Dealing with Slow Network Speeds, OR My Stream has Become a Trickle!

Most Home Theater setups these days will include one or more methods for playing "Streamed" content.  For example, playing movies from Netflix, or music from Spotify.  Or even for playing your own media files -- streamed over your house network from a Network Accessible Storage (NAS) device or home computer.  The convenience of such streaming services can quickly turn into exasperation, however, if you discover your network speeds are not up to the task!  Playback may revert to lower quality, or may stall altogether as your system repeatedly tries to "re-buffer" enough content to continue going.

In this post we'll discuss practical troubleshooting steps when somebody shuts off the tap, and your streaming turns into a trickle!

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XLR (Balanced) Analog Audio Cables, OR Signal So Nice we Sent it Twice!

Most always when you go to connect two pieces of electronics together for Analog Audio you will find yourself using RCA cables.  These are the ubiquitous cables with a round plug, about the size of a pencil eraser, consisting of a metal ring around a single pin.  That pin fits into the single hole of a matching, RCA socket, and the metal ring of the plug slides over the barrel of that socket to complete the connection.  For a Stereo connection, you would use two such RCA cables.

But PROFESSIONAL Audio gear frequently uses much cooler-looking cables, with a bigger plug (still round) containing THREE pins.  These are XLR Analog Audio cables -- also called Balanced cables.  Again, for a Stereo connection, you would use two of them.

Higher end Home Theater gear will frequently offer the option of using either RCA or XLR cables for your Analog Audio connections.  The XLR choice is undeniably the Cooler choice!  But if you've ever wondered whether there's any OTHER reason to use XLR cabling, this post is for you!

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Balancing Speaker Volumes Trims with an SPL Meter

One of the basic steps in setting up any Home Theater system is making sure all of your speakers, and your subwoofer(s), are matched in output volume.  Although you could try doing this by ear, this is really something best done with the aid of an inexpensive measuring device called a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) Meter.

This post discusses how to use your SPL Meter correctly.

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Calibration Discs <-- You NEED These!

EVERYONE interested in Home Theater should have a few Calibration Discs in their collection. This is true even if you intend to hire a professional to come in and set up your system for you. Professionals will bring tools and computer programs which are both expensive to buy and daunting to learn. But even though you can't fully match their professional results, you should STILL have calibration discs handy to confirm there are no silly setup errors in your system, and to check whether any problems you spot while playing real content are due to oddities in that content, as opposed to something you've overlooked in your system setup. Calibration Discs provide you with content of known "correctness" which you can use for this.

There are LOTS of different calibration discs out there at this point, and more likely to come out over the next year or so as UHD (4K) video becomes more mainstream. Some of them are pretty specialized. Some require you also have those professional tools mentioned above. Some are hard to find, or even out of print. The most sensitive test I know of to confirm that Speaker Distance Correction is happening properly, is found in the Avia Pro SD-DVD multi-disc set, which is long out of print. And even in that case, this particular test was included in an add-on disc to that set, which only appeared several years after the set first shipped! Try getting your hands on THAT one!

In this post I'm going to discuss two, generally useful Calibration Blu-ray Discs. And also, one specialized disc -- in this case an SACD disc -- to give you a flavor of what's out there if you go looking for such specialized, test content.

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