Empirical Audio

About Empirical Audio

How do I make my system sound good for both audio and movies?

Many home theater enthusiasts are disappointed when their home theater systems do not perform well on 2-channel music. This phenomena is not difficult to understand and is an expected result of multi-channel sound. By its very nature, multi-channel surround-sound is more forgiving of the speakers and cables used. Since there are so many speakers involved, the image focusing properties of any two speakers working together becomes less critical. This is why surround systems that appear to sound good on movies are relatively inexpensive compared to good-sounding 2-channel systems.

In reality, it is the 2-channel image-focusing capabilities of good cables and speakers that make a really great surround-sound system. Really great imaging systems usually have a relatively small sweet-spot and the speakers are a bit narrow in their dispersion. Herein lies the rub. Superb imaging generally comes at the expense of a wide sweet-spot, but home theater requires a large sweet-spot for multi-viewer. Therefore, to make a superb system for both HT and 2-channel, this invariably requires some compromises. We at Empirical Audio generally subscribe to the small sweet-spot as something we have to live with. The dividends are great, however. Panning is more realistic and continuous with good focus, and musical scores in movies are outstanding, since they are primarily 2-channel.

Empirical Audio recommends using speakers with relatively narrow dispersion and similar timbre (sound similar with pink noise). Cables for the front left, right and center speakers should be as high quality as one can afford and identical in type and length. Acoustic room treatments should be optimized using 2-channel material.

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