Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3 Quick System Setup Tweeks That Can Make a Huge Difference

I liken setup at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to one of those food challenges you see on television where you are given limited time and resources to create something great.  At RMAF, You are given 24 hours (or less, depending on when you arrive) to unpack your gear, set it up, and get great sound. It is 80% hard work, and 20% luck. I have learned a few tricks when setting up shows that may seem small, but can make the difference between having beautiful music in your room, or nails on a blackboard. 
Tip#1: Phase
I had a personal nightmare with this last year. We had set up our system and it sounded great the night before. The morning of the show, you guessed it, nails on a blackboard. I was panicked and totally bewildered. Nothing in the system changed, or at least so I thought. after an hour or so of troubleshooting, someone suggested reversing the phase of the speaker connections. It was then I realized what happened. The remote control on the Modwright 36.5 preamp had a phase switch which I had accidentally hit right before shutting the system down the night before. So I simply hit the switch again to restore the phase that was set the night before, and things improved significantly.
Tip#2: Lifting the ground on your digital source.Digital audio components are notorius for injecting noise into surrounding components. One way to reduce this is to lift the ground on your digital components. This can be done by adding a power cord that has no ground within it, or by adding a cheater plug to the end of the cord that connects to the power receptacle. We prefer the Synergistic Research Quantum Ground Lifter ($35). It is basically a cheater plug that has been treated with Synergistic's proprietary Quantum Tunnelling process. It sounds better than a stock cheater plug. Enough so to make the price worthwhile.

Tip#3: speaker placement. While the other 2 tips are important, I saved the most important for last.  Nothing can make or break a system's performance like speaker placement can. At the 2011 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, we had some issues with the interaction between the room and the speakers that, where we first placed the speakers, really caused issues with the midbass.  With the help of Philip of On a Higher Note, and Arien of Sonorus, we were able to minimize the interaction between the Vivid B1's and the large room we were exhibiting in.  The main take away here is  it will take two people to make the process work properly, and moving a loudspeaker an inch or two can make all of the difference. For more information, read the full article on speaker placement at TweekGeek.com