Tag Archives: cables

What is Speaker Cable Gauge?

A lot of friends as me the question What is speaker cable gauge ? Speaker cable gauge isn’t terribly difficult to understand, so this won’t be a very long article. When you talk about speaker cable gauge, what you mean is the size of the wire used to transmit the electrical energy that represents the sound waves traveling through the wire from the amplifier to the loudspeaker. The gauge of a wire determines just how much current it can carry. With speaker wire, however, the cables are really all about resistance, capacitance and inductance. Those metrics will determine whether or not a speaker cable can handle the power and frequency response requirements over the length of the cable.

The perfect cable would have zero resistance, zero capacitance and zero inductance. Speaker cable gauge is a characteristic that affects the first two metrics directly, so it’s an important factor in choosing your wire or cables—in fact, it’s probably the most important.

Resistance and Speaker Cable Gauge

What is Speaker Cable Gauge?

Now THIS is resistance!

What is speaker cable gauge responsible for? Resistance, for one. Any time you send electricity through a wire you get resistance. The more resistance you get, the more the wire itself absorbs energy and converts it into heat. You don’t want that in any wire—unless it’s the filament in a light bulb! With that said, you are always looking to make sure that the speaker cable gauge offers a low enough resistance so that it transmits the electrical energy from the amplifier to the speaker without offering too much resistance and thus robbing the speaker of its energy. Resistance isn’t an island, either. It interacts with inductance and affects the frequency response.

If we talk about copper wire there are some guidelines as to the maximum length that’s recommended when running the wire from an amplifier to a speaker of a particular impedance (load). It’s not that you can’t exceed these recommendations, but when you do, you are going to roll off the top frequencies from the audible range (20 kHz)

What is Speaker Cable Gauge?

If you look at this chart, you can see that, with an 8-ohm speaker, you’d want to run at least 16 AWG speaker wire if you’re running speakers 48 feet away (For example, to a back yard or a second zone of a home.) 48 feet may seem like a lot, but if you’re running up a 10 foot wall, across an attic and down another wall, that distance may get taken up very quickly.

Thicker wires have lower resistance, so the lower the gauge (lower numbers equate to thicker wire), the less frequency roll-off you can expect. Since resistance is by far the most significant metric which affects all others, this is a great place to start when understanding what gauge wire you need for your application. Still, there are some other metrics.

Capacitance and Speaker Cable Gauge

You also can’t answer the question What is speaker cable gauge without addressing this thing called capacitance. Capacitance is always going to be an issue in speaker wires because they are essentially two parallel cables running next to each other—the very petri dish for capacitance. Over a cable’s run, the capacitance of the cable also factors into the attenuation of high frequency response. The real issue with capacitance is that fancier cables, particular those that are extra thick (lower gauge) have more of it. That means that while they sport less resistance, they can actually have significant frequency loss at the upper end. (Coincidentally, this often creates a “warmer” or “laid back” sound that’s often preferred—it’s, unfortunately, just not accurate.)

Inductance and Speaker Cable Gauge

All wire has inductance, which is a sort of resistance—a resistance to current fluctuations. That means that not only does the speaker have an inherent load (measured in ohms), the cable does as well. Some manufacturers employ fancy geometries in their cables (braids, etc) in order to minimize inductance. Speaker gauge interacts with inductance but isn’t a directly correlated metric.

Summing It Up

You can get all knotted up in wire gauge and these other metrics, but it’s important to note that some of the most geeky people in the world tend to compare the most expensive and fancy speaker cables against 12 gauge lamp cord (zip cord). That means that if you are dealing with basic speaker cables, then the question What is speaker cable gauge at least means you’re on the proper metric you should hang your hat on—all other things being unknown or assumed to be ordinary. That chart above is a great guideline for determining gauge for your speaker runs. It’s also particularly important and helpful to know the load of your speakers (and even to anticipate an eventual upgrade). For example, if you know your amplifier/speaker load is 8-ohms and you’re doing a long run, it might not be a bad idea to get the speaker gauge you’d need for a 6-ohm or even a 4-ohm load. Spending an extra few dollars now is much preferred to having to pull all new cable because your system is rolling off the high frequencies in a second zone. If you don’t want to do any math or read any charts, then purchasing 12-gauge speaker cables is going to be a good place to start. You can, however, save considerable money if you take a few minutes and check your work.

Have you had to calculate speaker cable gauge requirements in your home? How did you do it? Let us know by Liking us on Facebook and posting a comment on our wall.

Shop for Speaker Cables at Audiogurus

The post What is Speaker Cable Gauge? appeared first on Audiogurus.

What is Speaker Cable Gauge?

A lot of friends as me the question What is speaker cable gauge ? Speaker cable gauge isn’t terribly difficult to understand, so this won’t be a very long article. When you talk about speaker cable gauge, what you mean is the size of the wire used to transmit the electrical energy that represents the sound waves traveling through the wire from the amplifier to the loudspeaker. The gauge of a wire determines just how much current it can carry. With speaker wire, however, the cables are really all about resistance, capacitance and inductance. Those metrics will determine whether or not a speaker cable can handle the power and frequency response requirements over the length of the cable.

The perfect cable would have zero resistance, zero capacitance and zero inductance. Speaker cable gauge is a characteristic that affects the first two metrics directly, so it’s an important factor in choosing your wire or cables—in fact, it’s probably the most important.

Resistance and Speaker Cable Gauge

What is Speaker Cable Gauge?

Now THIS is resistance!

What is speaker cable gauge responsible for? Resistance, for one. Any time you send electricity through a wire you get resistance. The more resistance you get, the more the wire itself absorbs energy and converts it into heat. You don’t want that in any wire—unless it’s the filament in a light bulb! With that said, you are always looking to make sure that the speaker cable gauge offers a low enough resistance so that it transmits the electrical energy from the amplifier to the speaker without offering too much resistance and thus robbing the speaker of its energy. Resistance isn’t an island, either. It interacts with inductance and affects the frequency response.

If we talk about copper wire there are some guidelines as to the maximum length that’s recommended when running the wire from an amplifier to a speaker of a particular impedance (load). It’s not that you can’t exceed these recommendations, but when you do, you are going to roll off the top frequencies from the audible range (20 kHz)

What is Speaker Cable Gauge?

If you look at this chart, you can see that, with an 8-ohm speaker, you’d want to run at least 16 AWG speaker wire if you’re running speakers 48 feet away (For example, to a back yard or a second zone of a home.) 48 feet may seem like a lot, but if you’re running up a 10 foot wall, across an attic and down another wall, that distance may get taken up very quickly.

Thicker wires have lower resistance, so the lower the gauge (lower numbers equate to thicker wire), the less frequency roll-off you can expect. Since resistance is by far the most significant metric which affects all others, this is a great place to start when understanding what gauge wire you need for your application. Still, there are some other metrics.

Capacitance and Speaker Cable Gauge

You also can’t answer the question What is speaker cable gauge without addressing this thing called capacitance. Capacitance is always going to be an issue in speaker wires because they are essentially two parallel cables running next to each other—the very petri dish for capacitance. Over a cable’s run, the capacitance of the cable also factors into the attenuation of high frequency response. The real issue with capacitance is that fancier cables, particular those that are extra thick (lower gauge) have more of it. That means that while they sport less resistance, they can actually have significant frequency loss at the upper end. (Coincidentally, this often creates a “warmer” or “laid back” sound that’s often preferred—it’s, unfortunately, just not accurate.)

Inductance and Speaker Cable Gauge

All wire has inductance, which is a sort of resistance—a resistance to current fluctuations. That means that not only does the speaker have an inherent load (measured in ohms), the cable does as well. Some manufacturers employ fancy geometries in their cables (braids, etc) in order to minimize inductance. Speaker gauge interacts with inductance but isn’t a directly correlated metric.

Summing It Up

You can get all knotted up in wire gauge and these other metrics, but it’s important to note that some of the most geeky people in the world tend to compare the most expensive and fancy speaker cables against 12 gauge lamp cord (zip cord). That means that if you are dealing with basic speaker cables, then the question What is speaker cable gauge at least means you’re on the proper metric you should hang your hat on—all other things being unknown or assumed to be ordinary. That chart above is a great guideline for determining gauge for your speaker runs. It’s also particularly important and helpful to know the load of your speakers (and even to anticipate an eventual upgrade). For example, if you know your amplifier/speaker load is 8-ohms and you’re doing a long run, it might not be a bad idea to get the speaker gauge you’d need for a 6-ohm or even a 4-ohm load. Spending an extra few dollars now is much preferred to having to pull all new cable because your system is rolling off the high frequencies in a second zone. If you don’t want to do any math or read any charts, then purchasing 12-gauge speaker cables is going to be a good place to start. You can, however, save considerable money if you take a few minutes and check your work.

Have you had to calculate speaker cable gauge requirements in your home? How did you do it? Let us know by Liking us on Facebook and posting a comment on our wall.

Shop for Speaker Cables at Audiogurus

The post What is Speaker Cable Gauge? appeared first on Audiogurus.

Top 10 Mistakes When Hooking Up a Home Theater System

I’ve seen lots of errors in my time as more and more of friends, family and clients start hooking up a home theater system. These mistakes can range from simple problematic issues to things that could quickly lead to premature device failure. In no particular order, here are my top ten mistakes when hooking up a home theater system:

10. Use the Right Speaker Cables

You don’t have to buy expensive cables to run wire for those surround sound speakers, but you had better not think that some left over 24 gauge cable is sufficient to make that 50 foot run from your AV receiver to your surround speakers.

Let me quickly explain why. Every cable has inherent resistance. Since we’re talking about resistance to the flow of electricity, it feels a little backwards. The thinner the cable, the more resistance the cable will have. There are other factors as well, but this is the big one. The more resistance a cable has, the more it will affect the frequency response which is possible at the end of the cable run. The reason this is related is because the load the amplifier has to deal with when driving a pair of speakers, changes with frequency. So if you add more resistance with cables that are too thin, you can actually change the sound—particularly at higher frequencies.

A good rule of thumb when hooking up a home theater system is that 16 gauge cable will work in just about any in-room situation, but if your runs are going to be over 40-50 feet in length, 12 gauge cable will further drop your resistance and keep your cables from becoming equalizers for your sound. If you’re running cables further than 50-60 feet you may want to rethink your multi-zone audio system design.

9. Don’t Overbuy on Your Interconnects

I see it all the time. People buy the most expensive cables at the last second because they didn’t include them at the time they ordered their speakers. Interconnect cables are important—in that your system won’t work without them. But having 24 karat, gold-plated RCA cables or battery-powered HDMI cables simply isn’t going to make your system sound any better. When you’re merely connecting a DISH satellite box to your to AV receiver—a grand total of a three foot run—you’re just not going to run into issues if the cable is at least made well. There’s not enough distance to have any problems or lose frequency response. The same goes for digital HDMI cables. Distances over 10 feet are where the problems lie. Plan ahead and keep it simple and you’ll avoid overspending.

8. Pay Attention the the HDMI Features of Your Cable

Thanks to the geniuses at HDMI Licensing (I am being facetious), the “any-old HDMI cable will do” mentality has gone out the window. Back when HDMI only handled 1080p video plus audio you could pretty much grab any cable up to 20 feet in length and it would work. Now you have features like integrated Ethernet and 4K support. If you’re planning ahead, you want to make sure the HDMI cables you buy now are going to last you when the “next big thing” happens. This is especially true if you plan to run your cables in the wall or crawl space and they can’t easily be replaced or upgraded. Pay attention to the labeling on HDMI cables and you’ll likely save yourself a headache later on. As a good baseline, always buy “High Speed” HDMI cables as they tend to have the latest design that supports most of the latest features.

If you don’t know what’s available in HDMI, here are the basic features:

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
    This is a data channel added to the original HDMI connection that enables high-speed, bi-directional communication. Connected devices that include this feature can send and receive data via 100 Mb/sec Ethernet, so Internet-enabled HDMI devices can share an Internet connection via the HDMI link, with no need for a separate Ethernet cable. It also provides the connection platform that will allow HDMI-enabled components to share content between devices.
  • Audio Return Channel
    This is an actual audio channel that lets a TV send audio from either a built-in tuner or DVD player upstream to the A/V receiver via the HDMI cable. There’s now no need for an extra cable (or AV receiver input connection).
  • 3D
    New 3D gaming and movie formats and resolutions for HDMI-enabled devices require the cabling to handle 3D resolutions up to dual-stream 1080p.
  • 4K Resolution Support
    These new extremely high HD resolutions are more or less four times the resolution of a standard 1080p signal. These cables are rated to handle the full 4K resolution over HDMI.

Of course the trick with HDMI cables is that certification doesn’t necessarily imply that all cable lengths were tested. It’s supposed to mean that, but we see too many instances where longer cables are on the market, and they just don’t do the job. Which brings us to…

7. Active HDMI Cables are Best for Future-Proofing Your System and Going the Distance

Newer active HDMI cables actually have a chip embedded in them which is powered by the 5V available on the HDMI connector itself. These “smart” cables correct for what happens to the digital signal over long distances. Remember, HDMI is capable of sending billions of bits of data at any given second. That’s a LOT of data and it can get screwed up pretty easily. When it drifts out of whack far enough, you no longer get an image. Active HDMI cables solve that problem (for the most part) and give you a clean signal at distances previously unknown to the format. In addition, the chipsets embedded in these cables are getting less expensive to manufacture, and so active cable prices continue to drop. If you want to run a cable for 25 feet or less, a standard high speed cable will work for you at 1080p. If, however, you want to run a cable longer than 15 feet and 4K is on your horizon, you should probably be looking at an active HDMI cable.

6. Speaker Phase Matters!

Tower speakers and bookshelf speakers must be connected in phase. That means the positive lead on the AV receiver or amplifier is ultimately connected to the positive lead on the speaker and so on with the negative leads or terminals. When connected properly, the wave from each speaker is “additive” and all is well—the sound is as you’d expect from a stereo or multi-channel recording.

If just one speaker is wired backwards, however (positive lead to negative terminal, etc) then your system has become subtractive. A subtractive system has little effect on the wider stereo-separated sounds, but those sounds panned in the center may all but disappear. It may sound a bit like the sound is coming from inside your head, or the bass may simply be gone altogether. These two indicators are excellent signs that you may have a wire crossed. For speakers that you can’t get to, a 9V battery can be used to test phase. Simply touch the speaker cable leads briefly to the battery and observe the speaker (you may need a helper). Note that the small terminal on a 9V battery is the positive one and orienting the “positive” speaker lead to that should make the speaker driver push outwards. I have yet to see anyone break a speaker using a 9V battery provided you don’t leave it on there for long. If you touch the leads properly and the speaker driver pulls inward—you’re wiring is backwards. You don’t have to do anything except swap them at the AV receiver or speaker.

5. Heat Rises to the Top!

If you use a rack or shelves for your AV gear, remember to put the amplifier or home theater receiver at the top if possible. Heat rises and so you don’t want the amplifier to be at the bottom where it will contribute to baking all of the other components and have a harder time ventilating. It may seem counterintuitive to have it up top, but it’s a better choice in the long run. This is also related to our next item…

4. Ventilation is Not Optional!

If you are storing your home theater equipment in a piece of furniture, make sure you have adequate ventilation. I went to a home a little while ago where a friend told me he thought his amplifier had stopped working. It took me about 10 seconds to figure out why: He had stored it in a cabinet and frequently ran it with the doors shut! An amplifier generates lots of heat. If you contain that heat in an enclosed space you’ll eventually bake the components and the amplifier will fail. Give your AV equipment plenty of ventilation or consider adding a fan to your rack or furniture to encourage more airflow.

3. A Remote Control IS an AV Device

I can’t tell you how many people connect their home theater systems and then proceed to utilize five or six different remote controls (or more) to get everything up and running. I don’t know about you, but this is not my idea of fun:

  • Turn on the projector with the projector remote
  • Power up the home theater system with the receiver remote
  • Activate your electric drop screen with yet another remote
  • Power up your Blu-ray player with its remote
  • Grab the receiver remote to change inputs because the last thing you did was watch DISH (it has its own remote as well)
  • Pick up the Blu-ray remote control again to fast forward through the stupid commercial that pretends Blu-ray Disc technology is still new and was just invented yesterday by magical sprites who live on clouds and bring high definition to you via mysterious bits of data stored within glistening optical discs….
  • Pick up the home theater receiver remote again to adjust the volume (which is always louder on previews that the movie itself).

Are you starting to understand why a universal remote control might be a good idea? If you’ve spent good money on a surround sound system, don’t forget to get a great remote to make it all run smoothly. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

2. Plan for an Eventual Upgrade

Once you start into surround sound, your going to get the bug, You really are. And when you do you want to be able to upgrade your system hassle-free. That means doing some planning up-front. A lot of times this simply means getting equipment that is upgradable. Most AV receivers and speakers are perfectly upgradable, provided you stay away from Bose systems or anything that has proprietary connections through the subwoofer rather than using a standard AV receiver with speaker level outputs and connectors.

And a lot of times making sure you properly install your surround sound speakers is another big step towards being upgrade-ready. I don’t care if you use in-ceiling, on-wall, in-wall, or stand-mounted surround speakers. If you wire them in properly and with care, you can upgrade them eventually with only a minimal amount of hassle. That may mean leaving yourself a little extra cable in the wall, or using standard speaker binding posts in the wall instead of running the cable through a hole and tying it directly to the speaker. It may mean wiring for Surround Back speakers during construction of a home even when you don’t plan to purchase or use them right away. Planning ahead is a big deal and it can save you tons of time and energy in days to come.

1. Wire It All Up For Goodness Sake!

You aren’t going to enjoy your new AV system unless it’s actually, you know, connected. So why do so many people bring home a 5.1 system only to let the surround speakers or center channel speaker languish unused because they didn’t have time to install them? Get those speakers installed. Mounting a TV on the wall will give you plenty of space for your center channel. (Plus, it makes your TV look cooler!)

There are a myriad of ways to install surround sound speakers. This may involve using crown moulding to hide the wires, or venturing into the attic or crawl space…or even pulling up the edges of your carpet. Whatever your method, get those speakers wired and start enjoying your full surround system, as soon as you can. It’s an incredible experience that will change your perception of movies in the home. Oh, and dragging cables across the floor just isn’t going to cut it. Plus, it won’t win you any points with your significant other (who may just veto that next opportunity to upgrade!)

The post Top 10 Mistakes When Hooking Up a Home Theater System appeared first on Audiogurus.

Top 10 Mistakes When Hooking Up a Home Theater System

I’ve seen lots of errors in my time as more and more of friends, family and clients start hooking up a home theater system. These mistakes can range from simple problematic issues to things that could quickly lead to premature device failure. In no particular order, here are my top ten mistakes when hooking up a home theater system:

10. Use the Right Speaker Cables

You don’t have to buy expensive cables to run wire for those surround sound speakers, but you had better not think that some left over 24 gauge cable is sufficient to make that 50 foot run from your AV receiver to your surround speakers.

Let me quickly explain why. Every cable has inherent resistance. Since we’re talking about resistance to the flow of electricity, it feels a little backwards. The thinner the cable, the more resistance the cable will have. There are other factors as well, but this is the big one. The more resistance a cable has, the more it will affect the frequency response which is possible at the end of the cable run. The reason this is related is because the load the amplifier has to deal with when driving a pair of speakers, changes with frequency. So if you add more resistance with cables that are too thin, you can actually change the sound—particularly at higher frequencies.

A good rule of thumb when hooking up a home theater system is that 16 gauge cable will work in just about any in-room situation, but if your runs are going to be over 40-50 feet in length, 12 gauge cable will further drop your resistance and keep your cables from becoming equalizers for your sound. If you’re running cables further than 50-60 feet you may want to rethink your multi-zone audio system design.

9. Don’t Overbuy on Your Interconnects

I see it all the time. People buy the most expensive cables at the last second because they didn’t include them at the time they ordered their speakers. Interconnect cables are important—in that your system won’t work without them. But having 24 karat, gold-plated RCA cables or battery-powered HDMI cables simply isn’t going to make your system sound any better. When you’re merely connecting a DISH satellite box to your to AV receiver—a grand total of a three foot run—you’re just not going to run into issues if the cable is at least made well. There’s not enough distance to have any problems or lose frequency response. The same goes for digital HDMI cables. Distances over 10 feet are where the problems lie. Plan ahead and keep it simple and you’ll avoid overspending.

8. Pay Attention the the HDMI Features of Your Cable

Thanks to the geniuses at HDMI Licensing (I am being facetious), the “any-old HDMI cable will do” mentality has gone out the window. Back when HDMI only handled 1080p video plus audio you could pretty much grab any cable up to 20 feet in length and it would work. Now you have features like integrated Ethernet and 4K support. If you’re planning ahead, you want to make sure the HDMI cables you buy now are going to last you when the “next big thing” happens. This is especially true if you plan to run your cables in the wall or crawl space and they can’t easily be replaced or upgraded. Pay attention to the labeling on HDMI cables and you’ll likely save yourself a headache later on. As a good baseline, always buy “High Speed” HDMI cables as they tend to have the latest design that supports most of the latest features.

If you don’t know what’s available in HDMI, here are the basic features:

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
    This is a data channel added to the original HDMI connection that enables high-speed, bi-directional communication. Connected devices that include this feature can send and receive data via 100 Mb/sec Ethernet, so Internet-enabled HDMI devices can share an Internet connection via the HDMI link, with no need for a separate Ethernet cable. It also provides the connection platform that will allow HDMI-enabled components to share content between devices.
  • Audio Return Channel
    This is an actual audio channel that lets a TV send audio from either a built-in tuner or DVD player upstream to the A/V receiver via the HDMI cable. There’s now no need for an extra cable (or AV receiver input connection).
  • 3D
    New 3D gaming and movie formats and resolutions for HDMI-enabled devices require the cabling to handle 3D resolutions up to dual-stream 1080p.
  • 4K Resolution Support
    These new extremely high HD resolutions are more or less four times the resolution of a standard 1080p signal. These cables are rated to handle the full 4K resolution over HDMI.

Of course the trick with HDMI cables is that certification doesn’t necessarily imply that all cable lengths were tested. It’s supposed to mean that, but we see too many instances where longer cables are on the market, and they just don’t do the job. Which brings us to…

7. Active HDMI Cables are Best for Future-Proofing Your System and Going the Distance

Newer active HDMI cables actually have a chip embedded in them which is powered by the 5V available on the HDMI connector itself. These “smart” cables correct for what happens to the digital signal over long distances. Remember, HDMI is capable of sending billions of bits of data at any given second. That’s a LOT of data and it can get screwed up pretty easily. When it drifts out of whack far enough, you no longer get an image. Active HDMI cables solve that problem (for the most part) and give you a clean signal at distances previously unknown to the format. In addition, the chipsets embedded in these cables are getting less expensive to manufacture, and so active cable prices continue to drop. If you want to run a cable for 25 feet or less, a standard high speed cable will work for you at 1080p. If, however, you want to run a cable longer than 15 feet and 4K is on your horizon, you should probably be looking at an active HDMI cable.

6. Speaker Phase Matters!

Tower speakers and bookshelf speakers must be connected in phase. That means the positive lead on the AV receiver or amplifier is ultimately connected to the positive lead on the speaker and so on with the negative leads or terminals. When connected properly, the wave from each speaker is “additive” and all is well—the sound is as you’d expect from a stereo or multi-channel recording.

If just one speaker is wired backwards, however (positive lead to negative terminal, etc) then your system has become subtractive. A subtractive system has little effect on the wider stereo-separated sounds, but those sounds panned in the center may all but disappear. It may sound a bit like the sound is coming from inside your head, or the bass may simply be gone altogether. These two indicators are excellent signs that you may have a wire crossed. For speakers that you can’t get to, a 9V battery can be used to test phase. Simply touch the speaker cable leads briefly to the battery and observe the speaker (you may need a helper). Note that the small terminal on a 9V battery is the positive one and orienting the “positive” speaker lead to that should make the speaker driver push outwards. I have yet to see anyone break a speaker using a 9V battery provided you don’t leave it on there for long. If you touch the leads properly and the speaker driver pulls inward—you’re wiring is backwards. You don’t have to do anything except swap them at the AV receiver or speaker.

5. Heat Rises to the Top!

If you use a rack or shelves for your AV gear, remember to put the amplifier or home theater receiver at the top if possible. Heat rises and so you don’t want the amplifier to be at the bottom where it will contribute to baking all of the other components and have a harder time ventilating. It may seem counterintuitive to have it up top, but it’s a better choice in the long run. This is also related to our next item…

4. Ventilation is Not Optional!

If you are storing your home theater equipment in a piece of furniture, make sure you have adequate ventilation. I went to a home a little while ago where a friend told me he thought his amplifier had stopped working. It took me about 10 seconds to figure out why: He had stored it in a cabinet and frequently ran it with the doors shut! An amplifier generates lots of heat. If you contain that heat in an enclosed space you’ll eventually bake the components and the amplifier will fail. Give your AV equipment plenty of ventilation or consider adding a fan to your rack or furniture to encourage more airflow.

3. A Remote Control IS an AV Device

I can’t tell you how many people connect their home theater systems and then proceed to utilize five or six different remote controls (or more) to get everything up and running. I don’t know about you, but this is not my idea of fun:

  • Turn on the projector with the projector remote
  • Power up the home theater system with the receiver remote
  • Activate your electric drop screen with yet another remote
  • Power up your Blu-ray player with its remote
  • Grab the receiver remote to change inputs because the last thing you did was watch DISH (it has its own remote as well)
  • Pick up the Blu-ray remote control again to fast forward through the stupid commercial that pretends Blu-ray Disc technology is still new and was just invented yesterday by magical sprites who live on clouds and bring high definition to you via mysterious bits of data stored within glistening optical discs….
  • Pick up the home theater receiver remote again to adjust the volume (which is always louder on previews that the movie itself).

Are you starting to understand why a universal remote control might be a good idea? If you’ve spent good money on a surround sound system, don’t forget to get a great remote to make it all run smoothly. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

2. Plan for an Eventual Upgrade

Once you start into surround sound, your going to get the bug, You really are. And when you do you want to be able to upgrade your system hassle-free. That means doing some planning up-front. A lot of times this simply means getting equipment that is upgradable. Most AV receivers and speakers are perfectly upgradable, provided you stay away from Bose systems or anything that has proprietary connections through the subwoofer rather than using a standard AV receiver with speaker level outputs and connectors.

And a lot of times making sure you properly install your surround sound speakers is another big step towards being upgrade-ready. I don’t care if you use in-ceiling, on-wall, in-wall, or stand-mounted surround speakers. If you wire them in properly and with care, you can upgrade them eventually with only a minimal amount of hassle. That may mean leaving yourself a little extra cable in the wall, or using standard speaker binding posts in the wall instead of running the cable through a hole and tying it directly to the speaker. It may mean wiring for Surround Back speakers during construction of a home even when you don’t plan to purchase or use them right away. Planning ahead is a big deal and it can save you tons of time and energy in days to come.

1. Wire It All Up For Goodness Sake!

You aren’t going to enjoy your new AV system unless it’s actually, you know, connected. So why do so many people bring home a 5.1 system only to let the surround speakers or center channel speaker languish unused because they didn’t have time to install them? Get those speakers installed. Mounting a TV on the wall will give you plenty of space for your center channel. (Plus, it makes your TV look cooler!)

There are a myriad of ways to install surround sound speakers. This may involve using crown moulding to hide the wires, or venturing into the attic or crawl space…or even pulling up the edges of your carpet. Whatever your method, get those speakers wired and start enjoying your full surround system, as soon as you can. It’s an incredible experience that will change your perception of movies in the home. Oh, and dragging cables across the floor just isn’t going to cut it. Plus, it won’t win you any points with your significant other (who may just veto that next opportunity to upgrade!)

The post Top 10 Mistakes When Hooking Up a Home Theater System appeared first on Audiogurus.

Top 10 Mistakes When Hooking Up a Home Theater System

I’ve seen lots of errors in my time as more and more of friends, family and clients start hooking up a home theater system. These mistakes can range from simple problematic issues to things that could quickly lead to premature device failure. In no particular order, here are my top ten mistakes when hooking up a home theater system:

10. Use the Right Speaker Cables

You don’t have to buy expensive cables to run wire for those surround sound speakers, but you had better not think that some left over 24 gauge cable is sufficient to make that 50 foot run from your AV receiver to your surround speakers.

Let me quickly explain why. Every cable has inherent resistance. Since we’re talking about resistance to the flow of electricity, it feels a little backwards. The thinner the cable, the more resistance the cable will have. There are other factors as well, but this is the big one. The more resistance a cable has, the more it will affect the frequency response which is possible at the end of the cable run. The reason this is related is because the load the amplifier has to deal with when driving a pair of speakers, changes with frequency. So if you add more resistance with cables that are too thin, you can actually change the sound—particularly at higher frequencies.

A good rule of thumb when hooking up a home theater system is that 16 gauge cable will work in just about any in-room situation, but if your runs are going to be over 40-50 feet in length, 12 gauge cable will further drop your resistance and keep your cables from becoming equalizers for your sound. If you’re running cables further than 50-60 feet you may want to rethink your multi-zone audio system design.

9. Don’t Overbuy on Your Interconnects

I see it all the time. People buy the most expensive cables at the last second because they didn’t include them at the time they ordered their speakers. Interconnect cables are important—in that your system won’t work without them. But having 24 karat, gold-plated RCA cables or battery-powered HDMI cables simply isn’t going to make your system sound any better. When you’re merely connecting a DISH satellite box to your to AV receiver—a grand total of a three foot run—you’re just not going to run into issues if the cable is at least made well. There’s not enough distance to have any problems or lose frequency response. The same goes for digital HDMI cables. Distances over 10 feet are where the problems lie. Plan ahead and keep it simple and you’ll avoid overspending.

8. Pay Attention the the HDMI Features of Your Cable

Thanks to the geniuses at HDMI Licensing (I am being facetious), the “any-old HDMI cable will do” mentality has gone out the window. Back when HDMI only handled 1080p video plus audio you could pretty much grab any cable up to 20 feet in length and it would work. Now you have features like integrated Ethernet and 4K support. If you’re planning ahead, you want to make sure the HDMI cables you buy now are going to last you when the “next big thing” happens. This is especially true if you plan to run your cables in the wall or crawl space and they can’t easily be replaced or upgraded. Pay attention to the labeling on HDMI cables and you’ll likely save yourself a headache later on. As a good baseline, always buy “High Speed” HDMI cables as they tend to have the latest design that supports most of the latest features.

If you don’t know what’s available in HDMI, here are the basic features:

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
    This is a data channel added to the original HDMI connection that enables high-speed, bi-directional communication. Connected devices that include this feature can send and receive data via 100 Mb/sec Ethernet, so Internet-enabled HDMI devices can share an Internet connection via the HDMI link, with no need for a separate Ethernet cable. It also provides the connection platform that will allow HDMI-enabled components to share content between devices.
  • Audio Return Channel
    This is an actual audio channel that lets a TV send audio from either a built-in tuner or DVD player upstream to the A/V receiver via the HDMI cable. There’s now no need for an extra cable (or AV receiver input connection).
  • 3D
    New 3D gaming and movie formats and resolutions for HDMI-enabled devices require the cabling to handle 3D resolutions up to dual-stream 1080p.
  • 4K Resolution Support
    These new extremely high HD resolutions are more or less four times the resolution of a standard 1080p signal. These cables are rated to handle the full 4K resolution over HDMI.

Of course the trick with HDMI cables is that certification doesn’t necessarily imply that all cable lengths were tested. It’s supposed to mean that, but we see too many instances where longer cables are on the market, and they just don’t do the job. Which brings us to…

7. Active HDMI Cables are Best for Future-Proofing Your System and Going the Distance

Newer active HDMI cables actually have a chip embedded in them which is powered by the 5V available on the HDMI connector itself. These “smart” cables correct for what happens to the digital signal over long distances. Remember, HDMI is capable of sending billions of bits of data at any given second. That’s a LOT of data and it can get screwed up pretty easily. When it drifts out of whack far enough, you no longer get an image. Active HDMI cables solve that problem (for the most part) and give you a clean signal at distances previously unknown to the format. In addition, the chipsets embedded in these cables are getting less expensive to manufacture, and so active cable prices continue to drop. If you want to run a cable for 25 feet or less, a standard high speed cable will work for you at 1080p. If, however, you want to run a cable longer than 15 feet and 4K is on your horizon, you should probably be looking at an active HDMI cable.

6. Speaker Phase Matters!

Tower speakers and bookshelf speakers must be connected in phase. That means the positive lead on the AV receiver or amplifier is ultimately connected to the positive lead on the speaker and so on with the negative leads or terminals. When connected properly, the wave from each speaker is “additive” and all is well—the sound is as you’d expect from a stereo or multi-channel recording.

If just one speaker is wired backwards, however (positive lead to negative terminal, etc) then your system has become subtractive. A subtractive system has little effect on the wider stereo-separated sounds, but those sounds panned in the center may all but disappear. It may sound a bit like the sound is coming from inside your head, or the bass may simply be gone altogether. These two indicators are excellent signs that you may have a wire crossed. For speakers that you can’t get to, a 9V battery can be used to test phase. Simply touch the speaker cable leads briefly to the battery and observe the speaker (you may need a helper). Note that the small terminal on a 9V battery is the positive one and orienting the “positive” speaker lead to that should make the speaker driver push outwards. I have yet to see anyone break a speaker using a 9V battery provided you don’t leave it on there for long. If you touch the leads properly and the speaker driver pulls inward—you’re wiring is backwards. You don’t have to do anything except swap them at the AV receiver or speaker.

5. Heat Rises to the Top!

If you use a rack or shelves for your AV gear, remember to put the amplifier or home theater receiver at the top if possible. Heat rises and so you don’t want the amplifier to be at the bottom where it will contribute to baking all of the other components and have a harder time ventilating. It may seem counterintuitive to have it up top, but it’s a better choice in the long run. This is also related to our next item…

4. Ventilation is Not Optional!

If you are storing your home theater equipment in a piece of furniture, make sure you have adequate ventilation. I went to a home a little while ago where a friend told me he thought his amplifier had stopped working. It took me about 10 seconds to figure out why: He had stored it in a cabinet and frequently ran it with the doors shut! An amplifier generates lots of heat. If you contain that heat in an enclosed space you’ll eventually bake the components and the amplifier will fail. Give your AV equipment plenty of ventilation or consider adding a fan to your rack or furniture to encourage more airflow.

3. A Remote Control IS an AV Device

I can’t tell you how many people connect their home theater systems and then proceed to utilize five or six different remote controls (or more) to get everything up and running. I don’t know about you, but this is not my idea of fun:

  • Turn on the projector with the projector remote
  • Power up the home theater system with the receiver remote
  • Activate your electric drop screen with yet another remote
  • Power up your Blu-ray player with its remote
  • Grab the receiver remote to change inputs because the last thing you did was watch DISH (it has its own remote as well)
  • Pick up the Blu-ray remote control again to fast forward through the stupid commercial that pretends Blu-ray Disc technology is still new and was just invented yesterday by magical sprites who live on clouds and bring high definition to you via mysterious bits of data stored within glistening optical discs….
  • Pick up the home theater receiver remote again to adjust the volume (which is always louder on previews that the movie itself).

Are you starting to understand why a universal remote control might be a good idea? If you’ve spent good money on a surround sound system, don’t forget to get a great remote to make it all run smoothly. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

2. Plan for an Eventual Upgrade

Once you start into surround sound, your going to get the bug, You really are. And when you do you want to be able to upgrade your system hassle-free. That means doing some planning up-front. A lot of times this simply means getting equipment that is upgradable. Most AV receivers and speakers are perfectly upgradable, provided you stay away from Bose systems or anything that has proprietary connections through the subwoofer rather than using a standard AV receiver with speaker level outputs and connectors.

And a lot of times making sure you properly install your surround sound speakers is another big step towards being upgrade-ready. I don’t care if you use in-ceiling, on-wall, in-wall, or stand-mounted surround speakers. If you wire them in properly and with care, you can upgrade them eventually with only a minimal amount of hassle. That may mean leaving yourself a little extra cable in the wall, or using standard speaker binding posts in the wall instead of running the cable through a hole and tying it directly to the speaker. It may mean wiring for Surround Back speakers during construction of a home even when you don’t plan to purchase or use them right away. Planning ahead is a big deal and it can save you tons of time and energy in days to come.

1. Wire It All Up For Goodness Sake!

You aren’t going to enjoy your new AV system unless it’s actually, you know, connected. So why do so many people bring home a 5.1 system only to let the surround speakers or center channel speaker languish unused because they didn’t have time to install them? Get those speakers installed. Mounting a TV on the wall will give you plenty of space for your center channel. (Plus, it makes your TV look cooler!)

There are a myriad of ways to install surround sound speakers. This may involve using crown moulding to hide the wires, or venturing into the attic or crawl space…or even pulling up the edges of your carpet. Whatever your method, get those speakers wired and start enjoying your full surround system, as soon as you can. It’s an incredible experience that will change your perception of movies in the home. Oh, and dragging cables across the floor just isn’t going to cut it. Plus, it won’t win you any points with your significant other (who may just veto that next opportunity to upgrade!)

The post Top 10 Mistakes When Hooking Up a Home Theater System appeared first on Audiogurus.

In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers

I find with many rooms it’s easy to place the front speakers. Even the center channel seems to be something that finds its place below the television or, in rare cases, above. But surround speakers often get left uninstalled or not purchased, largely because the room isn’t set up to easily handle stand-mounted or wall-mounted rear speakers. Perhaps you have a large opening on one side of the room, or there’s simply no place to put speaker stands where they need to be. For these situations I highly recommend the use of in-ceiling surround sound speakers. In-ceiling surround sound speakers let you enjoy that nice diffuse rear- and even side-channel information even when the room doesn’t make it easy to place speakers.

So while we recommend in-ceiling surrounds (but never for the main left/right/center channels), there are some caveats to consider and some general guidelines for purchasing them. As a surround sound solution it’s hard to go wrong, but following a few simple tips can help you to make a decision that will last a long time and one you won’t later regret.

Considerations for In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers

  • More Complex Doesn’t Mean More…Better
    If you’re in the market for in-ceiling surround sound speakers, realize that here are a myriad to choose from. In-ceiling speakers vary from two-way to four-way and can get very complex. While we aren’t going to broadbrush all 4-way speakers, I have to say that overcomplicating these speakers doesn’t always equate to better sound.
  • Backboxes are Good for Sound Quality
    Most entry level in-ceiling speakers are going to lack an included backbox. That means that they simply get installed into the ceiling with what’s called an “infinite baffle” That’s not a device, that’s your attic. It means there’s no backbox. It also means that you can’t really have insulation touching the speaker and that you’re now subjecting the speaker to the humidity, heat or cold of your attic depending on the season and where you live. It also means you can’t really know how those speakers will sound in the room because a backbox truly controls the frequency response and dynamics of a driver. No backbox means there’s simply not a lot of back pressure on the driver and it will yield a much different sound in different environments and under different conditions.

And here’s another tip: If the speaker doesn’t come with a backbox, but has one as an optional available accessory. It should also come with a way to tell the speaker that it now has a backbox—because the sound and output are going to change. The thing is, though, most products don’t do this, so take that into consideration as you figure out which speakers to select for your install.

  • Backboxes are Good for Energy Efficiency
    For energy efficiency alone—the ability to cover the speaker in R40 insulation—I’d recommend getting a speaker with a backbox, or one that lets you purchase it as an optional accessory. There are also aftermarket universal solutions, but again, now you’re putting a product on another product for which it was never designed. If it’s up to me, I always select a product with a backbox so I can not have to worry about replacing it 5 years later due to dry rot or mold issues. Plus, you separate the heat and cold of the attic from your home by more than just the material of the woofer cone.
  • Speaker Connectors are Important if you Already Ran Thick-Gauge Wire
    I installed some surround sound speakers once (OK, more than once) and the speaker wiring was 12-gauge. Trouble was, the connectors on the speaker only supported 14 gauge wire. I had to trim up the cable to get it to fit. This isn’t tragic, but you may want to make sure your cables aren’t better quality than your speakers! Dropping the gauge at the last stage isn’t a big deal, lots of installers do it. It just makes for a sloppier install. Another option is to attach or solder pin connectors to your wire, which can clamp easily into most spring clip connections. It’s up to you and your level of detail to the job. There’s no universally accepted way to do it, but there are a ton of wrong ways!
  • Size Matters (Yoda was Wrong)
    I tend to pay attention to the frequency response of the in-ceiling surround sound speakers when spec’ing them for a room. A larger 8-inch woofer, for example, is going to give you a lot of bass response while a smaller 4-inch driver is never going to hit the lowest parts of the frequency range. The important metric to hit cleanly, of course, is 80Hz. That way you can be assured that everything above your subwoofer’s crossover point can be handled by all speakers in the system. Some surround receivers offer independent crossover settings per channel, but I still like to simplify my installs by unifying that metric. An 8-inch woofer may get down to around 45Hz or lower while the bottom end of a 6.5-inch model may be closer to 70Hz at volume. Manufacturers have varying specs on this and so it’s often hard to compare.
  • Fire Up that Grille!
    It may seem trivial, but I really think the grilles used on in-ceiling surround sound speakers matter and deserve some attention. Some are snap-on models that are made of plastic and break quite easily. These also tend to be thick and stand out, as if to shout, “Here I am! I’m an in-ceiling speaker!” Others are made from metal, are paintable, and feature a magnetic attachment mechanism that lets them pop on and off with ease (but only when you want them to). Most of the new magnetic grilles are also paintable, so you can blend them perfectly into your ceiling. A grille may not be important to you, but I’ve been impressed by the new methods manufacturers are experimenting with in order to hide these ceiling speakers from view.

Conclusion

In-ceiling speakers used to be a very small segment, but they are gaining in popularity. They sound better, work better in newer energy-efficient homes, and considerably add to the convenience of adding surround sound in homes where those rear speakers would simply be impossible to add. If an in-ceiling speaker seems right for you, start checking off the features you find important. I’m pretty certain you’ll narrow down the selection quickly and be able to find one that will work well for you.

Shop In-ceiling Speakers at Audiogurus

The post In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers appeared first on Audiogurus.

In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers

I find with many rooms it’s easy to place the front speakers. Even the center channel seems to be something that finds its place below the television or, in rare cases, above. But surround speakers often get left uninstalled or not purchased, largely because the room isn’t set up to easily handle stand-mounted or wall-mounted rear speakers. Perhaps you have a large opening on one side of the room, or there’s simply no place to put speaker stands where they need to be. For these situations I highly recommend the use of in-ceiling surround sound speakers. In-ceiling surround sound speakers let you enjoy that nice diffuse rear- and even side-channel information even when the room doesn’t make it easy to place speakers.

So while we recommend in-ceiling surrounds (but never for the main left/right/center channels), there are some caveats to consider and some general guidelines for purchasing them. As a surround sound solution it’s hard to go wrong, but following a few simple tips can help you to make a decision that will last a long time and one you won’t later regret.

Considerations for In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers

  • More Complex Doesn’t Mean More…Better
    If you’re in the market for in-ceiling surround sound speakers, realize that here are a myriad to choose from. In-ceiling speakers vary from two-way to four-way and can get very complex. While we aren’t going to broadbrush all 4-way speakers, I have to say that overcomplicating these speakers doesn’t always equate to better sound.
  • Backboxes are Good for Sound Quality
    Most entry level in-ceiling speakers are going to lack an included backbox. That means that they simply get installed into the ceiling with what’s called an “infinite baffle” That’s not a device, that’s your attic. It means there’s no backbox. It also means that you can’t really have insulation touching the speaker and that you’re now subjecting the speaker to the humidity, heat or cold of your attic depending on the season and where you live. It also means you can’t really know how those speakers will sound in the room because a backbox truly controls the frequency response and dynamics of a driver. No backbox means there’s simply not a lot of back pressure on the driver and it will yield a much different sound in different environments and under different conditions.

And here’s another tip: If the speaker doesn’t come with a backbox, but has one as an optional available accessory. It should also come with a way to tell the speaker that it now has a backbox—because the sound and output are going to change. The thing is, though, most products don’t do this, so take that into consideration as you figure out which speakers to select for your install.

  • Backboxes are Good for Energy Efficiency
    For energy efficiency alone—the ability to cover the speaker in R40 insulation—I’d recommend getting a speaker with a backbox, or one that lets you purchase it as an optional accessory. There are also aftermarket universal solutions, but again, now you’re putting a product on another product for which it was never designed. If it’s up to me, I always select a product with a backbox so I can not have to worry about replacing it 5 years later due to dry rot or mold issues. Plus, you separate the heat and cold of the attic from your home by more than just the material of the woofer cone.
  • Speaker Connectors are Important if you Already Ran Thick-Gauge Wire
    I installed some surround sound speakers once (OK, more than once) and the speaker wiring was 12-gauge. Trouble was, the connectors on the speaker only supported 14 gauge wire. I had to trim up the cable to get it to fit. This isn’t tragic, but you may want to make sure your cables aren’t better quality than your speakers! Dropping the gauge at the last stage isn’t a big deal, lots of installers do it. It just makes for a sloppier install. Another option is to attach or solder pin connectors to your wire, which can clamp easily into most spring clip connections. It’s up to you and your level of detail to the job. There’s no universally accepted way to do it, but there are a ton of wrong ways!
  • Size Matters (Yoda was Wrong)
    I tend to pay attention to the frequency response of the in-ceiling surround sound speakers when spec’ing them for a room. A larger 8-inch woofer, for example, is going to give you a lot of bass response while a smaller 4-inch driver is never going to hit the lowest parts of the frequency range. The important metric to hit cleanly, of course, is 80Hz. That way you can be assured that everything above your subwoofer’s crossover point can be handled by all speakers in the system. Some surround receivers offer independent crossover settings per channel, but I still like to simplify my installs by unifying that metric. An 8-inch woofer may get down to around 45Hz or lower while the bottom end of a 6.5-inch model may be closer to 70Hz at volume. Manufacturers have varying specs on this and so it’s often hard to compare.
  • Fire Up that Grille!
    It may seem trivial, but I really think the grilles used on in-ceiling surround sound speakers matter and deserve some attention. Some are snap-on models that are made of plastic and break quite easily. These also tend to be thick and stand out, as if to shout, “Here I am! I’m an in-ceiling speaker!” Others are made from metal, are paintable, and feature a magnetic attachment mechanism that lets them pop on and off with ease (but only when you want them to). Most of the new magnetic grilles are also paintable, so you can blend them perfectly into your ceiling. A grille may not be important to you, but I’ve been impressed by the new methods manufacturers are experimenting with in order to hide these ceiling speakers from view.

Conclusion

In-ceiling speakers used to be a very small segment, but they are gaining in popularity. They sound better, work better in newer energy-efficient homes, and considerably add to the convenience of adding surround sound in homes where those rear speakers would simply be impossible to add. If an in-ceiling speaker seems right for you, start checking off the features you find important. I’m pretty certain you’ll narrow down the selection quickly and be able to find one that will work well for you.

Shop In-ceiling Speakers at Audiogurus

The post In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers appeared first on Audiogurus.

In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers

I find with many rooms it’s easy to place the front speakers. Even the center channel seems to be something that finds its place below the television or, in rare cases, above. But surround speakers often get left uninstalled or not purchased, largely because the room isn’t set up to easily handle stand-mounted or wall-mounted rear speakers. Perhaps you have a large opening on one side of the room, or there’s simply no place to put speaker stands where they need to be. For these situations I highly recommend the use of in-ceiling surround sound speakers. In-ceiling surround sound speakers let you enjoy that nice diffuse rear- and even side-channel information even when the room doesn’t make it easy to place speakers.

So while we recommend in-ceiling surrounds (but never for the main left/right/center channels), there are some caveats to consider and some general guidelines for purchasing them. As a surround sound solution it’s hard to go wrong, but following a few simple tips can help you to make a decision that will last a long time and one you won’t later regret.

Considerations for In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers

  • More Complex Doesn’t Mean More…Better
    If you’re in the market for in-ceiling surround sound speakers, realize that here are a myriad to choose from. In-ceiling speakers vary from two-way to four-way and can get very complex. While we aren’t going to broadbrush all 4-way speakers, I have to say that overcomplicating these speakers doesn’t always equate to better sound.
  • Backboxes are Good for Sound Quality
    Most entry level in-ceiling speakers are going to lack an included backbox. That means that they simply get installed into the ceiling with what’s called an “infinite baffle” That’s not a device, that’s your attic. It means there’s no backbox. It also means that you can’t really have insulation touching the speaker and that you’re now subjecting the speaker to the humidity, heat or cold of your attic depending on the season and where you live. It also means you can’t really know how those speakers will sound in the room because a backbox truly controls the frequency response and dynamics of a driver. No backbox means there’s simply not a lot of back pressure on the driver and it will yield a much different sound in different environments and under different conditions.

And here’s another tip: If the speaker doesn’t come with a backbox, but has one as an optional available accessory. It should also come with a way to tell the speaker that it now has a backbox—because the sound and output are going to change. The thing is, though, most products don’t do this, so take that into consideration as you figure out which speakers to select for your install.

  • Backboxes are Good for Energy Efficiency
    For energy efficiency alone—the ability to cover the speaker in R40 insulation—I’d recommend getting a speaker with a backbox, or one that lets you purchase it as an optional accessory. There are also aftermarket universal solutions, but again, now you’re putting a product on another product for which it was never designed. If it’s up to me, I always select a product with a backbox so I can not have to worry about replacing it 5 years later due to dry rot or mold issues. Plus, you separate the heat and cold of the attic from your home by more than just the material of the woofer cone.
  • Speaker Connectors are Important if you Already Ran Thick-Gauge Wire
    I installed some surround sound speakers once (OK, more than once) and the speaker wiring was 12-gauge. Trouble was, the connectors on the speaker only supported 14 gauge wire. I had to trim up the cable to get it to fit. This isn’t tragic, but you may want to make sure your cables aren’t better quality than your speakers! Dropping the gauge at the last stage isn’t a big deal, lots of installers do it. It just makes for a sloppier install. Another option is to attach or solder pin connectors to your wire, which can clamp easily into most spring clip connections. It’s up to you and your level of detail to the job. There’s no universally accepted way to do it, but there are a ton of wrong ways!
  • Size Matters (Yoda was Wrong)
    I tend to pay attention to the frequency response of the in-ceiling surround sound speakers when spec’ing them for a room. A larger 8-inch woofer, for example, is going to give you a lot of bass response while a smaller 4-inch driver is never going to hit the lowest parts of the frequency range. The important metric to hit cleanly, of course, is 80Hz. That way you can be assured that everything above your subwoofer’s crossover point can be handled by all speakers in the system. Some surround receivers offer independent crossover settings per channel, but I still like to simplify my installs by unifying that metric. An 8-inch woofer may get down to around 45Hz or lower while the bottom end of a 6.5-inch model may be closer to 70Hz at volume. Manufacturers have varying specs on this and so it’s often hard to compare.
  • Fire Up that Grille!
    It may seem trivial, but I really think the grilles used on in-ceiling surround sound speakers matter and deserve some attention. Some are snap-on models that are made of plastic and break quite easily. These also tend to be thick and stand out, as if to shout, “Here I am! I’m an in-ceiling speaker!” Others are made from metal, are paintable, and feature a magnetic attachment mechanism that lets them pop on and off with ease (but only when you want them to). Most of the new magnetic grilles are also paintable, so you can blend them perfectly into your ceiling. A grille may not be important to you, but I’ve been impressed by the new methods manufacturers are experimenting with in order to hide these ceiling speakers from view.

Conclusion

In-ceiling speakers used to be a very small segment, but they are gaining in popularity. They sound better, work better in newer energy-efficient homes, and considerably add to the convenience of adding surround sound in homes where those rear speakers would simply be impossible to add. If an in-ceiling speaker seems right for you, start checking off the features you find important. I’m pretty certain you’ll narrow down the selection quickly and be able to find one that will work well for you.

Shop In-ceiling Speakers at Audiogurus

The post In-ceiling Surround Sound Speakers appeared first on Audiogurus.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

I’ve got a brother-in-law who’s building a house. He was asking me about many different things having to do with wiring up the home, but one question in particular had to do with integrating a whole house distributed audio system. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked about wiring up a home for sound, and it’s likely to not be the last. Whole house audio systems are a big deal, and they are certainly one of the more exciting aspects of thinking about the functionality and use of your home during the pre-construction phase. Wiring your audio correctly, and with a mid on the future possibilities, is a big part of that consideration.

And let me be clear—asking about whole house audio is typically a loaded question. Whole house distributed audio can mean many things to many people. I think the best way I’ve found to give advice that’s meaningful has always started with asking the right questions. Questions like What’s your budget? How will you use the system? How big is the home? How flexible does the system need to be? and Do you want the minimum, or are you looking for the very best in performance, features and stability?

Once you answer those questions you can begin to have a better grasp on the details that will be in this article. When wiring up an entire home for audio you really run into one of several possible configurations. While the possibilities are nearly endless, you can nail down a few basic configurations to summarize the options. Before you move on, however, get the answers to the questions above so you can carry them with you as you investigate the possibilities below.

Speaker Selector Switches With or Without Integrated Volume Controls

This type of configuration is essentially a distributed audio system consisting of a source component running through an amplifier and then sent to a speaker selector box. That selector box is really a distribution system that’s just smart enough to know how to keep your amplifier from blowing up. It does this by impedance-matching the system to deliver no less than a 4-ohm load to the amp. If the system didn’t do this, then adding four or more speakers to an amplifier would drop the impedance seen by the amplifier(s) to less than 2-ohms. That will fry just about any amplifier or AV receiver over a relatively short period of time.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

This is a whole house distributed audio wiring diagram showing amplification that is run from a speaker selector box directly to the speakers. This system only allows you to adjust the volume from the central equipment closet, or by lowering the overall output of the system if you happen to have a WiFi or RF remote.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed AudioSpeaker selector switches can simply split the signal to a bunch of speakers, or they can also provide volume control for each output pair. Volume control is particularly good for when each speaker or speaker pair won’t produce the same level of volume per input. This could be due to using a different speaker in each zone or simply because of the acoustical differences from one speaker placement to another. (Think of a speaker in a small bathroom compared to the same speaker in a large room.)

This is, by far, the most basic of whole house distributed audio systems, and it’s best for those who don’t plan on a multitude of sources and who are mostly concerned with getting moderately tame amounts of audio throughout a home for ambient music during get-togethers. If you want to route a particular audio source to one or more specific rooms, or if you want to have more real-time control over the volume of audio in the room while you’re listening, then you’ll want a more sophisticated solution.

Localizing Volume Control in the Room

The next step up in whole house distributed audio complexity comes when you begin to add passive volume controls to each room in the home that has speakers. This allows you to control the volume right in the room you’re in without having to run back to an equipment closet or without having to adjust the output levels in the rest of the home.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

This is a whole house distributed audio wiring diagram showing amplification that is run through passive volume controls before continuing on to the speakers. This system allows you to adjust the volume right in the room you are in, plus an integrated IR receiver will let you control your source devices if needed. (Extra wiring is required for this functionality.)

The additional complexity here comes from the fact that you now have to run your speaker cables to a volume control in the wall before passing on to the speaker in the ceiling or other location. This not only involves more speaker wire, it also increases the installation complexity since you’re now running wiring down your walls. You also have to be very aware of your building codes to be sure you’re in compliance when running this type of cabling in your walls—particularly when you’re doing retro work in a building that is already constructed. Running wiring in a new home is one thing, but adding it in after the fact may involve more issues with properly securing the cables to your interior wall studs.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

The advantage to a system like this is that you’ll be able to directly control the volume of audio in the room you’re in simply by turning a dial or sliding a switch on a nearby wall plate. The disadvantage is that it’s not a terribly “smart” system. You have to visit each room to adjust the volume and there aren’t many configurations like this that can interface with a smart app or other method of bringing up the IQ of the speakers in your house. One advanced function you can do with a system like this is utilize volume controls with built-in IR receivers that can be routed back to your equipment closet. With this, you at least have the opportunity to use a remote control to change an input source if needed, without having to run back to your AV closet.

Utilizing a Smart Control System

This last option is the beginning of what most custom installers consider “true” whole house distributed audio. The use of a low voltage control system means that you are running your powered audio lines directly to your speakers, but you are controlling those speakers using low voltage cables which are wired to local “smart” digital control switches within the room. This is a much more intelligent system, and it allows you to centrally control your entire home from a touchscreen app or other centralized interface while still maintaining the ability to control each room independently. The difference is, when you adjust the volume in a room, the system recognizes what’s going on and there is some form of two-way communication.

This is a whole home wiring diagram that features both centralized amplification for speakers as well as control signals for each switch location. This results in a very smart, assignable system that is extremely versatile.

The other huge difference is that a control system allows you the opportunity to also change the source from within the room. Since it uses low voltage to communicate with the central hub, that central hub can be told to switch to a different input source or route audio from one location to another as needed. This type of system is very powerful and is typically powered by the low voltage control cable (typically one or two Cat5e/6 wires).

As you can imagine, the sky’s the limit with systems like this as they can involve color touchscreen control panels and also involve the use of WiFi and apps to provide even more control. Some systems are getting extremely smart and are introducing the concept of IP-addressable speakers, whereby each speaker in your home is now able to be assigned sources and controlled independently within your whole home audio system.

Regardless of which method you choose, just be sure to plan out your needs, and ensure you have the ability to run the required cabling to both the speakers and/or the volume control locations around your home. Whole home distributed audio is very cool, and it’s a great way to facilitate great audio for parties or even when your outside or in your bedroom or workshop. For those about to embark upon this adventure, we’re a bit jealous—it’s a lot of fun!

Shop Bulk Cables at Audiogurus

The post Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio appeared first on Audiogurus.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

I’ve got a brother-in-law who’s building a house. He was asking me about many different things having to do with wiring up the home, but one question in particular had to do with integrating a whole house distributed audio system. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked about wiring up a home for sound, and it’s likely to not be the last. Whole house audio systems are a big deal, and they are certainly one of the more exciting aspects of thinking about the functionality and use of your home during the pre-construction phase. Wiring your audio correctly, and with a mid on the future possibilities, is a big part of that consideration.

And let me be clear—asking about whole house audio is typically a loaded question. Whole house distributed audio can mean many things to many people. I think the best way I’ve found to give advice that’s meaningful has always started with asking the right questions. Questions like What’s your budget? How will you use the system? How big is the home? How flexible does the system need to be? and Do you want the minimum, or are you looking for the very best in performance, features and stability?

Once you answer those questions you can begin to have a better grasp on the details that will be in this article. When wiring up an entire home for audio you really run into one of several possible configurations. While the possibilities are nearly endless, you can nail down a few basic configurations to summarize the options. Before you move on, however, get the answers to the questions above so you can carry them with you as you investigate the possibilities below.

Speaker Selector Switches With or Without Integrated Volume Controls

This type of configuration is essentially a distributed audio system consisting of a source component running through an amplifier and then sent to a speaker selector box. That selector box is really a distribution system that’s just smart enough to know how to keep your amplifier from blowing up. It does this by impedance-matching the system to deliver no less than a 4-ohm load to the amp. If the system didn’t do this, then adding four or more speakers to an amplifier would drop the impedance seen by the amplifier(s) to less than 2-ohms. That will fry just about any amplifier or AV receiver over a relatively short period of time.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

This is a whole house distributed audio wiring diagram showing amplification that is run from a speaker selector box directly to the speakers. This system only allows you to adjust the volume from the central equipment closet, or by lowering the overall output of the system if you happen to have a WiFi or RF remote.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed AudioSpeaker selector switches can simply split the signal to a bunch of speakers, or they can also provide volume control for each output pair. Volume control is particularly good for when each speaker or speaker pair won’t produce the same level of volume per input. This could be due to using a different speaker in each zone or simply because of the acoustical differences from one speaker placement to another. (Think of a speaker in a small bathroom compared to the same speaker in a large room.)

This is, by far, the most basic of whole house distributed audio systems, and it’s best for those who don’t plan on a multitude of sources and who are mostly concerned with getting moderately tame amounts of audio throughout a home for ambient music during get-togethers. If you want to route a particular audio source to one or more specific rooms, or if you want to have more real-time control over the volume of audio in the room while you’re listening, then you’ll want a more sophisticated solution.

Localizing Volume Control in the Room

The next step up in whole house distributed audio complexity comes when you begin to add passive volume controls to each room in the home that has speakers. This allows you to control the volume right in the room you’re in without having to run back to an equipment closet or without having to adjust the output levels in the rest of the home.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

This is a whole house distributed audio wiring diagram showing amplification that is run through passive volume controls before continuing on to the speakers. This system allows you to adjust the volume right in the room you are in, plus an integrated IR receiver will let you control your source devices if needed. (Extra wiring is required for this functionality.)

The additional complexity here comes from the fact that you now have to run your speaker cables to a volume control in the wall before passing on to the speaker in the ceiling or other location. This not only involves more speaker wire, it also increases the installation complexity since you’re now running wiring down your walls. You also have to be very aware of your building codes to be sure you’re in compliance when running this type of cabling in your walls—particularly when you’re doing retro work in a building that is already constructed. Running wiring in a new home is one thing, but adding it in after the fact may involve more issues with properly securing the cables to your interior wall studs.

Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio

The advantage to a system like this is that you’ll be able to directly control the volume of audio in the room you’re in simply by turning a dial or sliding a switch on a nearby wall plate. The disadvantage is that it’s not a terribly “smart” system. You have to visit each room to adjust the volume and there aren’t many configurations like this that can interface with a smart app or other method of bringing up the IQ of the speakers in your house. One advanced function you can do with a system like this is utilize volume controls with built-in IR receivers that can be routed back to your equipment closet. With this, you at least have the opportunity to use a remote control to change an input source if needed, without having to run back to your AV closet.

Utilizing a Smart Control System

This last option is the beginning of what most custom installers consider “true” whole house distributed audio. The use of a low voltage control system means that you are running your powered audio lines directly to your speakers, but you are controlling those speakers using low voltage cables which are wired to local “smart” digital control switches within the room. This is a much more intelligent system, and it allows you to centrally control your entire home from a touchscreen app or other centralized interface while still maintaining the ability to control each room independently. The difference is, when you adjust the volume in a room, the system recognizes what’s going on and there is some form of two-way communication.

This is a whole home wiring diagram that features both centralized amplification for speakers as well as control signals for each switch location. This results in a very smart, assignable system that is extremely versatile.

The other huge difference is that a control system allows you the opportunity to also change the source from within the room. Since it uses low voltage to communicate with the central hub, that central hub can be told to switch to a different input source or route audio from one location to another as needed. This type of system is very powerful and is typically powered by the low voltage control cable (typically one or two Cat5e/6 wires).

As you can imagine, the sky’s the limit with systems like this as they can involve color touchscreen control panels and also involve the use of WiFi and apps to provide even more control. Some systems are getting extremely smart and are introducing the concept of IP-addressable speakers, whereby each speaker in your home is now able to be assigned sources and controlled independently within your whole home audio system.

Regardless of which method you choose, just be sure to plan out your needs, and ensure you have the ability to run the required cabling to both the speakers and/or the volume control locations around your home. Whole home distributed audio is very cool, and it’s a great way to facilitate great audio for parties or even when your outside or in your bedroom or workshop. For those about to embark upon this adventure, we’re a bit jealous—it’s a lot of fun!

Shop Bulk Cables at Audiogurus

The post Wiring for Whole House Distributed Audio appeared first on Audiogurus.