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An Installation

Mogami Cables

venkatcr

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First, what is the objective of this thread? Very simply, it is an account of the installation I undertook for a friend of mine. I have also added some comments of the various units I have used. There is nothing more to this thread. I am hoping this will be instructive to our members who install HT systems themselves.

Some time ago, Shyam, a friend of mine who lives in Coimbatore called me and said he wanted me to help him install a HT room for him. Initially, I was a bit skeptical as I have heard this very often with disastrous results. People change their minds; argue on the choices, get a couple of other advises to advise you, and so on. More often than not, in such situations, I humbly back out and leave such people to do whatever they want.

I have known Shyam for over 20 years and we have grown together in life. We have had our fights, advised each other, and cursed each other. Shyam is a leading management consultant and travels 20 days a month. He is also just completed building a new bungalow for himself in Coimbatore.

When Shyam called me the first time, I bluntly asked him what he wanted me to do. He said, advise me on a TV that I will buy myself. For the rest of the stuff, it is your baby. You decide and you buy whatever from whenever you want. This was interesting and we agreed to a budget of 1.5 lakhs without the TV.

Since he was constructing the room, he asked me what is to be done vis--vis the cables. I went and purchased 70 meters of 16 AWG DAC speaker cables, and gave him a rough diagram how the cables should be laid across the room. He showed the drawing to his electrician, and got the cables laid inside conduits across the floor for the surround speakers and, across the wall for all other speakers.

In the meantime, I did a bit of auditioning and finalized the equipment that needed to be purchased. The list is as follows:
  • AVR - Yamaha 663
  • Speakers 4x PSB Alpha B1, 1xPSB Alpha C1 Centre
  • Sub Wharfedale SW150
  • DVD Player Pioneer 610
  • CD Player NAD 515
  • TV Samsung Series 5 FullHD of 46 inches
  • 2 x Atlona HDMI connectors
  • Eagle Audio Cable
  • MX gold plated Banana plugs
  • DAC SPK16 (16 AWG) speaker cable
  • DAC ARSW23 Sub woofer cable

I actually wanted to pick up the Canton sub from their Movie 60 series, but unfortunately I could not get a piece as a complete import consignment was stuck with customs. I also wanted to consider the Q-Acoustics sub, but could never audition one in time. So it was the Wharfedale.

Shyam sent the money and I had picked up all the equipment. About a month ago, I travelled to Coimbatore, took one look at the state of his room, and refused to install the system. I packed all the stuff, left it on his kitchen counter, and asked him to call me again when the workers had exited after finishing all their masonry and wood work.

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Shyam called me a about 10 days ago, and said the room was ready and asked me to go over again for installation.

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This is a view of the wall where the TV is to be mounted. On the left you will find a bar. The rest of the left wall has been covered completely with thick drapes. On the right, though not visible, is a staircase. The entrance to the room from the staircase has been blocked with a double glazed all glass wall and door. The small black marks you see on the top of the wooden wall are the base clamps for a TV wall stand that I used for mounting the speakers. I show a closer picture below.

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Instead of mounting the surround speakers on the side of the sitting position, Shyam had taken the liberty of instructing me to mount them to the rear walls. Though I was unhappy with this, I had no option.

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What he had done, though, was mount small wooden boards to cover the walls directly behind where I was mounting the speakers. The room has only one corner, and I had asked Shyam to build a simple triangular bass trap that is shown in the above snap.

I started installing the equipment. First, I cleaned the area terminating all the speaker cables, and tagged them.

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I then opened the Alpha B1s and mounted them on the stands. I then unpacked the 663 and kept it atop a stool to make all the connections at the back.

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Using some help, I got the monstrous TV mounted on its wall stand just above the system rack.

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I then placed the sub on the floor to the left of the system rack. Using DACs most expensive subwoofer cable I connected the sub to the AVR.

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For each speaker, I used gold plated banana plugs from MX. I carefully stripped half an inch (1/2) of the shielding from the cable ends and inserted them into the banana plugs. In the photograph below I show one cable inserted into the banana plug, and the other completed with its outer cover.

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The DAC speaker cables have one cable of the pair marked with specifications and company name in white across the whole length every 12 inches or so. I used this as the +ve cable and the other as the ve. This worked perfectly for me to ensure correct polarity excepting in one cable where the carpenter had painted the whole cable making it impossible for me to see the markings. Fortunately, the Yamaha AVR has a simple test to test the polarity, and it immediately caught the error. For that speaker alone, I switched the cables, and the AVR was happy.

I connected the Pioneer 610 to the AVR using an Atlona HDMI cable, and the AVR to the TV using another Atlona HDMI cable. For a simple test, I inserted a DVD, and the picture was coming on the screen. I had, by now, got the principle parts of the HT working.

To set the TV, I inserted the Avia 2 DVD, and ran into my first hitch of the day. Can anything work without any hitch? After all Murphys law has to work, right? In contrast setting, Avai divides the screen into two parts. The right half is bright white, while the left half is a black screen. On the black screen there are two white bars that keep moving about the screen. The objective is to set the contrast ratio to such a level where the left bar disappears and the right bar will just be visible. The problem was I could not see the bars at all. After some heavy thinking and cursing the Pioneer, Yamaha, and Avia, I decided to connect the DVDP to the TV directly. Presto! The bars appeared magically. So I used this connection to set the TV.

When the TV was set, I reconnected the Pioneer to the AVR and the AVR to the TV. I used Avia again to test the audio was working properly.

I then used opened the mike provided by Yamaha, connected it to the AVR and set the mike atop a lot of contraptions to simulate my ear height while sitting. I used Auto Set Up, and Yamaha asked me to shut up or leave the room. Mumbling to myself, I sneaked to a corner to see what the AVR did. It first tested the presence of all the speakers, then the polarity. Since one of the speakers was connected wrong, it cursed me and stopped the Auto Setup. I then reconnected the speaker cables properly and started Auto Setup again. It now moved happily beyond the polarity. It played pink noise on each speaker starting from the left front and going full circle. With the pink noise it measured the distance and set the speaker levels.

Yamahas YPAO made two mistakes. One; though it recognized the presence of the sub, it set the front speakers as large and the cross over as 80Hz. Using manual set up, I reset the speakers as small and the crossover at 65Hz. Two; it had set the speakers levels at 60dB as measured on the SPL meter I was using. I am more used to 75dB, and I set all speakers at that.

I then used the Avia 2 DVD again to set the sub. Avia plays a note that starts at somewhere around 250Hz, and keeps going down continuously till it reaches some 40Hz or so. It first plays the note on the left front along with the sub. It then plays it across the room for all speakers individually along with the sub each time. The objective is to ensure that the sub takes over smoothly from the other speakers. There should not be any gap when the front, centre, or, surround speaker stops, and the sub takes over. After a bit of experimentation, I set the sub at a crossover of 75Hz, and it worked perfectly. The transition was smooth and I could hear when the sub stepped in without a gap.

Yamaha has one more feature. In addition to setting individual speaker levels, you can also set the AVR to start at a prescribed level called initial volume level. This is the volume at which the AVR will start when you switch it on. I first tried using the dB levels displayed on the AVR. By mistake I set it at -3.0dB, and nearly got my ear drums busted. I then set it to the lowest possible level. And then, using my trusted SPL meter, I increased the initial volume level till it displayed 60dB on my SPL meter. This was more comfortable. On the AVR display it showed -18.5 dB.

THE AUDITIONING

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The first DVD I inserted after I was comfortable with the settings was the 2007 Neujahrskonzert, The Viener Philharmonikers New Year Concert conducted by the legendary Zubin Mehta. This is a Deutsche Grammaphon DVD filmed in High Definition with DTS 5.0 surround sound.

I first closed my ears, and focused on the screen. The picture was perfect with vivid colors, and smooth movement when the camera panned. I could even see the tiny mikes hanging from the ceiling, and the sweat pouring from Zubins face. I was happy.

I then played Track 2 Strausss Flattergeister. The sound was very very good, and I was surprised that bookshelves could play a full Orchestra so well. Every time Zubin would look at a set of artist, raise his eyebrows, and move his baton, I could clearly hear the artists begin their part of the number even before the camera panned to them.

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I was particularly pleased with one part of the track. In this, the camera focuses on an artist holding an idiophone in his hand. When his cue came, he would directly look at Zubin, crane his neck towards Zubin to catch his attention, and gently tap the idiophone. I could hear the idiophone ringing between the left front and rear left speakers. I was indeed happy.

I now connected the NAD 515BEE using a Eagle RCA cable to the CD input of the AVR. Inserting a Harry Belafonte CD, I settled back to hear him sing. Harry sang right from the middle of the screen well enclosed in his guitars and violins. Just for a lark, I used the same CD on the Pioneer, and the difference was light and day. For some reason, the Pioneer seemed to play with an increased brightness and even increased volume of sound. I had not touched the remote or fiddled with the volume knob. I demonstrated this to Shyam, and requested him to use the NAD CDP alone for all audio CDs. There have a lot of comments on the Forum about the laid back characteristic of NAD. I tried a number albums including Lata Mangeshkar. I found the NAD to play well indeed. Maybe it is the NAD amp, but the NAD CD Player and Yamaha 663 seems to work well together. I am sucker for detail, and this combination did not disappoint me. I could hear all the instruments and notes clearly.

As a good ending to a job well done, Shyam and I sat the last night of my trip watching Face Off. The images were perfect, and I could understand all the dialogs without any sub titles.

Shyam, his wife, and children are enjoying the system now. As part of the system purchase I have also given them some 70 DVDs chosen by his eldest daughter. He expressed his satisfaction by sending the following SMS to me a couple of days ago, A large Chivas Regal and Hindustani classical playing on the NAD on pure direct. This is heaven. Thanks for introducing me to real listening pleasure, pal.

A job well done I would say.

Cheers
 
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iaudio

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Venkat ji, a job well done!
:D
This thread will help in giving an idea about what all to watch out for in setting up an HT

However please resize the images to forum friendly 640*480 resolution, I was having a tough time scrolling left and right to read the entire post:p!
 

Rajiv

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Hi,

Great job.

I am lost by the following .

Yamahas YPAO made two mistakes. One; though it recognized the presence of the sub, it set the front speakers as large and the cross over as 80Hz. Using manual set up, I reset the speakers as small and the crossover at 65Hz.

Please explain.

Regards
Rajiv
 

venkatcr

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However please resize the images to forum friendly 640*480 resolution, I was having a tough time scrolling left and right to read the entire post:p!

Thank you IAudio. I had, by mistake, used the toolbar of ImageShack and then realised my mistake. I have reloaded all the images to my own site within ImageShack and sized all of them at 640x480.

Cheers
 
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venkatcr

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I am lost by the following .

'Yamahas YPAO made two mistakes. One; though it recognized the presence of the sub, it set the front speakers as large and the cross over as 80Hz. Using manual set up, I reset the speakers as small and the crossover at 65Hz.'

Please explain.

If you look at the specs of the PSB Alpha B1, they are basically bookshelves and have a frequency range of 65Hz to 21Khz.

In most AVRs, when you use a Auto Setup and do not connect the sub, the AVR will assume that the front speakers are large and set the frequency crossover of the Front speakers to the THX standard of 80Hz, or whatever standards the AVR follows.

In this case I was hoping that since I had connected the sub, the auto set up would recognise the Alpha B1s as small so that the correct crossover if established. As I said, it showed the Front Alphas B1s as large.

The frequency setting is something I can understand, and has to be done manually. I don't think any auto setup can identify the frequency range of a pair of speakers.

Cheers
 

gobble

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Great job Venkat-ji!! It was a treat to hear the account of an expert at work :)

Cheers
 

iaudio

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If you look at the specs of the PSB Alpha B1, they are basically bookshelves and have a frequency range of 65Hz to 21Khz.

In most AVRs, when you use a Auto Setup and do not connect the sub, the AVR will assume that the front speakers are large and set the frequency crossover of the Front speakers to the THX standard of 80Hz, or whatever standards the AVR follows.

In this case I was hoping that since I had connected the sub, the auto set up would recognise the Alpha B1s as small so that the correct crossover if established. As I said, it showed the Front Alphas B1s as large.

The frequency setting is something I can understand, and has to be done manually. I don't think any auto setup can identify the frequency range of a pair of speakers.

Cheers
Venkat ji, I still didnt get it! :eek:
I mean, when a subwoofer is present, wouldnt the avr give a higher cut off for the fronts, so that the sub can handle all those frequencies below 80hz, rather than the fronts?
 

venkatcr

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I mean, when a subwoofer is present, wouldnt the avr give a higher cut off for the fronts, so that the sub can handle all those frequencies below 80hz, rather than the fronts?

This depends upon the frequency of the Fronts, and the quality of the speakers. A speaker such as the PSB Alpha B1s can go down to 70 or 75Hz quite well, and that I why I set the subwoofer to take over from that figure.

Generally you can set the sub to switch on anywhere from 40Hz to as much as 120 Hz depending upon what the Fronts can handle. As I said before, the THX standard switchover is 80Hz, but you can set it anywhere you want.

Cheers
 
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kannanokannan

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Thats perfect! give a complete picture of how things can put up!!:eek:
Could you please give a possible combinations on a good HiFi classified by price range... of course no one size fits all but will be helpful for most of us ...not getting lost in the ocean of info this forum provides...
just a small thought..

many thanks,
kannan
 

vivekam

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Venkat Ji,

Very good job. The SMS itself speaks thousands words.
Meanwhile I can see a black Pioneer 610, from where did you get it. I am also looking for the black one. Alas, can't find one.

Thanks,
Vivekam
 

marsilians

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Good job Venkat and well laid out. I recently also setup a system with an 863 while travelling as I had not done one in a while. Will put some words down shortly. I think Yamaha is slowly coming back into the audio reproduction with the 863/663 AVRs.
 

reju

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Venkat Ji,

Very good job. The SMS itself speaks thousands words.
Meanwhile I can see a black Pioneer 610, from where did you get it. I am also looking for the black one. Alas, can't find one.

Thanks,
Vivekam

Yes, even I could not find one. Had to settle for silver:sad:
Black is a beauty!
 

reju

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Thanks venkatcr. Very nice info.
 
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venkatcr

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Could you please give a possible combinations on a good HiFi classified by price range... of course no one size fits all but will be helpful for most of us ...not getting lost in the ocean of info this forum provides...just a small thought..

Kannan, as you rightly said there is an ocean out there. One could assemble a system from 50,000 to as much as 50 Lakhs or even more. I recently came across a projector that was 10 Lakhs and another that was ten times more expensive.

There are a number of threads where HiFi system have been discussed in detail. If you have any specific queries, we would be happy to answer them.

Cheers
 

venkatcr

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Vivekam and Reju, I got the Pioneer 610 from Dubai through a friend of mine. Actually if you know someone in the Middle East, this is a good time to use that contact. Audio and video equipments are going cheap over there because of the recession.

Cheers
 

rallynut

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venkat,congrats on a job well done!!:clapping:as always,thorough and meticulous.great to have people like you guiding the likes of us in this never ending quest.strange that you didn choose the psb sub.even so,am sure the setup sounds awesome.ur pal must be delighted.cheers
 

psychotropic

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I also have a similar doubt. I completely understand this explanation of yours. But my doubt is with regard to YPAO. If it believes that there is no sub, would it not set the crossover lower (say 60-65hz), so that the "large" front speakers can handle as much of the bass as possible?

And therefore conversely, with the sub-connected, should it not automatically set it higher (say 80hz), so that even some of the notes which are within the rated ability of the fronts, but which would probably be handled better by the sub, (such as perhaps the sounds in the 60-80hz frequency, when you're talking about bookshelves), can be handled by the sub, and the fronts need not struggle with them?

In the present case case, even if the PSB Alpha B1 can go down reasonably to 70-75hz, if the sub can handle the 60-80hz spectrum with greater comfort, would it not be better to leave the crossover at 80hz, rather than set it at 65hz. For example, you mentioned that the B1s are comfortable down to 70hz, so presumably 65-70hz (for the sake of example) is an area where they are not comfortable, and in such a case, would not setting the crossover at 65hz leave the 65-70hz frequencies inadequately resolved/reproduced?

I am assuming I am failing to understand something here, so I am looking forward to your explanation.

This depends upon the frequency of the Fronts, and the quality of the speakers. A speaker such as the PSB Alpha B1s can go down to 70 or 75Hz quite well, and that I why I set the subwoofer to take over from that figure.

Generally you can set the sub to switch on anywhere from 40Hz to as much as 120 Hz depending upon what the Fronts can handle. As I said before, the THX standard switchover is 80Hz, but you can set it anywhere you want.

Cheers
 

anm

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great job Venkat. What is the total cost in terms of money spent, effort invested?
It seems the position of front speakers is higher than ear level. Have you tilted them down?

regards
 

venkatcr

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great job Venkat. What is the total cost in terms of money spent, effort invested? It seems the position of front speakers is higher than ear level. Have you tilted them down?

Well, the equipment without the TV cost 1.5 roughly lakhs. My effort would be equivalent to about 7 man days of effort including auditioning, buying, and installation.

Regarding the speakers, all the bookshelves are about 6 feet from the ground. This is not an ideal placement, but Shyam did not want any speakers on the ground, nor did he agree to any floorstanders. I did toe all the speakers in, and bent them downwards as much as I could, short of breaking the TV wall stands.

The sitting area is roughly 5 meters (15 odd feet) from the Front speakers, the sound comes across quite nicely.

Cheers
 
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