Dual woofers got their humble beginnings when Dolby got into the home surround sound movement.  Dolby_Pro_Logic

Flashback to 1987, Pro-Logic was introduced.  I was just out of college but not ready to leave the college scene.  I worked at the University of Oregon’s Bookstore and we had been growing from simply offering text books to selling everything a college student could need.  And that now included home theaters.

There were two big things about this surround sound; 1. was the speakers behind you in order to create that theater environment where sounds whizzed by and over and around you and 2. was the center channel.

The center channel was key to making things sound realistic.  The idea was to put a speaker on top of the TV (which were as giant as 35″ tube style).  Dolby wanted the speaker on the TV so that sounds that were on the screen, came from the screen.  This was important for home situations because at the time we had living rooms and family rooms that had irregular seating as it pertained to theater.  A chair on one side and maybe a love seat on the other side of the “main” couch/sofa.  If we didn’t have a speaker on the TV for the action there (like voices), then the fellow sitting in the Lazy Boy on the right would hear the voices coming from the speaker to the right of the TV.  Not very realistic.

The center channel was born, but the typical speaker was not going to work up there…too big.  So somebody with marketing smarts probably said, “Let’s lay it on it’s side,” then some super smart engineer said, “Let’s put two smaller drivers in there that match the surface area of the speakers that we’re going to use for the left/right speakers.”  THAT was brilliant!  And the center channel as we knew it was born.  So now we had these bookshelf sized speakers with 6 1/2″ woofers on the left and right and a center channel speaker with dual 4″ drivers in the middle and all the front speakers sounded very similar to each other in performance.

Digital Dolby

Fast forward to around 1995 for the introduction of Digital Dolby for Home Theater usage.  Sales were going crazy for home theater and it was the best system yet.  And an important change happened with this release:  all the channels were now “discrete,”  meaning that each channel was not only controlled independently from the others but they were all “full range.”  Before, with Pro-Logic, the center channel and rear speakers were only partial range in terms of frequency response.  Now there were “reasons” to sell a better center channel and surround speakers to the early adopters who were in on the Pro-Logic craze.  But it got out of hand for the center channel speakers.

Sales forces everywhere (I was guilty of this as well ) started the chant of “center channel speakers are the most important speaker!”  Much of this was marketing hype for sure.  Here’s a post from 10 years ago about center channels being the most important from Home Theater Magazine’s forum “How important is the center channel?”  As it mentions with a reasonable discussion is that it’s far more important to have the center channel be from the same “family” of speakers for timbre matching as opposed to being some brute of a speaker, sometimes without regard to what brand it was from.  But the marketing damage was done.  Still today those words of “most important speaker” come out of a salespersons mouth to your ears.  Heck, we can’t even educate our views, so we go along with it  with this massive beast of a center channel HD525.1LCR.

Don’t get me wrong, these massive center speakers are impressive, but only in the implementation of using them in ALL positions do you really take advantage of the dual woofer design.  Which brings me to the point of this article.  If you really want an impressive theater experience, the way to go is to get more surface area on the walls (or speaker boxes).  The term LCR speaker was coined.  At first it stood for Left, Center, or Right, but I would also add Rear.  An LCR type system is the most impactful type of arrangement you can get without going with a more complicated multi-amp set up.

lcr_vs_regular

Why?  Because we get two drivers on the same speaker plate.  Remember back in the Pro-Logic day when they wanted to push the same amount of acoustic air power out of the center dual woofer speaker to match up with the left/rights?  Now we’ve got these massive LCR styles which have mostly 5 1/4″ woofers in them.  Add them up and you’ve got almost an 8″ driver’s worth of acoustic power coming at you but at the distinct advantage of them having less mass, thereby being able to move FASTER than a single 8″ driver.  This is significant!  The added bonus for inwall drivers is that because we have to mount them in the wall (compressed chalk) we can only expect to get accurate sounds above about 80-100 Hz.  We’re not expecting our wall speakers to produce sub woofer frequencies (we’ve got subwoofers for that reason).  What you get is really fast dynamic mid bass response all the way around the sound stage.  It makes for an entertaining audio experience.  It also has the potential to drive dog owners crazy, it’s REALLY lifelike when the door bell rings!

 

Find all the LCR Style Speakers here:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 9.57.27 AM

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Apple Airport Express

Apple Airplay Multi-Room Setup 6 Zones

Apple Airplay is one of the best wireless home audio solutions available.  With it’s lossless audio design, it sounds as good as digital audio gets when delivered wirelessly.  It is bandwidth heavy but can be overcome with some design considerations.  This Do-It-Yourself wireless project will end up costing far less than other solution providers with proprietary equipment.  This project is wireless in the control aspect as it can be controlled via most of the Apple products available, but the speakers still need to be wired from the central equipment.  The system will be able to be controlled anywhere in your home where there is a wifi network signal. The Airports are going to be wired via ethernet cable to help with the high overhead of bandwidth needed with 6 Airplay instances operating at once.  In my experience, I could use 3 or 4 Airports via purely wifi, but they would drop out above that number because of the traffic.  Newer, faster wifi routers may be able to overcome this limitation.  Look into “multicast” if you attempt a straight up wireless system.  I’ll hook up one of the Airports to operate as the wifi router for the audio only traffic.

A note on some of the other options out there with Open Source processes of Airplay:  (Raspberry Pi, TPLink, Dolry, etc.)  I’ve researched these projects for a few years now trying to develop a product to bypass the expense of Apple’s products and have found that as of this writing; none are ready for prime time easy use for the average consumer.  I consider myself fairly tech savvy and I’ve found the solutions challenging to implement.  Some of the problems I’ve encountered are the problem of synchronization of the Airplay instances, where all the zones are off by a few milliseconds causing weird echo/reverb through the house, dropouts at specific intervals respective of each hacked module, and flat out failure due to inferior equipment design and other bothersome miscellaneous problems of smaller notation.  Another worry of using a hacked version of Airplay is that Apple has an encryption key that may render ALL these devices useless should they decide to pull the switch on a new OS or IOS version, unlikely but nevertheless a consideration.

Parts List

6- Airport Express Modules A1264 (aka MB321LL/A).  $35-$90 These are out of production but can be acquired easily used on Amazon.com, Ebay.com or Craigslist.org.
They’re great values starting around $35.  They have easy factory reset buttons and are ready to go in less than a minute.
Warning: There are two types that look identical.  The ones to avoid are the ones starting with A108_  (Most popular A1084)  These do not work with the current Airport Utility provided with the current Apple OS.  See Wikipedia for more info on Apple Express versions.
The current version is fine also, but the form factor of the A1264 is much easier to mount a series of them together in my opinion.  MC414LL/A

Apple Airplay Airport Express

Apple Airport Express

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Airport Room Labels

Using Apple Airplay from Single Source Apps

continued from Part 1 on setting up a 6 Zone Airplay Multi-Room System

Step 3b: Configure most any audio app to play through any single zone

In almost all these apps, you’re looking for the universal icon for Airplay:

Apple airplay

Apple airplay

On their own, these apps will only play to ONE ZONE at a time.  You can get a program like those mentioned in Part 1 so that you can play to more than one room at a time FROM YOUR IPHONE.  iTunes can natively play to multiple rooms at once out of the box with no extra purchase.

Apple Airplay Examples:

In Pandora:

It should look like this:

Pandora Screenshot for Airplay

Pandora Screenshot for Airplay

When you touch the icon it should open to something like this:

Apple Airplay

Multiroom Apple Airplay

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How to select a Home Theater Receiver

Here’s a typical question I get about how to choose a Home Theater Receiver:

Dear Brian:
One last question (hopefully).
I am about to receive your HD 5.1 in wall system, and if I were tech literate I would read the specs of the speakers and decide how powerful my Home Theater Receiver should be.  I am not remotely tech literate.
The room it will be used in is 16’ to the front and 12’ to the sides.
Since my goal is to not blow the speakers (or my ears), how many watts do you recommend?   100   200   500 ?
And the same applies to the Subwoofer  100   200  etc.  ?

Is there anything else besides watts to consider?

Thanks for your help,  Granville

Here’s my response: (more…)

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