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Ask OPRA: Motorcade of Ignorance! Vol 4

by July 09, 2006

From time to time OPRA is asked to give his opinion on something he actually knows about. Luckily, that time hasn't come yet. Still, unable to control his noise hole, he'll once again unenlighten the darkness of your confusion.


What is the best speaker for you?

More often than not, newbies will wax poetic about the "best" speaker for their particular application. They want to know what to buy in the shortest possible terms. We've all been there. Need a new grill or recliner so we ask our friend. What does he invariably say? "Get what I got. It's the best." So we do, and we are happy. Until we make a new friend and sit in his recliner or visit his house on the fourth and realize the horrid and malicious way we were misled by our former "friend" who shall not be named and that is no longer welcome in our house.

The obvious solution would be to ask an expert. Someone that has had experience with multiple speaker types across a number of price ranges. But that kid that leans a little to the left because that side of his face has too many piercings at the Best Circuit Store just doesn't really seem all that trustworthy. Plus, you suspect he recommends speakers with the smallest magnets after that time you saw the fire department use the Jaws of Life to pry him off that Velodyne.

No, since friends are unreliable and experts are tied up in marathon tattooing sessions, the only possible option is to do your own research, right? And by "do your own research" I mean post to a home theater forum something that sounds remarkably like this:

"I have a room with some chairs. I need some speakers for my new ginormous TV that I spent a small fortune on. Something under $200 please. I'll be mounting them in the closets because my wife doesn't want to see them, is this OK?"

Watch the slew of responses half of which ask questions that are pertinent only if you planned on spending a reasonable amount on speakers, an eighth tell you to spend more, an eighth telling them to shut up and answer the question, and the rest saying "buy what I got, they rock." Feeling decidedly uneasy with the responses, you wonder if you are again being misled, albeit with the best of intentions, by people that just want to make themselves feel better about their own purchase.

Enter OPRA - I've got all the answers for you.

First of all, a set of five speakers with a sub mounted in random closets around your house is totally ok. At that price, the only way to make them sound worse is to actually put them in the room with you. The dirty little secret of Home Theater is that 94.237% of what you hear in movies comes from the center channel. Therefore, what you need to look for in a surround sound package (these come in big boxes conveniently packaged with receivers that sometimes double as DVD players) is a larger center channel. This is absolutely crucial. Any package that boasts the exact same design for all five speakers is obviously peddling audio horse manure.

The next most important speakers are the Left and Right speakers. These are sometimes referred to as "mains." These should be no smaller than ½ the size of the center. Silver speakers are usually best (something to do with how well silver conducts electricity). Lastly, the surrounds (either 2 or 4 depending on if you've ponied up the extra $25 bucks for the 7.1 package) do very little other than give speaker wire companies a reason to exist. Occasionally, they will convey a bird chirping or something so look for these to be as small as possible. If you can find a tweeter on a stick you'll be golden.

Some people think that the sub is the most important speaker in your system. We here at OPRA Research Inc. have found that to be completely untrue. Most subs come with a 6 inch paper woofer whose sole purpose is to covey male voices and buzz and pop a bunch during U-571. You want this speaker to be behind or under your TV or else all the men sound like they are talking behind your back or off to the side.

Lastly, there have been some reports that there are a couple of crazy guys hanging out at shopping center parking lots in a white van. Apparently, their boss ordered a bunch of extra speakers and they have to unload them at rock bottom prices. If you come across those guys, you want to be very careful. Call your wife and make sure that the speaker company has a website. 'Cause those are nigh impossible to fake. Also, knock on the side of the speaker cabinet. It should ring like a bell. You might want to locate the port (hole in the speaker). Put your mouth over it and hum (you might need to cover any additional ports with your hand, foot, or wallet). If the entire speaker vibrates, you have a quality speaker there. The last thing to check is the weight. Speakers these days are made out of space age materials that are lighter than air. A child should be able to lift a speaker twice her size with one arm.


How many watts can my speaker take if it says 250 watts on the back?

We here at OPRA International have done extensive research into the viability and truthiness behind the claims of manufacturers. We've stared unflinchingly at the void and the void has flinched… or maybe that was a wink. Whatever it was, it was creepy and we're not doing that again. Anyhow, we have found that almost without exceptions, manufacturers lie horrendously on their spec sheets. Why is this? We have many theories all backed by reams and reams of paper filled with suppositions, innuendo, and outright malarkey. Undaunted, we persevere in our belief that those funny numbers don't mean anything even though no one here at OPRA Conglomerate has any idea what they are supposed to mean in the first place.

What we are sure of (because we read it in two or three thousand posts on online forums) is that speakers don't care about the number of watts as the source of the watts.

I know, it doesn't make much sense to the uninitiated but it is true. Speakers are environmentally progressive. They care that the planet is being destroyed by Republicans or Oil Companies or our blood drinking reptilian overlords. They want power, yes, but clean power. So, again you ask, break it down for me OPRA.

Power, according to the Internet Forum Wizards come in two flavors, "clean" and "dirty." "Dirty" power comes directly from your outlet. Apparently, that power is derived from the burning of coal, the raping of the rainforests, and carbon dioxide. That power clogs up your receiver and builds up inside of the spider of the woofer. This slows down response (or the Q) of the speaker muddying your midrange and giving the overall sound a much more vanilla rather than chocolate sound. And as we all know, anything that pushes anything toward the lighter shaded, middle class, male side of the spectrum subcontracts for the devil.

"Clean" power comes from wind farms, flowers, and the laughter of little children. Basically, any renewable resource approved by Greenpeace, PETA, and Al Gore. The problem is that even if you live in San Jose, you can't be sure those wind farms you invested in and lost big time is actually powering your home. More likely, your "clean" power is being augmented by "dirty" power. The multinational corporations do this so that they can rub their hands together and mutter, "Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."

So, what to do? Surely there must be some recourse for the audiophile. Well, some advocated the burning of your trash and, um, wastes in a special Monsterous Power Converter. The problems with this tactic are numerous. First, there is the collecting of the wastes which, unless you have an extremely bad child who really deserves it, becomes a rather hard to fill position. The Monsterous Power Converter costs a healthy amount (someplace in the six figures or so I'm told) so that may be prohibitive for some. There have been a couple of research studies indicating that the fumes from the Power Converter may cause cancer, impotence, and hair loss but I understand that Monsterous Power is in the midst of suing those researchers out of existence. Oh, wait, I've just received a… um… OK, I guess I can't talk about this anymore.

No, what you really need to do is invest in a power cleaner . This box looks a lot like a surge protector, but don't worry - it is much more expensive. And it doesn't protect against surges. And you can't plug it into a surge protector or it won't work for some reason. But that's OK, unless you live somewhere where the power occasionally goes out. Just read the instructions, it says to unplug it if that is going to happen. Anyways, the power cleaner will take all that dirt out of your power and guarantee to give you the best quality AC out there. Hey, yeah, you risk frying your whole system in a freak lightning storm but isn't that worth it to know that the electrons that are powering your system are clean as the day they were sent out across the universe during the Big Bang (or winked into existence at the whim of a Superior Being)? Plus, don't you know that every time you plug an amp directly into a wall a baby seal is clubbed? Shame on you!


How do I best express my views on the Internet?

There are specific rules regarding the Internet. OPRA knows almost none of them but he is pretty sure that if you have an opinion on something you should definitely find a forum that has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand and start posting away. There are quite a few techniques involved in a really well done argument. I'll list a few here:

  • Providing Evidence - Googling is an important skill that shows your superior ability at wringing the Internet dry in an attempt to find as many sources of confirmation for your opinion as possible. The more obscure the better. Bonus points if you have to use a translation program to read it.
  • Brevity - Come on, you know it works. When people spend oodles of time debunking every misconception you have, coming back with a one word response is the ultimate. Especially if you draw it out like "twwwwwwwwwooooooooooooo……" Classic.
  • Clarity - Why use one word when you can use two? Why use one paragraph when you can use ten? If your uber-response is so long no one will read it, you win!
  • Making it Personal - One can never underestimate the power of belittling another. It may be useful to stir up debate by calling people cows or sheep or other barnyard animals. This stimulates the discussion by getting people personally involved and is generally considered good form. It is especially effective if you target something that is completely superfluous to the topic at hand. Grammar and spelling are obvious targets. Hanging prepositions are less obvious but show your superior intellect (not that the cretins will understand it). Ripping on someone's avatar is always a good ploy, especially if they were fool enough to use a picture of their wife or child.
  • Taking the High Ground - Saying things like, "When you grow up…" or "Aren't you still in diapers…" is always a good way to keep the discussion on track. People love to be reminded of that condescending Father/Uncle/Teacher. I know I do.
  • Graphics - Try to find/invent/make up some sort of graph, chart, or pictorial representation of your argument. Make sure you label it clearly "What I believe" and "All that other crap that is wrong and only idiots would believe." This definitely provides credence to your debating skills.
  • Logic Puzzles - Start as many sentences as possible saying what you will not do, then say "but" and do it anyways. For example, "I don't want to say that you are a moron but you are a moron." It confuses people because first they think you won't say it, then you do, but you said you wouldn't so you must not have… By the time they figure it out, you've already won the argument.
  • Inviting a Friend - If you've got a couple of brainwashed stooges that worship the self-righteous ground you walk on, have them sign up and support you. Better yet, invent one! If no one will talk to you because they just can't get over how wrong they are, invent a couple of alternative identities and post away. Sure, it takes extra time but in the end, isn't a virtual buddy better than no buddy?
  • Referencing - Scholastic journals and peer reviewed articles love to cite other people's work. You should do the same. But, since you are the authoritative voice on pretty much everything, whom do you cite? Easy - yourself. Post something brilliant (that shouldn't be too hard). Then when people refute it, refer back to it (preferably with links). Obviously, this is a good spot for a personal insult or a "but" statement as they must be dense if they can't see the truth behind your half-baked theorems, convoluted logic, and pseudo-science.
  • Getting Management Involved - Nothing asserts your righteous Alpha-maleness than telling the management to go stuff themselves. Even better, berate them online, get banned, then demand to be unbanned with a formal apology. You can tell how often that works by the number of posts in the "Formal Apology" thread in the "I Don't Give a Crap" forum.

Word to the wise - Rational arguments based in fact or (gasp!) common sense have NO PLACE on the Internet. Take those discussions elsewhere my friend. We're not buying what you're selling and we don't take to your kind around here. If you want that, go make some real friends. Loser.



About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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