FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Doug Wilson has been learning, experimenting and evaluating audio equipment for over 40 years. Below is a list of the most common questions he receives. If you do not see an answer to your particular question, please contact him, he’s always happy to discuss Audio!


How should I place my loudspeakers in my listening room?

The placement of loudspeakers is very important.  The room influences sound in two main ways: it changes the low frequency performance and it modifies the spatial aspects of playback.

 

As a general principle don’t put your speakers in the corners of the room and don’t put them near a wall, especially a side wall. Remember too that where you sit has as much influence on the bass as where the speaker is.

What makes a good loudspeaker?

A good loudspeaker creates the illusion of being at a musical performance and lets you hear the emotional message that the performer has woven into the music.

 

Above and beyond all the measurements, the final decision on each pair of speakers is always made after intense listening sessions.

Can you tell anything by looking at a speaker?

You can actually tell a lot just by looking at the speaker. If certain features are not attended to you will not get very close to the sound you are looking for. When you look at the speaker, does it use more than one driver of each type? Two drivers sharing the load will not go into overload as easily as one and will be more dynamic and more natural sounding than one.

 

Does the speaker have time collimation of the drivers? If the drivers are not arranged so that all sounds arrive at the listener at the same time, then the music will be scrambled. The reason why most speakers have flat front baffles is because it is cheaper to build them that way, not because it sounds better.

 

Does the cabinet use diffraction control? The best way to control diffraction is to use felt. The felt must be cut into all sorts of shapes to work best where they are placed. The second best way is to use a curved or sculpted baffle. We have built speakers with curved enclosures (spherical even!) and the listening tests confirm what the measurements say: felt is the only way to go.

Does it matter what kind of recordings I play on my system?

ABSOLUTELY !  There is a saying in engineering circles which goes like this, “Garbage in, Garbage out”. Your system can’t make a bad recording good. The best you can hope for is to get everything out of a poor recording which is there.

How powerful should my amplifier be?

The factors involved are, how sensitive is your speaker and how big is your room. (And for some people, how loud do you like your music.)

Which amplifier should I use?

When you’re shopping for an amplifier the first question to ask yourself is,
“How am I going to use it?”
“Am I going to power a sub or two subs?”
“One pair or two pairs of speakers, or maybe subs and speakers?”

 

Knowing this helps you make the first decision: which type of amp to buy based on how many output channels and how much power you need. So then let’s take a look at the different types of amplifiers based on the number of output channels they have. Mono amps have one output channel. They’re usually used to power subwoofers. And depending on the amp and the impedance of the subwoofers you can connect one, two or even more subs to just one mono amp.

 

2-channel amps offer more versatility. You can use the two output channels to power a pair of speakers like the ones in your car’s front doors. And most 2-channel amps can also be bridged. This combines the output of the two channels into a single channel. It’s a great way to power a subwoofer.

 

4-channel amps give you the most options. They’re perfect for powering a couple pairs of speakers. You can also enjoy the best of both worlds by using two of the amp’s channels to power a pair of full-range speakers in the front of the car while bridging the output of the other two channels to drive a sub. You’ll get clean highs and powerful lows out of one package.

 

Amplifiers don’t stop at four channels though. 5-channel amps let you power your entire system with just one amplifier. They have four channels for powering your front and rear speakers and a fifth, higher-powered channel for powering your subwoofers. Plus, a 5-channel amp takes up less space and it’s easier to install than two separate amplifiers. A 5-channel amp is a good investment if you want to build a system that has a lot of flexibility and room to grow.

 

You must listen to as many different amplifiers as you can and take notes in a little notebook as you listen. Eventually you will reach some conclusion that both your head and your heart will agree to.

How do I audition an amplifier?

1) play a wide variety of music; 2) relax so that the attention is on the overall feel of the music or soundtrack, and 3) remember that a reviewer’s advice is a guide and also an opinion based on past experiences, beliefs, values, and biases.

 

Whenever you can audition any product at home, at some point simply allow the stereo to play at a moderate loudness level while you go on about your activities. After a few afternoons or evenings, you will subconsciously recognize if the amplifier is ‘boring’ or really allows your music to swing. For movies, instead of intently listening to the soundtrack, assess whether your favorite movies are more satisfying and engaging. Your subconscious mind always notices something about the sound sooner than your conscious mind – so relax and play everything you can.

 

Now, the better your entire stereo system, the less loud you will tend to play it. This is because the emotions in the music or soundtrack are more easily felt, to the point that they are subconscious.

Why do I need power protection, anyway?

You or someone you know have probably lost a TV or computer to a power surge during a thunderstorm. Preventing that kind of damage is a big part of what power protection does. After all, unplugging your TV during a storm may not be enough; if your cable box or satellite receivers remain connected, you’ve left a “back door” open for that lightning strike.

 

Less dramatic — though more common — is the damage done to audio/video systems by minor fluctuations in AC power, sometimes called “brown outs.” And electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference generated either by other devices in the home (like vacuum cleaners and blenders) or sources outside it (like nearby power lines or radio towers) can also impair your system’s performance.

 

Inexpensive power strips simply aren’t designed to offer that level of protection. They normally just break the connection if too much electricity comes through the line. And even there, cheap strips can fall down on the job. Because general purpose power strips often have higher tolerances than expensive audio/video equipment, a surge that could damage your components could pass through the strip because its voltage is below the level required to trip the circuit breaker.

 

To select the right power protection unit, you should consider the components it will be connected to — both now and in the foreseeable future. This can help you select a unit that provides an appropriate level of protection for your system.