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Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of Home Theater and Hi-Fi Audio

by April 21, 2016
Dos and Donts of Audio

Do's and Don'ts of Audio

People are always looking for black and white answers, usually in the form of a top ten list, relating to the meaning of life, financial advice, and in our field, audio related tips.  As a result, we put together a list of 10 Do's and Don'ts for home theater and hi-fi audio to ensure you get the best possible audio and video experience in your listening room.

Before reading our article please be sure to check out our YouTube Video discussion on this topic.

Do's and Don'ts of Home Theater YouTube Video Discussion

For your convenience we have tabulated the top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Home Theater:

Do's Don't
Select components wisely Overspend on one component
Read the manufacturer specs carefully Blindly believe manufacturer specs/measurements
Plan the listening space Haphazardly place equipment and speakers
Research Blindly follow reviews
Consult with experienced home theater experts Blindly believe salesmen
Take time in set up and calibration Assume plug and play will work just fine
Measure, Analyze, Adjust Rely on the Magic Auto-EQ Button
Listen with your ears Listen with measurements alone
Create environment for multi-listener Create only a single sweet spot
Share knowledge with fellow Audioholics Keep it all IP


Denon AVR-5805 AV Receiver  Bose Cube System

Denon AVR-5805 (left pic) and Bose 5.1 Acoustimass System (right pic)

Not a Good Compliment to such a Stellar AV Receiver in our opinion

Component Selection

Choosing the right components can make or break a home theater system.  We've seen so many home theater systems that employ a mega AV receiver only to be paired with a tiny HTIB or Cube sub/sat system. In our opinion this is a crime and a waste of the true receiver’s potential.

For more information, read:  Common Mistakes When Setting Up a Home Theater System

Manufacturer Specs and Measurements

Something Dr. Floyd Toole once said really stuck with me and I paraphrase, "you often get more useful information off the sidewall of a tire than you do about a loudspeaker on the manufacturer’s website".  It's very difficult, and often impossible, to make an apples to apples comparison between brands of amplifiers, speakers, receivers, etc, due to lack of standardization of measurements and specifications.  It's also very easy to manipulate measurements and specs to highlight product positives.

For more information see:  Audio Measurements - The Useful vs the Bogus

Research and Reviews

Stamped ReviewWe can't stress enough that you need to do your research when selecting AV components.  Don't just blindly trust the recommendations of a salesperson, friend, or even a reviewer.  Do a collective search online of reviews, opinions, measurements, etc, to form an educated opinion.  Most importantly, try to check the component out yourself in person to see if it's what you're expecting.

Be careful what sources you read as most reviews found in AV magazines are nothing more than massaged press releases. 

For more information see:  Reviewing Home Theater Reviews

Whenever possible, do consult with industry professionals and peers which can be found on our forum, YouTube channel and Facebook page.  Research your favorite dealers’ credentials to see what type of training they have and installation experience.

Set Up and Calibration

Even the best components will perform miserably without being properly setup.  Take the time to plan out your home theater including proper speaker placement, component layout and connections, speaker calibration (including levels, delay, bass management, etc), and display set up (proper black level, color, picture mode, etc) which will make a huge difference in overall system performance and enjoyment.

For more information see:

How to Set Up a 5.1 Speaker System

Bass Management Basics

Basic Television Set Up Tips

Remember you want  EVERY seat to be a good seat.  In order to achieve this, you need to consider a multi-subwoofer system to get smooth even bass across all listening seats.

For more information, see:  Multi-Subwoofer Connection Guide and mDSP + Multi-Sub

Listen with Ears

Mr. Bob Likes What He Hears. Do you?

Listen with your Ears

While we can't stress enough the importance of objective measurements, they are still only a guide for making sure nothing is severely wrong with your components or the way you integrated them.  After everything is all configured, you need to sit down with familiar program material and.....LISTEN.

See:  Why We Measure Audio Component Performance

Share the Knowledge

Guinea Pigs SharingIt's always been a pet peeve of mine when people keep secrets or don't share the knowledge they've learned.  As a kid, my momma taught me to share, but not all kids were fortunate enough to learn this invaluable lesson. I recall there were always some group of nerds in college that got old copies of a test to use as a study guide and didn't want to share them with anyone outside of their group.  I laughed and just studied harder and still came out ahead of them most of the time.  I've always been the type of person that likes to share the knowledge.  Remember if you give someone a fish, they eat for one day, but if you teach them to fish, they eat for a lifetime.   If Guinea Pigs can share, then why can't audiophiles?

While this article and our associated top 10 list won't give you any insights to the meaning of life or help you reduce your tax burden, we hope you got something out of it to help improve your home theater experience.

If you've got a cool bag of tricks on setting up a home theater system and calibrating it, please share it on our forums and even email us your methods.  Perhaps we can generate an article about it to help others.  Keep the information flowing and you just may in turn learn something you didn't know yourself in the process.

Do you agree with our top 10 Do's and Don'ts Home Theater/Audio list?  If you have other points for consideration you feel should have made our list, please share them in our dedicated forum thread.


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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