This post is from DPS Insider member MtB. Since he couldn’t integrate DPS into his setup (yet!), he came up with a crazy (but awesome) hardware solution. We made him share it here… Thanks <t>! – Joey B.
Everything started on a silent Finnish night. It was just couple of days ago I blew my good-old-huge CRT TV (Samantha I used to call her, like the Samantha Fox), so there I was sitting in front of a brand new Sony TV, yet, I was frustrated with its sound capabilities. This is the story of my shopping spree, which turned an old tv table into 6″ wheeled monster, packed with good sound…
I was very limited with no control at all over the sound. Some may jump and say; “Oh, how about the 10watt medium speakers, were you happy with them?” of course not; but solving the speaker problem was much easier than taking control of the sound itself.
The TV comes with looking-nice-features in the brochures, but in reality, they have very limited practical results. For instance, adjusting the dynamics of the movies or TV channels is kinda critical for me. Even though I am living in a country where people are usually nice and highly tolerant, there is no need to wake up my upper floor neighbors (two old ladies) in the middle of the night with an exploding sound because, TV channels air commercials +10db more than the programs. Or after a scene where you can hear the heartbeats of the actress, the strange roaring of the creature might be little bit problematic. In theory, Sony offers a function for that, in reality, I’ve failed to see what’s is it doing for real. EQ is also another problem. It seems, you can adjust the hi and low’s for some certain things and if you are using TV speakers, for DVB or sound over HDMI, no chance…
So I’ve decided to buy a pair of wireless headsets. At least I can keep the sound to myself, so I won’t be worrying about disturbing the elderly ladies. After trying and becoming frustrated with a couple of Sony headsets; I’ve ended up with a Sennheiser wireless headset. My ear drums can suffer the dynamics but how about the actual sound itself? The sound was not satisfying after all. Not to mention the level differences between programs and commercials and between TV channels.
So while trying to figure out what I can do while reading the user manual of the TV, I’ve noticed that my TV has both optical and stereo line outs. Hmm this is promising. (I said to myself.)
I have to pause and explain why I am not going to an electronics store and purchasing an amplifier which can sort out my needs. the answer is simple; entry level amplifiers and speakers bundled with those are not satisfying my needs. I am not a big fan of modifying the sound too much. But at the end of the day, my house, speakers, my room acoustics, equipment, time of the day and other parameters have certain impacts on how I hear the sound. So in this level, I want to adjust the sound fitting to my own environment. And also I am not a big fan of 5.1 or 7.1 or whatever surrounds sound systems.
On surround sound mixes, besides the importance of the room acoustic characteristics, speaker placement is very important, or at least I am kinda obsessed with it. And on my funny Finnish-style flat, TV is constantly on the move. So it is kinda difficult to install the speakers properly. And if you doesn’t place them, there is no point in having them.
Another reason why I don’t go with a consumer amplifier is, I just need to handle the sound. And even bargain priced, entry level amplifier systems would be over kill with zillions of HDMI and this and that. Yes, I strongly believe in basic.
So initially what I had was; Sony TV and Western Digital Live TV HD (which is an amazing lil box anyways) oh oh, and the old TV table (I need to mention that too.)
Initial item on my shopping list was the speakers. I’ve ended up with Audio Pro Addon three. I purchased add on four’s something like a year ago for my computer setup, and I was extremely happy with them, so when I was visiting an electronic store, I saw these lil fellas on the customer-return section with a real bargain price. So as all you can imagine, I’ve jumped on them. Lil’ black beauties (it also comes in white too) 2.1 active speaker system. Even if you can’t find a bargain deal, they are still affordable.
They pack 2 x 12w for speakers and 1 x 30w for the sub-woofer. Frequency range is between 150-20.000Hz, looking sexy as hell, no audible line noise even when u boost the volume. It’s compact, black and low power consumption. And the x-over performance is one of the best you can get for consumer products.
So my next mission was to find a decent but cheap, small form factor equalizer. I’ve decided to limit the equalizer with 9band only. I want to limit myself at some point. Since I am not going to heavily modify the sound, but more just to fine tune every saddle. 9 bands is more than enough. Then I remembered that the German manufacturer Behringer used to have some small form equalizers, which you can’t use anywhere else then your home perhaps J but it packs some nice features for my application. Like Low cut filter and changing the eq range between 15db and 9db. It also has low noise output level gain. Plus, it almost doesn’t have any audible line noise.
Next stop was the compressor, and yet once again our friends from Germany come to my aid with Composer Pro-XL MDX2600. It is (so-called) reference class, 2 channel expander/gate/compressor/peak limiter with integrated de-esser, dynamic enhancer and tube simulation (too long and looking too fancy, right 😉
Its cheap, its acceptable and it gives some control over the dynamics. It has chain feature and autopilot mode, working somewhat acceptable. Currently I am mostly using it on auto-drive mode and as you can imagine, never using the de-esser and peak-limiter (well in theory, peak limiter is set, but since the line level needs to be 0db and + on top of that to let the limiter kick in, so it just never happens 🙂
After pimping up my old TV table (I changed the wheels, and stabilized the construction 🙂 started to install and test. First bump that hit my head was the hum sound. Tralla la laa. After 3 minutes of trying it out, I figured out that it was a simple antenna based ground loop hum, sorted out in 57 minutes (40 minutes for travel 10 minutes to buy the Galvanic isolator / Ground Breaker / Ground Isolator, 5 seconds to install, 6 minutes 55 seconds to smoke) and 13buckz –except cigarette (9buckz for the isolator, 4 buckz for the transportation)
My next plan is to buy a decoder and mixer to decode and mixdown 5.1 sounds for my 2.1, also considering having an x-over and this and that J but until then I am planning to enjoy my current system as it is J
Unavoidably I am going to buy more gear, and need to get a new TV table, since I’ll need at least something like 5u rack space, but hey, its fun J
So here are my closing remarks;
– No I am not mad J I just don’t like to be restricted, and I do believe there are always simple/cheaper/better/self-satisfying solutions which can make me satisfied/feel good
– Forget everything you hear about the Behringer gear. If you are going to use it on consumer level or entry level HIFI systems, they work. But be careful with the cabling and electricity/grounding and such. They are cheap as hell, and comparative to their prices they work really well.
– A good pair of active 2.1 speakers can change a lot. Even if you don’t go extremes as I did. Simply plugging it to straight to your TV set changes a lot. Brands like Logitech or creative have some affordable 2.1 speaker sets. But be careful. If your TV doesn’t allows you to control the volume of the line out, you may look for something with a remote 😉
– Controlling the dynamics of the sound is important when watching movies or national geographic. You can start customizing the sound based on your own preferences. Also, if you are living in a flat like me, with some other people around, having some compressor/enhancer is handy especially if u want to enjoy late night session
– Cabling is important. Don’t go for the cheapest one. Of course, you don’t have to spend fortune either, from my observations; decent cables are usually around 2x 3x of the cheapest available. So for ¼ TSR cable, first I’ve found 2.5buck cables, and then found decent cables for 6buckz.
Audio Pro Addon Three: http://www.audiopro.com/products/addon-three/524/
and Audio Pro Sp-1 Speakers: http://www.audiopro.com/products/sb-1/537/
Behringer miniFBQ FBQ800 http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/FBQ800.aspx
Behringer composer Pro-XL MDX2600 http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/MDX2600.aspx