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Some plain English on setting up an audio system

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You’ve just bought a new sound system or maybe you’re just moving the one you have. You’ve brought it home and now you can’t wait to get it set up and ready to play. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your stereo system.

Where you put your components depends a lot on the arrangement of your listening room, but here are a few pointers that may help. To avoid confusion, try to figure out where to put everything before you begin to unpack all the equipment. The receiver/amplifier and all the associated components should be close together in an easily accessible but protected place. Consider placing them at a convenient height. There is nothing more uncomfortable than having to get on your hands and knees to operate your system. Also consider if you will need access to the rear of the equipment in the future and make an appropriate choice to accommodate access if needed.

Concerning placement of the speakers, you need to realize that speaker placement is probably the most important part of your system. Remember that if they’re too close together, you end up with a mono effect; too far apart results in a sonic hole in the middle. For maximum stereo effect, the two main speakers and the place where you’ll most often sit should form a triangle that’s roughly equal on all sides. Also, try to avoid putting the speakers where the sound will be blocked by furniture. When placing your front stereo speakers in an ideal situation, the speaker should be 2’ to 3’ out from the front and sidewalls and the tweeter should be at ear level. This enables the speakers to have adequate distance from reflecting surfaces allowing the speakers to reproduce accurate imaging and a realistic sound stage.

I mention this as a best-case scenario. The reality is often very different. Remember that speaker placement can be more important than even the components you choose. The absolute things to avoid are: never place your bookshelf speakers on the floor. Get yourself a pair of stands for them or place them on a bookshelf at the forward edge of the shelf. Try to avoid placing a speaker deep in the corner of the room and definitely don’t stick them behind furniture.

If you’re arranging a surround sound system, here are a few dos and don’ts that may help. Rear speaker placement can be a little tricky. If you place the rear speaker on a back wall firing forward you may discover that the sound passes over your head making the rear channel information appear to come from anywhere but the rear. If you sit near the rear of the room, and are placing the rear speakers behind you, consider angling them down if they are mounted high on the wall or also consider placing them on the floor behind you firing up at the ceiling. The sound will bounce off the ceiling and back down creating a remarkable rear channel effect.

As you unpack each component, don’t throw anything away. Most audio equipment comes with a warranty card and some kind of instructions. Fill out the warranty cards and mail them before they get lost in the shuffle. In some states, however, your original sales receipt is your proof of purchase. I recommend making copies of the receipt and placing one in each box for safekeeping. Be sure to save all the manuals and read them to be certain that you understand all of the features on your equipment. Also, if you have any questions on how to hook-up the equipment, the instructions will provide the answers.

If a problem comes up and you can’t find the answer in the manual or instructions, don’t hesitate to call your audio dealer or the manufacturer. Chances are they’ll be able to help you over the phone. I have found that just about every manufacturer has very good customer support. They have a stake in having happy customers, especially today with the importance of social media. If you do call the factory for customer support, try to be clear about your issues. Remember they are there to help you. So whatever you do, don’t get mad.

Finally, if you have the room, save all the cartons and packing material. If you ever move or sell the equipment, you’ll be really glad you have them. Resale of the electronics is higher if you have the original box and literature and if you ever need service, the original box and packing will be the best way to protect your gear if you have to ship it to the service center.


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