Pioneer Sp-Bs22Lr review

A link to the technical info:

Description: Two-way bass-reflex bookshelf speaker (not magnetically shielded). Drive-units: 1" soft-dome tweeter, 4" structured-surface cone woofer. Frequency range: 55Hz–20kHz. Nominal impedance: 6 ohms. Sensitivity: 85dB/2.83V/m. Maximum input power: 80W. Crossover frequency: 3kHz.
Dimensions: 12 9/16" (320mm) H by 7 1/8" (180mm) W by 8 7/16" (215mm) D. Weight: 9 lbs 2 oz (4.1kg).
Finish: Wood-grain vinyl.
Serial numbers of units reviewed: LNV004559VC (auditioning), LFNV0082030C (measuring).
Price: $159.99/pair. Approximate number of dealers: 50+ (plus Best Buy).
Manufacturer: Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc., PO Box 1540, Long Beach, CA 90801-1540. Tel: (800) 421-1404. Web:

And the info blurb from the official website:

70 Years of Audio Firsts
These speakers come with a remarkable pedigree of over 70 years of Pioneer audio heritage and industry firsts. Like every speaker we build, these are engineered to offer incredible design and amazing sound quality. But then that's exactly what you'd expect from speakers designed by internationally renowned speaker engineer, Andrew Jones. As Pioneer's Chief Speaker Engineer, Andrew has designed some of the world's finest loudspeakers, some costing as much as $80,000. Now he has brought his high-end expertise and passion to the creation of this affordable bookshelf speaker. And while the price is considerably lower than some of his other efforts, the expectation and delivery of accurate sound reproduction are the same.
Thinking Out Of the Box
Typically you'll find most bookshelf speakers not only come in a box, they are a box. And while that might be better for production costs, it isn't better for sound reproduction. The SP-BS22-LR speakers utilize a true curved cabinet design. So besides the aesthetics being considerably more pleasing, this stiffer design reduces standing sound waves inside the cabinet, resulting in high-performance and exceptional sound quality.
As you look at them, you'll also notice our unique speaker grills. They're beautiful and elegant in their own right, but not for their own sake. They protect the speakers, but are also removable if you prefer to see the drivers themselves.
The Inside Story
Crossover: The job of the cross over in a speaker is to break the audio signal into low, high and sometimes mid-range frequencies. It's an important job, and it uses circuitry like inductors and capacitors to accomplish it. Much of the competition uses an extremely simple, low-cost cross-over made up of a single capacitor and inductor. The Pioneer SP-BS22-LR utilizes a sophisticated 6 component high quality cross over. The reasoning is simple: we do it because it's one more way of insuring high quality sound that makes its presence known.
Woofer: There are many challenges designing and manufacturing a woofer capable of delivering true bass performance. In the SP-BS22-LR, we've added a structured surface to the 4-inch woofer. By doing so, not only is rigidity improved, so is bass accuracy. Engineers have also vented the pole piece, again improving bass response from the same size woofers in previous models.
Tweeter: To widen the sweet spot of the 1-inch High Efficiency Soft Dome tweeter, we've engineered a custom wave guide. Increasing tweeter efficiency, together with newly designed crossovers, allows the SP-BS22-LR's play louder using less power.
Whatever your system, the SP-BS22-LR Bookshelf Speakers are ready to step it up with authentic audio reproduction to bring your listening experience to the next level.

And a link to the centre speaker:

Links to other reviews:

I read a lot about this speaker and how it was a budget pocket rocket, so this piqued my curiosity, and I managed to get one from USA, freshly minted during one of my travels..

At USD 129, this is one serious bargain. On cursory examination, with the knuckle rap test, you can certainly feel that there is solid value for money here. The finish is a basic ash veneer, but the cabinet is solid, and as others online have written, the parts that go into making the tweeter and woofer cost a lot. So much that my DIY friends have remarked that they won't be able to assemble the same parts for that kind of money..

Even the binding posts are gold plated, not something I have seen with the offerings from companies like Gale or JPW, which are some of the previous budget speakers I have tried. This is clear evidence of the things a large company can do with mass production and bulk volume.

So how does it sound?

Now my usual front pair of speakers is the B&W 804D floorstander, which can go down to 29Hz, and has that fancy diamond tweeter.. so it's different...

But it's really good for the money, in such an impressive way that speakers up to $500 might worry...

First what it can't do:

It's still a 4" cone in a small cabinet, and there's a physical limit to the amount of bass, and the scale as a result. But it does try to go down, and you will get some bass in the high fifties, but it's better at reproducing music that doesn't plug the scale. This baby is begging for a solid subwoofer to back it up, much like the older BBC speaker...

That seems to be a good comparison actually, as this speaker sparkles on mids and a more than decent treble.

So after a run in period, I decided to try it with some of the gear that I use with the more expensive B&W, then try it with some other stuff I have that is closer to it's selling price.

With the Marantz PM 11 S3 powering it, and the NA 11 S1 as a source, plus some solid stands, it showed good soundstage, depth and a good pace. The treble seems a little more prominent, but I think it's more to do with the lack of deep bass than a really bright tweeter... and the grilles do make a difference, so keep them on if you find the sound too bright.

The Marantz gear smooths out the treble nicely, but I won't try these puppies with the really bright gear, and that also applies when I moved down to more basic gear..

I have the award winning Denon RCD 39 mini system available and it does bring the sound up a few notches compared to the supplied Denon house speakers.

A simple system might be a Marantz PM 5005 or 6005 plus a SA 7005 or the like and some QED Classic speaker cables or some of the budget inter-connects from Wireworld or the like.

It's isn't too hard to drive and in my opinion, but I did not try it with a tube amp. With the Denon, that only has 30W on tap, it did not sound anemic at all, but the soundstage was more compressed and there were some details missing, but with the right music flowing, you won't miss it if you are using it as a background speaker, which is what I am doing right now.

It catches onto a rhythm easily, and despite lacking deep bass, it's pretty impressive and when I used some compressed music, it was not too bad.

It's size and cost make it a good speaker to be position in some student's hostel room too, and make be the first speaker for someone starting out, or it can also be used as a surround pair in home theatre.

Speaking of HT, I also bought the centre and that was another remarkable speaker. Both centre and fronts have that sloped cabinet, ala Wharfedale and it's a decent size, which means it carries the male baritone voice quite nicely.

Comparing it to my HTM4 centre isn't fair, but it did a decent job of resolution and if you set it to 'small' it's got enough resolution and for someone tight on funds, you can do a lot worse for HT.

At such a low price, it's a no brainer to try out, and you may end up keeping it for more than just a mini system.


 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Speaker placement - tips and info

This post stems from the frequent newbie questions on positioning their speakers, and FAQS like:

1- can I put my speakers on a console?

2- where can I place my rear channel speakers?

3- do I need 7 channels?

4- to place in-wall or mounted on the surface?

5- what about cabling?

6- what are the 'correct' placements of my speakers ---
a- for HT
b- audio

7- dipole or bipole or monopole?

8- can my speakers do both HT and audio?

9- what do the terms mean - "boundary reinforcement" / "phase coherence"

10- can Audyssey / YPAO / MACC etc do magic on lousy speaker placement?

1.Apply the Golden Rectangle Rule
If your room permits, try placing the speakers about 3’ from the front wall. This reduces bass reflections from the front wall and helps tame boomy bass.

The distance from the side wall(s) is equally important. The Golden Rectangle Rule states that the speaker’s distance from the side wall should be 1.6 times the distance from the front wall. If the distance from the front wall is 3’, the distance from the side wall should be 4.8’ from the side wall (or vice versa if your room is wider than longer). Finally, angle the speakers towards the listening spot, called speaker toe-in.

2.Apply the 1/3 - 1/5 Rule
Position the speakers so that the distance between the front wall is 1/3 or 1/5 the length of the room. Both of these methods prevent the speaker from exciting room resonances. Angle the speakers towards the listening position, as above. Your listening position is as important as speaker position to achieve the best sound quality. More on finding the 'sweet spot' soon.

1.Don't be afraid to experiment with speaker placement. Every room is different and the methods presented above are guidelines.
2.Use masking tape on the floor to mark the speaker position as you experiment with placement options.

Bookshelf speakers

 For the best staging and imaging, use stands that get the tweeter as close to ear level as possible. 

If you're using smaller bookshelf speakers, place them on quality stands. Well-made metal and solid-wood stands resist unwanted resonance for improved clarity. Many stands and bookshelf speakers include self-adhesive rubber pads that are meant to be placed on the stand's top plate to isolate the stand from the speaker, which also reduces or eliminates resonance. If placing your speaker stands on carpeting, vibrations can be reduced even further by using carpet spikes to isolate the speakers from the floor. Carpet spikes make the stands much more stable as well. Finally, make sure your stands keep the tweeter at your seated ear level. Since high frequencies are very directional, it's important that they're aimed well.

Even though they're called "bookshelf" speakers, it's not a good idea to actually place such speakers on a bookshelf because sound can reflect off the shelf and the wall behind them. However, if your setup requires you to place speakers on a bookshelf, here are a few things you can do for better sound:

•bring them as far forward as possible to reduce reflections off of the shelf
•give your speakers room — don't crowd other objects around them
•make sure the tweeters fire at your seated ear level

Your room's furnishings are also a factor in your system's sound. Coffee tables placed between you and your speakers will reflect certain frequencies and absorb others. This is especially true of tables with glass tops. Tables made from fibers such as wicker are a much better choice, acoustically speaking. If you do have a coffee table with a glass top, covering it with a blanket when it's time for serious music listening can do wonders.

Make sure to bring the speakers far enough into the room that their front baffles are closer to you than the front of the television, if your music room and home theater room are one and the same, with the speakers on the sides of the TV. Just as light bounces off your television's screen and causes annoying glare, sound will reflect off the sides of your TV. The sound reflecting off the TV can ruin a sonic image just as glare can ruin a visual one.

Windows are the biggest sound reflectors of all, so you'll definitely want to address them. Hanging curtains or drapes can go a long way in absorbing the high-frequency sounds that glass reflects, allowing your system to sound much more natural. For the curtains or drapes to be most effective, they should be thick enough that you can't see between the fibers. Similarly, wall hangings offer an easy, attractive way to reduce reflections off bare walls.

Room treatment products, such as acoustic panels and "bass traps," are also available to tame rooms with too many reflective surfaces. Acoustic panels are typically made from special acoustic foam or better yet, fiberglass. They reduce reflections by absorbing the energy of the sound waves, and are meant to be placed against the wall. Bass traps go in the corners of the room, and are designed to cure boomy, one-note bass. While room treatment products work well, they can stick out in a listening room that is also a family living space. Covering them with fabric is a simple, effective solution.

While optimizing your speaker setup can take a little extra time, putting in that effort now can go a long way in enhancing your long-term satisfaction. And feel free to experiment. In the end, it all comes down to what sounds the best to you.

For example, Makous and Middlebrooks showed that human localization is much more precise in the horizontal plane and the front hemisphere and degrades for the sides and rear. That would indicate that for a fixed number of channels, more should be allocated to the front than the back. Unfortunately, the surround industry has moved in the opposite direction by adding more surround channels than front channels (e.g., in 7.1 systems). While additional surround channels can be useful in reproducing ambient sound and improve audience coverage in large rooms, current systems do not map well with the needs of human perception.

Unlike the front speakers, the job of the surrounds in a home theater is to create a cloud of non-localized sound that envelops the viewer. It is this diffused rear sound field, which actually makes you feel like you are in the middle of the movie action.

Though preferred surround speaker positioning is very much dependent on personal tastes, yet there are a few home theater speaker placement issues worth taking note of:

Surround speakers should ideally be placed alongside and slightly to the rear of your main seating position. This will help mimic the sound field as originally recorded in dubbing theaters when mixing movie soundtracks.

Sidewall placement is preferred; this helps create a seamless, enveloping soundstage over the whole listening area.

If sidewall placement is not possible, try to make use of appropriate speaker stands. 

Position the speakers two to three feet above your seated ear level; this helps create the most diffused enveloping sound field in the listening area.

In the case of 6.1 and 7.1 home theater surround sound systems, distribute the surround speakers such that these are preferably wall mounted on the sidewalls and the back wall. This kind of home theater speaker placement would further enhance the enveloping effect.


In a Dipolar speaker, the two sets of speakers are out-of-phase with each other, while the drivers are one side are pushing, the opposite side is pulling. The result is that there is a "null" or a dead zone of sound in the area along the 90 degree axis of the speaker (see illustration below). Why is that good? When properly set up, a pair of dipole speakers used as surround speakers will provide a very open, enveloping rear effects soundstage without allowing you to pinpoint the location of the speakers themselves. That's a good thing. But for all this to work properly, the speakers need to be positioned "in-line" with the listening position as shown on the illustration below. If you are sitting out of the null area, the effect is ruined. What if you can't or don't want to place your surround speakers and listening position as required? That's where bipoles come in handy.

In a Bipolar speaker, the two sets of drivers are in-phase with one another - both sides push air at the same time. The result is greater sound output where the dipolar speaker's null would be. Theoretically, a bipolar speaker approaches a 360° soundfield - it squirts sound all around the room. That's a good thing if you need to position your surround speakers behind your listening position or anywhere outside of the null area. Some people prefer the greater localization of bipolar speakers when used in digital discrete (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS) systems.

Direct Radiating Speakers
A direct radiating speaker outputs sound directly into the room towards the listeners. Surround sound effects in movies, music and games are most noticeable with direct speakers. In general, most people prefer direct speakers if they listen mostly to multichannel music. Direct speakers are placed at the sides or rear of the listening room behind the listeners.

Bipole Speakers

Bipole surround speakers have two or more speakers that output sound from both sides of the cabinet. If used as side surround speakers, the sound is output both towards the front and rear of the room. If used as rear surround speakers, they output sound in both directions along the rear wall. The dual speakers used in a bipole speaker are ‘in phase’, meaning that both speakers output sound simultaneously. Bipole speakers create a diffuse surround effect so the location of the speaker cannot be pinpointed. In general, bipole speakers are a good choice for movies and music and are usually placed on the side walls.

Dipole Speakers

Like a bipole speaker, a dipole speaker outputs sound from both sides of the cabinet. The difference is dipole speakers are ‘out of phase’, which means that one speaker is outputting sound while the other is not, and vice-versa. The purpose is to create a very diffuse and enveloping surround sound effect. Dipole surround speakers are usually preferred by movie enthusiasts and are also placed on the side walls.
How to Choose Surround Sound Speakers
In addition to considering the guidelines above, some speaker manufacturers such as Monitor Audio and Polk Audio have made your decision a little easier by including a switch that allows you to select bipole or dipole output on the surround speakers. Denon even provides dual surround speaker switching on some of their AV receivers so you can use two pairs of surround speakers, direct and bipole/dipole and switch between them for movies or music.

How can we audition the centre speaker?

Basically a male voice, well must sound like a male voice. So play a male BBC radio recording, and close your eyes. If it sounds like someone grabbed his nuts... then its frequency range is too narrow. So for those choosing satellites for aesthetic reasons, beware... the centre and the subwoofer are the lynchpins of HT.

When it comes to home theater, a lot of people think big -- a big picture and lots of sound coming from a widescreen TV and an array of speakers. But the typical home-theater setup, with its surround-sound speakers and subwoofer, won't work for every home. Some people don't have enough room for all of that equipment. Others don't want their living rooms cluttered with cables, or they don't want the hassle of adjusting the placement and height of lots of speakers.

That's where virtual surround sound comes in. It mimics the effect of a multi-speaker surround-sound system, but it uses fewer speakers and fewer cables. These systems come in two primary varieties -- 2.1 surround and digital sound projection. Most of the time, 2.1-surround systems use two speakers placed in front of the listener and a subwoofer placed somewhere else in the room. These recreate the effect of a 5.1 surround-sound system, which has five speakers and a subwoofer. Digital sound projectors, on the other hand, tend to use a single strip of small speakers to produce sound. Many digital sound projectors do not include a subwoofer.

Regardless of their exact setup, these systems work on the same basic principles. They use a number of techniques to modify sound waves so that they seem to come from more speakers than are really there. These techniques came from the study of psychoacoustics, or the manner in which people perceive sound. In this article, we'll explore the traits of human hearing that allow two speakers to sound like five, as well as what to keep in mind if you shop for a virtual surround-sound system.

General Placement Tips
The rules of thirds and fifths are often good starting places to determine speaker and listener placement. Position the speakers away from your walls at a distance that’s a multiple of thirds or fifths of the room’s dimension in that direction. For example, if a room is 20 feet long and 15 feet wide, locate the left and right front speakers 4 feet (one fifth) from the wall behind them and 3 feet out (one fifth) from the left and right side walls. Then, locate the main listening seat 4 feet from the wall behind the listener (12 feet from the plane of the front speakers) or 8 feet from the wall (8 feet from the front speakers).

Going Toe to Toe and Raking in the Rewards
Toe-in is the angle at which the speakers point toward the listener. You might think that each speaker should be pointed like a laser beam at your ears. While that’s true for center-channel speakers, many front-channel speakers sound better angled slightly away from the center. This is because a loudspeaker’s off-axis frequency response is often smoother than that coming straight at you. The amount of toe-in also affects the soundstage’s width and depth. How much of an angle depends on the speaker, and the best way to tell is by sitting down, listening, adjusting, and repeating.


After toe-in, there’s the more delicate adjustment of rake angle, which is the angle the speaker leans forward or backward. Rake affects the smoothness of the direct response at the listening position as well as the perceived height of the soundfield. Small changes can make a surprising difference, depending on the speaker. Many wall-mount brackets allow for rake adjustment. If you’re using spikes on your speakers, it’s easy to change the rake angle by adjusting the height of the front spikes. If you don’t use spikes, you can try something that’s solid enough to support the speaker. In the interest of safety, be conscious of the center of balance.

• Try displacing the center speaker just a bit from the center of the room dimension. That is, instead of locating it 7.5 feet from each side wall of a 15-foot-wide room, locate it 7 feet from one wall and 8 feet from the other. Yes, this will slightly disturb the setup’s symmetry, but it could result in smoother response from the center speaker.

• If at all possible, avoid locating the main listening seats up against a wall. Because of a well-known room effect (standing waves), low frequencies are emphasized near a wall. This listening position will seriously compromise any attempt at smooth, well-balanced bass.

Front Speakers
• Sure, you will have a center-channel speaker, but don’t use this as an excuse to put the left and right speakers 15 feet apart. To provide the best combination of stereo spread, imaging precision, and coherence with the picture, a good rule of thumb is to position the left and right front speakers so that the distance between the two speakers is equal to or preferably a little less than the distance from each speaker to the listener. For instance, if your speakers are 7 feet apart, a distance of 8 to 9 feet from each speaker to the listener is excellent. You should avoid setting the speakers farther apart than the distance from each speaker to the listening position.


• I recommend that you place the speakers at least 7 feet apart for any listening position that will be 10 to 12 feet from the screen of a one-piece television and no more than 10 feet apart. For a front-projection setup, you should position them no more than a foot or so to the left and right sides of the screen.

Many people sit too far from their TVs and speakers. For a 7-to-9-foot speaker spacing, I recommend that you sit at least 8 to 12 feet from the speakers. If you sit too close, the sound from each of the speakers’ drivers may not gel properly into a coherent whole. If you sit too far away, you’ll hear too much of the room. If you’re really unlucky, you’ll hear an amorphous blob of sound rather than a well-defined soundstage.

• Compact speakers are often referred to as bookshelf models, but that designation is misleading. Most serious bookshelf speakers aren’t designed to be used in a bookshelf at all. Instead, they work best when you place them upright on good (extra-cost) stands and place them a couple of feet or more away from any nearby walls, including the wall behind them.
• Set up the speakers so that their drivers are aligned vertically. This will provide the smoothest off-axis response. Horizontal center speakers are an exception, but this arrangement can compromise the performance. The horizontal driver configuration in most center speakers is driven by aesthetic and marketing considerations, not the best sonic performance.

• Many audiophiles like to set up their two-channel systems with the left and right speakers aimed straight ahead. Some (but not all) two-channel setups sound better this way. This is fine for a single listener, but it can be a disaster for several people watching a movie. If you’re seated in front of the left speaker, it will fire right at you. On the other hand, you’ll be so far off axis of the right speaker that you’ll rarely be aware of it. For a more uniformly distributed soundstage, try to aim the left and right speakers directly at a centrally located listening seat, or even at a point in space a couple of feet in front of it. You won’t achieve perfect performance everywhere, but your family and friends will thank you anyway.

• If there’s a deep, big-screen TV between the left and right front speakers, try to move the speakers out far enough so that their front baffles are further forward than the plane of the TV screen. This shouldn’t be difficult if you follow the recommendations above in regards to keeping the speakers away from the walls. If you keep the speakers as far away as possible from a TV, this will minimize acoustic reflections from the screen.

• If you’re using a CRT TV, make sure your front speakers are magnetically shielded. For a modern digital television, such shielding is irrelevant.

Surround Speakers
• Make sure you put your surrounds along the side or rear of your room. In particular, if you have a small HTIB system, don’t be tempted to forget the surrounds. The ambience and sense of space that properly positioned surrounds can provide can be even more impressive in an otherwise modest speaker setup than in a state-of-the-art system.

Place dipole surrounds directly to the sides of the main listening seats. For other types of surrounds, 110 to 120 degrees back from the front is recommended as the best location for a 5.1-channel system. But don’t be bound by convention. If your room is fairly narrow, you may find that side or near-side mounting makes the surrounds too prominent. Try moving them further back.

If you want to elevate your surround speakers but you don’t have or want to buy stands, the cheapest way to elevate them is to place them on the bookshelves you already have in the room. (Yes, that sound you hear in the background is Mark and Tom groaning in pain.) But if your only other option is to set them on the floor, here are Tom’s suggestions:

If you have to put your bookshelf speakers on a bookshelf, try filling the area around them with densely packed books to minimize nearby cavities.

It’s OK to put sealed-box speakers on a closed-in shelf, but you shouldn’t do this with ported speakers—unless the port is on the front of the cabinet. If the port can’t breathe, the cabinet tuning will be thrown off, and the speaker’s bass response will be degraded.

Don’t position a bookshelf speaker side-ways. Always place it so that the woofer and tweeter are aligned vertically, not horizontally. (That is, unless it’s a center-channel speaker that’s designed to be used horizontally.)

No bookshelves? Many surround speakers have built-in keyhole mounts that only require a screw to hold them up. Use a secure screw to tightly hold the speaker against the wall rather than a nail or a picture-hanging hook so they don’t rattle themselves off the wall and onto the floor—or someone’s head. You can’t angle a speaker mounted on a keyhole bracket down into the listening area, but you can spend around $25 and up for a pair of wall-mount brackets with that capability.

Here is a list of items you will need to do this correctly:

1 Radio Shack (analog preferred) SPL meter
1 25ft tape measure
1 pen type laser pointer
1 pair of rubber pie shaped door stops (Home Depot)
1 package small square rubber stick-on feet (Home Depot)

Step 1: Center Speaker Positioning
First stick two rubber feet on the bottom front of your center speaker. Then place the pie shaped doorstops under the back of the center so the back is angled down toward the listening position. Next, place the laser pointer on the top of the center speaker pointed at the listening position. Then aim and adjust the beam of the laser pointer so it is just above the ear level at the listening position. Adjust the rubber door stops until the correct height is obtained. This effectively aims the tweeter at the listening position between your ears.

Step 2: Main Speakers Positioning
Position your front main speakers at least a foot off each back and side wall and you are close to the "Golden Triangle Rule" ( Example: speakers 8ft apart from listening position and 8 ft back). Make sure that the speakers are the same distance off the back wall with the tape measure, then place the laser pointer on the inside panel of the speaker enclosure at the height of the tweeter.

With the laser pointer beam active, rotate the speaker inward until the laser pointer beam is about 6" away (outside) from the center of your listening position. This will effectively toe in the speaker to a close position according to the dispersion patterns of your speakers. If your speakers have an unusually wide dispersion pattern, you may wish to experiment with the degree of toe in for optimal performance.

Step 3: Surround Sound Speakers Positioning
Bipolar/Dipole surrounds usually perform best when placed on the side walls directly across or slightly behind the seated listening position and at approximately 18-28" above the seated ear level position.

Quadpolar surrounds, similar to Bipoles, usually perform best when placed on sidewalls, but closer to the backwalls, for rear wall reflection of the side mounted tweeter. Their height should be about 4-6 feet above the seated position, but greater than 1 foot away from the ceiling to not obscure the top mounted woofer.

Direct Radiating surrounds usually perform best when placed behind and slightly higher than the listening position, spread apart the same distance as the mains and slightly toed in.

Step 4: Subwoofer Positioning
Subwoofer placement is adequately covered in our article: Crawling for Bass .

Step 5: Speaker Configuration Set-Up In The A/V Receiver
Enter the setup menu of the Denon AVR-2802, or any modern Surround Sound Receiver, and select all speakers set to small and subwoofer crossover to 80 Hz. Set the crossover on the Subwoofer to its maximum position or if it has a crossover bypass select bypass. Next, use the tape measure to accurately enter the feet or meters your speakers are from the listening position.

Step 6: Checking the Phase of the Speaker System

A) Electrical Phase
Make sure all your speakers are in electrical phase (positive from amp to positive to speaker, negative from amp to negative to speaker). A speaker system out of phase will defeat your calibration and may result in poor imaging, bass response, or both.

B) Acoustical Phase
Next check to see if your main speakers and subwoofer are in acoustical phase by sweeping a test tone from 20Hz to 100Hz using a popular set-up disc such as Avia or THX. Listen for any nulls or bumps in the frequency response. The bass response should sound smooth and uniform throughout the entire swept frequency range. If it doesn't try setting the phase switch on your subwoofer to 180 degrees, or if the phase feature is a rotary dial, rotate it in 20 degree steps and listen for the bass to smooth out between the mains and subwoofer. If this still doesn't solve the problem, set the phase on the subwoofer back to the 0 position, and vary the subwoofer distance in the Receiver set-up menu ± a few feet until it does. You may need to experiment between these suggestions and the placement suggestions for your subwoofer previously mentioned in Step 4. Be patient, it is worth the extra time now as it's a one time investment to ensure great sound.

Step 7 Sound Pressure Level (SPL) Calibration
Place the SPL Meter at the listening position at ear level with the Mic end pointed toward the ceiling. Select "C" weighting, response slow then, turn the dB dial to 70. Activate the internal pink noise generator of your Receiver and select manual test tone. Now adjust each speaker to +75 dB reference. When you are adjusting the surrounds make sure your body is not in a direct path of the speaker and make sure the house is quiet. When doing the calibration, only the test tone should be heard (A/C, ceiling fans, ect. should be turned off). I like to adjust the subwoofer level to + 80dB for wow effect. Your taste may vary.

Step 8 Enjoy!
Put in a good flick with lots of hard simultaneous pans and dialog, and plenty of dynamic swings.
"Contact" Lift off chapter or "The Phantom Menace" Pod race, or "U571" Depth Charges, work well.

-       Why do we avoid placing speakers against the wall?

Read up on boundary reinforcement and what it does to your bass response.

- Placing a speaker on a shelf? Make sure it is solid and if you wish to tilt it up, also use a solid support, or you won't get the best from your speaker.

Using different speakers for the rear channels?

It is a fair compromise since the rear channels do less and if you have limited funds, make sure the front 3 are the same series and preferably the same drivers.

Different speakers for rear or back channels?

That is also possible. Understand how the position against a wall can change the tone and the latest Audyssey or other similar software can compensate for it to a certain degree.

Testing your surround enveloping experience

Assembled your 5.1 or 7.1 channel system? Why not put it through it's paces and see if you have built the HT system of your dreams, and more importantly, is it in the right place?

The litmus test is whether you wish to and can, create a path for say, a bullet that whizzes past your ear from front to back.

Movies are more than just bass (not base). So where you place the surround speakers will influence how the movie experience is enhanced by such ambient effects.

- Band of brothers episode 2 - the attack on the 108mm guns - listen for how the bullets travel from side to side and front to back
- Pacific - episode 1 - the Japs assault the machine gun positions in the night - again try and see if the flight path of the bullets is convincing
- "9" - listen to the start of the movie, and all the little ambient noises, the clink of the metal of "9" as he awakes, then the bass which is palpable as he sees his maker lying on the floor. Then see if your centre speaker can reproduce the male baritone narration
- Tron Legacy - the entry into the arena for "games" - there is a lot of effects coming from all 7 channels (it's a 7.1 movie) and do all the sounds integrate well and give you a feeling you are the boy, walking into the arena. Also when his games suit is being assembled, the noise floor is very low, so if you hear too much distracting noise from outside your HT room, you will know.
Often in the demo room in the shops, all you get is bass and more bass. But picking out such ambient foley effects take more effort and noise isolation.

The Centre Speaker:

Just a quick note on the use of the centre speaker.
It has already been mentioned countless times that one should use a speaker with the same drivers as the front pair, or at least the same tweeter as the fronts.

As for how to place it, some basic principles:

- it should be on a stable, non-resonant surface. That means that if you are using some Ikea console, or a sonorous Queenie glass / metal equipment rack, you are not doing yourself any favors. You may think that this rack is on spikes, but the SHELF isn't. And usually it is made of MDF, glass or other potentially resonant material.
- use some form of isolation - that means you can place it on something which de-couples it from the surface that can resonate. Budget options include a pair of rubber door-stops, or those $2 blue pads from Daiso. More expensive and highly effective options will be those Auralex MoPads. I have already recommended them to a few other friends, and they have used them with great success.
- direct the centre towards your ears, this will enhance the illusion that the sound is coming from the centre of your screen.
- the topic of using two centres comes up rather often. In this case Two is NOT better than one. Google up "lobing" and you can read all you want on it. In essence, INTERFERENCE
- how about vertical vs horizontal?
- actually the ideal situation is to use the same speaker as the front pair. Even if we use the same drivers as the fronts, by virtue of the horizontal position, or the design (often even if the same drivers are used, the crossover design is different). However due to space, aesthetics or other reasons, centre speakers are often horizontal with a single tweeter and two woofer cones.

Try using another bookshelf of the same design as the fronts if you can. Or like the HTM4s of the B/W 800 series, it is the same speaker as the 805s but laid horizontally but with the tweeter one top. Another solution is offered by KEF, where their speakers are co-axial. That IMO, offers a truly solid speaker design. But it will still sometimes not offer the same sound, simply because the speaker is not in the same box, the position is compromised.

However these days with the advent of auto-eq, small differences in tone can be ameliorated and you can get a seamless front soundstage.

Wall brackets and Mounts

I know of us use bookshelves, or table tops (yucks) for this, or stands and mounts. Depending on your aesthetic demands/need to get the speakers out of the way, your methods of mounting the speakers will vary.

Been doing some research work on this:

Some speakers come with their mounts, such as the MA Radius speakers.

There are a few brands locally, but if you are willing to import, there are more choices.

There are many Omnimounts and you can get them off amazon or Monoprice too.

Many speakers come with their screw thread behind, but it is vital to assess the mount to see if it will take the weight, and give it some excess.
Check too if the wall itself especially if it is not solid can take the mount.
Other considerations are if the mounts can pivot or rotate.
Colors - black is about the only choice, unless you are willing to spray paint it..

Avoid mounting it right at the top near the ceiling - the boundary effect really changes the sound. And if it is a rear ported speaker, the sound could change too if it is not allowed to breathe.

Locally we have the Queenie brands for about $30 or so. Available from SLS (thanks DJQ)

There is the Sanus:
The Sanus WMS2 is a tilt and swivel wall mount for speakers up to 15 lbs / 6.82 kg.
WMS2 Tilt and Swivel Wall Mount for SMALL bookshelf speakers

As for room dimensions, the ideal ratios are given by:
 1.1w / h ≤   l / h   ≤ 4.5w/ (h  – 4)
l  < 3h
w  < 3h
l  = larger dimension of floor plan, irrespective of orientation;
w  = shorter dimension of floor plan, irrespective of orientation;
h  = height.
You can read the entire white paper on this topic here:

Useful links:

Speaker placement suggestions by Dolby:

 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Speakers: Size matters...

Size matters - do we buy the biggest baddest speaker or choose what suits?
That may be a simple concept, but often we think with our hearts and wallets instead of our minds...

Front speakers:
Our eyes, and our budget can allow us to buy really sweet and large floorstander speakers which are actually too big for our rooms. Then there's a lot of room treatment that needs to be done.

How about surrounds?
Actually many have also found that a good sized surround instead of a tiny one makes all the difference.

Centre speaker:

This speaker definitely benefits from a larger cabinet. The centre speaker and sub are the lynchpin of HT and carry most of the signals. Avoid buying the small WAF ones that can't do male baritone voices.

Atmos speakers:
Well do consider physics here... if suspending speakers for an Atmos / Auro setup is being considered, getting too small a speaker can affect the sound and dispersion, too big and it may not be practical for mounting, or what looks ok initially then Sags!

Big sub, big bass. But big subs are hard to hide and a big driver can be hard to control, and the bass can become slow too.

If one can be flexible about speaker placement, then that will be useful as half a foot difference in Main Listening Position (MLP) can make a huge difference in whether you are cocooned in the surround field..
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Denon X4100 Review

First the technical blurb:

This amp is almost identical to last year’s model, the 4000 and the new feature most are looking at will be Atmos, the potentially game-changing new sound format that promises to bring home theatre to a whole new level (pun intended).

So it has 7 channels of amps, pre-outs to allow 9 channel processing, Audyssey XT 32 and Sub EQ as well as lossless sound formatting.

Accompanying system:

 B&W 804d Front channels; 805s rears, HTM4s centre,
Anthony Gallo A’Diva as ceiling Atmos speakers in Top Front and Rear positions
KK 808 (two units) KK 12012 single unit
Oppo 105
QED Revelation speaker cables for the fronts and Centre; QED Micros for surrounds
Rotel RMB 1572 to drive the Top Rears

This was about a simple exercise to try out Atmos in a domestic setting, and also to listen to the KK subwoofers, but the Denon was also central to the demo, so I decided to write down my comments on it.

I am pretty familiar with the Denon sound and their AV amps, having owned the 2809, 4311 and the 4520.

This amp was a mid-range amp and the lowest priced currently to boast XT 32 AND Atmos.

It is made in China if you must know…

Removing it from the box was simple enough, and interestingly it came with a little cardboard thing that you could fold into a tripod if you don’t own one for the Audyssey calibrations. Nice touch..

The other nice thing was the User Interface, which has been improved upon, and takes you through the setup very nicely.

It makes it almost idiot proof and you can almost skip the manual.. however if one decides to go for the maximum 9channel setup with Atmos in the form of a 5.2.4 system, you can’t re-direct the internal amps to power up the Rear Tops. Instead you need to use an external power amp to do this. The amp gives a mighty loud click when it does this.

I hope a future firmware fix solves this and gives better amp assigning.

The remote was very usable, and hooking it up was equally simple. As for the amp, it’s a little tinny, and built to a budget, but there were no loose bits. The power amp section is rather lightweight, and you can see that the money was mainly spent on the tech, and the internal chips rather than the power… however if you feel an urge to add more amps, there are 13 pre-outs, although you can only use 9 of them at once.

We hooked it up for a 5.2.4 setup, and after a short run in period, we were off…

Audyssye was done simply and fast, although on initial setup it forces one to use at least three sitting positions to calibrate. You could use all eight if you like…

So how does it sound?

First, in ‘plain’ lossless Tru HD and DTS-HD, the amp performs quite well and with such high quality subwoofers around, and a relatively small space, there was no issue driving the floorstanders in ‘small’ speaker mode.

I did not try and music apart from some Blu Ray concerts as the main focus was on the home theatre performance.

The sound was surprisingly good, and effects were crisp and easily made out, and steering was first class. In fact if all you need is a 7 or 9 channel processor / amp, it will be hard to go past this and spend more on a fancy processor if HT is all you are keen on.

Effects, soundtracks and dialogue were all clear, and you can also make adjustments easily. It’s a nice touch that they put back the Quick Select buttons back on the remote, and you also get BluTooth and Wifi as well as a LAN connection.

Now for Atmos, and here is a caveat first…

Atmos is not meant to make those ceiling speakers so prominent and Audyssey actually runs the surrounds, Top speakers all too loud… turn them down a bit for a more immersive yet realistic experience.

And the benefit of Atmos is very soundtrack dependent. In those explosion heavy, action packed loud movies, you will get info overload and the Atmos speakers won't make their presence felt as much.

BUT, it's about the Atmosphere, i.e. the speakers should not draw excessive attention to themselves. It should be a blend of sound, so you feel that you are sitting within a cocoon..

Try it without turning up the Atmos channels too much..

So what about Atmos?

Firstly, I like it.. It's a subtle addition and the DSU component does make a difference. Ceiling speakers work, but avoid turning the volume up too much..
As for which ceiling speakers work better, IMHO, small footprint ones that are easy to mount, and can be directed work nicely. They don't need to have a lot of bass, as your sub can take care of that.
They need to have a wide dispersion but brand matching isn't too important. Audyssey can help with this.

You do get a third dimension of sound, and that helps provide a higher level of home theatre experience, for the right movie, and also for those who understand that it’s not meant to fix a poorly engineered soundtrack.

On a more personal note:

Having owned three previous Denon amps plus a few Marantz ones.. if music counts, I have yet to find great improvements in sound quality for music in upgrading from the 2809 to the 4520.. for HT, sure, there is significant improvement, and now the Atmos equipped X4100 is a whole new level, but I won’t expect too much out of the musical capabilities of these AV amps. I use my stereo amp for critical listening.

Hence I won’t be too caught up with the DACs and their S/N ratio etc… specs are only one part of the entire equation.

If you are looking for a mid-range to budget AV amp for 7-9 channels, this amp should be on your audition list, especially if you are going to install Atmos. If not, also consider last year’s models for some savings.

Do note that this amp does not come with the HDCP 2.2 chip, so how that pans out for 4k Blu Ray is something that is still up for debate.
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Astell&Kern AK240 HD-audio player Review

Astell & Kern AK240 HD-audio player Review

The iPod is the ubiquitous portable player of any budget, and has the lower end market pretty much sealed up.

But what if you are a discerning audiophile that wants to have go at something that plays your lossless music with the same resolution and definition you are accustomed to at home?

For those in this position, there are many options that will cost many times the price of that iPod, and will need better cans or IEMs than those commonly associated with the iPod, but here we have one of the more premium ones in the form of the Astell & Kern AK240 HD-audio player.

First the technical blurb:

It offers DSD playback, a micro SD slot, 256 Gb of hard disk space, and a balanced output as well as the usual 3.5mm headphone out. The DAC uses a Cirrus Logic CS4398 chip.

It retails for around 2000 Euros or under $3300…

For that you are probably expecting some serious fidelity, and it’s quite a device, with a hewn from a single piece of metal heft, and it looks a little like a pocket camera when you first pick it up.

It supports FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, DFF, and DSF music formats. There’s a touchscreen for naviation as well as play, volume up and down buttons and a wheel if you don’t like the touchscreen.

I used it with some basic cans like the Sennheiser HD 414, UE Superfi and later tried it with the Beyerdynamic DT 880 and others.

It performs well with the less demanding cans and IEMs but it had some difficulty driving the DT 880, and you won’t be using this combination on the road anyway.

The impression was that of a very neutral sound, with an even tone, and no emphasis of any part of the frequencies, and will go well with warm to neutral systems. You get plenty of details and personally I am fond of open cans rather than IEMs, and it’s pretty nice with the expanded soudstage and details. IEMs will do nicely on the move though, and you get some very decent bass extension.

I also compared it to the headphone stage of my Marantz PM 11 and NA 11, and there was little to choose between them, with the two Marantz systems more capable of driving tough to drive cans, and a slightly warmer sound.

The interface is simple, but it does not work with the iTunes / Apple environment, so beware if you are coming from an iTunes setup.

So will you part with more than three grand to get this? It depends a lot on who you are and how demanding you are of your portable music listening experience.

Most of the average Joe consumer won’t understand the need for such high fidelity, but the discerning listening with higher demands will enjoy this and find that the money was well spent.

The noise level is very low, and you can get a decent run from the internal batteries (about 10 hours) and you really eke every ounce of music out of that recording, allowing you the luxury to take your collection of music on the road.

But the main caveat is the word luxury I guess… it’s as expensive as 10 iPod Classics, and does it sound ten times better? Well, not really, but that’s life in the world of diminishing returns in high end music.

If the price doesn’t deter you, this is one very solid piece of equipment, the Rolls Royce of portable players...

Other reviews:

 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Not just another Sydney trip - food and more

So who has not been to Oz and in particular Sydney? Blue mountains? Harbor bridge? Koalas? I think most of us have seen them all .. How a...