Becoming a Magician

You’ve probably noticed that in this setup guide we’re focusing primarily on imaging and have been ignoring other aspects such as tonal balance. That’s ok and there’s a good reason for it. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about achieving depth of image, tonal balance and imaging are very much related. I have found over the years that if I can get a system to image properly then tweaking a bit more to bring the tonal balance into proper form is relatively easy. It’s nearly impossible to get one right without getting the other and it’s far easier in a post series like this to describe imaging than it is tonal balance of instruments.

I would also want to point out that once we go through these exercises we’re next going to add back room treatment equipment (if you can) and this is going to really have a dramatic impact on everything we’ve done so far. Soundstage, tonal balance, pinpoint focus – all are going to be enhanced when we start to help the room be its best. But in the meantime it’s important we get this dialed in as best we can without any crutches in the room. So if you aren’t getting performance that lives up to your expectations yet, no worries! There’s much more to come.

We’ve been focusing our efforts on getting a single voice to image properly. We want that voice to be the right size and placed properly behind the loudspeakers and in the center of our imaginary soundstage we’re building behind the two loudspeakers. If you’re using the same disc I am, Best Audiophile Voices then following along should be easier. We are using the Jane Monheit piece Somewhere over the rainbow.

Our next task is to see if we can get the instruments themselves disconnected from the loudspeaker pair. It’s pretty easy to get a center-image-single-voice disconnected from the speakers but instruments are more difficult, especially those that can be a bit harsh or blare and blat like trumpets. If you’re not already sick of Jane’s music, play on a bit and you’ll notice the piano that comes in after her solo bit. It should be disconnected from the loudspeakers and floating in our imaginary soundstage behind the pair.

On most systems the piano floats in space nicely without a lot of setup if I can get her voice in the proper place as I have described in the prior posts. Here’s the tricky part: you’re going to move off axis from your center listening position to see if the piano and Jane remain disconnected from the speakers as you move to the side a bit. You should easily have a 3-person sweet spot where the piano and the singer are still disconnected – certainly it’s proper that the angle you perceive them on the stage changes as if you’re moving from a center seat to a left or right side of the stage were this a live performance – but we’re paying close attention to the disconnected nature of the music. If you move slightly off axis and the image remains disconnected, you’re doing great! If not, if the image of the piano snaps to the speaker itself when you move to the left or right, we need to do some work.

To get the image disconnected from the loudspeakers it may be necessary to pull the speakers apart a couple of inches. Gives this a try first. Take notes. If this doesn’t work, put them back and next try moving the pair away from the wall a couple of inches – no joy? Return and do the opposite. By playing around with these elements you’ll notice the image gets disconnected even off axis. Once you get this, then go back to the beginning of the track and tweak Jane’s voice back in with toe-in or toe-out of the pair. So, for example, if you move the pair apart a couple of inches to disconnect the piano – but then lose a bit of focus on Jane’s voice when you’re sitting in the middle – add a slight amount more toe-in to fix it. Then check back for the piano.

By going back and fourth like this you’re dialing in the image and setting proper tonal balance all in one shot.

Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.