Very few Audio Systems can be considered “accurate” or “tonal neutral”. This means that just about all systems exhibit some coloration. In other words, they add or subtract something to the information they receive, giving them an inaccurate sound. You have probably noticed that your favorite CD sounds different on your friend’s system. In some cases perhaps you notice significantly more highs or maybe less bass, etc. If there is a certain tonal imbalance that you would like to change in your system, there are several ways to accomplish this.
First of all, identify what it is you wish to change and where it exists. For example: if the system reproduces an over abundance of high frequencies, first determine when this is most prevalent. Is it only on a few older CDs, while the radio, video and tape sources all sound just fine? Since the anomaly is not always present on any single source, this situation is likely to result if the CDs in question were recorded in such a way that they would affect the sound – answer: your system is fine, your CDs are the culprit.
However, if you don’t have an over abundance of highs all the time, but only when using the CD player (and you are happy with the highs from all the other sources) then obviously, the CD player is at the root of the cause. Replacing the connecting wires with good quality patch cords will often solve this type of problem. If this does not work, then the CD player may be of an older design that colours everything it plays, in that case replace the player.
That was a simple test, but what if all sources exhibit the same problem? If the Tape, CD, video, etc., are all too bright: First look at the environment, does it include an above average amount of hard surfaces? e.g. hardwood floors, windows and other glass. Glass on gyproc is non-absorbent and will reflect “highs” around the room. If this is the case, refer to Tip #5 “The Room and the Speaker“, for ideas on how to place your speakers in such a way that they de-emphasize the room’s negative characteristics.
Proper speaker placement, correct stand height, sufficient cable capacity and experimenting with “toe in, toe out” (the direction the speakers face relative to the listening position) can have a dramatic effect on a system’s over all tonal balance.
Above all, remember that just plunking (technical term) a system in a room, with no forethought on how it will sound, ensures that you will not reap the full potential from that system. Correct speaker placement can bring about net gains in the speaker’s accuracy resulting in better reproduction of the human voice, imaging, bass, depth, high frequencies, etc. It is also very important to think of your system as a whole, and then listen to all sources carefully to determine if the speakers are emphasizing a problem in the recording, the system or the room, and, if none of the above, then perhaps the speakers themselves should be suspect.
A good rule of thumb to ensure the best image, or centre fill, from your system is to draw an imaginary line from the front face of one speaker to the front of the other. If anything blocks this line (TV, fireplace, bookshelf etc.), this will reduce dramatically the three dimensional qualities of the system. Try pulling the speakers forward into the room or, move the offending blockage to ensure that the speakers can radiate to “touch” each other.
If lack of bass is a problem, the speaker placement and use of good cables can provide significant improvement (see Tip #5). Remember, the more standing surfaces (walls, floors, sides of cabinets etc.) close to a speaker, the more bass emphasis. So, if you wish to get more bass, try putting the speakers in corners and/or on the floor. If they are already in that location and the bass is too strong, move them out and put them on stands.
Play your system and trust your ears, and if you are a little unsure then do some serious listening to different music pieces on each source until you feel that the problem is identified. Then give us a call, we can walk you through the steps necessary to achieve better tonal balance and accuracy from your existing system.