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Want to understand more about turntables and phono cartridges? Our Turntable Basics will get you there quickly.

How to set up and use a Music Server that can hold your entire music collection.

How to get started building your Stereo or Home Theater system

This is our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page where you can ask for advice on your audio/video problems.

Please use the form below to submit your questions to Ken and Gerry. Each week we'll pick the best questions and post the answers on this page. If we don't know the answer, we'll consult with our contacts and friends in the audio and video industry to get the answer for you. We intend to make this a very useful and in-depth knowledge base that you'll want to visit and review frequently.

All answers will be posted on this page, below the submission form. We've listed some possible topics to get you started, but please don't let that limit you. We'll be glad to answer questions in any audio- or video-related area.

Remember, this is YOUR forum. It will only be as good as the questions you and all other readers send in. So, go ahead and submit your questions. We're eager to hear from you. (Please see Submission Rules for more information.)


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Possible Topics

Here are some suggested topics to get you started. Please don't limit your questions to these areas. We'd like to hear questions on any topic which you think is important.

  • Loudspeaker Placement
  • AC Power Conditioners
  • Vacuum Tubes vs. Transistors
  • Home Theater Setup
  • Subwoofer Placement
  • High End Cables
  • Vibration Isolation
  • Plasma Video Displays
  • LCD Video Displays
  • Integrated Amplifiers
  • Floor-standing vs. Bookshelf Loudspeakers
  • Home Theater Loudspeakers
  • Video Projectors
  • Types of Video Connection
  • Room Acoustics
  • Multi-Zone Audio
  • Remote Control Options
  • Turntable Setup
  • Amplifier Power
  • Receivers vs. Components
  • Power Cords
  • Preamplifiers
  • Projection Screens
  • CD Players & DVD Players

Questions and Answers

Question Answer
To enjoy streaming music from the Internet, do you need a music server and streamer? I don't intend on storing my music, but i do intend on using ROON, Tidal, and Qobuz. The ability to access millions of tracks without unnecesary hardware is what i'm aiming for. I still prefer to buy and physically handle my music whether it be cd or vinyl and not just store in the cloud. New to streaming, thanks. (J. Santeramo) You don't need an actual music server to stream from the Internet, but you do need a dedicated music streamer to access Internet radio stations and streaming services like the ones you mentioned. Our favorites are the Node 2i and Power Node 2i from Bluesound, the NAD products which have the Bluesound system built in, and the MiND 2 from Simaudio/MOON as well as the MOON preamplifiers and integrated amplifiers which have the MiND 2 system built in. With any of these products you can stream to your heart's content and get appreciably better sound quality than what is available from most of the streamers on the market.
I'm currently using a Technics 1200 MK2 Turntable with a Goldring cartridge 1042. It sounds great with my system. I'm I missing out on a better experience that I'd get if I upgrade to a VPI signature turntable. Would I be able to hear the differences in sound between the turntables ? (F. Khan) There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that you'd experience a major improvement in sound quality by upgrading to a modern belt-drive turntable like a VPI with its advanced design features and unipivot tonearm. It represents the best that U.S. audiophile companies have to offer, and it would reward you every day you listened to it. Yes, you'd hear the difference, and it would not be subtle!
I hear allot of talk about the in-ceiling Totem Kins being good for music, but are they overkill for surrounds? Will the 8" mask speaker suffice, or is there truly more to gain with the Kin? (G. Laesser) No, not overkill at all. While it's true that surrounds aren't as important as front loudspeakers, it's also a mistake to believe that a high-quality surround won't make a difference or isn't worthwhile. Higher-quality surrounds make an important contribution to the home theater experience, especially when the movie is attempting to surround the viewer with really impressive sound effects. Without good surrounds, it all goes flat.
Why is a USB DAC  necessary when music can easily be played by connecting my computer directly to my preamplifier? (Anonymous) This is because the D/A converters and the analog circuitry contained within the sound card of a computer are sonically much inferior to those contained in a high-quality USB DAC.  If you aren't interested in superior sound quality and only use it for background music, then you can do it the way you described.  If you want the best possible music reproduction, then you must bypass those inferior-sounding components by taking a digital output from your computer via a USB output and feed it into a USB DAC.  Please see the article on our website: How to set up and use a Music Server that can hold your entire music collection.
I have around 2000 music CDs. I want to store them on a device so that I can put away the cds and play them thru my stereo/home theater system. What do you recommend? (J. Santaniello) This is an important and timely question which is coming up more and more often. for a comprehensive answer, please see our article, How to set up and use a Music Server that can hold your entire music collection.
Will putting a piece of acoustically absorbent material underneath a downward firing subwoofer reduce the amount that it makes the floor vibrate? I am trying to reduce the amount of vibration for my downstairs neighbor without constructing a floating floor for the living room. I have a wood floor. Any suggestions? (L. Singley) It is highly unlikely that this will help. Bass wavelengths are much too long and powerful to be absorbed by a small piece of absorptive material. In addition to the bass coming directly from the woofer's cone, vibrations are also probably passing directly through the subwoofer's feet into the floor. A better approach would be to raise the subwoofer well away from the floor by placing it on a shelf or cabinet as high as possible. This won't completely eliminate bass notes propagating through the floor, but it should reduce the problem.
I would like to "digitize" my LP collection. What is the best way to proceed? I would prefer connecting a turntable to my sound card. (Anonymous) The simplest way to do this is to purchase a phono preamplifier with an USB output such as the NAD PP3 or the Pro-Ject Phono Box II. Then all you have to do is plug your turntable into the phono preamp with RCA cables and plug the phono preamp into your computer with an USB cable.
What is the dispersion of the Totem Acoustic TAC6.5 in-ceiling loudspeakers? Ceiling space requirements in my room mean I need 60 degrees off axis response.  Also, I hear that most swiveling tweeters are really awful.  I'm also hoping that the TAC-6.5s will match my Totem Tribes.  Any feelings on these issues? (R. Mickus) We put your questions to Totem Acoustic's National Sales Manager. Here's what he said:
It's true that the worlds finest loudspeaker systems never have swivel tweeters. Those are kind of a gimmick from the car audio world. That being said, the TAC in-ceiling and TAW in-wall models are loudspeakers where sound isn't the only consideration. Price and features are also very important. Therefore, these loudspeakers do use a swivel tweeter. Have no fear, however, the woofers, tweeters, and crossovers in the TAC and TAW models are still world-class and real Totem quality. They sound fantastic and will sonically kill all of the mass-market, China stuff out there. Vince Bruzzese will never put his name on something that isn't a joy sonically. So don't be afraid to use these loudspeakers; they are real Totems. I wouldn't worry for even one minute about the sonic blend between Tribe on-walls up front and TACs or TAWs for side/rear applications. They work beautifully together. I would start the listening with the tweeters dead center, then play just a bit with the tilting for a few days to get it just right before putting the grills on.
As you can see from this answer, Totem Acoustic has designed in-wall and in-ceiling loudspeakers that meet the special needs of real-world listening room installations without sacrificing sound quality.
I just recently replaced my old Signet MR-5.0e cartridge with a Grado Prestige Gold on my turntable, and I noticed a marked decrease in volume output, even though the overall sound reproduction has improved over the Signet.  What may be causing this decrease in volume output? (Anonymous) The output level of a phono cartridge will vary greatly depending upon the cartridge's design. It can vary from less than 0.2 millivolt for low output moving coil cartridges to 5 millivolts or more for moving magnet cartridges. Lower outputs are often associated with better cartridges where the designer has used smaller coils and/or magnets to lower the moving mass of the stylus/cantilever assembly and, thus, improve the sound. As a guess, the "5.0" in the model designation of your old cartridge suggests it had an output of 5 millivolts. The new Grado has a lower output, thus requiring you to turn up your volume control to achieve a similar output to your old cartridge. This is not a problem unless you cannot get sufficient volume or if you get to much noise when turning the volume up to your preferred levels. If that's the case, you will need to get new electronics to handle the lower output of the Grado.
I'm currently looking for a phono preamplifier, and I came across the NAD PP-2 and several other pre-amplifiers. Are there any added benefits to using a dedicated phono preamplifier versus a full preamplifier with a built-in phono stage? I also noticed that there are tube pre-amplifiers. I am aware of the tonal differences between tubes and solid state, and I was wondering if the "tube characteristics" are carried through the rest of the system, particularly if everything else is solid state. (P. Dupiano) The most obvious use for a stand-alone phono preamplifier is to add phono capability to a preamplifier which has no built-in phono stage. External or stand-alone phono preamplifiers can also be used to improve the sound over the built-in phono stages of some preamplifiers, but only if the external phono preamplifier is superior in quality to the preamplifier's built-in circuit. As with anything else in this world, the quality of a phono stage depends on much more than whether it is internal or external. Ultimately, external phono stages do have the advantage of using their own, isolated power supplies, but this is only one factor in the overall design. And, yes, tube preamplifiers do exhibit their advantages, even if the rest of the system is solid state.
I Have a pair of old bookshelf loudspeakers which I believe to be powered. Would a new preamplifier such as the primaLuna Three work with them in a moderate-sized room? What do you recommend? (G. Sciorilli) If your loudspeakers truly are powered and have standard audio inputs such as RCA or XLR, then they can certainly be hooked up directly to a quality preamplifier such as the PrimaLuna Three. How well this would work in a given size room depends entirely upon the power of the built-in amplifiers and the power handling ability of the loudspeakers. The preamplifier will mainly affect the quality of the sound, not the ability to play loud enough in a given room.
I've been researching cd players and cd player quality. I was wondering how it is possible to have different quality cd players; don't they all read the CDs the same way? From my lack of experience, I think that once the cd is read, the preamplifier and anything else before the speakers affect the sound quality more than the cd player itself. So, ultimately, what are you paying for when you get higher end cd players? Thank you (P Dupiano) This is an excellent but very complex question, so we can only touch upon some of the highlights here. Converting the digital data on a CD back into music is one of the most complex, difficult, and error-prone functions of an audio system. The problems start when the CD laser tries to capture over 44,000 bits of data per second with no opportunity to go back and recapture any data that is misread. (Misreads occur all the time. A computer reading a data CD can go back and re-read, if necessary, but when music is being played real time, there's no opportunity to do this.) Therefore, error correction algorithms in the CD player must make their best guess at what this data was supposed to be, and they don't always get it right. The better and more rugged the transport and the better its acoustic isolation, the fewer the misreads and the better the sound. Then the digital data needs to be converted to rough analog, and this can be done with the cheapest possible digital-to-analog converter chip at one extreme, the best available digital-to-analog chips, or a variety of sophisticated hardware and/or software approaches at the other extreme. The approach used here will profoundly affect ultimate sound quality, as will the jitter level inherent in the Cd player's digital-to-analog process. High jitter in a CD player will badly degrade audio performance. Then the rough analog needs to be filtered and smoothed into the final analog waveform, and there are also a variety of different approaches to this process which also affect ultimate sound quality. Finally, the analog output (preamplifier) stage of the CD player affects the final sound just as much as the main preamplifier or power amplifier components of your stereo system. There are huge differences in the sound quality output by different CD players, and this can be heard easily in a comparative audition in a high-quality audio system.
I've heard conflicting information on the ease of assembly of the Salamander Chameleon furniture. One salesman told me that they were very difficult to assemble. Another one told me that they were relatively easy to assemble. What is your experience with the assembly of the Salamander Chameleon products? (S. Alcaide) While we haven't assembled every single model available, our experience is that the small amount of assembly required is quite simple. The Chameleon models come out of the box mostly assembled. All you have to do is attach the feet, top, and back panels and install the shelves. It might take an hour or so. Some of the largest models might require to people to move and manipulate, but that is about the hardest aspect we would anticipate.
I purchased my new stereo system from you about a year ago. I have one question regarding the volume from my turntable. It is much lower than that of the CD and the FM tuner. Is there a reason for that? (M. Butler) That is completely normal and not a problem.  Phono Cartridges put out very tiny voltages which are then preamplified by the phono stage to levels usable by the rest of your system.  However, these amplified levels are usually still significantly lower than that put out by a CD player or tuner.  Hence the lower volume.
Is the Pro-Ject Speed Box II compatible with my VPI Scout turntable? (C. Garrett) Unfortunately, it is not. This model will only work with Pro-Ject turntables. However, the Speed Box SE does have a standard AC outlet and will work with other brands, as long as they use an AC synchronous motor.
Are higher quality, more expensive CD players more fussy with CDs? My "audiophile" unit trips up on some discs that my mass market DVD player has no trouble playing. The unit has been properly serviced but still has this behavior. (Anonymous) Your observation is right on the money. The highest quality CD transports do, in fact, demand a tighter tolerance for the CDs they're playing back. This is because these tighter tolerances improve the sound quality as compared to a cheaper machine which, although it may be able to track more disks, does so with more errors that need to be corrected. The increased use of error correction degrades sound quality. Moreover, some CD transports, such as those from Phillips, may not properly play back CDs which are not manufactured to the Phillips Redbook standard. This includes CDs with built-in copy protection that violate the Redbook standard. You can tell if a CD falls into this category by looking for the logo that identifies CDs which do conform to the Redbook standard. This logo has the words "Compact Disk Digital Audio" in a small rectangle. If you cannot find this on your disk, it is most likely not Redbook-compliant and is more likely to cause problems. If your disk does have this logo but still won't play, it may be sufficiently mis-manufactured as to not play properly on very demanding players.
Apart from auditioning, is there any other way to choose amplifiers and loudspeakers that match each other well? Thank you. (Anonymous) There are a few obvious things one can tell from specifications which will rule out some amplifier and loudspeaker combinations as being impractical. For example one would not match a very low output tube amplifier with a low efficiency loudspeaker, nor would one match an amplifier that is not stable below a given impedance with a loudspeaker that drops significantly below that impedance. Beyond this, however, if you do not audition the components you are considering building into a system, how will you know whether you, the person who must live with and be happy with that system, like any given component or combination of components? Discussing compatibility of components without a listener to render an opinion would seem to be a meaningless exercise.
My home theater system includes a pair of Focal/JM Lab Cobalt 816 as front loudspeakers and a Jamo 1810 subwoofer. How can I choose the proper crossover (cut off) frequency for low frequency signals? (Choices are 40Hz, 60Hz, 80Hz, 90Hz, 100Hz, 110Hz, 120Hz, 160Hz, 200Hz.) (Anonymous) This is a complex and multi-faceted problem. Here are some guidelines. In general, the lower the crossover frequency, the better, as long as you don't go below the low frequency capabilities of your main loudspeakers. Subwoofers are supposed to reproduce only low bass tones, and using them at too high a frequency can cause colorations in the upper bass and lower midrange. Also, too high a crossover frequency can cause stereo information that should be coming only from your main loudspeakers to be sent to your subwoofer, thereby degrading your stereo image. Some crossovers do not limit the low frequency information being sent to the main loudspeakers. If you have such a crossover, you should probably set it at the -3 dB (low frequency cutoff) point specified for your speakers. This will allow the subwoofer to come in at the frequency where your main loudspeaker bass response is starting to fall off. Some crossovers, however, also limit the low frequencies being sent to the main loudspeakers. With such a crossover, you should set the frequency approximately one octave above the low frequency cutoff of your main loudspeakers. Thus, if your main loudspeakers have a -3 dB point of 40Hz, you should choose a crossover point of 80Hz. Finally, if you have access to a sound pressure level (SPL) meter and a test disk with 1/3 octave warble tones, you can use these tools to fine tune the crossover point and subwoofer level to give both the smoothest and deepest bass response. As an aside, it's worth mentioning that the above requirements demonstrate why main loudspeakers which are too small can never be set up to give optimal performance. Their very limited low frequency response requires the crossover frequency to be set so high that you inevitably send too much upper bass and lower midrange information to the subwoofer, causing the problems described above. Forcing the crossover frequency lower would result in a hole in the response between the upper range of the subwoofer and the lower range of the main loudspeakers. There's just no proper solution for such small satellites.
Is the Vandersteen Quatro a bass reflex design, acoustic suspension, or some other type? Thank you. (Anonymous) The Vandersteen Quatro, as well as the Vandersteen 5A and Vandersteen 2WQ subwoofer, are sealed enclosures, but the situation is far more sophisticated than categorizing them as acoustic suspension or bass reflex. First, Vandersteen uses a unique "feed forward" design to the built-in power amplifiers of all of these models. This "feed forward" circuitry is designed to cancel out all of the various distortion modes produced as the woofers are playing, resulting in a much flatter, lower distortion sound. This "feed forward" technique is accomplished by carefully analyzing all frequency deviations produced by the woofers and designing the amplifier circuitry so that it contains the inverse of these deviations. The result is a much flatter frequency response than would otherwise be obtained. This technique is superior to the conventional servo feedback technique used by many other popular subwoofers since feedback is always too late to correct the distortion just produced and, therefore, causes time-based distortions. "Feed Forward" anticipates the problems and solves them before they occur. Second, because of the unique way in which Vandersteen has designed the crossovers and connection methods for all of these loudspeakers, the power amplifiers built into all of these models "see" and adopt the sonic characteristics of the system's main power amplifier and maintain that sound down through the powered woofers' ranges. this results in a much smoother transition between the upper part of a Quatro or 5A and its powered woofer and between the 2WQ subwoofer and the satellites that are being used with it than would be obtained by the crossover and connection methods used by others.
I am in a kind of dilemma, so, hopefully, you can help me out. Presently I have a home theater with a very basic DVD player connected to an A-V receiver via a coaxial digital cable. I also have compact, stand-mount loudspeakers. My priority is music, and, recently, I have realized that I am missing mid-bass and sound stage. Therefore, I'm planning to upgrade the system. Should I go for a dedicated CD player for music listening, or should I upgrade my front loudspeakers to a larger size, perhaps even a floor-standing model? What are the possible models less than $800?  My understanding is that, in this set-up, the DVD player just acts as a transport, and D/A conversion is done by the receiver. So would having a dedicated player like a Rotel bring significant sonic improvements? Thanks & Regards (Anonymous) We really have two separate issues here. Using a DVD player to play your CDs is a definite compromise, especially if music is a priority for you. This is true whether the DVD player is connected by a digital cable or by analog cables. Poor sound staging is just one of the problems that can arise from playing your CDs on a DVD player. Getting a dedicated CD player such as one from Rotel will definitely give you better CD sound. Your mid-bass problem probably arises from the small size of your main loudspeakers. Loudspeakers which are too small do not have sufficient low frequency extension to provide enough mid-bass to fill in the range above where the subwoofer stops. This is always a problem with the tiny satellites that are popular these days. The only solution is to get larger loudspeakers, the larger the better. Possible choices are shown on the Loudspeakers page of this website. You will probably eventually need to do both of these upgrades to get the best possible music reproduction from your system.
When using a test CD with warble tones on it, I've noticed that my system drops off at 30 Hz and 16 KHz. Where do I start looking to extend my frequency response? The CD player, the cables, the speakers, the room? All components claim to have a 20 Hz to 20 KHz range. Thanks. (C. Bradley) While it's unlikely that cables or electronics are affecting the apparent frequency response losses you are observing, there are several other factors that could be doing so. These include (1) the frequency response of your loudspeakers, (2) listening room effects, (3) your ears, and (4) your measuring instruments. To elaborate, very few loudspeakers, except the largest floor-standing models and some powered subwoofers, really have significant response down to 20 Hz, irrespective of what their specs may state. Also, flat response to 20 KHz is reserved for only the best tweeters. Second, your room can have a profound effect on low bass response (below 100 Hz), causing significant peaks and dips. Also, the accurate measurement of low bass response is notoriously difficult, especially with the limited equipment most audiophiles have at their disposal. Third, if you are using just your ears to determine deviations at the lowest and highest frequencies, you should understand that the human ear is known to be quite non-linear at those frequency extremes. So, at most reasonable volumes, it will sound like the bass and highs are rolling off, even if they're not. Fourth, even if you are using a microphone or sound pressure level meter to make your measurements, all but the most expensive models will also have diminished response at the frequency extremes, causing your measurements to be off. A calibrated model is required so you can correct your measurements accordingly. Notwithstanding all of these factors, the best way to improve performance at the frequency extremes and across the range in between is for you to call us at the store or come in with more information about exactly which loudspeakers you own so we can give you cogent advice on how to improve the sound your getting.
I have an HRS (Harmonic Recovery System) type2. Where is, technically speaking, the best place to put it, between my CD player and Passive Preamplifier or between the Passive Preamplifier and the Power amplifier? Now it is between the CD player and the passive preamplifier. Thanks (Anonymous) The Harmonic Recovery System does a superb job of improving the buffering between components. This improves clarity, harmonic integrity, spaciousness, etc. Since your passive preamplifier has absolutely no buffering, the HRS would, logically, seem to offer you the most potential improvement if placed between the preamplifier and power amplifier. However, logic is often not the only arbiter in high end audio, and there are too many factors to predict where the best placement will be. Our advice? As always, try both scenarios and use the one which gives the best results.
My loudspeakers are Vandersteen 2CI for left and right and a VCC-1 for the center channel. Is it necessary to add a subwoofer? I listen mostly to 2-channel. On setup, should I select small or large for the center channel? My surround loudspeakers are NHT. My processor is a Classe ssp25, and my amp is a Rotel RMB-1095. Thank you for your help. (R. Hand) Your Vandersteen 2Ci loudspeakers have quite a deep bass extension on their own, but only you can decide whether it's enough bass for your needs. Adding a Vandersteen 2WQ or V2W would add satisfyingly deeper bass even to these loudspeakers, but it's your choice as to whether you need that deeper bass. A properly-designed subwoofer can also make the left and right loudspeakers sound better since it relieves them of having to pump out that deep bass. This is an additional benefit of using a subwoofer that goes beyond the additional bass. The center channel should be set to large until and unless you do get a subwoofer. If you do get one, then you can set the center channel to small and direct it's bass to the subwoofer.
My question is regarding loudspeaker cables and interconnects. How important is it to keep all loudspeaker cables and interconnects of the same brand. My loudspeaker cables are Audioquest and my interconnects are Transparent. Am I losing balance in any way or is this very subtle? Thank you! (S. Simon) Each manufacturer will, of course, be designing its loudspeaker and interconnect cables to complement each other sonically. So there is a valid argument for being consistent when buying cables. On the other hand, the manufacturer cannot test its cables with every possible combination of components, and your particular system may benefit from using loudspeaker and interconnect cables from different companies. Cables are components, just like preamplifiers, amplifiers, loudspeakers, etc. You needn't use the same brand of amplifier and preamplifier if you find a combination from different brands that you like. Likewise, you should audition various cables in your system, if possible, to see what sounds best to you.
I am planning on adding a turntable to my system, though I am just getting back into vinyl and want to stay at a near entry-level point.  My other equipment is a Simaudio Moon I-5080 integrated amp, Vandersteen 2CE signatures (bought through Audio Nexus), and a Rega Planet 2000 CD player.  I have looked on your website, read manufacturers' links provided, and did some online forum research. It appears as if there are several similar Rega-manufactured examples available, all of which come with their RB250 tonearm:  the NAD 533, the Pro-ject, and the Goldrings.  Are all of these identical?  Which of the ones that you carry would you recommend?  Also, how do the Music Hall models MMF 2.1 and MMF 5 compare with the NAD and/or Pro-ject tables? Thank you for your help. (D. Carpinsky) While it is true that the Goldring and, we believe, the NAD turntables are made by Rega, this is not true of either the Pro-Ject or Music Hall models. To the best of our knowledge, these are all made in the Pro-ject factory. All four of these brands offer excellent performance in their price ranges and, therefore, are recommended by us. However, if you will refer to rule 6 on the submission rules page, comparing brands or products is not what we want to do in this forum. This web page is for general knowledge and information that's hard to get elsewhere. Please come into the store to discuss and/or listen to different models.
I have an older NAD 7240PE Receiver which still sounds terrific.  It has a feature called Bass EQ with infrasonic filtering.  By activating this, the amp boosts the deepest bass by 6dB.  I use this feature almost daily, turning it on or off depending on the CD being played and the quality of its recording.  It can make a huge difference in the sound of a particular CD.  I'm thinking of upgrading to a new NAD 2 channel integrated amp or receiver but noticed none of the new models offer this feature. I'm disappointed and would like to know why they took this out.  I know I can adjust my powered subwoofer to boost bass output and also adjust the bass on the receiver itself, but I'd rather keep those settings flat.  What do you suggest? (P. Nardelli) We have no information as to why NAD eliminated this feature, but we do note the fact that older style features such as this one and loudness compensation controls no longer appear on audiophile-grade equipment. Perhaps it's an effort to keep the signal path as free from extraneous circuitry as possible, thus giving you the best possible sound on all of those recordings that are well-made and don't require compensation. Your best option is to use the tone controls when you feel a particular recording needs a bass boost. . That's why they're there.
How do I connect an HDTV cable box and an NAD T534 DVD player to an NAD T743 A/V Receiver? I was told about connecting the DVD with an HDMI cable to my TV and about DVD digital audio out to digital in on the T743. (S. Murray) The T534 DVD player has both component and HDMI video outputs. Which will look best on your system depends on your TV. While everybody is saying that HDMI is better than component, we have found that the T534, when connected directly to a Runco CW-43MC plasma, definitely had a better picture with the component cable. So, everyone should try both types of connections with their particular TV and DVD player before assuming HDMI will be better. If you use a component video connection, you can connect the DVD player directly to the TV or you can route it through the T743. If you decide on HDMI, you will have to go directly to the TV since thee receiver has no HDMI connections. As for digital audio, you must run either a coaxial or TOSLINK cable from the DVD player and cable box to the appropriate input on the receiver. If your source component gives you the choice, choose coaxial over TOSLINK for better sound. Then you must use the receiver's menus to tell it what type of audio input you are using.
I have an AR turntable, a 1983 design that was provided with a felt mat. I am using it with a Linn LVX tonearm and a Dynavector 10X4 cartridge.  The other day I removed the felt mat, placed a record directly on the aluminum platter and listened.  Twenty seconds into my listening and consistently thereafter, I noticed a major increase in clarity and soundstage. Is this improvement due to the removal of the mat, or is it because the tracking angle of the stylus changed due to the reduced platter height caused by the elimination of the mat? (J. Romanello) There are several factors that could change the sound, two of which you mentioned. To sort out whether either of these two factors is affecting the sound, you will have to lower the tonearm by the thickness of the mat you removed. That will remove the tracking angle change as a possibility and allow you to study just the effect of removing the mat. You can also play with the tracking angle while the mat is still in place to see how this affects the sound. Raising the tonearm (or lowering the platter as you did) is a definite possibility for making the sound brighter. A third possibility that could cause the change you heard is that, by removing the mat and allowing the record to sit directly on the aluminum platter, platter vibrations and resonances could be more efficiently transferred to the record, causing it to vibrate in unwanted ways. Those vibrations could then be transferred to the phono cartridge, causing an undesirable coloration of the sound which might be interpreted as additional detail and air. While this might initially be pleasing to your ears, it's unlikely that it's an improvement. Aluminum platters, such as the one on your AR, ring badly, especially without the presence of a good mat to damp them. Current turntable designs which don't use mats often employ platters made from acrylic or other materials which don't resonate, making the absence of a mat a benefit rather than a detriment. Much thought, advanced research, and design improvements have occurred since your turntable was made, and these advances have made radical improvements in record playback possible. You might want to consider the purchase of such a model, one with an inert platter and efficient clamping system that can greatly reduce unwanted record resonances. This would allow you to experience the advantages of going "matless" without introducing any detrimental effects.
I have just purchased a pair of Revel Performa M22 speakers. Would you recommend the Concerta B12 subwoofer to complement this system? My primary focus is listening to music...jazz, blues, classical. Thank you. (L. Greig) The new Concerta B12 is an excellent subwoofer and is appropriate for small to medium-sized rooms. It is very compact and has clean, deep bass which comes from an amazingly heavy and well-constructed woofer that has an absolutely huge magnet structure. The B12 is very flexible in terms of its setup and adjustment capabilities. It has the usual volume, phase, and crossover frequency controls, but it also sports a parametric equalizer which allows the user to adjust the response of the sub to eliminate peaks or dips in the bass response arising from room resonances. However, there is one thing you need to know. The B12 only has line level inputs, not loudspeaker level inputs. So, if you intend to use it in a stereo system, your preamplifier or integrated amplifier will need to have an extra pair of outputs to drive it. If you do not have these outputs or if your room is very large, the Performa B15 subwoofer would be a better choice. It can play into a very large room and has both line and loudspeaker level inputs. Either model will work very well with the Performa M22 loudspeakers.
What power conditioner have you found works best with an Arcam AVR300 receiver, DV79 DVD player, and a RP LCD? Also, what cables do you find work well here? (Anonymous) We carry power conditioners from Chang Lightspeed, Richard Gray's Power Company, and Shunyata Research. All of these work very well with the Arcam gear. That is to say, all of them give you better performance. As with all good components, which one you will prefer depends on your personal opinion and, in the case of power conditioners, the details of the power problems in your own home. As for cables, we've had great luck with Kimber Kable, Audioquest, and Audience when used with Arcam products. But, as with the power conditioners, you need to listen for yourself. If you live near us, please feel free to borrow any of these products to try in your own system. That's the only way to know for sure what's best for you and your system.
What are your thoughts on HD FM radio? Are there any quality HD FM tuners available yet? (Anonymous) We've spoken both to Rotel and Fanfare FM about this. Both companies are planning HD FM receivers. Rotel's was supposed to be out in the fourth quarter of 2005 but has been delayed until the first half of 2006. Fanfare is planning something for next year but has no specific release date yet. We haven't been told about any other models from any of our other suppliers. We're expecting great things from this format but will have to reserve final judgment until we get something to play with.
I thought you might help with a difficult decision. For the life of me, I cannot decide between a stand mount speaker, such as that by Quad or Revel, and their floor-standing speakers. I only listen to 2 channel and absolutely do not want a subwoofer. I  appreciate full range sound and decent bass but am not a "bass freak" by any means. Imaging and soundstage are important, as with any 2 channel set-up. The room is medium size with solid state electronics. What criteria do you suggest as to stand mount vs. floor-standers? Looks are not a factor (so called WAF factor). I do hear that many people feel that small speakers are great at imaging and soundstage. I have heard that most or all floor-standers have cabinet resonances, particularly in the bass area, that can also obscure mids and highs.  Some people feel that, sooner or later, mini-monitors without a sub are going to wear thin, so to speak, not being full range. Yet others say the lowest octave is less important than good overall musicality and dynamics/imaging. Many thanks for your assistance and your opinions. (R. Dee) The problem with dogma, such as that all full-range loudspeakers obscure the midrange with cabinet resonances or that all small loudspeakers have great imaging, is that it is inevitably wrong. Great-sounding full-range speakers with good, clean bass and world-class imaging certainly do exist. We've also heard plenty of stand-mount loudspeakers that do not image well. There are also stand-mount loudspeakers that have enough bass to satisfy some people, but that's an individual choice. You don't have to be a "bass freak" to want your loudspeakers to have sufficiently-deep bass for the proper rendition of music's most important and exhilarating fundamental frequencies. The problem with so many stand-mount loudspeakers is that they are so small that they cut off far more than the "lowest octave". ( Even many floor-standing loudspeakers cut off part of that lowest octave.) These very small models cut off much or all of the second lowest octave, 40 to 80 Hz. That has profound negative consequences for the music. Some small loudspeakers even cut off part of the third-lowest octave, losing information above 80 Hz. That's even worse. One reason why some people avoid loudspeakers with deep bass is that so many models have such bad-sounding bass that these people think all deep bass is bad. We don't believe this. You've just got to find a model that has deep bass which is clean, tuneful, and with good pitch definition. Absence of sufficiently-deep deep bass response is a distortion of the music as surely as any other severe alteration of music's harmonic structure. It sounds like the reason you can't decide what to do is because you are relying on other peoples' opinions too strongly. You've got to decide for yourself how much bass you need, and you can only do that by coming to the store and doing comparative auditioning of the stand-mount and floor-standing models you are interested in. Listen for yourself, and the decision will become easier.
I currently own an amp that can deliver 80 watts per channel. What would be the benefits of upgrading to a more powerful amp/integrated amp? I would still be playing my music at the same listening level, so those extra watts would be wasted, right? (C. Bradley) The amount of power you need is affected by several factors, including your loudspeaker efficiency, room size, and playback volume preferences. The 80 watts you now have may or may not be enough, depending on those factors. You should also remember that musical peaks or crescendos can rapidly cause you to run out of power, even if your average volume is within the amplifier's power rating. To determine if you need more power, you should listen to your favorite music with a more powerful amplifier to see if the sound becomes more dynamic, the highs become less harsh, and the bass becomes more solid and powerful. However, when considering upgrading your amplifier, you should look at other factors besides power. All 80 (or whatever) watt amplifiers are not created sonically equal, and upgrading to a higher performance product rather than just a more powerful one is likely to be more rewarding.
I'm setting up a home theater with in-wall loudspeakers for the front, and in ceiling loudspeakers for the back surrounds, due to Wife Approval Factor (WAF).  WAF also requires that the front-firing subwoofer be placed in a cabinet.  I can place it in the corner, but it will be firing across the bow (so to speak) of the front speakers (i.e., at right angles to them).  The sub only has a 0 or 180 degrees phase switch, as opposed to a variable control.  Will I run into trouble because of the sub's location, and what can I do to overcome any out of phase conditions not resolvable by a simple switch? (Anonymous) This question is related to the one from T. Caines (see below). It doesn't so much matter that the subwoofer would be firing sideways as that it would be at different distances from the two main front loudspeakers. This means that no matter which position the phase switch is in, the subwoofer cannot be in correct phase with both front loudspeakers. That's why we recommend that the subwoofer be placed between the front loudspeakers. The best way to deal with this situation is to use a subwoofer such as the Vandersteen V2W which has a continuously-variable phase switch. That way you can get a setting which will be a better average for the two front loudspeakers. We don't know of any other way to tackle this problem.
I am looking for a tube preamplifier to use with my Vandersteen 2CE signature loudspeakers and Simaudio Moon I3 integrated amplifier. What would you recommend? (Anonymous) Fortunately, the Simaudio Moon I3 integrated amplifier allows you to convert input 4 into an amplifier input which bypasses the preamplifier section. We have a number of excellent tube preamplifiers you could choose from such as the Audio Research SP16, the Balanced Audio Technology VK3iX, the Conrad Johnson PV14LS Series 2, and the Rogue Audio 66 Magnum and 99 Magnum. As always, the best way to decide is to come in for a comparative audition.
I have a Rotel RP-1000 turntable. It requires a new needle + perhaps a cleaning. Can you assist me? (Anonymous) We can certainly install a new cartridge and clean up your turntable. Just bring it in. This isn't the type of question we'd normally answer here, but it provides a good opportunity to relate some important information. Most people don't realize that they should replace their phono cartridge or stylus every three or four years, even if it hasn't had much use. The rubber/elastomer suspension that holds the cantilever in position will deteriorate and become stiff with time, even when no records are being played. This can degrade your sound and possibly damage your records. So, please don't play your valuable records with that 10 year old phono cartridge!
I want to connect my notebook to my home theatre through the headphone output of the notebook (mini-plug), but it comes out too noisy. How can I fix this? Thanks (F. San Martin) This is more of a computer question than an audio-video question, but we'll have a go at it. If your notebook has a speaker output as well as a headphone output, try that one instead. If not, then use the software in your computer to lower the output volume for the headphone jack. If neither of these suggestions helps, then there's not much else you can do. Your audio output is just too noisy for what you want to do.
I'm thinking of upgrading my power amps from solid state to tube amps. I am using a bi-amplification hook up to my speakers. I am happy with what I have right now but am still looking for better sound. Someone suggested that I use a tube amp. My preamp is Conrad Johnson for listening to music and Rotel for home theater. Now, can you give any suggestions as to what is good and reasonable that I can use both for music and home theater. By the way, I use two power amps for my front speakers. Suggestion please? Thank you and appreciated any comments you can provide me. (N. Javier) This is really two questions in one: (1) Should I use a tube amp and (2) Should I bi-amplify? On the first question, we can only tell you what we always recommend. Listen to some tube amps and see if you like their sound better than your current solid state unit. Tubes offer strong advantages in imaging, space, midrange articulation, etc., but some prefer the dynamics and bass of solid state. The user is the only one who can decide. As to the second issue, you may wish to consider bi-amplification with a tube model for the mids/trebles and a solid state amp for the bass. This can yield the best of tubes and solid state. However, it is absolutely critical that the GAIN (not the power) of each amp be identical, or you will have a volume mismatch between the two halves of your speakers. It is a common misconception that everything will be balanced if the two amps have the same power, and this is not true.
El34, 6550, and KT88 tubes are compatible but with different sonic characters. can you describe the sonic differences among these 3 tube types? That is, what sorts of changes in sound could I expect to hear if I were to swap out these three tube types in my power amplifier? This is a question I have posed for many years, to no avail. Perhaps the mystery will be solved. Thanks. (Anonymous) This is a complex question, so there's no simple answer. The reason is that different brands of each of these three tube models are sonically different from each other. Thus, there's no single EL34, 6550, or KT88 sound. In general, however, the EL34 is thought to be the most musical and with superior imaging and air. The 6550 has significantly more power and is more dynamic and competent at the frequency extremes than the EL34. One manufacturer we talked with said they'd switched to KT88s from 6550s because the brand they were using was more reliable for the KT88s, even though the sound was similar. He thought that the 6550 was, perhaps, slightly more detailed. These statements, however, might not apply to other brands. The bottom line is that you'll have to try some different models and brands in your particular amp if you really want to optimize your sound.
I own a VPI scoutmaster turntable, and I can't seem to get 1.5 Grams of weight with a Grado sonata cartridge. The max I can get is around 1.25 Grams. How can I fix this? (R. Balint) This problem is occurring because the weight of the Sonata cartridge is too low for the counterweight on the JMW 9 tonearm to balance it properly. The simplest way to solve this is to get a small lead weight and sandwich it between the cartridge and the head shell. Some cartridges come with these small, H-shaped weights. Alternatively, VPI or Grado may be able to send you one. This will add enough mass at the cartridge end of the tonearm to allow you to set the proper tracking force. By the way, we've found that the Sonata may not be a particularly good match for the JMW 9 in all situations. This cartridge's lack of cantilever damping can interact adversely with the JMW9 tonearm, causing excess motion at the cartridge (bouncing and wobbling) when walking near the turntable if the table isn't located on an extremely solid platform that is thoroughly decoupled from the floor. The added lead weight mentioned above can also help this problem to some extent, but if you do experience it, the best solution is to switch to a different cartridge.
I own a decent 2-channel system -- older Krell KAV series stuff. Does power conditioning (& power chords) really make an improvement, or is the money better spent on upgrading the individual components? (D. Gilder) We believe thoroughly that quality power conditioners and high end power cords can have a significant, sometimes profound, effect on your system. The benefits of (1) energy storage, (2) blocking RF and other noise from entering your components from the AC mains, and (3) isolating components from each other so they can't leak RF noise into each other cannot be disregarded. Better imaging and sound staging, quieter backgrounds, and more vibrant sound are typical of the improvements you can expect. Whether you'd benefit more from this or upgrading some other component can only be determined by comparative listening tests. But we think very highly of the line conditioning products from Audience AV, Chang Lightspeed, Richard Gray's Power company, and Shunyata Research and believe all systems can benefit from the cleaner AC power they provide.
Wondering about your professional opinion on which type of technology is best for Home theater display monitors, LCD, Plasma, or DLP? I keep hearing about all three, but I don't understand the difference and/or which is a better technology? (T. Powrs) LCD operates by a light shining through a liquid crystal display, just as in your calculator. Electrical signals applied to the crystal pixels cause the crystals to align and block light, thus going dark. DLP (Digital Light Processing) operates by light reflecting off a DMMD (Digital Micro Mirror Device) which has over a million tiny mirrors. The state of each mirror determines whether light will be reflected for the corresponding pixel. If it is, then that pixel is bright. Otherwise, it's dark. Of all three technologies, plasma is the only one which actually creates and radiates light in each of its pixels. This has the advantage of allowing for true, deep black (the pixel just turns off) whereas LCD can't block the transmitted light completely. Thus, black levels are better for plasma than LCD. DLP also has excellent black levels. Plasma is also brighter than LCD, with better contrast. DLP can also be bright, but the brighter it is, the brighter and hotter a lamp is needed. This can shorten lamp life. DLP displays do not, to our knowledge, come in the ultra-thin (3 - 4 inch) type of chassis that can be hung on a wall. Which is best? There's no absolute way to answer that since so much more goes into a video display than just which display mechanism is used. Overall qualities vary hugely in each category.
What is the proper and most accurate way to set the phase control on my subwoofer for maximum benefit? Could you answer for variable and switched phase controlled subwoofer users? (T. Caines) This is a fairly complex issue, so we'll just cover the highlights here. For a subwoofer to integrate its bass properly with the main speakers, it should be precisely in phase with them. Physical separation of the sub from the mains, differing acoustic properties of the sub and mains, and/or crossover characteristics can mess up this phase relationship. Even worse, if the sub is not centered between the two main speakers, its phase relationship to the two speakers will be different. Then there's no setting that's correct for both speakers. If the sub and mains are not in phase, some or all of the bass may cancel. Subs with phase toggle switches allow only for gross adjustment of either in-phase or out-of-phase settings. Play a CD with a good strong bass or use a test CD with a 1/3 octave pink noise band centered around 80 Hz or so, and toggle the switch back and forth. Use whichever setting gives the louder bass. In some situations you may not hear much difference. If, for example, the sub to main relationship is 90 degrees instead of zero or 180 degrees, then neither setting is correct. Try moving the sub to a different location. With a continuously adjustable phase control, you will have a much better chance of finding a setting that is correct. Adjust the phase in small increments until you get maximum bass output. You can use a sound pressure level meter (available from Radio Shack) to make the setting more accurately.
Like many these days, my system is both a 2-channel and a home theater set-up. Am I better setting up my room acoustically for optimal 2-channel sound or home theater? (E. Kizenberger) This depends on whether your primary devotion is to 2-channel music or movies. If 2-channel, then you should definitely optimize for that. If your use of the system is 50/50, then we would still optimize for 2-channel since it's the more demanding in terms of imaging. If you're primarily doing movies, then optimize that way. However, unless your room is very unusual, you should be able to do a good job for both types of listening. Optimizing your front left and right speakers for 2-channel and then arranging and balancing the rest of your home theater speakers should also give good results for movies. We believe that speakers that are designed and placed properly for music also give excellent results with movie sound tracks.
What price point would a decent home theatre system cost, to go with a 50 inch Plasma TV? (J. Kady) The word "decent", of course, is a matter of personal need and opinion. While it's possible to set up a respectable system with speakers, receiver, and DVD player for around $2000 to $2500, you'd probably be happier if you went higher. A 50 inch plasma is going to give a large and impressive picture, and you should have sound to match it. To balance the audio and video aspects of your system, it's worth spending at least as much on the audio as you do on the video display. Ultimately, of course, the best way to decide is to do some auditioning and find out what level of performance at what price makes you happy. "Rules of thumb" are only a starting point.
How far apart should I place my loudspeakers? (Anonymous) The ideal separation between your loudspeakers varies with your seating distance from the speakers. We usually recommend a separation of two-thirds (67%) to three-quarters (75%) of the distance between you and the speakers. So, if you are sitting 12 feet from the speakers, a separation of 8 to 9 feet would be a good place to start. In some cases, a separation between the speakers equal to your seating distance works well. Speaker separation much greater than your seating distance should be avoided. As the speakers are moved apart, you will notice a larger, more spacious sound, but too much separation will cause the center image to become vague. You'll have to decide on your preferred balance between spaciousness and the solidity of the center image.

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