The adage says that you get what you pay for. But unfortunately this isn?t always true. The forest green tie you thought matched turned split-pea under natural light, the ?personal organizer? you purchased online turned out to be calendar, and even the Journey CD you thought you bought turned out to be an audio book called A Journey to Bea Arthur.
Hopefully it?s not quite that bad, but whatever yours may be, it has happened to us all. And for technophiles, the sting is even worse. You do your research, shell out big bucks, and still get performance you?d expect from something made by Fisher Price when you get it home. Not exactly the Home Toys you had in mind.
With home audio, these disappointing performances are not necessarily the speaker?s fault. Outside variables like speaker placement, room acoustics, and space will indubitably affect your sound imaging and indeed your speaker performance.
The audio purest will tell you that you need to follow strict speaker placement guidelines in order to avoid these sonic disasters. But the days of big box audio are over and d?cor is as much of a factor in speaker placement as accuracy is. Towers and components have sleek new designs while in-walls and in-ceilings have expanded the limitations of speaker positioning.
With new horizons have come new problems which might be why your speakers sounded so much better in the store than at home. What you need is a speaker that will sound great despite your room?s particular acoustic challenges- even if you don?t know what they are. It is a challenge fitting of the Psychic Friend?s Network.
But ESP aside, there are ways to accomplish just that. Innovative thinking has led to innovative engineering and today?s progressive speakers offer a slew of design tricks and traits to compensate for these types of issues. MTX calls it real world tuning and it is basically getting a speaker to function at the level of quality expected under the unpredictable and specifically unique conditions of real life use.
This starts with ground up engineering and ends with user flexibility. If a speaker isn?t designed from the ground up, it is difficult to make the subtle changes necessary to real world tune it. Plus, only when you engineer the drivers from the beginning do you get a chance to match the materials, design, and mechanics with the desired function. And because each room?s sonic fingerprint is different, the end listener need to be able to make adjustments based on the environment and of course, personal preferences.
Some of the specific technologies used in real world tuning are discussed below. Some are as simple as angled speakers and pivoting drivers, others are a more scientific adjustment like room boundary EQ and bipole/dipole.
If you can?t go to the sound, make the sound come to you. Angling a speaker was one of the first answers to imperfect speaker placement. It?s a bit more difficult than imagined though as sound doesn?t just bounce off the speaker like a billiard ball off the rail. An angled speaker actually adjusts the dispersion of a speaker so it is more directional.
MTX?s angled in-ceiling speaker, for example, is angled at 15?. If it were angled less, it wouldn?t make a noticeable difference over straight forward speakers. And if it were angled more, you would actually narrow the dispersion because the ceiling would get in the way. This 15? change is enough so in-ceiling speakers can be placed in the corners and still provide full room sound.
A pivoting tweeter is an expected feature in high quality in-wall and in-ceiling speakers these days. The idea is to fine-tune the balance between the woofer and tweeter by adjusting the angle of the tweeter only. This allows a room to be real world tuned to blend the off-axis low frequencies with an appropriate level of high frequencies. With a 360? radius, the tweeter can be aimed toward the listener to accentuate the vocals or aimed away from the listener in special applications like overhead home theatre rears to add needed sound distribution.
A new pod design for tweeters, and for a tweeter and midrange combination on 3-way systems, allows even further adjustments. Essentially a movable plate that rotates on two axes, this design gives you additional directional control and further imaging potential. While the woofer is not readjusted with this addition, the sound array possibilities are greatly widened (especially in a 3-way system).
Sometimes the problem is not enough space. As speaker applications expand beyond the big box hi-fi systems, high performance 2-channel audio is wanted in more places- even when there really isn?t room to put it there. But, with dual channel speakers, tight spaces like hallways, entryways, and reading nooks are now viable spaces for stereo sound.
These are regular sized speakers with two voice coils build-in to power the separate channels from the stereo inputs. Two tweeters and a specially designed woofer then reproduce the channels independently and play them in unison. It?s a great solution to create actual whole home audio as well as solve tight space and unique room designs and applications.
This is one of the technologies that best exemplifies real world tuning. This design takes two drivers that are 45? offset from each other and sets them in phase (bipole) or out-of-phase (dipole) depending on their placement. Often used as sides in a surround home theatre, this design compensates for many different room setups and challenges. Because there are two drivers, angled opposite each other, they have a naturally large dispersion. This distribution of sound allows for a better off-axis response and a means to correct sound line of sight issues from furniture or whatever else might be getting in the way. This means that a bipole/dipole speaker can be out of sight, or even blocked by furniture and the sound will spread around it. Depending on the specific room, you can then set it to either bipole or dipole and take advantage of how the reflected sound reaches your listening position.
Room Boundary EQ
Another problem that plagues good sound is corner installations. Many people prefer to install their speakers in the very corners of the room because of the stealth appearance and big sound. Yet if regular speakers are placed there, the big sound will turn to big noise as the low frequencies will bounce off the extra surfaces and create an unwanted boost. This corner loading effect generally occurs if the speaker is installed within two feet of any corner.
MTX?s solution is known as Room Boundary EQ. It essentially eliminates these added waves by attenuating the bass frequencies to -3dB. This adjustment outside of the corner application would have ill-effects on the low end response by making it sound weak and unbalanced, but with the reflective corner loading, the bass is full and rich but not cluttered.
The MTX real world tuning traits have made speaker positioning easier to match your audio needs without sacrificing what you really want- the sound. So while it might feel like you have your hand in the cookie jar the first time you install an in-ceiling speaker behind you, or a speaker pointed at the side of a couch, or heaven forbid, within 2? of a corner, it is no longer a sin against great performance. Real world tuning adds flexibility to technology that is consistently getting better. That is a huge benefit and added value over comparable priced speakers without tuning. So like that garage sale pair of pants you bought that had some surprise cash in the pocket, you don?t always get what you paid for? sometimes you get more.
About MTX Audio
MTX is a privately owned American manufacturer of high-performance car and home audio products, designed for people who love their music. MTX offers high-quality audio equipment for whole home, home theatre, and specialty applications. For the latest MTX news, product info, and updates, visit www.mtxhome.com.