Info & Answers
Using Your Computer to Calibrate A/V Gear
How a computer, some low cost software and a little knowledge can help you calibrate your A/V gear.
Home Theater Calibration
March 13, 2009 by Richard M. Sherwin

When will your speakers sound their best?

According to Denon’s Director of Product Management and System Integration, Jeff Talmedge and John Murphy, a physicist and audio engineer with over 20 combined years of experience in the research and development of audio products, the only time your speakers are perfectly tuned is when they leave the manufacturing plant.

But these words of wisdom will not help Diane Weist to re-tune her high-end portfolio of audio/video equipment strewn around her home.

“It’s sort of a digital humpty dumpty after the painters came and went. But in trying to recreate the sound and vision that I so carefully crafted the last few years, my first effort at putting things back together has been a miserable, frustrating experience,” Weist says.

While her rather upscale entertainment products look to be in the right place, they don’t seem to sound as good as before. And her blu-ray discs look sharper on her bedroom TV than on the larger than life living room TV.

Is it her imagination? No! Can she rearrange the products and/or the furniture and get back that magic feeling without bringing in a $250 an hour custom electronics designer? Maybe!

For the record, here’s a list of equipment in Diane’s den and living room:

  • Dahlquist and B&W Speakers
  • Denon AVR-4308CI and 3808CI, ASD-3W Wi-Fi iPod Dock
  • Sony home theater system with Samsung HDTV (42 inch)
  • ION digital turntable and burner
  • 52-inch Panasonic HDTV with Cablevisions newest digital set-top box

With a notebook PC, some low cost software and a little knowledge, Diane can get her system sounding right again.

True Real Time Audio
With everyone on a tight budget, more people are trying to do calibration and analysis of their home entertainment products themselves, says John Murphy who developed software dubbed True Real Time Audio that calibrates and redesigns audio systems.

Murphy was not a fan of computerized audio engineering until he realized there are certain areas of A/V technology that require computer assistance. “The present day audio spectrum is so much larger and the technologies like 7.1 channel audio are so more challenging to accurately access, that the computer can be a better tool for this kind of calibrating,” says Murphy.

Murphy says Diane can restore her system’s sound by using the free Level 1 edition of his RTA software. Other experts claim that True RTA Level 4 edition (under $100) exceeds the performance of many $3,000 laboratory analyzers. Most consumers would do well with the Level 2 edition ($39).

Spyder
As for the video equivalent of RTA, Spyder video calibrators may replace the installer expense. The Datacolor Spyder3TV can deliver an easy-to-use solution for optimizing all the TVs in your house so you can see your movies and shows as the director intended. Spyder has systems as low as $49 at some web sites.

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Richard M. Sherwin - Contributing Writer
Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.

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