Whether you’re rooting for the Colts or the Saints, you’ll want your A/V system to be in tip-top shape for the Super Bowl next weekend. Many of the tweaks you’ll be able to handle yourself; others might require the handiwork of a custom electronics (CE) professional.
“It might sound silly, but it’s a good idea to do a test run before Sunday to make sure everything is ready to go,” says Rob Roessler of Audio Video Concepts in Columbia, Ill. “There’s nothing worse than finding out the day of the Super Bowl that your cable box is locked up or the picture on your big-screen looks grainy.”
Oh, and be sure to have an extra set of batteries on hand for your remote, too, says Ryan Lipkovicius of Audio Impact in San Diego.
Even if everything seems a-ok, you still might want to bring in a pro to at least recalibrate your TV and sound system. It’ll cost between $100 and $300, but it’ll ensure that the picture and sound are perfect. For example, by adjusting the settings of your A/V receiver, your pro can make it feel as if you’re seated alongside the screaming fans at the stadium. He’ll also be able to check the signal strength of your satellite reception and if necessary realign the dish to prevent signal dropouts or picture pixilation during the game.
The TV itself will probably need a little fine tuning, as well. If you’ll be watching the game on a rear-projection TV or a video screen, make sure the display’s bulb will make it through the game. If you’re concerned about it burning out, have a pro install a new bulb ($300-$700).
Given that the Super Bowl is just a week away, there’s no guarantee a CE pro will be able to squeeze you into his schedule. Thankfully, there are several adjustments you can make on your own. “Some new audio receivers have a calibration microphone built in which makes it a breeze,” says Roessler. “You just go through the setup process and make sure all the levels are correct.”
Derek Cowburn of DistinctAV, McCordsville, Ind., offers another tip: “Test the surround-sound modes [while watching a sporting event] and jot down the modes you like best. Be sure to remember what buttons you pressed to get there.”
If you think your old receiver may not be up to snuff, for around $600 you can trade up to a more sophisticated model. “Basic receivers just produce sound,” explains Ryan Herd of One Sound Choice, Pompton Plains, N.J. “A better receiver will upconvert the audio and video for a much better result.”
If nothing else, take your receiver off “sports” or “stadium” surround mode,” says Eric Thies of DSI Entertainment Systems, West Hollywood, Calif. “These settings are simply corny and defeat the good work of the sound engineer of the Super Bowl.” With the settings disabled, the game will be presented in Dolby Digital—good for listening to both the game and The Who during the halftime.
Want more impact? “Adding a subwoofer to your current speaker arrangement can deliver a little more oomph on big hits and create a more uniform bass field for multiple seats within a media room,” adds P.J. Aucoin of Home Concepts, Calgary, Alberta.
The Super Bowl, as well as other big sporting events, will be presented in high-def, so in addition to fine-tuning your audio and video components, be sure to tweak the display. “If the white of the players’ jerseys is so bright it’s making the players’ numbers look fuzzy, your set is too bright. Dial it down,” says Thies. “Same with color: If the field is the color of glowing nuclear slime, ratchet the color back a bit to a more natural setting.”
Finally, if you don’t already own a universal remote, invest in one ($100-$500). It’ll simplify the setup and control of your system before, during and after the game. A CE pro can program special commands into the remote to really impress your friends. Cowburn recommends a “Commercial Mute” button that lowers the volume then restores it when pressed again (though maybe the ads will be funnier this year). A “Super Bowl” button, suggested by Aucoin, could tune every TV in the house to the Super Bowl—each at a specific volume level (loud in the family room but softer in the kitchen, for example).
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.