10 Tips to Improve your Home Theater Experience

Originally published June 20, 2006

When we examined some of our neighbors’ home theater systems, we found that around 90% of them didn’t even have a digital connection between their DVD players and receivers, and 100% of them didn’t even care about level calibration or proper bass management setup we shocked! While most of our neighbors still don’t understand what Audioholics is all about, they know that coming to us with their audio issues is a safe bet. Have your contractor run 10,000 feet of speakers and audio cables during the framing phase of your home, and the word quickly spreads across the neighborhood that these people need to know about home theater.

These top 10 tips to improve your home theater and the setup guide will help you clear up the issues for you or any of your happy neighbors who need your help. Armed with the right tools, you don’t need Bob the Builder to fix the problem.

Please see our recently added YouTube video discussion for more information.

YouTube Video Discussion: 10 Tips to Enhance Your Home Theater Experience

Top 10 Basic Tips to Enhance Your Home Theater Experience

  1. Check the connections – Polarity of speaker cables, right cables used, etc.
  2. Loudspeaker positioning – Check locations, remove obstacles that block the direct sound path
  3. Speaker configuration – Check your bass management settings and channel assignments
  4. Speaker calibration – Check your levels with a sound pressure meter – slow, c-wt
  5. Seat optimization – Position EQ, move seats away from backs or sidewalls
  6. Source setup – Make sure your Blu-ray or cable box is set to carry bitstream audio and turn off dynamic compression
  7. Display calibration – Switch your TV out of flashlight mode, set the black level and color temperature correctly
  8. Improve room acoustics – Padded carpet for tiled floors, curtains on the windows, absorption if the room is too reverberant
  9. Improve room lighting – Darken windows and doors to reduce the light and improve the contrast ratio of your display
  10. Add cool props – Embellish the room with a theme with movie posters or props or cardboard models, a popcorn machine and a refrigerator to store beer

We can’t emphasize the importance of properly connecting your speakers to your AV receiver. Make sure you are using equal polarity from each speaker to the receiver [red = (+), black = (-)]. Connect the appropriate speaker to the dedicated speaker ports on the back of the receiver (i.e. your front left speaker should be connected to the front left speaker input on your receiver.)

Note: Don’t blindly follow the results of your auto EQ program, as these will usually misidentify the speaker phase for 3-way designs that reverse the polarity of one or more drivers for proper acoustic summation.

Use the correct cables to connect your sources (e.g. DVD player, cable box, etc.) to your receiver. HDMI is the ONLY way to stream HD video and HD audio from your Blu-ray player to your AV receiver!

References:

Basic guide to setting up audio and video

Receiver setup and connections

DVD player setup

Setting Up Your Home Theater System – The Basics

Audio and video connection manual

Cable principles

  • Set up your speaker correctly system (Speaker placement, bass management, etc.)

References:

A simple solution for subwoofer calibration

Basics of bass management – settings made easy

Home Theater Speaker Layout – An Essential Guide

Subwoofer Placement Guidelines

clip_image006_128.jpgAn important note about volume controls:

The volume controls on most modern AV receivers don’t work on a 10-point incremental scale, with 0 muted and 10 fully on. Instead, they operate on a more accurate scale, usually ½ dB, with the larger the negative number, the lower the volume, and 0 dB is usually very loud and at or near maximum volume. Keep in mind that the volume gets louder with each turn clockwise and decrease with each turn counterclockwise. Always set the volume control to the minimum setting (counterclockwise) when you turn on your system for the first time.

Some additional useful tips when planning a home theater system:

  • Avoid placing the three primary front speakers on the ceiling. If they need to be above ear level, tilt them down using a device such as the Auralex MoPAD or a suitable bracket that can support the speaker.

Integrating main speakers into a home always requires at least some compromise. Even a dedicated home theater or two-channel venue requires a give and take, maintaining the balance between sound quality, aesthetics, and other variables. It is important to maintain the placement symmetry, proper positioning and calibration of the critical three front LCR speakers to ensure the best possible home theater experience.

7.1 Speaker layout diagram

7.2 Speaker layout – Courtesy of Klipsch

Note that this system has two subwoofers for better bass reproduction in all seats.

For more information, see: Optimizing the placement of the front LCR speakers

  • clip_image007_017.jpgAvoid ” Cube “loudspeaker” if you are serious about sound quality. Better sounding speakers with only modest magnification can be bought for the same money or a lot less. You can also find speakers that blend in much better with the aesthetics of your room than those little white or black cubes.

Note: If you’ve already purchased a Cubed speaker system and cannot return it, make sure to set it up for proper operation as follows.

  • Connect all cube speakers to the corresponding ports on the bass module.

  • Connect each speaker level connection on the bass module to the corresponding connection on the receiver (e.g. center channel to center channel, right back to right back, etc.).
  • Connect a cinch cable from the sub output of your receiver to the sub input of your bass module
  • Set all speakers in the bass management of the receiver to “Large” and the subwoofer to “Yes”.
  • If in doubt, contact your dealer or the manufacturer.
  • Invest in basic calibration equipment like a Radio Shack SPL meter and Avia test disc. These tools ensure a more accurate calibration that you simply cannot achieve with just your ear.
  • Buy your equipment from a competent and authorized dealer. If all else fails, seek help setting up your home theater system. There is no point in spending your hard-earned cash on all of this equipment if it’s not set up and configured correctly.

Final thoughts

Use the same measures to properly care and operate your home theater equipment as you would when purchasing a new car or swimming pool for your home. That way, you can have years of carefree listening and enjoying what can come close to or often exceed the experience of your local cineplex. Now all you need is a popcorn machine and some lounge chairs and you’re done.

j_garcia Posted on April 28, 2016 at 10:50 am

LMAO. I can’t help but look at every system I come across when going to someone. EVERY system I’ve ever looked at had at least one or two things that weren’t optimal and could easily be corrected.

gene Posts on April 28, 2016 01:00

On_P50oHBtM

gene Posted on April 28, 2016 12:39 AM

When we examined some of our neighbors’ home theater systems, we found that about 90% of them didn’t even have a digital connection between their DVD players and receivers, and 100% of them didn’t even bother about level calibration or proper bass management. To say we were shocked is an understatement! While most of our neighbors still don’t understand what Audioholics is all about, they know that coming to us with their audio issues is a safe bet.

These top 10 tips and the setup guide will help you solve the problems for you or one of your lucky neighbors who needs your help. For more information, see our dedicated YouTube video discussion.

Read: 10 Tips To Enhance Your Home Theater Experience

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