalize on a track by track basis for my "Random Play" or "Playlist" nature.

IMHO, regardless of album or track by track, result will be the same, but you could save yourself some effort if you do it by album, eh? wink.gif
Quote:
2. What happens if the peak is above 0db? Not sure how to check that on my mac?

Hard to tell what happens if peak is above 0 dB, may cause clipping or distortion. Let's keep the conventional way, keep out of the red zone. Not sure how to check on your mac either, but here's a screen shot of Foobar where I can exactly follow what's going on. Look out for that neat little peak meter on the left:


Cheers, Feri


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post #11 of 39 Old 01-31-2013, 08:47 AM
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seems to me there should not be (cannot be) peaks above 0dBFS on a CD, DVD, BD, etc. because the ditgital system cannot encode anything above 0 dBFS. There might have been input signals above 0dBFS during recording or mastering, but those signals were clipped at the time they were digitally encoded at the studio, and what we get does not, and cannot by definition, exceed 0 dBFS. So if you're normalizing using a digital input you have no problem. If you're using an analog input, then especially for those of us without bit scopes etc the safest practice is to set your input so it can't exceed 0dBFS.
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post #12 of 39 Old 01-31-2013, 09:35 PM
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Just some theories and questions...

 

Can't he eliminate the Apple TV and the conversion steps as potential factors by just playing some known CDs?

 

Is there another system where the same program sounds fantastic? 

 

Bi-amped? Like the real bi-amping where you use two amplifier channels run to an active crossover that was setup to achieve a superior response, transition, lobe shaping, time alignment, etc.? Or the dubious bi-amping of just running the wires to the speaker? 

 

Speakers: sitting 12 feet away? Or more? What are the decibel peaks from listening position? 180w to a 90dB speaker is 101dB. If he's trying to achieve more than that, the amplifier could be running out of steam, or the drivers could be exhibiting distortion. Or at least the average level of the song could be turned up, but if the peaks can't be hit due to thermal compression, then the dynamic range is lost and the music is flat.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by macmanjpc View Post


So what to do? Does anyone have a recommendation? Am I overlooking something simple, or not so simple. Does anyone here have a similar setup using an AppleTV and AVR and accomplishing fantastic music?

Two words: room acoustics.
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post #14 of 39 Old 02-01-2013, 02:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Just some theories and questions...

Can't he eliminate the Apple TV and the conversion steps as potential factors by just playing some known CDs?

Is there another system where the same program sounds fantastic? 

Bi-amped? Like the real bi-amping where you use two amplifier channels run to an active crossover that was setup to achieve a superior response, transition, lobe shaping, time alignment, etc.? Or the dubious bi-amping of just running the wires to the speaker? 

Speakers: sitting 12 feet away? Or more? What are the decibel peaks from listening position? 180w to a 90dB speaker is 101dB. If he's trying to achieve more than that, the amplifier could be running out of steam, or the drivers could be exhibiting distortion. Or at least the average level of the song could be turned up, but if the peaks can't be hit due to thermal compression, then the dynamic range is lost and the music is flat.

I'm going to go digging and find my old CDs. Been years since I touched them.

No other system available.

Bi-Amped. The real deal. 4 discrete channels (2 per speaker). The NAD T775HD is a 7 channel amp. Bi-Amped Front Stereo Pair. Singles to the center and rears.

12 feet away is accurate. Audyssey measured at 14 feet but that is from the stereo front pair to the center seating position.

Not listening so loud that the amp is peaking and/or clipping. Furthermore, you have to be doing something pretty sadistic to your neighbors to get a higher end NAD to clip, distort or run out of steam. LOL.

Cheers!
Jason.

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post #15 of 39 Old 02-01-2013, 02:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Two words: room acoustics.

Perhaps but it's not a terribly plush or room, conversely, bright room. Nevertheless, it's something I cannot change.

Cheers!

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post #16 of 39 Old 02-01-2013, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by macmanjpc View Post

Perhaps but it's not a terribly plush or room, conversely, bright room. Nevertheless, it's something I cannot change.

Cheers!

If I remember well, macmanjpc was having problems with music only, while movie sounds were OK. HST, why not look into discovering what is going on in his case that satisfies him for movie sound tracks but disappoints him when it comes to listening to recorded music in the same room. cool.gif

Cheers, Feri


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post #17 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 10:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Sorry. I've been offline for a couple days.

I pulled out a couple CDs and they actually sound the same as my Apple Lossless files digitally. I guess that's a good thing as it means I don't have some sort of breakdown electronically.

I also set up the Dolby Pro Logic Music setting as per Mogorf's suggestion. It actually sounds very good. Very similar, I think, to my NAD E.A.R.S. preset. For those not familiar that NAD's proprietary Stereo Surround DSP which stands for Enhanced Ambience Retrieval System which is explained here... http://nadelectronics.com/articles/Some-NAD-Technical-Features

I think I may just be so used to multi-channel listening that my ears can't adjust and appreciate direct 2-channel listening. It's not enveloping enough. In the car there are between 6 and 10 speakers all around you. 2-Channel but surrounding. My B&W In-Ears, same thing. 2-Channel but completely enveloping. Home Theatre... 5.1 = surrounding and enveloping.

That being said, I think I may have found a solution. The NAD has another setting called Enhanced Stereo. My complaint with this was always that when it was on I got the best sound but the soundstage was to the left and right. I prefer an enveloping sound but with a forward soundstage, as though I'm sitting in front of a musician/band. I never considered, until yesterday, that I could customize my speaker levels and save it to a custom AV Preset. So, I chose the Enhanced Stereo option, levelled my 3 fronts equally and lowered my rears -4db and presto! I now, finally, have a music listening setup I enjoy. The sound and is rich and enveloping using all that Audyssey has to offer for room correction and MultEQ enhancement with a forward soundstage!

Cheers!
Jason.

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post #18 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 10:45 AM
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Generally I don't find AVRs or even pre-pros that great for music use. The sound quality is generally worse than a dedicated two channel component. People spend megabucks to try and get good music performance from their pre-pro (think Classe, Theta, etc). An alternative is to have a cheaper pre-pro / AVR and a nicer two channel unit, and then only integrate the two at the power amps.

I don't really like Audyssey as it changes the tonal balance of speakers through it's full range correction.

One option (assuming you absolutely can't live without room correction due to bass issues with your room) is to get a high quality standalone room correction processor / DAC and feed this into the pre inputs on your AVR in direct mode. If you get a SPDIF splitter you can use one Apple TV to feed two digital inputs, one on your two channel room correction processor, another on your NAD. If your room does not have major issues (i.e. listening with Audyssey off does not result in bass boominess, poor articulation) then a high quality two channel DAC would be good.


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post #19 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macmanjpc View Post

Perhaps but it's not a terribly plush or room, conversely, bright room. Nevertheless, it's something I cannot change.

Cheers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Two words: room acoustics.

And by acoustics that could not only mean the lack of treatment to prevent standing waves and acoustic interference from affecting the frequency response in your room but the layout of furniture too. One of the best ways to improve the stereo affect in a living room is to move the speakers out into the room or hang the TV between the speakers on the wall instead of placing it on a stand directly next to the speakers.

You mentioned being married so I understand if my first recommendation is not possible, the next item I would consider is room correction. If Audyssey is not working to your ear you may want to consider a digital room correction compenent like Tact, one is for sale today on Audiogon: http://app.audiogon.com/listings/solid-state-tact-2-2x-digital-preamp-processor-room-eq-2013-01-25-preamplifiers-93103

The unit is pricy but it's a game changer for your application.

A photo of your setup will help.
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post #20 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 04:27 PM - Thread Starter
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If Audyssey is not working to your ear you may want to consider a digital room correction compenent like Tact, one is for sale today on Audiogon: http://app.audiogon.com/listings/solid-state-tact-2-2x-digital-preamp-processor-room-eq-2013-01-25-preamplifiers-93103

A photo of your setup will help.

Nice but likely more than what I really need. If I had another $1500 to invest I would likely put it into the addition of a phono set up.

Here are some pics. Just finished the reno!








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post #21 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 04:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Generally I don't find AVRs or even pre-pros that great for music use. The sound quality is generally worse than a dedicated two channel component. People spend megabucks to try and get good music performance from their pre-pro (think Classe, Theta, etc). An alternative is to have a cheaper pre-pro / AVR and a nicer two channel unit, and then only integrate the two at the power amps.

I don't really like Audyssey as it changes the tonal balance of speakers through it's full range correction.

One option (assuming you absolutely can't live without room correction due to bass issues with your room) is to get a high quality standalone room correction processor / DAC and feed this into the pre inputs on your AVR in direct mode. If you get a SPDIF splitter you can use one Apple TV to feed two digital inputs, one on your two channel room correction processor, another on your NAD. If your room does not have major issues (i.e. listening with Audyssey off does not result in bass boominess, poor articulation) then a high quality two channel DAC would be good.

I wanted to go separates but due to cost, space and spousal considerations I opted to go with the best AVR I could afford that had a reputation for being very musical. Perhaps one day I can go the separates route but not for a while. Anything hardware based that I would need to do to better my setup would have to be in the low cost definition. I'm strongly considering adding a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon TT and Tube Box II Phone Stage and building up a small collection of classic rock albums on vinyl. That's where I'd like my $$ to go and hoping those additions will sound good on my system. I'm actually quite pleased with how I've tweaked the Enhanced Stereo option on the NAD and think some nice, warm, tube based vinyl will sound great! At the end of the day I really think I'm just not a pure 2-channel guy... or... I just haven't got the budget required to make a true 2-channel setup sound incredible enough to satisfy me.

Cheers, and thanks for all the replies!

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post #22 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 04:49 PM
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Nice but likely more than what I really need. If I had another $1500 to invest I would likely put it into the addition of a phono set up.

Here are some pics. Just finished the reno!








Please, by all means get that armchair on the right side out of the way of the Right Front speaker. This is the HT Police, you have been warned!! LOL smile.gifsmile.gifsmile.gif

When you're done, please find a way to move the Center speaker up front, kinda nudge it off the cabinet top in order to enhance your dialog intelligibility while making sure it is tilted upward in order to face the couch at seated ear hight. More homework will be to angle (toe-in) the main L&Rs to face the MLP (Main Listening Position). When done you may post some more pix of your surround speaker set up! Remember HT Police is watching you! Just kidding! smile.gif

Cheers, Feri


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post #23 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 07:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Nudge, yes. Toe, no problem. Move, not a chance. Lol. I have a very loving and understanding wife that lets me buy my toys without asking too many questions. Furniture placement and decorating details are my compromise for a happy life. I have the chair positioned so that the tweeter and upper woofer are fully visible and unimpeded at all listening positions. Best I can do.

I'll post a pic of the rears tomorrow.

Cheers.

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post #24 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 07:25 PM
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Well then please don't waste people's time by asking how you can make your system sound better.

Enjoy your furniture stuck in front of the speakers if that's what you want.
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post #25 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 08:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Well then please don't waste people's time by asking how you can make your system sound better.

Enjoy your furniture stuck in front of the speakers if that's what you want.

Lol. Yeah. Thanks for the input. People like you make forums so worth it. I guess the bottom of a chair is certainly the culprit by covering a single low end driver (of a total of 14 drivers) in my whole room. Oh the delicate balance of sound that could be so disrupted by such a fickle piece of furniture. Do you not think I'd have tried moving a chair before spending countless days and hours tweaking my system? Go troll somewhere else.

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post #26 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 08:33 PM
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I wonder why some people even bother asking for advice. Do whatever you want. Who cares.
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post #27 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 09:40 PM
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Could you possibly raise the L/R speakers with a short stand (painted white to match decor??)? I would look to raise and isolate the center, too, in some way. It must energize that whole dresser.
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post #28 of 39 Old 02-05-2013, 10:04 PM
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Some speakers sound better further out from the back wall into the room. That big cabinet between the speakers is not good for the sound either. If you can't change the speaker set up and furniture locations, then I doubt you will ever get great results.
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post #29 of 39 Old 02-06-2013, 05:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Could you possibly raise the L/R speakers with a short stand (painted white to match decor??)? I would look to raise and isolate the center, too, in some way. It must energize that whole dresser.

Thanks for the great ideas. I appreciate actual constructive advice. I had been considering raising the speakers but haven't been able to figure out a way to make it look nice too. I never thought about the cabinet interfering with the center. Do you think perhaps just a rubber isolation mat under the speaker would work?

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post #30 of 39 Old 02-06-2013, 05:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Some speakers sound better further out from the back wall into the room. That big cabinet between the speakers is not good for the sound either. If you can't change the speaker set up and furniture locations, then I doubt you will ever get great results.

I am somewhat limited in where I can place the speakers. It's not a huge room and has to double as our main entertaining area so therefore has to try to suit my A/V desires and at the same time my wife's interior design desires. I've seen a ton of audio-centric rooms and while they sure must sound great they leave quite a bit to be desired from a design sense and could never double as an entertaining area.

I did pull the l/r speakers forward enough for the front baffle to be in front of the cabinet so there would be minimal interference. Thanks for the input.

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