Keep in mind that AVR settings are kind of personal, and will vary as the equipment changes. I decided to do a walk through on some of my own Denon X6200W AVR settings, not to proclaim it as the right way to do it, but just to show the way I do it. Some or all of the settings I use may not be right for you, but my hope is that some may benefit from seeing how I adjust my settings and why.
Tip: the Denon X6300 comes with 11 channels now, and the Denon X4300 and Marantz SR-7010, SR-7011, and SR-6011 are all 9 channel, allowing 4 height effect Dolby Atmos and DTS:X speaker configurations, and most if not all offer Auro 3D as a paid upgrade. The Denon X6300 allows 4 height, but also back/rear surrounds as well, I would need to add an external amp to do that with the X6200w. I also really like the Sub EQ HT feature on these units, it does a really nice job.
In my strong opinion, a subwoofer should be audible and authoritative down to 20 hertz, and have a relatively flat frequency response while doing it. Not just make noise, but be heard clearly and powerfully. Simple enough, right?
Most commonly available ported subwoofers sold in stores do not have the ability to produce quality sound below 25-35 hertz. There is a “secret world of bass” where you can get subs that go down to 20 hertz with authority and clarity, and it’s fairly affordable, all things considered. You can spend over $5,000 on a sub that won’t reach 20 hertz. Why pay that much or more for something “incomplete”? I tend to gravitate to subwoofers that are more value based, and I list subwoofers that I would consider buying myself here: Best Subwoofers “The List”
Even a lot of high end professional ported subs used at theaters and concerts are only rated for 40 hertz, so what are you missing? The “WOW” feeling we all hope for. You won’t know it until you’ve heard it. The visceral feeling I get at home is more substantial than most movie theaters. That’s an insane statement, and it’s a LOT of fun!
Theaters may have more loudness, but for the home you can have more controlled deep bass with fewer bleeding eardrums, while still being able to go louder than I am personally comfortable with. I prefer sound quality over maximum volume. Some Imax theaters produce comfortably down to 23 hertz according to the video below. The most economical subwoofer I recommend is measurably comfortable at around 21 hertz, and clearly audible at 19 hertz. Amazing for a 10 inch driver, and absolutely uncommon.
It’s important to understand that frequency response numbers are commonly misleading, and a sub accurately rated for 19 hertz can trample all over a sub “factory rated” for 16 hertz. Confused? I was too, and seriously frustrated! I’ll try to simplify as much as I can. I’ll try give you the basics, show you some specific examples of quality subwoofers, and you can take it from there.
My goal is to help save my audience some time, money, and frustration. I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad about their current subwoofer, just bring your attention to what is available for when you do decide to upgrade. Spending good money on audio and getting that unsatisfied feeling is no fun. There are a lot of good brands out there, but the really great subwoofers are known to very few, or they are crazy expensive. I don’t focus on the crazy expensive, I’m more value conscious.
Have a look around, the subwoofer is not as simple as some might believe, and just because a brand is well known does not mean everything they offer is top notch. There are a handful of brands that produce excellence, and they will be discussed quite a bit.
The Audio Return Channel (ARC) can really simplify your HT setup. It requires your AVR (amplifier/receiver) and TV to both have the ARC option. It sends the sound from your TV to your AVR with an HDMI cable. The really nice part is that when I turn on my TV, my amp comes on automatically. Whether I use TV or AVR volume control, they both change at the same time. It’s a nice feature. For smart TVs that have Youtube and Netflix embedded, it makes a lot of sense.
However, when it comes to Blu Ray players, Roku players, etc… you may want to keep using your AVR to do the switching instead of your TV. Why?
Much to my embarrassment, I discovered that I was not getting full True HD or DTS Master like I thought I was, and most certainly not Dolby Atmos or DTS:X when running through the ARC. Some TV’s may pass through the lossless formats, but many do not, including my own LG 65UF8500 3D 4k TV.
I also found that on some players, like my Sony BDP S6500, you need to make adjustments before your AVR will receive lossless formats. See the video for more on that. Moral of the story? Don’t put too much faith in “the system”, I never imagined this could even be a problem.
Here is the speaker wire I spoke of in the video. I have the 12 gauge, but if you have lower end speakers or AVR, the 12 gauge may be a bit thick and may not fit in the terminals. These are good quality cables that can run more power than I use, and aren’t as expensive as others with bigger names.
Monoprice speaker cables
This is the exact wire I have but I got the 300 foot version thinking I could share with my brother, but the wire was too big for his speakers and AVR, he has more of a budget system.
SVS recently released their new line of cables for 2016, aiming to bridge the gap of good cable qualities and features, while not charging extremely high prices. They are known for a tradition of strong value, and this appears to be right on par with offering audiophile quality at normal person pricing.
Their approach seems to be, rather than be forced to either go really expensive or no frills at all, offering an in-between, high performance, high value option. I like this kind of thing, making “high end” less painful for normal people. They started with subwoofers, moved to high end speakers in rather impressive fashion, and now they are doing speaker cables, again offering reasonably priced high end. I’m interested to hear what’s next.
They now offer well built custom length, (custom terminated in Ohio for odd lengths) speaker cable called SoundPath Ultra, (be sure to measure correctly!) with bananas or spades, or any combination. They also now have new bulk/spool 14 gauge speaker cable called SoundPath One, and separate banana and spade terminals for DIY.
I used to use bare wire, but considering how often I’m plugging in speakers, banana plugs are almost essential, and have made my life a little easier. I’m not as enthusiastic about spades as they tend to loosen easily.
Of course, I would prioritize putting money into speakers and subs first, good cables aren’t going to make weak speakers sound much better. That said, making sure the signal has as little degradation as “reasonably” possible is a good goal. Is “reasonable” $2,000 in cables? Probably not. I wouldn’t need solid gold cables, nor do I want to run 20 gauge (really thin) speaker cable.
After finally doing some actual A/B testing of the Monoprice, SVS Soundpath 1, and SVS Ultra cable, I’m able to say that the Ultra cable did offer an audible improvement. I was skeptical, even though I had been using the cable for a while. I was only using them on the Prime Towers and Center, while using the Soundpath 1 cable on the Prime Satellites. Since there was a difference in speaker performance, I think this is forgivable.
Hooking up just the Prime Towers, with no subwoofers in pure mode on the Denon and setting them to Large (full range) I did some listening with some very familiar songs, then zeroed in on 2 tracks that had what I decided would be good to test with, and also annoy my wife the least. She’s grown tired of my “go to” test tracks, so I get her annoyance.
I played the first 30 seconds of Truckin’ by the Grateful Dead. Then I changed cables, and played the same first 30 seconds. I did this quickly so my “sonic memory” wouldn’t fade. I had the amp turned to the side for quick access. Banana plugs were vital for this, bare wire would have been a nightmare with my fibromyalgia. All three cables were 10 feet long and banana terminated.
I think it’s important to stress that both the Monoprice and Soundpath 1 sounded great, and I don’t mean to imply that they are inferior. They had a similar sound, and I’m not sure I could pick them out in a blind test, which I pretty much expected.
What I did not expect, after years of reading arguments dismissing most speaker cable cable technology as snake oil, was that I could indeed pick out the sound of the Ultra Cable.
Again, I feel the need to stress the point that this was not dramatic or game changing, but the music did come through cleaner and warmer.
My wife, who was barely paying attention with a project at the kitchen table, also noticed the difference and was able to pick out the Ultra Cable, also citing the warmer, cleaner sound.
So how big of a difference was it? Don’t mortgage the house for cables. It was good and I prefer it, but I think there is a sanity limit.
The Ultra cables are very nice, well built, and offer what I determined to be a noticeable improvement over the well made, typically configured cables. They aren’t insane on price either, and SVS still offers their 45 day return policy with no shipping charges, even if you send them back.
That includes custom terminated cable lengths as well. If you don’t hear an improvement, SVS is very good about no hassle returns.
So how do I quantify it? I think such a thing is impossible, but I’ll go ahead an pull some numbers out of thin air to attempt to define it. If the SoundPath 1 cables offered 97.1% performance, the Ultra cables offered 99.2% performance. That’s more than 2 theoretical percentage points! I completely stand by those totally arbitrary, made up numbers. lulz…
But seriously, there was a slight difference, and it’s made me less judgmental of those who do value speaker cables. Here’s the video I did:
I’m not going to chase the speaker cable dragon, and I’m not super interested in covering the cable issue much beyond this. I certainly couldn’t advise spending $200+ for a single 10 foot cable. Nor could I advise spending that kind of money on digital cables.
One thing I’ve learned from the video above, and the hobby in general, is that there are some fights that are worth it, and other fights that will just leave you frustrated. The great speaker cable debate is not a worthwhile fight for me. Any improvement is going to be minor, and some may not notice it at all, which causes controversy.
10 to 14 gauge is good, and I would shoot for cables that are twisted pair rather than the more common side by side or parallel configuration. Twisting the positive and negative conductors around each other is something you’ll find in networking cable to reduce cross-talk and interference. Without arguing the point much further, the cables I preferred, including SVS Ultra Cables, are twisted pair.
Unlike analog speaker cables, digital cables either work or they don’t, it’s all about 1’s and 0’s, and there’s no room for influence like there is for an analog signal. For HDMI cables, Amazon Basics should provide just as much performance as the high end cables, assuming the same specs.
The SVS Subwoofer/Interconnect/RCA cables are well shielded, which in many cases can quiet annoying subwoofer hum, making it a worthwhile investment. It’s a problem I have been fortunate to have avoided, even with cheap cables, but it would have been just a few dollars more and reasonable to have better, more “subwoofer thoughtful” cables.