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Multi-Channel-Music 101 -- Basic Ingredients

by His Majesty

    Well Boys and Girls, it seems we're kicking off a new web site! My man Tim, longtime friend, wine enthusiast, political consultant and concert travel companion has been after me since our trip to see Slowhand in Rotterdam earlier this year to become a contributing columnist for RockonTour. So here I be, with goodly grammar, over-indulgisized punctuation, and no knowledge of spell-check...But, I do know a fair bit about how to bring a Rock Concert into your home. It's what I do for a living (you don't think Tim pays anyone, do you?).

    So, as a way of introduction, I will divulge my humble background in this field. I have worked in the past as a manufacturers rep. for one of the world's best known consumer speaker manufacturers. I have worked with a pro sound company building stages and sound towers. I have, for the past many years, been working as an audio/video consultant, designing audio listening rooms, home theaters, whole home audio integration solutions and generally putting together some KICK-BUTT music systems for the everyday music and movie lover!

    My job, as I see it here, is to tell you all how you can enjoy the rock concert experience at home, introduce you to the equipment that you will need to get you there, and tell you how to set-up a good music system. As a caveat to this, I will not use my full name, nor will I divulge where I work, lest someone think I do this for personal gain (see comment about Tim and pay)!

    So, as my initials are MJS, you may address questions to Your MaJeSty c/o


This Months Article:   Multi-Channel-Music 101 -- Basic Ingredients

    "WHAT DO I NEED, YOUR MaJeSty!?!", you ask!

    Well now, I'm a gonna tell ya. First, you need a receiver...a multi-channel one. Sometimes referred to as a "surround sound" receiver, this unit becomes the linchpin, the command-and-control center, the operational focus of the entire system. The word receiver is often misunderstood, so I will tell you what the term includes/means...A receiver is actually made up of four parts that could also be purchased as separate units: 1) a tuner, which receives AM/FM stations, 2) a pre-amp, which allows you to switch between source components (i.e. CD or DVD) and adjusts volume, 3) a processor, which determines what type of music you are receiving (in what format) and allows for the adjustments to it, and 4) an amplifier, which gives life to the music and powers the speakers.

    Second, you need 5 speakers (at least) and a powered subwoofer (at least 1). All of these speakers need to be "voice matched", that is to say that they need to be of the same manufacturer and of the same "series" of speakers. Specifically, they need to sound identical from @ 100hz and up (this means that the speakers can have a different bass response).

    Third, you need a source component, which for purposes of discussion will be the ever-useful DVD player. I choose the DVD player because of its ability to play concert videos as well as CDs (also in many cases MP3s and DVD-audio discs).

    I will try to focus my attention to the type of system that the Rock Concert Aficionado would enjoy. So, we need the Receiver to have BALLS! Or, more politely, power. We also need speakers that have IMPACT! In other words, don't buy tiny speakers (if your wife insists on them, re-evaluate your relationship)! If they could get small speakers to ROCK then that's what they'd set up on concert stages (I can tell you from personal experience that this set-up would save a lot of back-breaking labor). It's physics, folks; small speakers just can't move enough air. In short, they're IMPOTENT! If you are space limited, decor challenged, spousally abused and MUST compromise, then find tasteful (large-as-you-can-accomodate) bookshelf speakers.

    Part of the speaker system is the Subwoofer, A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THE "BALLS" CATEGORY! I can, and will, in future installments talk at GREAT length about SUBWOOFIN'!!! For now, understand that the subwoofer doesn't need to be the same brand as the other speakers.

    As for the DVD player, we will look for one with the right mix of features, build quality and reliability. Hopefully, you will look into one of the new Multi-Channel Music formats such as DVD-Audio or SACD, as these formats are making their way into lower cost players more and more often!

    As for choosing specific equipment, I will not make this easy for you. I thought perhaps I could get away without focusing on specific brands, but I feel that I should mention some of the better "players" in the respective categories.

Receivers: Denon * Yamaha * Marantz * Onkyo * Sony - ES (only)

Speakers: Klipsch * JBL * Boston Acoustics * Mirage * Definitive Technology * Paradigm

DVD Players: Sony * Panasonic * Toshiba * Denon

    Are there other good units in each of these categories? Certainly. This is just a sample of reasonably priced brands that are good performers (this is a 101 class, after all). If you have difficulty in auditioning some of these brands because you are shopping in Best Buy, Circuit City, or K-Mart, recognize that it might be hard to find a Chevy, Honda, or Lexus at a Yugo or Daewoo dealership. Try instead to go to a mid-fi audio retailer in your area. Talk to multiple salespeople until you find one that seems to know what he/she is talking about. If you cannot find that person, come back another day, as they are an incredibly important resource in your quest for the home concert experience.

    As for reading published or online reviews, understand that both advertising and e-marketing have a less than benign effect on the unbiased opinions found in these reviews and furthermore, a veteran salesperson at a good mid/hi-fi shop, while often driven by personal gain (commission) also knows that his/her business is primarily derived by good word-of-mouth and the desire to satisfy people who know where he/she works! You should be able to judge his/her character in a face-to-face encounter. These judgments are often hard to make in an online environment where cyber males frequently tell people that they are a 16 year old cheerleader.

    I will endeavor to be more specific in the coming articles such as next months "Receivers: Formats, Features and Dsp's". For now, however, remember that this is Multi-Channel Music 101.

    I remain, Your Majesty, King of my own home concert venue.

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