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Someone explain: why doesn't my HT sound like the theater?

post #1 of 150
Thread Starter 
OK, I know a few things about good sound......for music. I've was raised on flat accurate sound via a large B&O hifi in the 70's (back when they weren't just about image). I'm not really an audiophile but I lean that direction.

That said, I am trying to figure out how to get big theater sound in my living room and am not quite sure where the problem lies. What I want is big sound, just like the theater, without any of the harshness. Not sure if my speakers simply aren't able to to the job or if I'm doing something wrong.

Set up is:

A/V: Sony STRDH820 (yes I know, not the best but should be fine for movies....I think?)

Center: Phase Tech Velocity V-6LCR

Fronts: Phase Tech Velocity V-8

Rears: Phase Tech Velocity V-Surround

Sub: SVS 20-39Pci


I'm constantly turning the volume up and down depending on the scene. The worst bit is that vocals, yelling screaming, etc, are harsh and cringing unless the volume is low.

What can I do?
post #2 of 150
Quote:
What I want is big sound, just like the theater, without any of the harshness. Not sure if my speakers simply aren't able to to the job or if I'm doing something wrong. ... The worst bit is that vocals, yelling screaming, etc, are harsh and cringing unless the volume is low.
Sounds like the speakers are distorting, the AVR is distorting or both. I'm not familiar with Phase Technology's speakers but, according to the specs, they're fairly efficient (90dB), so they shouldn't be straining the AVR. I'd start by trying out some other speakers with your AVR to narrow down the problem.
Edited by eljaycanuck - 7/3/13 at 1:06pm
post #3 of 150
What is your room like and where do you have your speakers placed? In particular, where is the center channel placed?
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post #4 of 150
Room treatments so that your room will contrubute less to the overall sound.
I think some action movies are mixed in way when action comes it gets louder to give you the overall sensation.
post #5 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AV Science Sales 5 View Post

What is your room like and where do you have your speakers placed? In particular, where is the center channel placed?


This pic shows the room except we have turned everything 180 degrees so just reverse it all, i.e. the display is now on the left side of the room.. The other difference is that instead of the plasma there is now a 120" pull down (again on the left). The center channel is about 15" off the ground and slightly in front of the screen. It was about 25" off the ground though and just under the plasma. Same effect regardless of position.

post #6 of 150
I, for one, am glad that my HT doesn't sound like a big cinema, at least the one that I recently experienced. After not having been to a show for some time I recently took in the latest Star Trek 3D in a state-of-the art theater. The sound track, while impressive, was ridiculously loud, but what was worse, the high end was ear bleedingly harsh & brittle sounding especially in the special effects type scenes. I believe that they were pushing their sound system to its limits - not pleasant nor very enjoyable at all...

I need to rent it on BD in 2D to see if if the 3D anomalies are as prevalent as on the big screen & to hear how my modest system handles it at -10Db where I normally run it...

TAM
post #7 of 150
Whoa, that's a huge room.

The shear size leads me to suspect that your issues have more to do with the size of the speakers, and system power than anything else.
post #8 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by sven1olaf View Post

Whoa, that's a huge room.

The shear size leads me to suspect that your issues have more to do with the size of the speakers, and system power than anything else.
+1. If you want true theater quality sound, or better, you're not going to get it with speakers that can't reach at least 100dB at the listening position with very low distortion. It also means having at least two subs, one isn't going to pressurize a room of that size, nor can you smooth room modes with only one sub.
post #9 of 150
Thread Starter 
OK, a couple points.

1. I didn't realize the room was considered all that large.

2. I should have been more specific: I'm not looking for the volume per se of the theater but the rather volume without harshness. The center channel especially is just plain harsh whenever anything is more than a normal speaking voice.

3. I'm pretty sure the sub can handle that space. It's a large sub and I have it tuned almost all the way down. It's not even near it's potential.

I'm plenty ready to be corrected though.
post #10 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr. John View Post


2. I should have been more specific: I'm not looking for the volume per se of the theater but the rather volume without harshness. The center channel especially is just plain harsh whenever anything is more than a normal speaking voice..
That's an indication of high distortion levels, which can be sourced by both the speaker and the AVR.
post #11 of 150
Too little amp power (Sony receiver amps are notoriously over rated and under powered with high distortion) and speakers/sub not up to the volume/clarity challenge you expect.

Quite possibly, the Phase Tech tweeters are on the bright side to begin with, but when you add extra distortion at higher volumes, it just amplifies the issue. There are just some speakers (like Klipsch) that are fatiguing from the start.

You need to look into saving up for Triad, JTR, Seaton, Procella, type speakers and large capacity power amps if you want high volumes and clarity that rival most theaters. A lot of commercial theaters sound loud, but are not faithful in reproducing the quality of the original track... you don't want that.

Plus acoustic treatments for the room itself and proper placement.
post #12 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Hitchman View Post

Too little amp power (Sony receiver amps are notoriously over rated and under powered with high distortion) and speakers/sub not up to the volume/clarity challenge you expect.

Quite possibly, the Phase Tech tweeters are on the bright side to begin with, but when you add extra distortion at higher volumes, it just amplifies the issue. There are just some speakers (like Klipsch) that are fatiguing from the start.

You need to look into saving up for Triad, JTR, Seaton, Procella, type speakers and large capacity power amps if you want high volumes and clarity that rival most theaters. A lot of commercial theaters sound loud, but are not faithful in reproducing the quality of the original track... you don't want that.

Plus acoustic treatments for the room itself and proper placement.


OK, sounds like you know what you're talking about.

Let's start fresh though, if we can.

I started this whole thing off incorrectly. I am not trying to duplicate the magnitude of the theater sound. I'm well aware that theaters in general are no paradigm of either sound or vision (hence the reason I've opted for a HT, the theater no longer holds any charm for me). That said, I RARELY experience harsh or cringing sound at the theater, even at excessive volume (and yes, it's often excessive). It is sometimes less than excellent, but rarely cringe worthy. I only incorrectly used the theater as an example simply because the volume of this not because i wanted crazy loud sound in my HT.

That said, all I really want to know is if I can get decent sound and at the same time eliminate the harshness? Simple speaking parts are often just too tin canny and harsh. I'd prefer not to start spending large cash again, as I don't really have it. I am willing to look into a new Center if it may help. Right now I'm just trying to determine if what I have is the culprit or not.

I think you're on the right track concerning the Phase Tech tweeters though, my dad has never liked them and this may be the reason. They don't hold a candle to my 30 year old Boston Acoustics A60 fronts.
post #13 of 150
To keep this simple and short. Your current gear and the size of your room is the problem. You don't have enough headroom in the speakers or amplification you're using. This includes your subwoofer.
post #14 of 150

My two cents would draw an analogy for you....

 

You want speakers that can give you the sound at your listening position while they are operating at (for example) 20% of their potential as contrasted with a different pair of speakers giving you the sound level at your listening position while operating at (for example) 80% of their potential.

 

Think of a car and trailer...

 

If you are driving a Yugo with a fully loaded trailer behind you, there's a chance you won't be driving very safe.  Take that same trailer and instead, pull it behind a F-350 truck and not only will the load be more stable, you would also have enough reserve to accelerate while going up a hill.....to pass that Yugo.

 

I've always felt that larger, more capable speakers (overkill) will help provide cleaner sound because they will operate more in their comfort zone while providing clean sound whereas, a smaller pair of speakers might be under more strain at that same level.

 

I'd want the speakers to be large enough to handle the space and the amp as well. 

post #15 of 150
Thread Starter 
OK, now we're getting somewhere!

Lets say I want to upgrade? What are my cheapest options?

- replace just the fronts, center and rear
- replace the AVR
- replace the sub

Frankly I'm not having a hard time with anything written so far except the sub. It's massively powerful (I do not use it for music, I'm pretty set on 2 channel for strict music listening) for movies.
post #16 of 150
Properly HT high efficiency will probably get you closer and cheaper to HT sound.
post #17 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr. John View Post

OK, now we're getting somewhere!

Lets say I want to upgrade? What are my cheapest options?

- replace just the fronts, center and rear
- replace the AVR
- replace the sub

Frankly I'm not having a hard time with anything written so far except the sub. It's massively powerful (I do not use it for music, I'm pretty set on 2 channel for strict music listening) for movies.

Replace the speakers with more efficient speakers. DIY Sound group flat packs is an incredible deal and perform great from what I've heard. http://www.diysoundgroup.com/waveguide-speaker-kits.html

You subwoofer is a good sub but like Bill said 2 would be better and the current SVS PC12 NSD would blend perfect with you 20-39pci. Or you could sell the SVS and go with DIY subwoofer flat packs, a couple of Dayton Reference 18s in a 4 cuft box and a Behringer amp would be a damn good start and cheap too (compared to commerical offerings).
post #18 of 150
Thread Starter 
Sorry, not interested in the DYI route. I should have specified cheapest as in bottom dollar for decent stuff.
post #19 of 150
Maybe try a search to price products to your budget.

Bill mentioned a single sub not pressurizing a room that size, your come back was that your sub was plenty powerful. That may be, but no matter how powerful a sub is, it's not going to fill an entire room that large. Adding a second sub will make a tremendous difference. I was in your position on that myself a year ago.

More power supplied to your speakers definitely make a huge difference, an AVR with more power for two channels driven is something to look at, maybe possibly an external amp. Speaker placement is also very important, you want your center channel up to the edge of the console so you have no first order reflections from the top of the cabinet. Bring your mains out so they aren't competing with other furniture across their axis. Auddyssey is a great tool in setting up your speakers and does some pretty decent room correction.

Best-o-luck
post #20 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr. John View Post

OK, now we're getting somewhere!

Lets say I want to upgrade? What are my cheapest options?

- replace just the fronts, center and rear
- replace the AVR
- replace the sub

Frankly I'm not having a hard time with anything written so far except the sub. It's massively powerful (I do not use it for music, I'm pretty set on 2 channel for strict music listening) for movies.

Based on everything I've just read, you need to upgrade your L/C/R, specifically get a really good center.

Leave the receiver, I'm sure it's providing a true 60-70wpc (how many channels are you driving anyway?) and adding a sub would definitely be good (in the future), but wouldn't fix your "The worst bit is that vocals, yelling screaming, etc, are harsh and cringing unless the volume is low."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr. John View Post

Sorry, not interested in the DYI route. I should have specified cheapest as in bottom dollar for decent stuff.

How far away do you sit from your front speakers? Would a Klipsch RC-52/62 be in your budget? Those should be easy enough to check out locally as they're pretty common, efficient and put out good SPL.
post #21 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff4RFC View Post

Maybe try a search to price products to your budget.

Bill mentioned a single sub not pressurizing a room that size, your come back was that your sub was plenty powerful. That may be, but no matter how powerful a sub is, it's not going to fill an entire room that large. Adding a second sub will make a tremendous difference. I was in your position on that myself a year ago.

More power supplied to your speakers definitely make a huge difference, an AVR with more power for two channels driven is something to look at, maybe possibly an external amp. Speaker placement is also very important, you want your center channel up to the edge of the console so you have no first order reflections from the top of the cabinet. Bring your mains out so they aren't competing with other furniture across their axis. Auddyssey is a great tool in setting up your speakers and does some pretty decent room correction.

Best-o-luck

Well I'm not willing to do 2 subs, it's not just my space here, the rest of the family would balk at two subs. I am willing to consider a new sub though.

I'm also willing to consider a new AVR if it's a must.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ///3oris View Post

Based on everything I've just read, you need to upgrade your L/C/R, specifically get a really good center.

Leave the receiver, I'm sure it's providing a true 60-70wpc (how many channels are you driving anyway?) and adding a sub would definitely be good (in the future), but wouldn't fix your "The worst bit is that vocals, yelling screaming, etc, are harsh and cringing unless the volume is low."
How far away do you sit from your front speakers? Would a Klipsch RC-52/62 be in your budget? Those should be easy enough to check out locally as they're pretty common, efficient and put out good SPL.

I was looking at the Infinity Primus line also. I realize they arent very high end but they sure seem to get a lot of love here. The Infinity Primus PC351 looks good, but not sure if it's an upgrade to what I already have. Never been much of a Klipsch fan.
post #22 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr. John View Post

This pic shows the room except we have turned everything 180 degrees so just reverse it all, i.e. the display is now on the left side of the room.. The other difference is that instead of the plasma there is now a 120" pull down (again on the left). The center channel is about 15" off the ground and slightly in front of the screen. It was about 25" off the ground though and just under the plasma. Same effect regardless of position.


Multiple subs are needed for that room. Also your speakers are distorting, that is why they sound harsh. A system that can play cleanly at higher volumes will not sound harsh.
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post #23 of 150
Perhaps there's another way to solve or put a band aid on your problem until such time that sufficient discretionary funds become available. If we assume for the moment that your issues are not related to things like running the speakers large, that they're crossed over at least at 80 Hz, and that your center channel isn't somehow damaged, then consider the following.

Change the overall seating arrangement by clustering the seating and maybe moving it a bit closer to the screen. This can be a temporary arrangement for movie nights.
Accordingly, move your surrounds in closer, work on toe-in for the mains, and play with center speaker elevattio. Move the sub away from the walls and find a suitable location in the vicinity of the seating arrangement. Make adjustments and evaluate subjectively.
post #24 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr. John View Post

Well I'm not willing to do 2 subs, it's not just my space here, the rest of the family would balk at two subs. I am willing to consider a new sub though.

I'm also willing to consider a new AVR if it's a must.
I was looking at the Infinity Primus line also. I realize they arent very high end but they sure seem to get a lot of love here. The Infinity Primus PC351 looks good, but not sure if it's an upgrade to what I already have. Never been much of a Klipsch fan.

I want to start out by saying, that as others have already said, the issue is your AVR and its lack of power, your speakers and their lack of true theater-style dynamics, your large room (yes, it's fairly large by home theater standards), and single subwoofer. You've seemed fairly resistant to advice so far, but what you really NEED is new equipment. The receiver and sub are probably worth re-using.

That true "theater" sound is going to require a few things, none of which are cheap or inexpensive. I can tell you how to get it for sure though. Anything really "less" than the below, will give you lesser results. I'm recommending the least expensive way I personally know of, to get that theater style experience you're looking for.

1) Proper amplification. This will involve a separate amp from your receiver. If your current AVR has all the features and codecs you want, and also has pre-outs, then you could just add on with something like this: http://www.sherbourn.com/products/pa5200

There are other amps on the market, so I'm not saying you have to go with this one, but most brands are more expensive for the amount of power you get.

2) Dual subs. I know, not an option right? Be prepared, no matter how good or bad the sub is, to be lacking in some way here if you don't. The best thing I know to do with 1 sub, is buy a Behringer Feedback Destroyer like this one (http://www.zzounds.com/item--BEHFBQ1000) and then properly set it up using Room EQ Wizard (REW) which you can download here: http://www.hometheatershack.com/roomeq/

You'll need to review the guide, and you'll likely need some computer hardware to make it work properly as well.

ALTERNATE #2 (more expensive): Another option, although slightly more expensive but more automated, is the Velodyne SMS-1. Both #2 options are room mode correctors, so you can deal with only having 1 subwoofer. You can get the SMS-1 here: http://velodyne.com/sms-1-digitalmanagement-system.html

3) Dynamic, high-efficiency, theater capable speakers. Most people like to say that for theater quality dynamics, you want something really efficient (95+ db sensitivity, more is usually better). The least expensive I've seen that will do this are these: http://www.chasehometheater.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=596&category_id=28&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=142

There are TONS of other options here, but those will get the job done for a low price tag, relatively speaking.

Questions?

Cheers,
Chad
Edited by thirdeye11 - 7/5/13 at 7:14am
post #25 of 150
I'd dump the Sony and get a new AVR that has pre-amp output, like Onkyo TX-NR818 or Denon X4000. Need more power, just add external amps from ATI, Outlaw, or Emotiva. A refurbished Onkyo TX-NR818 and Emotiva XPA-5 ( 200w x 5 ) would be around $1500 and you'll never lack power.
post #26 of 150
Lots of great equipment discussion on the merits of high efficiency speakers, subwoofers, and appropriate amplification. Room treatments and room correction software in your receiver can also go a long way towards improving the experience. Speakers with good directivity are helpful as well in challenging spaces.
post #27 of 150
Oh, I'd replace that Sony in a New York minute. As others have stated, try for a receiver with pre-amp outputs and add a beefy multi-channel power amp. Sometimes you can find a good deal on the Marantz 5007 receiver.

If you don't like harsh sound, I would not recommend going the Klipsch route. You'd be going sideways.
post #28 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Hitchman View Post

If you don't like harsh sound, I would not recommend going the Klipsch route. You'd be going sideways.

That is a VERY broad, general sweeping statement. I would instead, recommend that the OP listen to gear first if possible so he can decide whether or not Klipsch sounds harsh to him. I disagree strongly that all Klipsch sounds harsh.
post #29 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by thirdeye11 View Post

That is a VERY broad, general sweeping statement. I would instead, recommend that the OP listen to gear first if possible so he can decide whether or not Klipsch sounds harsh to him. I disagree strongly that all Klipsch sounds harsh.

I'm going by my experience and what others have stated. Though, yes, the OP should make the final decision.
post #30 of 150
I'm not sure why people are so dead set on upgrading the receiver, when it's probably just fine for the job (especially if speakers aren't set to large). Let's say the receiver gets you 50wpc (probably higher, but this is easier to calculate). At 200wpc you'll get 6dB of overhead at most (each time you double the power you get 3dB gain). The issues don't sound like clipping and the speakers the OP mentioned are rated for 100w max.

I would do this methodically (especially since the OP is concerned about spending more than he has to). I would demo the Klipsch center that I mentioned, even if you don't like the Klipsch sound, just to see if you still have the same problem. It'll give you a good starting point for figuring out the weakness in your system.

As others suggest, upgrading everything you own would be beneficial to your ears, but not your wallet.

P.S. I've powered rooms as big as OP's with a basic Yamaha RX-673, or whatever else it was that my friend had. He was dead set on using his [much more powerful, much "better," much more expensive] Rotel amps, so we made a bet that it wouldn't make a difference. Guess who won the bet? He does use Klipsch Reference speakers though, so that was important.
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