We definitely don’t need to be bogged down with more rules. Practically everywhere we go, someone or something is telling us what to do or what not to do. Walk. Don’t walk. This lane 15 items or less. Pants required to eat here. Enough!
Our entertainment — specifi cally our audio/video systems — should provide a respite from this, a comfortable safe haven from The Man always trying to tell us what to do. Now, it’s true that there are some rules you should obey to get the most out of your system. But these are gentle and easy to follow — rules you actually want to mind, like not running out into a street when Jason Statham is behind the wheel. Things like properly positioning your speakers, using digital audio cabling, and assigning the inputs on your receiver.
But from the way many enthusiast or “entertainment” mavens bombard us with “this is how to enjoy your system” advice, you almost expect to look up and see the Joker holding a sharpened pencil and asking, “Why so serious?”
This month, I’m going to flip the script and go counter to the advice normally given here. I’m going to tell you that it’s okay to do things that might be “technically” wrong. I’ll allow you to deviate from “the ideal” to enjoy your system the way you want. I’m going to give you permission to be, well, bad — within reason. (I don’t want to hear too much about your, er, private time.)
Bumping Audio Levels
The “right way” to set audio levels is to use a soundpressure level meter (or the microphone included with your receiver) and adjust each main speaker to the same relative volume level at the listening position. But — we’re alone here, right? It’s just me and you talking? — I actually like to hear a little more from my surrounds. So I bump the levels of the side and back channels up by a few decibels. This is especially helpful at lower volume (less than reference) listening. Before you do this, you might see if your receiver has a new feature like THX’s Loudness Plus, Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ, Dolby Volume, or some other variety that automatically compensates for low-volume listening. Or don’t! If you like to hear to hear the sounds of rain blasting from your surround channels, crank ’em up!
John Sciacca began his career as a custom installer in 1998 at Custom Theater and Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, where he still works. He's still trying to figure out how to get the members of his family to turn the lights off when they're actually in the house, let alone from hundreds of miles away.
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