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  1. The Mythical $2000 Hi-Fi AVR

    19/02/2018 9:18 AM

    Call me a nerd if you must, but when I get home from work each day, the first thing I do, even before getting changed or having a drink, is to warm up the stereo (which consisted of some sources, a DAC, a nice integrated amp, a pair of medium sized bookshelf speakers, and a compact, sealed subwoofer). The room is almost square and has thinly rendered double brick walls - pretty much the worst environment for sound reproduction but not really that far off the mark from your average untreated living area (plaster walls are a little less reflective but many people now have hard floors which evens things out - a least I have the luxury of carpet). Ideally one would make the walls non-parallel to each other by renovating (shock horror) and/or attach layers of consistently unfashionable acoustic treatment products to all the spots you want to keep clean and tidy. It may be true that the environment you put the speakers in can affect the final result just as much as the quality of the speakers themselves, but it’s definitely true that modifying the room is out of the question for the vast majority of us mere mortals. I have tried many brands of speakers in this room, and every one of them exhibits a ringing resonance at certain midrange and bass frequencies, producing a bloating distortion effect whenever music or movies hit the offending notes. Quite annoying really - and I don't think even a pair of flagship book shelves (e.g. Wharfedale Jades, B&W 700 series) will really solve the problem.

    At this point, you’re probably wondering why I am ranting on about my own personal Hi-Fi issues and what it has to do with you. Well I believe I have hit somewhat of a revelation: AV Receivers with high resolution room correction, digital active crossovers and bi-amp capability are ideal for music listening in acoustically mediocre living areas. In the next three sections, I will spell out my rationale for this “blatant heresy” (as Hi-Fi purists would put it).


    In the land of elite Hi-Fi amplifiers, 200W per channel seems to be the mythical number for “enough power to satisfy almost anyone”. If you took a survey of ultra high-end amps (e.g. Arcam A49, NAD Masters, Audiolab MB series, etc), you will find they are all rated around this figure. So the question is - why? In sound reproduction, one of most important aspects is dynamic range - the difference between the quietest and loudest details a system can produce with low distortion and noise (i.e. that you can hear clearly). This is akin to contrast ratio on smartphones screens, TVs, and projectors. The higher the dynamic range, the more lifelike the sound will be. A really good system will faithfully render pin drops and string plucks with natural delicacy, while creating real emotional impact when simulating the vibrations of a cello or the weight of drum. But what does this have to do with the need for 200W you say? It all comes down to the power needed to produce soft passages in the track versus the thunderous emotional parts. It is widely accepted that dynamic peaks in music are often 10 times louder than the average volume. So if you normally listen at around the 20W mark (this is about the power TV speakers put out at ~70% on the dial - in other words not that much), then you need 200W to reproduce the most intense moments of a track in its full glory. Now this is normally the part where one puts up both arms and complains that they don’t have $6000 to put down for a ultra high-end amp, but fear no more! I bring you salvation in the form of Bi-Amping. A mid-range (~$2000) AVR has many channels of amplification - at least 7 these days, and they all have a feature that lets you power each speaker with 2 amp channels - for double the peak power. It also happens that these AVRs are all rated 100W (RMS, <0.3% THD) or above per channel - so it’s a match made in heaven really.

    Digital Active Crossovers

    The most difficult part of loudspeaker design is the crossover network, a bundle of circuits that splits the frequency ranges between different sized cones (drivers). Its there because small (~1”) drivers are very good for the shimmering parts of the sound, like glass breaking or a bird call, but very tinny for speech. Conversely a medium sized driver (3 to 6”) make vocals come alive, but muffle the shimmers and don’t vibrate with much impact for bass. Finally we have large drivers (7”+ in subwoofers and large floorstanders) that are only good at rumbling. Typically what people end up with are bookshelf or slim floorstanding speakers that have the small and medium sized drivers, and a subwoofer with large drivers. What you don’t want to do - is send the low bass to these slim floorstanders/bookshelves as all they are going to do is distort in a vain struggle to emit a faint shadow of what was recorded (this is what a normal stereo amp does - wasting a lot of power in the process). What you do want - is split up the low bass and send it straight to the sub where it belongs - and this is exactly what an AVR’s builtin digital active crossover does.

    High Resolution Room Correction EQ

    Getting back to solving those bloated ringing noises, let's examine the problem a but more closely. What is happening is that the room’s walls are amplifying certain frequencies by bouncing them around the room repeatedly (this building up effect is called resonance). So what we need to do is simply reduce the level of those frequencies so that the end result is correct. Because this reduction can negatively affect sound quality if you take away too much of the signal you want be as precise as possible, targeting only the specific problem frequencies, down to single Hz bands. As our hearing stretches from 20Hz-20kHz, that means you need a EQ system with tens of thousands of bands. Such systems do actually exist in the form of Audyssey XT32 and Dirac Live, and are available on many mid-high level AVRs, like the Denon X4/5/6/7xxx and Marantz SR6/7xxx.

    Posted By Bearded Blogger
  2. Complementary to 4K and HDR bringing more stunning and realistic visuals to the screen, Dolby Atmos delivers captivating sound that disperses and moves audio anywhere and everywhere in the room, including overhead, to bring entertainment to life, all in the comfort of your own home.

    Why do you Want it?

    Dolby Atmos ® speakers are here to revolutionise the way we hear sound for films and television in general. Atmos has an object-based attitude to sound design, rather than just channels, enabling filmmakers the creative freedom they’ve always desired in terms of surrounding the audience.  Over 80% of cinemas support Dolby Atmos ®, and now your home theatre and television can too. Typical surround sound devices deliver captivating sound with speakers which are placed all around your room. Here enters Dolby Atmos ® to take it to another level, quite literally. The Atmos creates a ‘height’ layer of sound above the audience, for the ultimate acoustic experience your ears are going to love.

    What do the Numbers Actually Stand for?

    When you’re shopping for Dolby Atmos® speakers, you will see numbers alongside the name. These numbers are simply describing the speakers’ configuration. Let’s take the 7.2.4 version for example. The first number (7), refers to the number of traditional speakers, such as the front, centre and surround. The middle number (2), tells you how many powered subwoofers can be connected to the receiver. The last number (4), refers to how many ‘upward-firing’ or ‘in-ceiling’ speakers you can connect in the Dolby Atmos setup. The last number considers the extra ‘height’ layer of sound we highlighted earlier.

    What do I need before purchasing?

    How to Set up Dolby Atmos® speakers in your home

    Once you have your Atmos capable receiver, such as the Pioneer VSX-LX302, and your special Atmos speakers, what do you do next? The first step is to decide on which Atmos configuration is the one for you. The space you have and the number of channels of amplification that your receiver has, are obvious factors to consider, and could even make the decision for you.

    Here's a run-down of some options available to you. If you happen to have the 9 channels of amplification, you could choose between either the 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 speaker configurations optimising Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers.  The 5.1.4 option is based around the traditional 5.1 layout however adds the sound upgrade of four overhead Dolby Atmos speakers. The 7.1.2 configuration becomes quite self-explanatory now as a traditional 7.1 speaker with 2 overhead Atmos speakers.


    dolby atmos 7.1.2

    11 Channels of amplification gives you the ultimate experience of what the Dolby Atmos speakers can truly do. You have the choice of going as high as a 9.1.2 configuration, consisting of two overhead Dolby Atmos speakers along with two width speakers, or the more modest but powerful configuration of 7.1.4. Of course there is the full 32-channel configuration with speakers, if money is no object, that is.


    dolby 7.1.4

    Posted By Bowen
  3. Should I care about HDCP 2.2?

    7/12/2017 10:13 AM

    Copy protection has been around just as long as home television sets, so that’s nothing new. HDCP, or High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, has been used on HDMI connections for over a decade, so that is also nothing new. Therefore let me introduce you to HDCP 2.2-  the latest version of technological security which has the specific purpose of preventing 4K Ultra HD content from being copied through a HDMI connection. As our television picture and resolution quality increases, so too does the need for a more refined copy protection method. Hence the updated HDCP. The 2.2 specification has been created to protect 4K content, and is a requirement for 4K TVs in order to show 4K resolution content. It forms a secure connection via a ‘digital handshake’ between the source and the display.

    Why Should I Care?

    If you want to stick with 1080p for now, then you don’t need to worry about HDCP 2.2. If you would like 4K content, then not only do you require a 4K TV- you require one which has HDCP 2.2. Current and future 4K Ultra High Definition content is likely to be compatible with HDCP 2.2, therefore if you are in the market for a new 4K television, you should be looking towards those which refer to HDCP 2.2. Whilst many 4K TV’s that are already out there support HDMI 2.0, they do not have HDCP 2.2 technology. This means even though they have a 4K TV, cannot access 4K content (what a waste of a purchase!).  As the 4K TV rises in popularity, we will be seeing 4K Blu-ray players and other media players come to market. Here is where HDCP 2.2 is so important for you to have on your 4K television. As HDCP 2.2 is added through hardware, there is no option to update your incompatible 4K TV with HDCP 2 2 via a firmware update.

    Why would a 4K TV not have HDCP 2.2?

    Simply put, a 4K TV may not have HDCP 2.2 compatibility purely so the manufacturers can save on costs. Most earlier versions of 4K Ultra were made with limited bandwidth on some HDMI 2.0 terminals and/or a lack of HDCP 2.2 on others. If you have one of these, you may have to send video directly from your Blu-ray player to your display (bypassing your receiver). 

    How Can We Help?

    I have already purchased a 4K Ultra High Definition TV without HDCP 2.2 capability.

    Have no fear, whilst there isn’t a way to ‘update’ your TV to HDCP 2.2 compatibility, you can purchase the Blustream HDCP11AB HDCP 2.2 Upgrade which is a simple plug and play solution for those annoying issues between HDCP 2.2 4K content and older generation 4K TV’s.

    I have recently purchased a 4K Ultra High Definition TV with HDCP 2.2 inbuilt and I want the media accessories to go with it.

    Easy. Just search ‘HCDP 2.2’ in our search bar for a list of products which will connect you and your TV to 4K content.

    Posted By Bowen
  4. What is Dolby Atmos?

    7/12/2017 10:05 AM

    The days of approaching cinema and television viewing as solely visual experiences are over. Nowadays, we crave something more profound; we crave something which will place us within the action, rather than simply leaving us to observe on a flat screen.

    This is the ethos behind Dolby Atmos. Designed as a means of revolutionising and redefining the experience enjoyed by the audience, Dolby Atmos is ushering in a whole new era of high quality audio/visual viewing.

    But how does this work in practice?

    Well, audio has just become a whole lot more dynamic. With previous incarnations of surround sound systems - including those produced by Dolby or by other manufacturers - the sound was delivered via several channels, giving a limited illusion of immersion into the action, but falling somewhat short of a truly thrilling, multi-dimensional experience.

    With Dolby Atmos, these channels are eliminated. Instead, the sound is moved all around you. A three dimensional envelope of sound is created, with you at the centre. As the action unfolds, the system places the audio in precise locations within this 3D envelope, including high overhead to give you an accurate perception of height and depth, and securing a truly enthralling viewing session for audience members of all ages.

    But the Dolby Atmos effect is not limited to creating dynamic sound structures to augment the viewing experience. One of the key aspects of this innovative system is the clarity and definition of its sound rendering. From the crystalline fragility of snowflakes falling on a frozen landscape, to the scintillating thrills of a high octane car chase, Atmos is able to provide a satisfying array of sounds which do justice to the action on the screen.

    This is the future of viewing; this is the beginning of a world in which as much care and attention is given to the detail and finesse of the audio as to the visuals on the screen. Dolby aim was to create an emotional connection between the viewer and the visual content they are engaged with, and the Dolby Atmos system accomplishes this with applomb.

    How is All of this Achieved?

    Such an immersive effect cannot come out of nothing. Even though, at times, the sound may feel as if it is borne on the very air which surrounds you in the room, your Dolby Atmos experience must be supported by the right hardware.

    This can be delivered in several ways. A conventional home theatre system can be utilised to achieve the high levels of dynamism and clarity provided by Dolby Atmos, if the system is calibrated in the right way. We will discuss the optimal configuration and set up for your Dolby-compatible home theatre system later in this article.

    Another method is to augment the performance of your surround sound system via a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar. The advantage of this is that the dynamic programming of the Atmos system enables the precision placement and delivery of the sound around the three dimensional space without needing to rely on excessive numbers of individual speakers.

    This results in a far more neat and tidy system, as the sound is delivered via a single sound bar placed beneath the screen of your home cinema system. A sleek and streamlined system is achieved with no compromise on sound quality.

    Setting up your Dolby Atmos system

    Soundbar Option

    If you have selected the Dolby Atmos soundbar option, you will be able to achieve a high level of sound quality and dynamism using soundbar alone. Set up for this kind of system configuration is simple; just place the Dolby Atmos soundbar in a central location beneath your screen and unlock impressive, three dimensional sound.

    This can be augmented, however, with the addition of two wireless speakers at the rear of your viewing room. To gain the optimal benefit from these wireless speakers, place each one just behind the back corners of your sofa or viewing chair, at a 45 degree angle to the back of the sofa and the screen. The speakers should be around head height if you are sitting down, and will create a more immersive and enthralling sonic atmosphere as you watch.

    5.1.4 Hybrid Overhead / Dolby Atmos Option

    When arranging a surround sound set-up, you will notice that each configuration carries a three digit number. The first of these numbers refers to the number of surround sound speakers which are included in the configuration (in this case five), the second refers to the number of powered subwoofers which can be connected (one in this case), and the third refers to the number of overhead or Dolby Atmos speakers which can be connected, which, of course, is four within this configuration.

    In this configuration, place the centre speaker beneath the screen, and the surround sound speakers on each side of the screen, angled towards the centre of your seating position. Following this, place the overhead or Dolby Atmos enabled speakers on the ceiling, diagonally forward and left, and diagonally forward and right, of your seating position. The Dolby Atmos enabled speakers are positioned behind the right and left corners of your sofa or chair. The distance between them should be slightly greater than the distance between the two overhead speakers.

    doby atmos 5.1.4

    7.1.2 Dolby Atmos Enabled Speaker Option

    If you decide on this option for your Dolby Atmos experience, you will be able to connect seven surround sound speakers, one powered subwoofer, and two Dolby Atmos enabled speakers. Place the centre speaker beneath the screen, directly opposite your seating position.

    dolby atmos 7.1.2

    Place surround sound speakers directly behind the right and left corners of your seating position, in line with the corners of the screen, then place speakers directly to the right and left of your seating position.

    The Dolby Atmos enabled speakers should sit at the left and right edges of the screen, angled directly towards your seating position. This means that all the placed speakers should be facing you, ensuring that you remain at the convergence of several different dimensions of sound, making for an incredible visual and auditory experience for the audience.

    For more information on the best Dolby Atmos set-up configuration for you, or to learn more about the how Atmos could transform your viewing experience, get in touch with our team today.

    Posted By Paul
  5. Customer's Feedback

    30/09/2017 11:38 AM

    Please read below for a most entertaining read 

    In this day and age of 'box movers' (read hardly normal - I coined that phrase by the way back in 1992!) retailers, it's refreshing to not be treated like a victim of avarice! Up until the early 1990's I managed various computer stores for the same company (Computer Spot) where I was very successful at sales and as a manager. I was successful as indeed were my staff because we treated customers as we wished to be treated - as a customer. To underline that, they put me in a store (out of 11) that had NEVER been off the bottom. Until I went there with MY staff and within a few months took it to number one (Liverpool!)! So to visit your store today was as if I was actually dropping into MY store on my day off! I congratulate you both (Atish & Bowen) for not once coming across as sales people, but rather as people trying to help me make a difficult decision - do I really need to spend money on ANOTHER amp? Thank you both, you made it easy to see that I was on the right track. And that's how my staff and I treated our 'customers' - we let THEM decide what they wanted. And they kept coming back because they knew we had integrity. On the other side of the coin, last week I purchased an LG C7 65" from the box movers, only because it was convenient to pick up the TV myself around the corner from the store. The sales pitch by the 50'ish guy was appalling - and he had been doing this for two years he told me. . . . look how thin the screen is (I don't care, I want superior visuals and audio - which is why I am interested in this TV idiot, reviewed as the best in Oz)! "Is Dolby Atmos worthwhile?" "It's no big deal!". Can you believe that! If I was the store manager there is no way that I would have tolerated that stupidity from a staff member. Having said that, I had extensive experience with (certain well known) franchisee's 25 years ago. Clueless. The mentality was to sit in the office and the money would roll in. One of them that had the computer franchise disregarded my advice that his 'security' staff member was ripping him off majorly. Hmm, didn't want to know. Next stock take, $170,000 stock missing. Customer warranties you name it. Today in this world of evil, I was honored by you both. Good karma is coming your way.

    Posted By Atish Moin

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