Video and Audio Center Blog



Thursday, March 31, 2016

CALIBRATING YOUR HOME THEATER AUDIO


Everybody knows that you need to have the speakers of your home theater connected to an AV Receiver, regardless of whether it was purchased separately or that it came with the speakers as an all-in-one product. It’s also pretty much understood that you put the Left front speaker and the Right front speaker (so as to have stereo) and the center speaker (a.k.a., center channel) between them. That leaves the two surround speakers (Left and Right) which need to go as their name implies on either side of the room near the back so that they’re even with where the people who are going to be watching are sitting (i.e., on a couch or lounging chairs, etc.).  As far as the subwoofer goes there’s no worries — that’s because, unlike the other speakers, a subwoofer’s sound is omnidirectional and so it can be placed near a wall or behind a couch, etc. without concern. And as far as where the people are sitting, that is dictated by where the TV is — and you can bet a BIG SCREEN TV will get a lot of people to watch. That also dictates where the speakers will be placed relative to the TV and to the people.



But what’s not so obvious is that all of these speakers need to be calibrated against each other so that their sound blends together as necessary (for example, when there’s dialogue) or steps back to let surround effects take over (for example, when there’s an explosion in the movie).  You can’t just turn the volume up or down because that affects all the speakers together; what’s needed is to calibrate the speakers to each other and to the room they are playing in. This will not only take care of the problem but will also tailor the sound to the particular environment — your home — so as to make it more suitable for you.

DOING THE CALIBRATION AUTOMATICALLY

The basis for this is for the audio receiver to put out a series of pulses/sounds from each speaker and so adjust the individual audio streams based on their location to those who are listening. Modern AV Receivers have this calibration system built in. All you have to do (besides follow the instructions provided on the receiver’s faceplate or on the TV if the receiver has a connected interface to view) is place the included microphone at the listening position (i.e., your favorite seat on the couch, etc.), plug it into the receiver and activate the system. To do it properly it’s important that any surface sounds be eliminated, so if the street outside is particularly noisy or the nearby refrigerator or microwave is making a din, just wait a bit before going ahead. You turn on the system and leave the area and come back when it’s done (i.e., it’s quiet). Then you watch as the AV Receiver takes care of all the calculations and processes and just has you accepting a few decisions it’s made (or you tweaking them if you prefer). That’s it.

DOING THE CALIBRATION MANUALLY

On the chance that you just like to do things yourself because you don’t think much of somebody else’s idea of how digital tech should work — then doing the calibration yourself is the answer. You’ll need a sound pressure level meter (SPL) and a small tripod that you can place it on. The procedure is a bit too involved to go into here; the basic steps are to first place the speakers in the correct position in the viewing area, set the receiver as to the size of the speakers and to put out the tones (pink noise, is what it is called) moving clockwise around the speakers. You’ll use the meter to adjust the levels of each speaker as well as the subwoofer. There are audio discs that will “talk” you through this and they are commercial available and not expensive either. The main thing is to read up on doing this based on your system and speaker set (check the receiver’s manual too) and then take your time. Of course if you have a professional installation done to place your speakers for you (for example, using the services of a company like Just One Touch), then all this will be taken care of as a matter of course.

Calibration your home theater’s audio is the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to the sound that you’ll be hearing.

Friday, March 25, 2016

ZONE 2 AUDIO FOR SOUND IN ANOTHER ROOM


There was a time when the clock radio reigned supreme because it not only woke people up but could play music at other times as well. Then came the appearance of the big screen TV, followed by the home theater. These multichannel audio systems bragged about being able to fetch multiple audio streams at the same time -- effectively creating the same surround sound effects as found in a movie theater. But the sheer number of speakers, not to mention the audio components that powered them, made the living room the natural choice for where everything could be housed. And so the bedroom lost its prominence when it came to listening to music in general and to watching movies with all the grandeur that audio could bring in specific.

But since being able to listen to music in the bedroom shouldn't be left out, the advent of the "Zone 2" is here to restore this once honored tradition. The designation of "Zone 2" refers to the AV Receiver powering the speakers in the living room being able to also provide for speakers being placed and used in another room (I.e., the bedroom). This enables the Receiver to do "double duty" and so avoids having to add additional equipment in the other room where the music is wanted. So here's a simplified primer on what is needed in order to have "Zone 2" work for you (here’s a hint — you might already have it ready and waiting):

SPEAKERS

Speakers are the all important addition to the room in which audio is desired. The speakers do not need their own power as they will get this from the AV Receiver which is already in place in the living room (and which has the "Zone 2" technology built into it). The speakers to use are also conventional models, which can be encased in wood or plastic and big or small. The only hard requirements are that there are to be only two of them (for stereo) and that their frequency requirements meet that of the AV Receiver (a fancy way of saying that the speakers bought are able to be used by the AV Receiver whose power output isn't greater than what they can handle).

Positioning the speakers can be done on the floor or on bookshelves or on speaker stands -- this partly depends on their size but also on the fact that they must be connected by wires (speaker wiring) between themselves and the AV Receiver. Running the speaker wires from each point to the other will require some thought as to the best way to accomplish the task: wiring can be moved along baseboards and maneuvered along the floor or brought through walls. Depending on how invasive a method is used, there might be rules to follow if you have an apartment or condo, as well as those from the local City government. It's for this reason that, although DIY is always an option, having the services of a professional installation service, for example Just One Touch, can be of great benefit. But no matter how it's done, nothing will be able to happen until the wiring between the speakers and the AV Receiver has been done.

AV RECEIVER

The speaker wires make their way to the AV Receiver which, to no surprise, is powering the many speakers of the home theater system. The AV Receiver is also able to provide a number of audio sources beside being the source of power for the speakers and the conduit of other devices such as disc players (Blu-Ray, DVD). Those AV Receivers with Internet connectivity can also access apps as if they were a subset of a smartphone and so play audio from sources like Pandora and other audio choices. Plus AM/FM radio too of course.

But for the speaker wires coming from the other room, the "Zone 2" speaker inputs on the AV Receiver are all that matter. And the "Zone 2" can only handle a set of speakers for stereo while at the same time maintaining all of the audio streams for the home theater. So this limits the number of speakers that can be used, but as seen it also limits the number of wires that have to make their way from the other room to the Receiver.

CONTROL

The AV Receiver must be controlled so as to have it play the desired audio in the desired room. Since most AV Receiver remotes use infrared, that requires a line-of-sight between it and the Receiver. That won't help when you're in another room. But the same technology that adds the Internet to the Receiver also allows for control to be done through a smartphone using WiFi. That this requires a home network isn't much of an issue, since wireless connectivity to the online world is now fairly ubiquitous. The type of app and the functions that it provides is tied to the technologies in place in the AV Receiver.

Being able to listen to music is one of the true pleasures in life, and there shouldn't be any reason why there should only be one room where audio would be found. Thanks to the technology known as "Zone 2" this pleasure can once again be found in the bedroom.

Friday, March 18, 2016

HIDING SOUND IN THE WALLS


People love the idea of having music inside their homes, but despair at having to figure out the best place for putting the speakers or which rooms to use. Not to mention all the physical problems associated with having to run wires to/from the speakers. Even the advent of wireless transmissions doesn’t obviate the problems just because streaming is now added to the mix. So the solution would seem to be to find a way to have your speakers without having to turn the house inside out. Or making the speakers the focus of the room (for that, a big screen 4K TV gets the job done). Taking a cue from those living in apartments in New York City where horizontal space is a premium, what about making use of the wall space that doesn't get used for anything more than a picture or three? In-wall speakers are the answer.

IN-WALL SPEAKERS

An in-wall speaker doesn't occupy floor or shelf space, but what is it exactly? At its core, this is a speaker that does not have a cabinet surrounding its audio drivers -- the audio components that generate the sound. That's not to say that there is no enclosure around it, but the enclosure is radically different from a speaker that you'd see standing on the floor or placed on a shelf or on a speaker stand. The enclosure is designed to sit "inside" the wall, with a grillwork or even a totally "invisible" front hiding the speaker within (this exists for in-ceiling speakers just as well, with the only difference from an in-wall speaker being as the name implies).

HIDDEN SOUND

The sound that these now "hidden" speakers put out are also of good quality -- the days of having to compromise between choosing a speaker that sounds good or one that can be put inside a wall placement no longer exists. One great advantage of these type of speakers is that often they can be "aimed" -- the drivers physically able to be manipulated — so that the sound they are emitting can take into account the space/room they are placed in and be directed towards the listener. This can be very important when stereo is the audio result desired, because of the need for the creation of a sound-field that provides a proper spacing between speakers so as to maximize the stereo effect. The same holds true for multichannel audio (a.k.a., surround sound).

SELECT THE NUMBER

Deciding on the number of speakers for a particular space is totally dependent on what kind of sound is wanted. For a kitchen, one speaker could be ideal, while a home theater setup will require a number of them. Fortunately there's no restrictions on the size or frequency response that in-wall speakers have so it's easy to match the type needed against the desired "effect" of the sound for the chosen space. Obviously the speakers must also be matched up with the audio components that will be powering them -- the AV Receiver or Network audio server for example. By matched up, it is meant that the amount of power needed for the speakers need to be within the range being put out by the audio powering systems. This also includes the frequency response; speakers for a home theater requiring a greater frequency response so as to better duplicate the human ear than is needed for a speaker in a bathroom where "singing in the shower" is the order of the day. A subwoofer will also be a valid addition (especially in the case of a home theater audio setup), with the ability to place them inside a wall being as possible as going the (somewhat) more exotic route of placing them into the flooring.

WIRING THE SETUP

What's less open to personal interpretation is the wiring of the speakers to the audio components that will power them (I.e., that AV receiver or network server device). While self powered and wireless speakers can be had, for most practical applications wiring must be done through the wall/ceilings. This forces attention not just on the physical requirements such as using the correct kind of cabling for the speakers and avoiding electrical wiring inside walls, but also on the restrictions placed on homes by the city and state government. This is why a professional installer service, for example Just One Touch, becomes a necessity, and not just because they have the equipment and know how to get the job done. Since the installation must meet the codes and restrictions aforementioned, these companies don’t just know how to proceed, but know exactly how to do so within the required guidelines.

Having in-wall speakers can open up your entire living spaces to music in a way that is unprecedented while also preserving the appearance of the home. What are you waiting for?



Friday, March 11, 2016

WALL MOUNTING YOUR NEW TV - WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?



There’s going to be a lot of excitement at your house when you bring home a new BIG SCREEN TV. That’s because your home theater is going to be upgraded big time to give you the kind of viewing experience that just wasn’t possible a few years ago. The high-resolution of the TV, combined with all the “smart” features like streaming and more will be impressive, but where the new flat-panel is going might be questionable. Who wants to have to try make an existing cabinet work or be forced to go out and buy another piece of furniture just to hold the TV? That’s why wall mounting is the best answer for the home theater.



Being able to mount a flat-panel TV to the wall is commonplace now. The reason this happened is due to the weight of the TV: unlike the old cathode-type TVs of the past, a flat-panel was lighter from the very beginning. And with TVs becoming even thinner and more svelte, there’s no reason not to wall mount. But what do you need to know in order to properly mount your new TV to the wall? Lets look into that right now.



PLACEMENT OF THE TV



The first thing to do is decide just where the TV is going to go on the wall. Obviously there needs to be enough free space on both sides of the wall once the TV goes up on it, but that’s not the only consideration. The decision also needs to take into account where the power outlet is relative to the wall/TVs position, and how any windows and lights in the room will interact with the TV as regards glare. Another consideration is

the “line of sight” from the wall to where the people are going to watch, for example, is there room to place a couch there, can the living room, den, bedroom, etc. accommodate people and furniture across from where the TV is? These are physical restrictions that require careful thinking beforehand so approach these questions in a calm and deliberate fashion.



WALL MOUNTS



There are companies who make wall mounts that can be used with most TVs. These mounts are attached to the wall and so require that where they are to go will hold them securely. The common way for  most to do this will be to attach the wall mount brackets to the wall (drywall) so that the connection is made to the wood studs inside. Locating the studs can be done in a number of ways, with one being the use of a stud  finder acquired from a hardware store. Care must of course be taken that the work you are doing so as to attach the wall mount will not interfere with any wiring that might be inside the wall, as well as having the approval if needed should there be any ruling where you live as regards treating a wall in an invasive manner.



HAVE A PROFESSIONAL DO IT



Wall mounting a TV can be a rewarding experience, although it must be approached with caution. For this reason, many will opt to have a professional installer, for example Just One Touch, take care of attaching the TV to the wall. But regardless of how the TV gets up on the wall, the result will be that your home theater will now be even more appealing to watch. So sit back and enjoy.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

WIRELESS SPEAKERS IN THE HOME ARE TAKING OVER



Wireless audio is a boon to music lovers. By definition, a wireless speaker eschews the need for not just a connection to an audio source (like an A/V Receiver) but also in many cases a plug having to be inserted into an outlet for supplying electrical power. This makes the speaker truly portable: take it wherever you want when outside, but in the home it's huge. The reason for that is most don't want to have to install speakers into their walls or ceilings or search for places they can be put where the wiring won't cause complications (anyone who has ever had to try to run wires underneath carpeting so as to get from one side of the room to the other knows this). Wireless speakers avoid any of these complications because of their being self-contained. But that's just the start of it.
The main reason for the advent of wireless speakers is due to the means in which audio is transmitted from the audio source to the speaker. Phones and tablets have taken over, even as laptops and computers have added themselves into the mix. But for this to work, there had to be specific technologies created and implemented that could facilitate the transfer of audio. Or as it is more commonly called today, "streaming." They are:
BLUETOOTH
The Bluetooth technology allows for music to be streamed from any device that has Bluetooth installed. Phones are the most common but there are others too (as noted above). The Bluetooth wireless signal has a short range of about 33 feet; this is partially designed so as to avoid the possibly of "bleeding" the signal out too far. The addition of a secure transmission was baked inside from day one also. Since it first appeared, Bluetooth has improved in both its energy usage (being a "sipper" of electricity rather than a guzzler) and in the quality of the audio signal. The advent of aptX provides for a CD quality audio signal that goes over well when combined with a Bluetooth speaker that can accept and use this technology (this being the case now with  the majority of the BT speakers now available). The simplicity of pairing an audio source (I.e, phone, etc.) with the BT speaker is well understood by users today as well. 

 WiFi Networks
Most homes now sport a home network which is driven by a wireless transmitter allowing mobile devices easy access online. But WiFi can also be used as an audio transmitter. To do so requires a bit more attention to detail -- primarily in the scheme of setting up parameters between the audio source and the speaker through a specific program -- but the advantages are obvious. For one thing, the audio can be transmitted to a speaker wherever the WiFi wireless signal reaches throughout the home. The higher bandwidth of the WiFi signal also has the ability of transmitting audio to a speaker with a high resolution as well.
For the home, the advantages of going wireless (even if AC power is needed) can not be understated. Wireless audio systems are available from companies that provide not just the means (i.e., the speakers and technology to drive same) but also the impetus to do it. Powered speakers can be placed outside by the pool, the backyard, the front porch. Or the kitchen or even the garage -- the choices are many and only limited by where you want to hear. These speakers placed in rooms can create an enveloping sound field to relax or excite. And best of all, they can be controlled easily and professionally by the user from a phone or tablet
Wireless speakers have changed the way we listen to music and nowhere has it been more evident than in the home. Regardless of whether you are a DIY (do-it-yourself) or decide to have a professional installer, for example Just One Touch, set up a wireless speaker system for you, the results will enhance and add enjoyment to your life through music.