Audio Systems 101

 Most people are not familiar with high-tech audio entertainment systems and what one needs to know to get the most effective results for a specific purpose or environment. In addition, what represents good value for money spent can be a mystery for the average consumer.

With this in mind, the Observer on Sunday set out to uncover the facts about devices that facilitate the appreciation of sound.

What you should know
It is important for first time buyers to be sure what they are looking for and make a distinction between their needs and wants. For example, it may not make much sense to buy larger speakers if you only want the music to permeate a particular space or room. Similarly, you would need quite a different set up if you were planning on entertaining a group of people.

Each preference has its requirements and the choices don’t stop there. In fact, after you have decided what you want out of your audio system, the next step is finding a brand that fits into your budget and compliments your personality in terms of aesthetics, style and other specifications important to you.

Manager for Funky Tangs Mark Watler said, “Most audio systems are turning into home entertainment systems now.”

He added that this new spin on the age-old desire for ever more refined entertainment has led to stations that include CD players, I-pod docks, a radio, gaming platforms and surround sound.

According to Watler, some of the best brands available on the market for persons who want to simply enjoy music in their home, or entertain groups, were Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer and JVC.

For the individual who may be on the higher end of the market, brands like BOSE and Mitsubishi might be more appealing.

Watler also pointed out that the amount of brands in the market have shrunk and attributed this to a weaker economy and an increasingly competitive playing field.

The aspect of pricing is another major area of consideration for anyone looking at purchasing an entertainment system and while the smaller personal counsels may run from $300-$700, larger, more powerful applications- used for group settings and the like- can incur damages of thousands.

Once you have decided on a particular direction, you may need to seek technical advice, especially for a sound system that will be used to entertain a clan of revellers. Such an undertaking usually requires several components including a mixing board “for input feeds,” a crossover (filter that splits audio signals into separate frequency bands), a double CD player/turn tables, and an equalizer to adjust the bass, mid-range and treble of the content being transmitted.

Usually a pair of 18 inch speakers will do the job for large functions but they can be supplemented with the same or slightly smaller sizes if you want to create more options or variance.

Of course, with such an array of equipment, there is the matter of storage and in addition to creating additional expense; this is an area where one must take special caution and care, as any breech such as rain, theft of sun exposure can lead to an episode of fiscal pandemonium, and you may be forced to start from scratch.

For this reason, most experts’ advice to the novice is usually riddled with tails of poor storage mistakes to avoid, the danger of mismanagement or complacency and the cardinal sin of having no insurance.

Professional sound systems
The old adage says that the only thing worse than a world with no love, is a world with no music and the reality is that playing background music whilst people are shopping, driving or watching television is icing on life’s cake for many.

Indeed, numerous businesses have gone to great measure in exploring what kind of music will evince the responses they are targeting in their customers.

Chris of Creative Tech said his company specialises in just this type of area. He outlined the finer details of what is involved: “We usually do an on-site inspection of the premises to be outfitted, which lots of times include super markets, banking halls and pool side bars.”

He detailed that some of the brands most used for this type of application included Paradigm, Niles and Morantz, whilst adding that the normal entry level package for such an undertaking could start from about $1200.

However, with regard to prices for more advanced systems, which can include options such as multi-zoning, that allows one source to feed varied content to different areas, as well as the luxury of “local” control of volume and other settings, Chris said, “The sky is the limit.”   

How to lay out your sound
According to Mark Watler of Funky Tangs the main thing that sets a home theatre system apart is the surround sound.

For the best results in achieving this, he said you need two to three speakers in front of you and two to three speakers to your sides or behind you.

“The audio/video receiver signals are split into multiple channels so that different sound information comes out of the various speakers, said Mark.

He added that the most prominent sounds come out of the front speakers.

When someone or something is making noise on the left side of the screen, experts say you should hear it more through the left speaker.

The speaker/s that sits right under the screen or just above it are crucial for anchoring the sound coming from the left and right speakers. They also play all the dialogue and front sound effects so that they seem to be coming from the centre of your television screen rather than the sides.

The speakers behind you fill in various sorts of background noise and work with the speakers in front to give the sensation of movement.