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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I've got an audio issue with my home theater setup, and I'm wondering if anyone might have an idea what the problem is or how best to troubleshoot. Lately, frequently, the overall volume output seems to be much lower than usual, and the sound is somewhat harsh, like the lows and the mids are dramatically reduced. More specifically, lately I often have the volume of my receiver set somewhere between 30 and 45, whereas previously it was usually between 20 and 30 (for similar audio sources). Sometimes I end up pulling the volume back a bit at some point while watching/listening, I'm not sure if this is because something has warmed up properly over time and the issue has subsided temporarily, or if I've just gotten used to it. Moreover, the issue has been intermittent--sometimes everything sounds fine from the start.

The setup:
Sony STR-DG720, 7 years old
Sony CD player, 18 years old
Playstation 3
cable box
2.1 speaker setup: Cambridge Soundworks satellites (18 years old) with Polk Audio sub (2 years old)
Panasonic TC-P55ST30

I don't believe this issue is the result of any changes to settings; I've checked and everything looks normal. I've tried all the connected components and confirmed that the problem occurs with all of them, so it seems the issue is with the receiver, the speakers, or perhaps the speaker wire. I don't currently have any other speakers or another receiver to swap in, so I'm not sure how to narrow the problem down. The speaker wire is relatively new, and the connections appear to be solid. If I bump up the volume on the sub I get plenty of lows, but the sound is still off, so I think the issue is more with mid frequencies. The satellite speakers obviously don't have a huge low range, but have always sounded pretty decent with a sub.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks.
 

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Hi all,

I've got an audio issue with my home theater setup, and I'm wondering if anyone might have an idea what the problem is or how best to troubleshoot. Lately, frequently, the overall volume output seems to be much lower than usual, and the sound is somewhat harsh, like the lows and the mids are dramatically reduced. More specifically, lately I often have the volume of my receiver set somewhere between 30 and 45, whereas previously it was usually between 20 and 30 (for similar audio sources). Sometimes I end up pulling the volume back a bit at some point while watching/listening, I'm not sure if this is because something has warmed up properly over time and the issue has subsided temporarily, or if I've just gotten used to it. Moreover, the issue has been intermittent--sometimes everything sounds fine from the start.

The setup:
Sony STR-DG720, 7 years old
Sony CD player, 18 years old
Playstation 3
cable box
2.1 speaker setup: Cambridge Soundworks satellites (18 years old) with Polk Audio sub (2 years old)
Panasonic TC-P55ST30

I don't believe this issue is the result of any changes to settings; I've checked and everything looks normal. I've tried all the connected components and confirmed that the problem occurs with all of them, so it seems the issue is with the receiver, the speakers, or perhaps the speaker wire. I don't currently have any other speakers or another receiver to swap in, so I'm not sure how to narrow the problem down. The speaker wire is relatively new, and the connections appear to be solid. If I bump up the volume on the sub I get plenty of lows, but the sound is still off, so I think the issue is more with mid frequencies. The satellite speakers obviously don't have a huge low range, but have always sounded pretty decent with a sub.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks.
Those satellite speakers are I guess nearing pension age, I have a pair of Ruark's of similar vintage and they are still listenable but have lost something with age. I doubt its your speaker cable, unless the problem started when you renewed it. Can you borrow a pair of speakers just to check. It is really a toughy to analyse with out being able to substitute items. Do both the satellites sound similar when you listen to them close up.

The receiver is not young but not old either and a good brand. IMHO think the satellite mid range drivers are probably the cause from what you say. But to be sure you really need to try them elsewhere or substitute with others. A visual inspection of the drivers would not go amiss initially make sure the cones and flexible outers are not torn or perished.
 

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Those satellite speakers are I guess nearing pension age, I have a pair of Ruark's of similar vintage and they are still listenable but have lost something with age. I doubt its your speaker cable, unless the problem started when you renewed it. Can you borrow a pair of speakers just to check. It is really a toughy to analyse with out being able to substitute items. Do both the satellites sound similar when you listen to them close up.

The receiver is not young but not old either and a good brand. IMHO think the satellite mid range drivers are probably the cause from what you say. But to be sure you really need to try them elsewhere or substitute with others. A visual inspection of the drivers would not go amiss initially make sure the cones and flexible outers are not torn or perished.
^ +1
Visually check the drivers for brittle/torn surrounds. You can easily repair them yourself using tried-n-true kits from the like of Parts Express.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Haven't had a chance to look into this further yet, but I'm planning to bring the satellites over to another system to test them out soon. Thanks for the suggestions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Okay, I've finally gotten around to doing some testing. I brought my satellites to a local home theater shop and to my surprise, the problem I've been hearing with my home setup was not present, at all. They sounded just as good as I remember prior to the recent change. Also, the guy I spoke to took a look at them and said there's no obvious sign of damage. We spoke a bit about stereo settings that could potentially be problematic: setting small v. large for the fronts, whether or not a sub is connected, crossover frequency, etc. I've tried every combination of these settings I can think of, including his recommendation of large fronts, no sub or sub-specific settings, (I have the main outs going to the sub, and from the sub to the satellites), but the result is the same.

I've also spent some time going over all the connections to make sure I hadn't reversed polarity at some point--that all looks good. A couple of the wires look a bit old at the ends, so I may clean or trim them down to get some clean copper.

Anyone have any other thoughts as to what I might try? I've been considering upgrading my mains for a while now (not specifically to fix this problem, but just in general) and may do that soon, but at this point I'm confident that the source of this problem is not my current speakers, so even if I got a new pair with better mid and low end response I'm afraid I'd still experience the issue I'm having now.

Thanks.
 

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Maybe pop the cover off your receiver and blow the dust out of it. Does it live somewhere with a lot of airflow, or maybe near a window/door/AC cold-air return? It's not impossible that dust build-up is wreaking some manner of electrical havoc, and that might be something cured by 15 minutes with a screwdriver and a can of compressed air.

And even if it doesn't help, it certainly won't hurt.
 

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You say you have the speaker outputs going to the sub high level inputs, then to your speakers? Could it be the sub that's causing the issue, have you tried bypassing the sub compleatly?
 

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Okay, I've finally gotten around to doing some testing. I brought my satellites to a local home theater shop and to my surprise, the problem I've been hearing with my home setup was not present, at all. They sounded just as good as I remember prior to the recent change. Also, the guy I spoke to took a look at them and said there's no obvious sign of damage. We spoke a bit about stereo settings that could potentially be problematic: setting small v. large for the fronts, whether or not a sub is connected, crossover frequency, etc. I've tried every combination of these settings I can think of, including his recommendation of large fronts, no sub or sub-specific settings, (I have the main outs going to the sub, and from the sub to the satellites), but the result is the same.

I've also spent some time going over all the connections to make sure I hadn't reversed polarity at some point--that all looks good. A couple of the wires look a bit old at the ends, so I may clean or trim them down to get some clean copper.

Anyone have any other thoughts as to what I might try? I've been considering upgrading my mains for a while now (not specifically to fix this problem, but just in general) and may do that soon, but at this point I'm confident that the source of this problem is not my current speakers, so even if I got a new pair with better mid and low end response I'm afraid I'd still experience the issue I'm having now.

Thanks.
Well from all you have said and kudos to the earlier poster I think it is time to get the Sony Receiver out of the equation. Is it possible you can get the same guy to hook some speakers up to your receiver and check it out, you really do need to confirm this is not the problem at the moment you have far to many variables to be able to isolate the issue. I think it is unlikely to be the cause of your problem, OK its not young but a good AVR can last many years, this would also give you peace of mind and allow you to concentrate on where I think IHMO the issue is which is the satellite speakers even though they have been checked and appear OK.

You mention some cables looking less than perfect and this is the very first and easiest place to remove a possible cause from the equation. Clean these up, I don't know what the terminations are like but if it is possible to use banana plugs or some other soldered on connector like fork terminals then I would do that and also clean up the terminals on the sub and the satellites themselves (I use isopropyl alcohol but any decent contact cleaner should do). If the receiver is OK and you have cleaned up the connections then you are down to two items the satellites or the Polk S/W and this should be so much easier to deal with.

So lets get the sub out of the way. Remove the sub from the system and hook the satellites directly to the receiver.

If you are hooking up the satellites directly then the speaker setting should be small and the crossover at least 80Hz if not higher. Try running the system like this for a while, it really should not sound that bad, just missing some bass :eek:. If the problem still occurs then it seems it is your satellite speakers that are the problem.

If it does not then put your sub woofer back in the chain and reset your crossover to the previous setting, if the problem returns then it is the sub woofer. Check any filter and phase setting switches are set correctly, note the settings and then switch them back and forth through all positions several times, this will hopefully clean up any dirty contacts (it does happen) similarly with any continuous phase or gain controls note or mark the settings and rotate back and forth several times. If after all this the sub is still causing the problem then it will need repair most likely a professional like your local home theatre shop.

Best of luck and I hope your problem just turns out to be simple, either a dirty switch or a corroded cable core at a termination.
 

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Just a thought on speaker wire in addition to my post above. You mention this is relatively new, a caution on some speaker cables. A while back I did a temporary installation with some cheap surround back speakers with spring clip terminals till I could replace them. I got some what I thought was great priced speaker wire intending a proper install at a later date. Initially this was OK but then I experienced problems with lack of sound from one of those speakers. Thinking it was the speakers I replaced them and because the new ones they were decent with banana terminations decided to solder on banana plugs. One core of the speaker cable soldered fine but the other would not. Looking closely I realised that the actual cores were different colours. One was copper coloured the other was silvery and the silvery one would not solder no matter what I did. Turns out the positive core was copper the negative core was aluminium. It used to be when you bought speaker cable it would be copper distinguished by the weight of the core and whether it was oxygen free. There are a lot of cheap import cables around these days some all aluminium some a mix of copper and aluminium (in the same core sometimes) and others tinned steel. I am not saying yours are not copper but certainly worth a check
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Finally got back to working on this again today. The problem is with my receiver. I borrowed another receiver and swapped it in and the problem was gone. Swapped my receiver back in, sounds like garbage again. I used the same sound source, speaker wire, and speakers in both tests--only the receiver changed, so I'd say that's pretty definitive. I think now may be a good time to upgrade the receiver anyway--I'd really like something with airplay so I can play music straight from my computer and iPhone.

Also wanted to share the results of a test I ran a little while back to get some objective measurement of the problem. I don't have a room EQ system, and the process I came up with isn't the most scientific in the world, but I'm confident that the results give a good picture of the issue. What I did was play a loop of white noise, first out of my computer speakers, then out of my stereo setup, and each time recorded the output with a (relatively high quality) handheld recorder about 5 inches away from one of the speakers. I then ran each of those recordings through a multi-meter plugin in Logic Pro (recording/sequencing program). The image on the left in the attached screen shot shows the computer speakers recording and the one on the right shows the stereo setup. You can see that the stereo setup has a steep decline from 4k down to where it fizzles out a little about 250 Hz.

Thanks for all the help and suggestions!

 

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Btw, I do believe most avr's do AirPlay now, but if you find one you like without it, an Apple airport express router is cheap(ish) and works with apples remote app. Easy streaming from iOS, or PC with iTunes.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Hi mightypants,
Really pleased to see you have isolated the problem although sorry to hear it is your receiver I had hoped it was something simpler. IHMO I personally am quite fond of Denon AVRs these days. I have a 4520 myself and recently installed one of the new lower end models AVR X2200 for some friends. I call it lower end but it is well made, lots of features, more than adequate power, sounds really good with Dali 5 speakers and best of all does not break the bank, it also has Audyssey room calibration. Of course if you want a bit more still at reasonable prices the 3200 or up are available. But as others will tell you go and audition as many as you can you might also want to consider a Yamaha model, reliable well built good performers again with adequate power although they have their own calibration system and although I prefer Audyssey others like the Yamaha calibration system, its horses for courses really. Hope you get sorted soon

PS Forgot an important note, thanks for the update and letting us know how you got on
 
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