Goodwin's High End

Audio System Setup Suggestions

How you setup your system will greatly affect its performance. This section contains setup considerations and techniques for realizing your system's maximum potential.


Room Design and Acoustic Treatments

The acoustics of your room will heavily influence the sound. Articles in the Room Design section of our website expound on the importance of room dimensions, room construction, and acoustic treatments. The acoustic treatments article discusses the value of controlling bass room resonances, slap echo, and early specular reflections.


System Break-in

Very often new components will improve considerably with use. The break-in period varies considerably depending upon the product—from as little as a hour to as many as hundreds of hours. Your owner's manual may have specific break-in instructions; if so, we suggest that you follow them. You can accelerate the break-in period by playing your system while you're not home. Using a tuner or a CD-player set to repeat, just start the system when you leave. Listen periodically to the system and stop the break-in when you notice no further improvement.

For speakers and some analog cables with networks, the volume that you use will be important. For the first few hours, keep the volume low. For the next dozen hours or so, use a moderate volume. From then on, use a higher volume with music that contains wide dynamic contrasts. If you are in a hurry, you can accelerate the speakers' break-in with a special procedure:

Rapid Speaker Break-in: Place the two speakers face-to-face. Disconnect one speaker from the amplifier and reconnect it out-of-phase by reversing the speaker wires. The speakers will now cooperate with each other in a push-pull fashion, which will break in the surrounds on the drivers more quickly. Just don't forget to put the speakers back in phase after you're done!


Bass Reinforcement

Independent of the room dimensions, materials, and resonances, the position of the speakers and the listening position within the room will influence the audio performance in the bass region. This phenomenon is often referred to as bass reinforcement or bass tuning.

The wavelength of a sound is inversely proportional to its frequency; lower frequency notes have longer wavelengths. At very low frequencies, the wavelengths are much longer than the distance between the speakers and the walls. The sound radiated from the speakers reflects off the walls and may arrive back at the speaker substantially in phase (or not depending upon the speaker design)—and to some degree or another—with the original sound. At certain frequencies this can reinforce the sound wave and thus increase the efficiency of the speaker at those frequencies. As a result, the bass response in the room may be elevated in volume and extended in depth when compared to the response if placed in an open space (or a true anechoic chamber).

As the frequency rises, the reflected wave becomes increasing out of phase with the original wave. This results in cancellation at a certain frequencies. These frequencies depends solely upon the distance between the speaker and the boundary (wall, floor, ceiling) in question.

All rooms have these effects; they are not a defect of the room or the speaker, but rather an unavoidable consequence of listening in a room. Carefully choosing the distances between the speaker and the room boundaries will minimize the unevenness of the bass reinforcement and cancellation effects. Some speaker designers provide setup recommendations for their speakers in the owner's manual. We suggest that you at least try these recommendations to see if they work well in your room.

For imaging reasons, we recommend that you position the speakers symmetrically so that the left and right speaker are mirror images of each other. As a good rule of thumb, also position the speakers so that the distance between the speakers and the side walls differs from the distance to the back wall by about one third. For example, if the speakers are 6 feet from the side walls, try positioning them 4 feet into the room. Take your measurements from the center of the woofer.


Speaker Toe-In

Toe-in refers to the angle between the speakers main axis and the side walls of the room. A speaker placed squarely in the room, firing directly ahead, has zero degrees of toe-in. For convenience, sometimes toe-in is measured not in degrees, but in percent, with 100% representing a speaker rotated so that it is firing directly at the listening position. The amount of toe-in needed depends upon the particular speaker involved, the geometry of the listening position, and the acoustic treatment in the room.

Experimentation will help you determine the optimal toe-in for your situation. As a starting point, please feel free to contact us with our recommendations; we have a tremendous amount of experience in setting up the speakers that we sell. The owner's manual may also have some concrete recommendations for toe-in (and other setup parameters as well).

When setting the toe-in, focus your attention on the size and position of the images. Generally speaking, smaller, more focused images will require somewhat more toe-in than larger, more fleshed-out images. Let your personal preference be your guide here. Also, rooms with highly reflective side walls may benefit from a setup with somewhat more toe-in, in order to reduce the amplitude of the sound reflected off the sides.


Turntable Tips

We still love analog—and we have set-up countless turntables over the years.

Regarding Basis turntables—if you ever put a new belt on, the duller side goes towards the platter. And if you wish to further improve the pitch stability, you may lightly rub talc into the belt, then wipe off the excess by running the belt through your fingers while wearing dust-free cotton gloves like those used for photography.. This will introduce slippage upon start-up, but don't let that fool you. The wow and flutter are always measurably better in this scenario. And this is not irrevocable. If you don't like the slippage upon start-up, simply wash the talc off the belt with warm water and pure soap (one which leaves no residue).

In terms of the various tonearms that we have setup, we particularly like the Basis and Graham tonearm because of the ease of setup. With certain tonearms you can remove the wand so you can work on the cartridge upside down where you can more easily see what you are doing. Although having said that we recommend that you have us set up your turntable for you as there are a number of adjustments that are critical including: overhang, offset angle, VTA, stylus force, and antiskating which are all interdependent. By interdependent we mean that as you change one variable you are simultaneously changing other variables.

And please remember, if you ever move your turntable, you must treat the bearings properly so as not to damage them. And anytime you move your turntable even a fraction of an inch, at a minimum it must be rechecked with a level.


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