When we ask our customers about what they use their systems for, they’ll tell us that it’s mostly movies and some music. Digging a little deeper, we ask about what kind of music they play on their system. The most common answers are CD’s, MP3′s, iPod, and Internet radio such as Pandora. It’s not too often that people say they listen to concert DVDs.
For music lovers, there is a treasure waiting to be discovered. Depending on your age, many of the musicians you may have grown up with still go on concert tours. Quite often they release these concerts on DVD and Blu-ray. These discs are recorded in 5.1 (and occasionally 7.1) surround. Quite often, the sound quality is absolutely stunning! It is way beyond stereo. With stereo, 2 speakers have to do all of the heavy lifting. They have to provide a broad 3 dimensional image and relate the acoustics of the environment in which it was recorded.
With a 5.1 system, the surround speakers can recreate the acoustics of the concert venue along with the audience. They can also place the musicians around you. Listening to a well recorded DVD or Blu-ray over a reference quality system such as the RSL 5.1 system can be a lifelike experience (sometimes even better if you didn’t get optimum seats at the concert).
Some examples of my favorite concerts include, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Crosby Stills & Nash, James Taylor, Adele, Diana Krall, Eric Clapton, Simon & Garfunkel, Genesis, Fleetwood Mac, to name just a few. I also heard some classical music on Blu-ray that sound much better than any classical CD or album I’ve heard. Blu-ray concerts can be recorded in the ultimate surround formats of Dolby True HD or DTS Master HD. DVDs will be recorded in DTS or Dolby Digital and will also sound excellent.
If you haven’t heard a well-recorded surround concert over a great system you owe it to yourself to experience this. You may never want to buy scalper tickets again.
Since 1970, RSL Speaker Systems has built thousands of large floorstanding speakers and studio monitors. We traditionally packaged all of the speaker components including the woofers, mid-ranges, and tweeters within the same cabinet. This basic design has been essentially unchanged since the 1930′s. Many of us are familiar with those elegant two hundred-pound wood grain speaker cabinets from the 60′s – about as big as a washing machine, we recall. But changing times have created new needs which speaker technology has been forced to address. Among these are the limited square footage of many living spaces as well as the desire for less intrusion in a room. The emergence of video and its ever-expanding screen sizes along with the increasing number of speakers in a surround system has further created the need to explore the question of speaker size.
It’s not that all-in-one floorstanding speakers don’t still exist – they do. But we have found that this design has some disadvantages when compared to a well-designed compact satellite speaker/subwoofer system. When you place a floorstanding speaker in a room, you are supposed to choose a location that will provide the best sound imaging. However, this is often not the best place for the woofer’s bass response and distribution. Why? Subwoofers usually require different placement than the other drivers. This is due to room acoustics as well as the behavior of lower frequencies. So, the location that works the best for midranges and tweeters is often not the best place for a subwoofer. Unlike the rest of the sound spectrum, bass distribution in a room is entirely determined by room dimensions. The subwoofer needs to be located in a spot that achieves even bass distribution throughout the room. Placing a floor-standing speaker in a corner will accent bass but will destroy the overall sound field. On the other hand, if you place floor speakers to maximize the sound field, you sometimes sacrifice even bass distribution. So, with floor speakers it’s an either/or option, neither of them ideal.
With a well designed compact speaker system and subwoofer, the advantages are numerous. First and most obvious is all the space you’ll save. Instead of a pair of massive column speakers that consume a large part of your room’s real estate, you’ll be able to place small, unobtrusive speakers on shelves, stands or you can mount them to the wall. Then, you’ll have the flexibility of placing a subwoofer in a convenient place for best bass distribution, or out of view under a table or behind furniture. Then, there’s the sound advantage. With our patented Compression Guide Technology, our small speakers have the potential to sonically disappear more effectively, making it harder to pinpoint where the sound originates. And because they integrate perfectly with our subwoofer, the bass response rivals virtually any large speaker system.
With that being said, there are reasons that many compact speakers call attention to their reduced size. First, the satellite speakers must have enough low frequency response to seamlessly blend with the subwoofer; which is often not the case. As a result, there is an audible gap between the subwoofer and the satellites, resulting in sound that constantly reminds you that you’re listening to a small speaker system. Second, most subwoofers are slow and sloppy, when compared to the satellites, which prevents them from integrating properly. So whenever you hear the bass, you can always tell its coming from a separate subwoofer.
You’ll find that our compact speaker system provides all of the fullness, detail, and imaging of the very best floor-standing speakers. And paired with our Compression Guided subwoofer, you’ll hear the full sound spectrum without compromising bass or imaging. We guarantee that if you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t know the difference.
Almost all of today’s better audio/video receivers are capable of powering 7 or more discrete channels of audio. The “.1″ after the 5 or 7 indicates the number of subwoofers. For example, a 7.2 receiver supports 7 discrete channels of audio and 2 subwoofers. So, the question is, do you need a 7.1 speaker system to go with your 7.1 receiver? Not necessarily. One of the main reasons for a 7.1 system vs. a 5.1 system is to have an immersive 360 degree surround image. Do you have a 5.1 system and hear sound from the front and back, but not much from the sides? If so, then upgrading to a 7.1 system with two additional side speakers should help to fill in the gap.
With our RSL 5.1 home theater system, the 2 additional speakers are not usually necessary. This is because the broad imaging characteristics that our patented Compression Guide Technology gives the speakers. In most rooms, if you close your eyes you could swear there are speakers on the side of the room even though they’re actually behind you. For example, in a movie soundtrack, where the musicians would be on the sides, that’s where you’ll hear them, even though there aren’t any speakers there.
When our customers ask us if they should go with a 5.1 or 7.1 system, we suggest they start with a 5.1 system. They can always add the 2 additional speakers later. Most of our customers stick with the 5.1 system. Occasionally, people will add the 2 speakers later figuring they’d like more of a good thing.
There’s no problem running a 5.1 speaker system with a 7.1 receiver. You’ll wind up with 2 unused amplifiers, which can be used to power speakers in another room or outdoors.
A 7.1 system may be appropriate if your room is extremely large and/or it opens into other large rooms. Also, with the additional 2 speakers, the system will be capable of playing at higher volume levels with the same audio/video receiver, because you’ll be pumping more total power into the room with 7 amplifiers as opposed to 5.
We got back from CES in Vegas last week. Saw a lot of cool stuff including 4K OLED sets and somebody even showed an 8K set! We also went to the Venetian Hotel where all they demonstrate high end audio for the purpose of checking out the ultra-high end speakers. We wanted to make certain that our speakers still compete with the best and to gather new ideas. We saw very expensive speakers along with high end audio components. However, more often than not, they weren’t playing any music! People in the room were talking to each other and not auditioning the equipment. In some other rooms, when we did hear music, it was usually only one instrument like a violin. Other times, just a few pieces of brass. Half the time, the volume was so low, you could barely hear it. I just wish that they would play more music with plenty of variety, including vocals at a satisfying volume. It costs them a lot of money to showcase their products at CES. I think they should take more advantage of the opportunity.
We’ve been in our present home for over 2 years and like our last home, wanted a home theater in this one. In this house, it meant upgrading our den. I had to decide whether to purchase a projector and 110” (horizontal) screen or get a large flat panel TV.
When it came to screen size, I’ve always felt bigger is better, which favors the projector option. However, the projector solution has downsides. Projectors need a darkened room, which is easier with a dedicated home theater, than an open den that’s attached to the kitchen. This meant mostly nighttime viewing. While a dedicated home theater can usually mean a fixed screen on the wall, our den would require an expensive motorized screen that retracts into the ceiling. Otherwise a big rectangular box on the ceiling would be unsightly. Also, projectors use expensive bulbs, which need to be replaced periodically.
To answer that question of large flat panel vs. projector, rather than flip a coin, I dropped by Evolution Home Theater in Agoura Hills, CA. The owner, Jay Frank put on a demo disk on a flat panel that was comparable to mine and 2 projectors in different demo rooms. The first projector was in my price range, about $4,000 (not including screen) and in Jay’s opinion was the best buy at the price. The second room contained a $15,000 Sim2 projector. The first projector looked pretty good, but didn’t compare to the Sim2 projector. With the Sim2, colors were more vivid, the picture was sharper, and it had depth that drew you into the scene. The first projector was like a nice flat picture, but not as sharp and it didn’t draw you in. Jay explained that the superior optics and processing was the main reason. The picture of the $15,000 Sim2 was more like the flat panel, only obviously larger.
Costco had an 80” Vizio on sale. I decided to purchase it along with a wall mount kit. The picture quality is spectacular, comparable to the high-priced projector and much better than the $4,000 projector.
I’m glad we got the 80” flat panel. We watch it day and night. We gave up a little on screen size and gained a lot in picture quality. Perhaps someday I’ll get a projector, but I know now it will have to be a very expensive one.
One of our favorite brands of audio/video receivers is Integra. Integra is the higher end of Onkyo (like what Lexus is to Toyota). They have great features and sound fabulous! We have used Integra receivers to demonstrate our home theater systems at the past two T.H.E. Shows in Newport Beach. I also use one in my home theater.
We have a resource for great deals on Integra receivers that we’d like to share with you. We have a friend in a neighboring community who has a home theater store. He carries some of the finest equipment including Integra. He often gets factory refurbished units. These are usually current models. He sells these receivers for typically 30% off or more. They include a 2 year warranty. I don’t know why they call them refurbished. I’ve bought several and every one I’ve opened looked brand new to me and has worked flawlessly.
At these prices, they are hard to beat. For more info, contact Jay Frank at Evolution Home Theater (818)879-1312. Tell them we sent you. We don’t get anything for this plug.
One of the questions we get all the time is, “What audio/video receivers do you recommend with your speakers?” We enjoy that question. Because we don’t sell any of the components it allows us to be impartial and we enjoy making our opinions known. Our speakers are pretty friendly to most receivers and it doesn’t take a lot to power them. However, manufacturers play games with power ratings in an effort to seem more competitive. Many receivers rate their power with only 2 channels driven. When you measure the power with all the channels driven, the ratings drop significantly.
Of all the components in your home theater system, you’ll probably have your speakers the longest. Next, will be your TV followed by your blu-ray player. Last will probably be your audio/video receiver (AVR). That’s because the features seem to change very rapidly. Many of today’s reasonably-priced AVRs are quite good. I think the sweat-spot for excellent results with our speakers seems to be in the $500-$1,000 price range.
The most popular brands with our customers seem to be Onkyo, Integra, and Denon. Integra is the higher end of Onkyo (sort of like what Lexus is to Toyota). These are all excellent. There are other good ones out there, but the ones I’ve mentioned seemed to be the most popular. Another brand that is intriguing us is Anthem. We’ve received a few glowing reports about their sound quality. However, they start at about $1,000.
Here’s a suggestion: Today’s AVRs are loaded with features. Before purchasing, go to the manufacturer’s website and download the owner’s manual. If you can’t understand it, don’t feel bad. It’s probably them and not you and I’d look for a different brand. Some owner’s manuals are disasters.
One last thing: all popular AVRs come with an automated setup which includes a microphone. Sometimes these automated programs gets certain things wrong. It’s a good idea to speak with us about how to properly set up your system.