Home > Podcast > AVRant #137: Radio Shack Tax

AVRant #137: Radio Shack Tax

This week we are up with guest host #3. Andrew is fresh out of college and just starting to build a system. I’m sure we can all relate to that. This week we discuss upcoming interviews, Tom’s new baby, and over-sized subs and ugly speakers. What does Andrew think of 120Hz processing? What do you do when you press the wrong button on your remote? Trouble shooting 101. A little Radio Shack love. Beldin and Blue Jeans make history. A bit of a discussion about Project Natal. Tom makes a prediction that he hopes is wrong. Room EQ Wizard and you – a primer a la Andrew (check below for a list of what you’ll need). When is getting caught with porn a more desirable outcome. We have a deal and some advice this week. The new Yamaha receiver has Tom completely underwhelmed. A bit of news on Imeem and Pandora and why Tom is considering switching his vote to Pandora. Andrew is looking for Spotify to come to the US. Thanks for listening and don’t forget to vote for us at Podcast Alley.

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It's funny because it is supposed to be my Dad. Apparently he's Amish. Or a professional wrestler.

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  1. Spencer
    July 16th, 2009 at 23:45 | #1

    1. First, good job Andrew.

    2. Tom, the last few podcasts you keep saying ‘audacity’. D you really mean Audyssey?

    3. For the free room eq software Andrew talked about, would a mic that comes with an Onkyo receiver (Audyssey-equipped) work well?

  2. Andrew
    July 17th, 2009 at 04:45 | #2

    Hey Spencer,

    To answer your question, the mic that came with your receiver generally doesn’t have a flat frequency response but your receiver is set up with a correction matrix to compensate for that specific mic.

    So I wouldn’t trust that you would get any meaningful measurements from the mic that came with the Onkyo, unless you were actually able to find a correction file for it.

    I would use a Radio Shack SPL meter with a correction file as the first step to playing with REW.

  3. Rob
    July 17th, 2009 at 04:46 | #3

    Wow, Andrew – that was a VERY interesting discussion of some lower cost methods for measuring and EQ-ing the in-room frequency response. I’m very glad that you were able to guest co-host and I trust that you found the experience as fun as I did!

    So “Little Baby Oops” is almost here! I thought Tom might be saving the Video Calibration Interview in case there was a week when Dina and Clint were both not around and scheduling didn’t work out with any guest co-hosts for some reason, but now the truth comes out! And it makes perfect sense 😀

    I’m still predicting another boy, by the way 😉

    Glad to see that Spencer caught that same “Audacity/Audyssey” mix-up that I was about to mention!

    Personally, when it comes to active EQ, I’m all about using it as a last resort. I much prefer the idea of buying flat, accurate speakers/subwoofers, placing them optimally and acoustically treating the room to create the flattest and most accurate response possible without resorting to altering the signal. However, measurements are vital in order to see what kind of response you are actually getting and when all other (reasonable) steps have already been taken, active EQ can solve those last few problem areas quite nicely, IMO!

    The complexity of home theatres is certainly one of the BIG reasons why so many people avoid buying them, IMO. From personal experience, I know several people who are literally afraid to touch the remote or push any buttons. And I really can’t blame them! My sister once repeatedly pushed the wrong button on a universal remote. She was trying to push a “macro” button that would turn on the whole system, but the “macro” button was right next to the “setup” button – and by “setup”, I mean the remote’s setup! So repeatedly pushing that “setup” button eventually reset some of the settings of the remote and the whole thing just failed to work for her!

    Needless to say, she was upset and also thought it was just plain stupid that simply pushing the wrong button a bunch of times could literally wreck the remote and make watching a movie impossible! I have to say that I completely agree with her.

    To be blunt, it needs to be as simple as plugging the device in, running one HDMI cable, turning the device on, and having it all just WORK!

    Plug and Play…that’s what people want, and frankly, need! While it’s sometimes fun to be “the tech guy” for family and friends, people really shouldn’t have to rely on someone else just to watch TV and movies.

    That’s why I wish so badly that TVs simply came, out of the box, pre-set to an accurate picture mode. Samsung and Panasonic have done pretty good jobs with their “Movie” or “Cinema” modes. It may not be quite as spot on as a full calibration, but it’s about 85-90% of the way there! But out of the box, they still default to the “Standard” picture mode, which isn’t nearly as accurate! Just set it, out of the box, to “Movie” mode! Or better yet, just make the “Standard” mode the accurate mode!

    For surround sound, what we need is a really GOOD HTiB. For simplicity, an all-in-one system really is the only thing that makes sense. That way, the manufacturer knows exactly what speakers and sub are being used. That SHOULD allow them to have the receiver all set up and ready to work optimally with those speakers right out of the box! A very simple step-by-step initial on-screen setup could be used just to set the distance and channel levels and all the rest (cross-overs, default audio modes, bass management, etc.) should already be set. And a BIG picture diagram of where the speakers should be placed ought to be the first thing people see when they open up the box!

    Make it simple, make it work and make it good and accurate right out of the box! That honestly is NOT asking too much. People should be able to enjoy HD picture and surround sound with plug and play simplicity, but judging from all the horribly setup systems that I’ve seen, we’re a LONG ways away 🙁

  4. rosskenthomas
    July 17th, 2009 at 06:47 | #4

    Good job Andrew.

    Tom, you need to understand that us British just like to moan. The fact that you guys get (nearly) everything first is just a great excuse.

    As someone once said, “British peoples’ 2 favorite things are moaning and queuing, and they only like the queuing so they can have a really good moan about it”.

    And Spotify is absolutely brilliant. You guys should definitely give it a go when it arrives stateside. And just to clarify, it supported by clickable adds in the user interface and also every 4 or 5 songs a 10+ seconds audio advert comes out.

  5. Andy S
    July 17th, 2009 at 08:45 | #5

    Good job Andrew. Lots of variations of Andrew on this site 🙂

    I agree on Natal. It is not coming in at $50. $100 or maybe a bit more sounds about right. After all, $50 is less than a console game, which are priced at $60.

    Also, it’s cameras and IR sensors, so supposedly it can work in the dark. The IR sensors are what I think it uses primarily to identify the distance and movement.

    As for seeing it used outside of the marketing video that Andrew was mentioning, there’s a MS channel on YouTube with a bunch of minor celebrities appearing to have spasms in front of the device:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/xboxprojectnatal

    I’d kind of wondered how they would work this into anything but casual games. I saw this video a couple of weeks ago, and decided this is the way I’d like to see it worked into shooters:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wXx3vMy_AQ

    (Without the head attachment)

    I really need to do some room eq above the Audyssey stuff, so thanks for that discussion. I even have an HTPC already hooked into the receiver so won’t have to haul anything around.

  6. Rob
    July 17th, 2009 at 13:17 | #6

    Project Natal: Because coffee tables are EVIL!

    (don’t sue us when you hurt yourself)

    Seriously though…how can Tom be so excited for Natal and yet hate the Wii so much?

  7. NoahB
    July 17th, 2009 at 18:46 | #7

    on the whole internet radio thing you should try last.fm, i like it better than Pandora.

  8. Spencer
    July 18th, 2009 at 14:04 | #8

    Pandora is nice, but for my phone, I like to use Slacker. The station caching feature *rules* for mobile phone use.

  9. July 18th, 2009 at 22:18 | #9

    Regarding the 120hz processing– I was anxious to see my father-in-laws’ new Vizio LCD display… tossed in a movie and WHOA… something was really off. It was unsettling.

    Couldn’t put my finger on it, but whenever there was heavy camera panning, the motion was almost nausiating.

    I checked the Vizio’s settings and there was a “motion smoothing” (or something like that.) I changed the setting from High to Off. Bingo!! Cleared up the other-wordly motion wierdness.

    So moral of the story is make sure to check for bizarre image-processing your TV is doing and, perhaps like in this case, turn it off.

  10. ned
    July 19th, 2009 at 14:16 | #10

    Well, I use Audyssey SEQ which comes with Mic, stand w/ boom, all connectors and software. All you need is a laptop. Corrects subwoofers and the rest of the speakers.

  11. Rob
    July 19th, 2009 at 22:41 | #11

    I should have mentioned thus first, but do people REALLY still go to RadioShack? I ask because I always tell propel just to head over to Home Depot if they need a cable or connector right this second. Part of that is clearly because we haven’t had RadioShack in Canada for many years now, but even so, I’m surprised if Home Depot isn’t the de facto store for “cable emergencies” in the USA as well!

  12. Rob
    July 19th, 2009 at 22:43 | #12

    “propel” instead of “people”?

    Really, iPhone?

    lol

  13. Anechoic
    July 20th, 2009 at 00:57 | #13

    One comment regarding the Behringer ECM8000. Andrew said that the ECM8000 has a “very flat frequency response” – you might get lucky and actually get an ECM8000 with a flat frequency response, but the odds are against it. They have a very wide unit-to-unit variation in frequency response (and that’s not even counting the various non-publicized revisions the units have undergone in the last couple of years).

    They are very good mics for the price, but if you want to get the most out of them, you’ll need a custom calibration curve for your particular mic as a generic correction curve will likely not be good enough. To see what I mean, a German firm published a plot of the frequency response of 50 ECM8000s at http://diylautsprecher.de/images/stories/Messraum/MicCal200/MicCalAll04.png

    (full disclosure: I run a business that sells calibrated ECM8000 with correction curves and I also calibrate mics, so feel free to put my words in that context.)

  14. Jon
    July 20th, 2009 at 22:55 | #14

    Andrew,

    Excellent job and outstanding discussion!! I had started to play around with Room EQ Wizard, but never got the time to really focus on it. I am married, and the whole discussion about a wife coming home from work and “catching us” calibrating cracked me up. I told my wife about it and she agreed. Your idea of moving the mic around the room and taking readings instead of crawling and listening is something that I would have never thought of, but makes perfect sense once you said it. That will be my approach. I have a Denon 3808 and will take readings before and after engaging the Audyssey.

    As a follow-on podcast, may I suggest a Room EQ Wizard tutorial? I would like someone to show me how to calibrate the internal sound card, then load in the settings for the mic, etc. Then explain what the output means, ie. waterfall plots and others.

    I really look forward to the podcasts that provide me with information I can use to improve my system with little cost and a bit of effort. I am anxiously awaiting the video calibration podcast.

    AVRant listeners may also want to check out the new HD Nation podcast from Revision 3.

    Jon

  15. cynan
    July 22nd, 2009 at 14:51 | #15

    Nice job Andrew!

    Interesting topic this week RE room correction with REW. I happened to score a used second sub (identical to the one I had) and an FBQ2496 for what I think was a pretty good deal and am eager to try to EQ them together. I do have a preamp (volume control) for the line in on my soundcard, but I don’t think it has phantom power. This means shelling out a good bit extra for an external soundcard with phantom power or a preamp/mixer to then plug into the line-in on the soundcard…

    I was wondering, Andrew, in your opinion, for the purpose of EQing my pair of subs only, could I get away with just using the mic on the SPL meter? Related to this, on that other forum that supports REW, they seem to heartily recommend the Galaxy CM-140 SPL meter over the Radioshack varieties. One of its advantages seems to be a more accurate mic. How would the Galaxy CM-140 compare to the ECM8000 for the purpose of EQing subs?

    Also, I have a Denon with Audyssey mulitEQ (or Audacity ;-p) and would like to hopefully use this feaure to EQ my speakers while EQing the subs with REW/FBQ2496. The question is how to integrate these to components seemlessly…

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