Calibration is important for both the video display device and the audio portion of the system. Audio Advice is a certified ISF (Image Science Foundation) calibrator for video displays. We have invested about $15,000 in the proper tools to calibrate your flat panel display or front projection system. Using our test gear, we can dial in the output performance of your display to be exactly (or as close as it will allow) to the standards set by SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers). This will make your picture much more film like. Most video displays are preset at the factory to jump off the shelf when they are displayed at a mass merchant store under fluorescent lights. This does not lend itself for the best picture in a home environment. Using our test gear and the service menu of the set, we are able to bring the settings back to recommended levels for home viewing. Many of our customers are astounded at the difference a proper video calibration makes in the picture quality. Plus, without it being in “torch mode” (our industries term for how most sets come out of the box), you’ll actually reduce its operating costs by quite a bit!
Today’s home theater systems all include many different speakers. Your home theater receiver or processor has internal adjustments to allow a skilled technician or do it yourselfer to adjust the signal going out to each speaker to achieve a proper balance. There are typically adjustments for each speaker for distance and sound pressure level. Most systems give you the ability to adjust the crossover point as well. This is the frequency where you cut off sounds going to that particular speaker. An example of this would be a small speaker with a subwoofer, you would want to route the low bass sounds to the subwoofer since the small speaker could not handle this. When a system is properly calibrated, it can make a huge difference over the same one not calibrated.
The Steps of Audio Calibration
Audio Calibration, like acoustics, is part art and part science. A skilled calibrator will use both listening tests and sophisticated test equipment to dial in a system. On very high performance systems, this process can take up to two full days of a calibrators time, but the results are definitely worth it!
Speaker placement is the first step to calibration. If you have flexibility in your speaker positioning, try moving them around until you feel like the sound is more relaxed and less strained. This may sound strange at first, but just play a track you know well, push your speaker all the way against the back wall, listen, pull the speakers out about 3 feet from the wall and listen again. About 99% of the people will hear a big difference. Now, if you want to adjust more, you understand the concept.
If you are calibrating your media room, follow the recommended instructions in your manual for your receiver or processor. Many sets nowadays have an auto calibrate mode, but you should go back and check the settings and listen. It's best to play some material you are familiar with both before and after calibration. Once the auto part is done, try playing around with the levels on the center channel to make sure you can clearly understand the dialog over the special effects. You never want someone enjoying a movie with you to have to ask, “what did they say?”
For serious home theater calibration, Audio Advice has also invested in expensive test equipment. This allows us to actually measure where you have abnormalities in the room’s response. If your home theater processor has the right adjustments, we can, by using the test equipment and making changes to the processor, adjust out most of these issues. This service is offered for our high performance home theaters.
The Bottom Line
The learning from all of this is, you can spend as much as you want on the gear, but if it is not properly calibrated, you have not come anywhere close to getting what you paid for it!