Top Ten List of Ways to Tweak Your Setup
Originally published May 03, 2004 on TMR, updated Oct 11, 2007
To get you all started down the path to A/V perfection, I’d like to introduce my top ten list of (affordable) ways to tweak your setup for optimum performance and enjoyment.
Your picture can never be too big. If you’re thinking about upgrading your display, think BIG. If your room can handle it don’t overlook front projection. That set that looks monstrous in the showroom will seem to shrink over time in your room.
You can never have too much bass. Solid, deep bass that doesn’t wimp out when the explosions hit adds much realism and visceral impact to movies. A beefy sub or subs properly placed, amplified and balanced will add punch and panache to soundtracks and music.
You need HDTV. If you haven’t gotten HDTV yet, what are you waiting for? Once you’ve seen the clear picture and extreme detail the HDTV offers you won’t go back to standard definition.
Use the highest quality video connections you can. Use HDMI, then component (three RCA plugs with green, red and blue color codes), then S-Video, then as a last resort composite (single yellow RCA). Each step up the video chain offers a clearer picture with better colors and fewer decoding artifacts.
Get an upconverting DVD player with HDMI out. Once upconverting players were a big premium, now they are common. Use the HDMI output if your display supports it, otherwise choose component video.
Headroom is good. Just as in cars, the more headroom the better. In audio, headroom is the amount of reserve power you have in your amplifiers to handle sudden peaks in music or soundtracks. Not enough headroom and the peaks will be cut short, resulting in distortion and a less dynamic sound.
Dynamics are important. Dynamics are a key separator between good and great audio and video systems. If you’ve ever heard an audio system that makes you want to duck under the couch when gunshots break out on screen, you’ve experienced good dynamics. Dynamic sound requires a low noise room and a system with plenty of headroom. Dynamic video has proper color balance, black levels, and optimal contrast. For more info see the Pro Audio pages.
It’s all about the room. Your room has a huge impact on the performance of your gear. It’s also one of the hardest things to do anything about and even harder to get just right. There are plenty of tweaks to be done here, including basic acoustic treatments and light control.
Location, location, location. Along with the room itself, the position of the speakers, screen or display and you all impact your experience.
Calibration. Even a basic calibration of the user controls on your display and A/V receiver can have huge benefits. Get a good calibration DVD like “Avia: Guide to Home Theater” or “Digital Video Essentials” and go through the guided set up, you’ll like what you see and hear.
Last updated 10-11-2007