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Importance of Setting Your System Up Right

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Jack Roberts Beatnik's Journey

I recently reviewed the 225 pound each Linn Athenaum Speaker System, followed by Burwell & Sons’ take on the classic Altec A7s. After both of these were gone it was time to settle back down with my Teresonic Ingeniums with Lowther DX4 drivers with silver voice coils. The only problem was while they sounded good, they just didn’t sound as good as my memory said they should.

When I get new speakers in to review I always use Jim Smith’s method of setting up a system – the one he describes in his book and videos “Get Better Sound,” which no audiophile should be without these by the way.

When I put my speakers back in I had three problems. First, with time and moving those big speakers around I had managed to lose the markings on the floor that showed me the exact place they should go. The second was that I had moved my listening chair around trying to get the best sound from the review speakers. The third was less forgivable, somehow I had lost my logbook that keeps all the info for putting my system back where it comes alive.

When I went to put my speakers back in, I thought check I know where everything goes. Still it took me two weeks of wondering what was not quite right with my system. I readjusted VTA and other things like playing with tow in. Still, they didn’t sound like they should. So, I broke down and did what I should have done before I put the Teresonic speakers back in. I started from scratch just like I had done with the review speakers.

So I got out the laser and measured so I could again find the dead center of the room. Then using the laser I set everything back up, including the listening position. I then played just a tiny bit with toe in which is tricky with Lowthers. The last move was only three inches different but eureka that old magic was back. Now, I’ve spent the last week enjoying one incredible performance after another. I just finished listening to Eric Dolphy’s “Out There”. When it finished I felt like I was leaving a performance at my favorite jazz venue, Yoshi’s.

The reason I’ve taken the time to write this short column is to remind everyone to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER forget the room and set up is the most important thing in the listening chain. The reason I haven’t gone into detail about how to do this is because I can’t do it better than Jim Smith has already done. Back in the early 80s when Jim was a dealer in Birmingham he took the time to teach a young music lover how to set up my modest system so that I could get the most out of it. Then a few year ago he wrote the book “Get Better Sound” and then made the videos to help even more with getting the best out of a system. I promise you getting these and most importantly doing what he teaches will make a bigger difference in your system than any new amp or cables I know of.

One more thing, I’m sitting here listening to Frankie and I feel like I’m at the concert. That’s what it’s all about anyway. Soundstage, imaging, bass, transparency and the like are all nice, but for me it’s all about the emotional experience of listening to music.

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