Archive for November, 2010

How to Set up Surround Sound Speakers

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

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So you’ve bought that brand new home theatre surround sound system and taken it home in eager anticipation of sitting right down and watching the complementary Iron Man blu-ray they gave you at the shop. Boy, those sound effects are sure going to be awesome in full 5.1 sound!

But wait a minute, there’s an awful lot of speakers and wires here, an awful lot of connecting and setting up to do. Bummer! Iron Man’s going to have to wait a while.

While it’s true that a surround sound system takes a little effort and time to set up, it’s not really as bad as that mess of wires makes it look. There are essentially three areas you need to address: connection, speaker placement and volume level. Take them one at a time and you’ll be battling the baddies with Robert Downey Jr. in no time.

5.1 Layout

In a 5.1 surround sound system there are five speakers (front left, front right, centre, rear left and rear right) and one subwoofer. Each of the speakers must be connected to your receiver. The receiver is the box that decodes the sound signal and sends it to the appropriate speakers – often it will be built into your DVD player.


As movies have their sound separated into a number of different channels, and as each of these channels exits from its appropriate output on the receiver, it is essential that you connect the correct speaker to the correct output on the back of your receiver. Connecting the left rear speaker, say, to the centre output will result in the actors constantly talking behind your back (as the dialogue channel is always routed by the receiver to the centre output).

As you connect each speaker, label it with its designation (LR, RR, C etc.) – post-it notes are great for this. Labelling speakers at this point in the process will save you a lot of time when you begin to place them around the room.

Speaker Placement

Once you’ve connected all your speakers, you need to place them appropriately. Speaker placement will vary according to the size of the room, its acoustics and your personal preferences. However, there are certain general rules you can follow to get a good starting point.


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Better Wireless Stereo

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

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Forget Bluetooth audio, these cool wireless music products offer a better wireless way to get your music around your home.

More and more companies are hopping on the stereo Bluetooth bandwagon, despite the inherent limitations of using this wireless technology for transmitting audio. Of course you don’t have to go the Bluetooth route at all. There are many other examples of innovations in the wireless audio arena. Intellitouch, for instance, has just released the Eos Wireless speaker system, a much cheaper alternative to Sonos, the $1000 wireless home audio system (that price doesn’t even get you speakers!). Eos is less sleek and more barebones—no Rhapsody tie-in, for instance, but it works and a starter set goes for $300—speakers included. The sound won’t knock your socks off either, but the price won’t leave you with buyer’s remorse.

Creative’s X-Dock and X-Fi Receiver combo works as well, and also starts at $300. Both systems have unimpressive remotes (you’ll have only limited iPod navigation with no screen on the remote itself). The Creative docks lack speakers too, so you’ll need an extra pair—that’s the main difference between the X-Fi receiver and the Eos receiver…but some may view this as an advantage, as the Eos system has underwhelming bass.

Chestnut Hill Sound makes another wireless option of sorts, the George iPod dock. While George doesn’t wirelessly transmit audio to remote speakers, it does have an amazing wireless remote with good range. The screen on the remote completely recreates your iPod’s menu and navigation is easy. Want to change the EQ or listen to the radio? It’s got that, too—all on the remote. Sure, it’s not wireless audio transmission, but it is wireless control of your music, and depending on your set-up, that could be just as useful. Also, the George also sounds simply amazing—it had better for $549.


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Wireless Speakers Review: Wireless Speaker Systems Right For You?

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment

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I love music – in fact, I am listening to music as I type this post, so a good pair of speakers is quite necessary in my opinion. Speakers have come a long way, and there is now technology that allows sound to pass through a good set of speakers as if it actually made the noise around you. Not only is there a way to make sound actually sound as realistic as possible, but do so without any wires whatsoever. The technology is catching on as you can now buy wireless computer speakers, outdoor wireless speakers, wireless laptop speakers and the list keeps growing. So how does this technology work, and is the quality just as good as a set of wired speakers? I’ll answer those questions and more as well as tell you why I absolutely love wireless speakers.

First, you have to understand how speakers actually work before I get to wireless speakers. Though I am not a technical guy, I do know a thing or two about speakers from all those music classes in college so I’ll give you a rather rudimentary – yet brief -understanding of how speakers work. Obviously, speakers are opposite to a microphone, so a microphone is used to capture audio and a speaker is used to play the audio captured; This audio is called impulses. Our ears cannot hear impulses, so that is where speakers come in. They translate those impulses into vibrations (using awesome technology) that our ears can understand. Therefore, we have music which is pleasing to the ears — sometimes. ;)

That is basically how speakers work. Of course, there are much more details involved, however, I will spare you from boredom. Whether the speakers are wired or wireless, the technology behind playing music through them is generally the same. However, the technology behind making a speaker wireless or wired is, as you might expect, a little different. Wireless speakers must come with a transmitter that sends the audio signal to the wireless speakers. Most transmitters have a standard input connection in the transmitter that allow you to connect any audio device to it. You can connect a CD player, an MP3 player or any thing that has audio output. There are several frequencies at which wireless speakers operate: 900Mhz, 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz and even 1.9Ghz using DECT 6.0 technology. Generally the less congested frequency band has better reception and sound quality based on the environment you are operating the wireless audio speaker. Another type of technology around wireless speakers is bluetooth which is a unique and complex wireless speaker method, but a technology that has flourished and will continue to do so.

Once the sound source is plugged into the transmitter, you should be able to take your wireless speakers any where within the specified range and turn them on, and listen to your audio source. Some transmitters or speakers have a frequency nob that you can adjust to change the channel get the best audio quality and some wireless speakers change the channels automatically.


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Sony Wireless Digital Audio VGF-WA1 speaker system

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

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Today’s world of digital music gives us lots of choices to enjoy music every day. The problem with digital music is that the files are either all stored on computer, be it a personal or family computer, or on a portable music player. If you want to listen to your music you have to either listen to a portable MP3 player    or be sitting in front of you computer. But what happens when you have guests over and you want to play that music for them? You have a few choices, either play the computer speakers as loud as they can go, hook up your MP3 player to a stereo system, or pull out some portable speakers that you can play your MP3 player on. What if you didn’t have to do all this just to play your music? What if you could play your music wirelessly streamed directly from the computer that all of the music files are on. The Sony Wireless Digital Audio Streamer WA1, lets you do all this and just a little more in one simple package.

The Audio Streamer is a simple way to play your music on your computer anywhere in your house as long as it stays within wireless range. The way the streamer works is that when you set up the speaker base you have two options of connecting it to your computer. You can either use the included wireless adapter that is already paired for use with it, or if you have a wireless network deployed across your home you can connect the speaker base to the wireless network. The VGF-WA1 supports ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus, MP3, WMA, AAC, WAVE, Linear PCM, protected (DRM) ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus, and AAC files are not supported.


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Electronic devices: how speakers work

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

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Electronic speakers may have complicated features and configurations, but they all operate on a simple combination of electromagnetics and soundwave production.

Before examining how electronic speakers actually work, it might be helpful to understand the scientific principles behind sound generation. Many of us have heard the old riddle “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” For our purposes, the answer is no. The tree may very well push a lot of air out of the way as it falls, but ‘sound’ is a phenomenon which occurs in the listener’s mind. Humans have sensitive eardrums which receive waves of air pressure from a vibrating or moving object. In and of themselves these waves of air pressure are meaningless, but our ears feed this information to our brain, which in turn translate these waves into recognizable sounds. The tree in our riddle can be large or small, far or distant. What it generates is disturbances in the air, which we TRANSLATE as sound.


If we apply that same principle to the world of electronic  sound reproduction, we see that speakers duplicate the work of the tree. Speakers also disturb the air in front of them, causing soundwaves to be projected through space. Eventually our ears pick up enough of these waves to send to our brains. In turn, our brains convert the vibrations into music or speech or even unintelligible noise. Our ears are usually passive receivers- they will feed any and all external noises to the brain without interpretation or prejudice. Our brains must decide which sounds are worthwhile and which are ignorable. This is why you can listen to a stereo  and not realize the air conditioner   is running- your brain can filter out extraneous soundwaves.


So how does a speaker actually work? The answer lies in a combination of electromagnetism and human comprehension. A speaker is made of several important components: a permanent magnet, an electromagnet called a voice coil, a suspension device called a spider, and a conical membrane called a cone. All of these parts are held in place by a metallic structure called a basket.


A vibrating object such as a guitar string generates soundwaves much like rings on a pond. These waves are actually disturbances in the air which radiate in a steady pattern or frequency. A sensitive microphone has a thin piece of material which begins to duplicate the wavelength of the guitar string because air particles are striking it. This vibration is turned into electronic impulses and recorded on an electronic storage medium (CD, cassette tape, vinyl album, etc.). When the medium is placed inside an appropriate player, the electronic impulses are fed through an amplification system which can increase the volume (amplitude) of the signals. These signals are sent out to the speakers.


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Rock Speakers and Planters

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

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I think today wherever there’s a human being, there’s a pair of speakers. Perhaps you can’t imagine your living without your home theater system. In the bedroom, you still want to listen to your favorite Cd’s. The shortest car ride is unbearable without a decent stereo and a pair of speakers. Newly, this goes for boat rides, too. The more recent wireless technology allows you to have speakers in the garden, in the garage or wherever you have things to do. But loudspeaker manufacturers don’t settle for this, when it comes to outdoor use. They want speakers that black out and melt into the environment. They want 100% weatherproof. They want naturalistic design. And the answer to all their wishes has materialized itself into the planter and rock speakers. The biggest rocks in this field are Stereostone, Rockustics and SpeakerCraft. When it comes to rocking and rolling stones they can make all your wishes come true. Just try them by sending over a piece of rock from your garden. They’ll send back the design of a prototype speaker that looks exactly like your rock.

How to recognize a rock speaker

If you are in a friend’s garden, music is all around but you don’t know where it comes from, be sure that the speakers are hiding in the form of some rocks or flower pots. These speakers are especially designed for outdoor use, which means that they are 100% weatherproof. They are completely sealed, using insulating materials that are made to hold up in extreme weather conditions. In aspect, both Rockustics and Stereostone speakers got inspired from mother nature. They have that grainy look, irregular shape of natural rocks, heavy appearance heavy, but are entirely made of light, synthetic, materials. Most buying guides recommend looking for speakers that are made of good weatherproof materials like: coated aluminum, stainless steel, polypropylene.

Do rock speakers really rock?

They sure do! What we like most about these speakers is how you can use them to impress your kids. Flower pots that sing and rocks that tell stories, this is as close as technology can get to a fairy tale. If you have doubts about their performance level, don’t. Of course, they can’t compete by far with the audio quality of a high performing audio system or to the home theater experience. But they sound pretty well. Rock speakers and planters are meant to please the ear while they don’t bug the eye. The major advantage is they come close to you, and you don’t have to play them that loud. This way you won’t keep the neighbors up at night just because you are giving a back yard party. The major drawback? Though they are designed mostly for outdoor use, they’re all wired. But this inconvenient can be solved through a few placement tricks.


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Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 Wireless Speakers

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

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Klipsch storms its way onto our Best of the Best list

Every portable computer, from the brawniest desktop replacement to the tiniest netbook, has one thing in common: terrible speakers. There’s no shortage of powered speaker systems on the market—some of which are very good—but what’s the point of using a laptop if you have to tether it to a box to get good sound?

Klipsch has a better solution: The ProMedia 2.1 Wireless uses a USB transmitter to send audio from the host PC to the speakers over the airwaves. The speakers themselves are all hardwired, with the amplifier tucked inside the subwoofer. And lordy, what a subwoofer it is. There’s a 6.5-inch long-throw, side-firing driver housed inside a bass-reflex enclosure with a front port. The sub cabinet also houses the wireless receiver and the 200-watt amplifier that powers all three channels. Klipsch claims line-of-sight range of 30 feet and our experience backs that up. If you’re looking for a wireless audio system that will send audio from a computer in one room to speakers in another, this isn’t the right solution.

The two-way satellite speakers consist of 25mm polymer tweeters mated to Klipsch’s well-known MicroTractix horn. Mids are produced by three-inch long-throw drivers. The right-hand satellite cabinet houses a master volume control and a separate control for bass volume, a 1/8-inch headphone output, and a 1/8-inch auxiliary input. This input provides +6dB input sensitivity to compensate for the low output voltage that many portable digital media players deliver; take heed if you’re feeding it from an AC-powered source. The satellites can be mounted on either the included desktop stands or on a wall using an optional Klipsch accessory (model WB-1 wall brackets, which sell for $22 a pair).


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