As the pro AV industry continues to grow and evolve, value-added resellers (VARs) are quickly diversifying their product portfolio, offering new AV innovations such as touchscreen displays, social media integration and video walls. However, for many, the pro AV basics of audio and video still make up much of their business. And it’s vital to ensure the highest-quality audio and video possible.
Let’s start by taking a look at audio. Audio equipment has come a very long way in the last several years, and it pays to familiarize yourself with the industry’s best speakers, mics, amplifiers, mixers, structured wiring and more. It’s also important to take into consideration the many factors that might affect sound quality in each facility—because every project is at least slightly different.
With any audio system, you goal should be to achieve the most pleasing, natural-sounding music (or other audio) possible. Here are a few best practices for maximizing sound quality in any facility:
1. Consider the room’s acoustics.
Acoustics can make or break an audio system. Every sound produced by speakers “interacts with” the room and its various surfaces. If the facility has a lot of hard surfaces, large windows and open, echo-inducing areas, audio is going to either get lost or sound harsh. Compensate with soft furniture, rugs and, when necessary, special sound-absorbing panels for the walls or ceiling.
2. Listen for other sources of noise.
Background noise can also heavily impact the success of an audio install. Is there music spilling into the space from the store next door? Or is traffic noise competing with your in-house audio? You might need to consider installing some additional sound insulation or brainstorm some creative ways to adjust the room’s layout.
3. Place speakers correctly.
Correct speaker placement can have a huge impact on sound quality. Be sure to angle the speakers toward the main listening areas. And leave some space between each speaker and the nearest walls; when placed too close, the bass can become over-amplified, which throws off the entire system.
A good rule of thumb is to install the speakers about 3 inches from the front wall. For side walls, follow the “Golden Rectangle Rule,” which advises that the speaker’s distance from the side wall should be 1.6 times the distance from the front wall.
4. Bi-wire stereo speakers.
Some speakers can be bi-wired to improve sound quality even further. Bi-wiring involves running two lengths of speaker wire to each speaker—one to the woofer and the other to the tweeter.
Bi-wiring minimizes any negative effects that can come from the impedance difference of the high and low frequencies moving through a single speaker wire. With two wires, those frequencies are separated, which maximizes sound quality.
5. Make the most of your subwoofers.
Leverage your subwoofers to get the clearest, crispest audio possible. When possible, place the subwoofer on a side wall, about midway through the space. The ideal placement for a subwoofer is the spot with the best bass reproduction. For many VARs, this requires a little trial and error—and, sometimes, a lot of time on the ladder.
Finally, adjust the subwoofer’s crossover accordingly. (The range will be slightly lower if using floorstanding speakers.) If your subwoofer has phase control, and your sound quality seems a little thin, slowly increase the phase until the audio is more full-bodied.
What other best practices do you use to maximize sound quality in a facility? What are some of the most challenging pro AV projects you’ve encountered, from a sound quality perspective?