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Old 02-02-2008, 05:44 AM   #1
crackinhedz crackinhedz is offline
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This thread is intended to help newcomers understand the basics of speaker set-up, connections and the various materials used. Its a long read, but very informative. Enjoy.



Choosing Speakers for Home Theater
by Julie Govan

Almost all home theater systems include the following speakers:

* Front left and right speakers
* Center channel speaker
* Surround speakers
* Subwoofer

These speakers work together to create the surround sound experience of a movie theater in your living room. While there are many brands and models that do a great job reproducing sound, you will want to be sure that the various speakers in your home theater system work well together as a cohesive unit. Check out what each speaker's job is, and some of the things to consider before buying.

Before you start, consider voice-matching. Voice-matching is key to effective home theater sound. If your speakers do not produce a similar tonal quality and share the same harmonic characteristics, the sound will be disjointed when it travels from speaker to speaker. With voice-matched speakers, the sound moves effortlessly around you, creating a seamless surround effect. The best way to ensure voice-matched speakers is to choose speakers from the same "family" of speakers, by the same brand. (If you'd like to add center and surround speakers to an existing pair of stereo speakers, and you don't think that series is in production anymore, a call to the manufacturer may help you identify a newer series which will be tonally similar.)


Front left and right speakers

In home theater, the front left and right speakers offer a wide soundstage that blends with the video to create a more realistic and exciting movie experience. In addition to reproducing the musical score, front speakers handle the bulk of the special effects, which move back and forth between the two speakers in sync with the images on the screen. Front speakers also broaden the soundstage by reproducing off-screen special effects. Finally, the front left and right speakers in your home theater system also act as the left and right stereo speakers for listening to music.
What to look for:

* Speaker type. Floor-standing speakers, bookshelf speakers, and satellite/subwoofer systems all work fine as front left and right speakers. Floor-standing tower speakers have the most impact and provide great low-frequency response, but they also take up more space. Bookshelf speakers don't reproduce as much bass, but they're more space-efficient and still sound great. Compact wall-mountable satellite speakers must be teamed with a subwoofer, but they're ideal if you want big sound from a small package. Both bookshelf and satellite speakers may require stand placement or wall mounting.
* Voice-matching. Make sure your front left and right speakers are voice-matched to the rest of your speakers, especially your center channel speaker.
* Video-shielding. Tube TVs are sensitive to having speakers placed near them. Make sure your front left and right speakers are video-shielded so they can't affect your TV.


Center channel speaker

The center channel is the unsung hero of the home theater speaker system. When you watch a movie, the center channel delivers more than 50% of the soundtrack, including almost all of the dialogue. Since its purpose is to keep sound anchored to the on-screen action, a good center channel speaker is crucial for a well-balanced home theater system.
What to look for:

* Placement. The center speaker typically sits on or just below your TV, so make sure your center channel is an appropriate size for the intended placement. If you have a wall-mounted flat-panel TV, and you won't have a stand on which you can place your center channel, you may want to consider a wall-mountable center channel speaker, or an in-wall speaker. It's very important that your center be located directly above or below your screen, since setting it somewhere off to the side can disrupt the surround experience noticeably.
* Speaker size. Like the front speakers, center channel speakers are available in a variety of sizes. You should consider the other speakers in your system as well as the size of your television set when making a decision. Subwoofer/satellite systems usually use smaller center channel speakers, and these interact just fine with the smaller mains and surrounds. Tower speakers require a larger center channel model to maintain a seamless surround effect.
* Voice-matching. When selecting a center channel speaker, it's vital that you settle on one that is voice-matched to your front left and right speakers. Most manufacturers offer center channel speakers that are designed to blend perfectly with their other products.
* Video-shielding. Virtually every center channel speaker is shielded, but if you're planning to use a speaker that wasn't designed as a center channel in that spot, make sure it's video-shielded.


Surround speakers

Surround speakers produce atmospheric, ambient sounds — such as rain drops, the rustling of leaves, or footsteps crunching on gravel. They also work with your other speakers to deliver spectacular directional effects, like a locomotive rushing by, or a bullet zinging past. They really help put you smack dab in the center of the action.

Although a 5.1-channel surround system, with only one pair of surround speakers, is the most common setup, most newer home theater receivers can power more than a single pair of surround speakers — and there are surround formats to match. Today, many people buy one or two additional speakers to use as "back surrounds" in a 6.1- or 7.1-channel system.
What to look for:

* Speaker type. Ideally, your surround speakers should have the same performance capability as your front left and right speakers, but that's not always realistic when you consider room size and space. Most people use either bookshelf or satellite speakers (when the system also has a subwoofer) for their surrounds. Both bookshelf and satellite speakers may require stand placement or wall mounting.
* Dipole/bipole capability. Some higher-end surround speakers offer a dipole/bipole switch (sometimes referred to as a "Solid/Diffuse" switch). These speakers feature two high-frequency drivers that either fire in phase (bipole) or out of phase (dipole). Dipole/bipole speakers take advantage of reflected sound to create a wide soundfield, and they provide greater speaker placement flexibility.
* Placement. Correct surround speaker placement results in a very realistic three-dimensional soundfield; incorrect surround speaker placement can leave people asking, "Are our surrounds even on?" Check our speaker placement guide and consider where you'll put your surrounds and whether they'll need to be stand-mounted, wall-mounted, or even in-wall or in-ceiling models.
* Voice-matching. Again, for the most realistic listening experience, it helps if your surround speakers are from the same "family" or series as your main and center channel speakers, and have similar tonal characteristics.


Powered subwoofer

If you are assembling a home theater, plan on including a powered subwoofer. Many Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks provide a dedicated channel of deep bass (sometimes known as low frequency effects, or LFE). This bass is what makes the entire soundtrack feel larger, fuller, and more lifelike — and gives special effects like thunder or explosions their window-rattling punch.

Since most speakers can't deliver that level of bass on their own, a subwoofer is needed to ensure that your home theater system delivers crucial low-frequency impact. A subwoofer is also a wonderful way to enrich music listening — it can round out all types of music, from classical to jazz to rock to R&B.
What to look for:

* Power. If you have a large room (or if you just crave that serious bass content) then you should look for a sub with more watts in the built-in amp. Plus, as a general rule, the larger the driver, the deeper the bass — so go for a sub with a big 10" or 12" woofer cone (or a multi-woofer sub) for serious bass response.
* Placement. Low-frequency sound waves are omni-directional, so you have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to subwoofer placement. If you have a spot in your room picked out, consider the dimensions of the sub's cabinet to make sure it will fit. And remember that placing your sub near a wall, or, even better, in a corner, can increase bass impact noticeably.
* Video-shielding. If you are planning to place your subwoofer anywhere near a tube TV, be certain to get a video-shielded sub.






What are the different types on connections found on Speakers?

Terminals
You probably don't think about the connectors on the back of your speakers until you go to hook them up. There are two basic types: spring clips and binding posts.




* Spring clip terminals are usually found on lower-priced speakers, and low- to medium-priced receivers. They work best with bare wire connections with small-gauge speaker wire, or pin-type connectors (see connectors, above).




* Binding post terminals are a sturdier, more versatile type of speaker jack, often found on higher-quality speakers and receivers, and on most amplifiers. They're threaded, so you can tighten them down against the wire or connector for an extra-snug connection.



Speaker Wire: Choosing and Installing

Most speakers don't include wire, and choosing from the available options can sometimes be confusing. But remember — the wire you use can have a noticeable impact on the sound quality of your system. Even the greatest speakers won't sound their best with poor-quality wires.

Read on for tips on selecting the right gauge and length for your system, plus techniques and options to help you make dependable connections to your gear.

Note: Some speakers, such as Bose® brand speakers and some DVD home theater systems, use non-standard plug-in connections. In these cases, using optional speaker wire is not possible.
What gauge do you need?

The thickness of a wire's conductive copper bundle is identified by its American Wire Gauge (AWG, or usually just "gauge") number. The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire, and the better its capacity to pass the amplified audio signal. Most speaker wire available on the market today ranges in thickness from 12 to 16 gauge.

When choosing wire gauge, consider the quality of your components and speakers, the overall sound quality you're trying to achieve, and the budget you're working with. Also, keep in mind the distance between your receiver or amp and your speakers — long wire runs can cause significant power losses, and thus require thicker cable.


Single room wiring

For your primary listening room, you may want to consider a thicker speaker cable in the following situations:

* For audiophile-quality music systems, or Dolby® Digital home theater, thicker wire helps your system deliver fine musical detail or the explosive effects of 5.1-channel surround sound.
* In situations where you can't avoid long wire runs to your speakers — thicker wire reduces the overall resistance, lightening the load on your receiver or amp. This can mean not only a difference in sound quality, but also in the long-term dependability of your system.

On the other hand, if you're buying a modestly priced system and trying to keep the overall cost down, or if your speakers are located relatively close to your receiver, standard 16-gauge wire may be the way to go. Aside from being less expensive, thinner wire can be easier to work with if you're routing it along baseboards or doorframes.


Multi-room wiring

If you're wiring a multi-room system, getting the right kind of speaker wire is important not only to the performance of your speakers, but the safety of your home. The type of speaker wire you use will depend on where you're going to route the wire and how far the signal will have to travel from your receiver or amplifier to the speaker.

* If you don't want to route your wire through your walls, you can use any type of speaker wire. Flat, paintable speaker wire will blend into your décor for a cleaner look. Many home improvement and hardware stores also sell paintable cable management raceways that attach to your wall or baseboard and keep the wires hidden.
* Be sure to check your local building and fire code and buy wire accordingly. If you're going to run cable inside your walls, you'll need UL-rated speaker wire labeled CL2 or CL3. The Underwriters Laboratory (UL) looks at heat generated from current flowing through wire, how quickly the cable will catch and spread fire when exposed to flame, and the wire's susceptibility to damage from external stresses.


Routing your wire

Once you've determined which rooms you want to send audio to, you'll need to figure out how you're going to route the wire. We've listed some common options below. Take a look and consider which one would be the best option for your house and setup.

* inside the wall
* under your carpet
* behind a baseboard, door jamb, or crown molding
* inside cabinetry, bookshelves, drawers, or closets
* through a crawl space, or unfinished basement or attic

A note for people retrofitting a system in an existing home: If you can run your speaker wire in places that won't require drywall repair afterwards, you can save yourself lots of time and effort — for example, behind a baseboard or door jamb. Also, avoid exterior walls when possible. These walls have extra bracing and insulation which can make installing speakers and running wire more difficult.

How much wire do you need?
Figuring out how much speaker wire to buy can be pretty simple. Just run a string from your intended receiver location to each of the intended locations of your speakers. Carefully pull the string along any doorframes, corners, or other obstructions in the intended wire path. Allow plenty of slack for the wire to take gradual turns, since sharp bends can impair performance.

Measure the string carefully and double-check your work. Make sure to add some extra. This gives you a margin of error, and allows some leeway for easier connection to your gear.


Connection basics

In order to carry the amplified signal from your receiver's (or amp's) output terminals to your speaker's input terminals, speaker wire consists of two leads, typically encased and bundled in plastic insulation — one for the positive signal, and one for the negative. Your speaker wire will probably be marked (+) and (-) to help you distinguish the two leads — if not, there will be some way to visually tell them apart. (connect positive to positive and negative to negative for normal setup)

For good, solid connections, use speaker wire terminated with connectors instead of using stripped bare wire ends.

Speaker wire connectors help safeguard against harmful short circuits. When loose strands from a bare wire's positive and negative leads accidentally touch, your receiver can go into "protect mode" and shut down, or even suffer serious amplifier damage. Plus, speaker wire connectors maintain corrosion-free contact with the terminals on your receiver and speakers, unlike bare copper wire, which tends to corrode.

For ultimate connection ease, look for speaker cables that come pre-cut from the manufacturer with connectors already attached — they'll decrease the time and effort it takes you to install your system. When ordering connectors (either separately, or pre-attached to wire) be sure to verify that your receiver and speakers have compatible terminals.

If you do decide to hook up your wire without connectors, use a wire stripper to take about 3/8-inch of insulation off the ends of each lead, exposing bare wire strands (be careful not to cut these strands). Twist each lead's bare wire strands tightly, so no stray strands are sticking out. As stated above, loose strands could make contact with the cable's other lead and cause a short circuit and potentially damage your gear.


Connectors (pins, plugs, etc.)

There are several different ways to connect the cables from your receiver or amplifier to your speakers. Bare wire connections are acceptable, especially with "spring clip" terminals. However, there are other connector types that provide more solid and secure connections, especially with binding post terminals.

* Spade connectors are compatible with most binding post terminals. A spade fits around the terminal's central threaded post, allowing you to then tighten the collar down on the spade for a snug, secure connection. But keep in mind, some electronics now have terminals that prohibit the use of spade connectors.
* Pin-type connectors will work with both spring clip and binding post terminals. This is probably the best type for connecting a thick, heavy-gauge wire to a small spring clip connector. On a 5-way binding post, this slender pin will also fit the hole that's back near the base of the central post (see binding post illustration, below). You can then tighten the collar down against it.
* Banana plugs will plug straight into the center of 5-way binding posts. They make a quick and convenient connection — nothing to loosen or tighten.
* Double-banana plugs are the same as banana plugs, except the positive and negative banana connectors are both fixed in a molded housing that spaces them 3/4" apart. (These are even quicker and easier to connect than regular, single banana plugs — as long as the terminals on your speakers and/or receiver are true 5-way binding posts with the proper spacing.)




Additional Info:

*Calibrating Your Audio With an SPL Meter*

Speaker Glossary

Series vs. Parallel Wiring

Speaker Cable Gauge (AWG) Guidelines & Recommendations

Dts 7.1 Speaker Layout

Dolby Digital: Room Layout and Speaker Setup

How Speakers Work

10 tips for better home theater sound

Speaker Impedance, Your Amplifier And You.

Surround Sound Speakers: Direct, Bipole or Dipole, Which is Best for You?



(Please keep comments and questions on topic. This is not a thread to ask "which speaker brand is better?"..etc. Genuine questions or comments on connection,setup and materials only. Thanks.)

Last edited by crackinhedz; 03-30-2008 at 11:36 PM.
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Old 02-02-2008, 06:41 AM   #2
Vlad44 Vlad44 is offline
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Extremely comprehensive and usefull. Thanks Crackinhedz!
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Old 02-02-2008, 06:46 AM   #3
JasonR JasonR is offline
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You will appreciate this.

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Old 02-02-2008, 07:02 AM   #4
PeechCobblerPie PeechCobblerPie is offline
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never had a surround system but planning on getting a nice sony setup soon. But I was curious, when you hook up all the speakers and such does it essentially "turn off" your tv's speakers? or does sound still resonate from them? thanks
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Old 02-02-2008, 07:06 AM   #5
JasonR JasonR is offline
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You won't use your TVs speakers again, ever.
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Old 02-02-2008, 07:13 AM   #6
PeechCobblerPie PeechCobblerPie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonR View Post
You won't use your TVs speakers again, ever.
I'll take that as a no?

hmmm, wonder if my HDcable box allows 5.1. or if my reciever could just send the same sound to all 5 speakers. better than 2.1!
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Old 02-02-2008, 07:15 AM   #7
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My cable box does 5.1 digital on HD, otherwise it is Prologic or 2.0.
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Old 02-02-2008, 12:28 PM   #8
crackinhedz crackinhedz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeechCobblerPie View Post
never had a surround system but planning on getting a nice sony setup soon. But I was curious, when you hook up all the speakers and such does it essentially "turn off" your tv's speakers? or does sound still resonate from them? thanks
well, in a way yes...the sound will only go through your Receiver...but...

you may still be able to have audio through the TV...for instance, I have dishnetwork, and I connect the dish to my receiver with an optical cable, and I also connect the dish directly to my TV with red/white analog audio cables...this way if I wanted to I could use the TV speakers. (but I never do, surround sound is the absolute best!)

So if you want to use your TV speakers, I would probably connect the video directly to the TV and an optical cable to the receiver as well as red/white to the TV directly. (connecting video directly to the TV this way you dont have to turn the receiver ON...unless you want surround sound.)

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Old 02-07-2008, 06:30 AM   #9
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does anybody know why crutchfield state's not to point your surroud speakers directly at your listen position? cause thats the way i have them now.
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Old 02-07-2008, 12:41 PM   #10
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Excellent post!

I just wanted to add that speaker placement is crucial to get the most out of your speakers.
That goes for subwoofers as well.

So move those things around after some days of listening and see if you can improve your sound

BTW, Independent tests showed, that frequencies 60Hz and under are not localizeable anymore; 80Hz and above, despite the THX standard being 80Hz, are. So if you want to use your AVRs bass management and have speakers that have an extended response you might want to use 60Hz as your crossover frequency.
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Old 02-07-2008, 02:57 PM   #11
crackinhedz crackinhedz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HDJK View Post
BTW, Independent tests showed, that frequencies 60Hz and under are not localizeable anymore; 80Hz and above, despite the THX standard being 80Hz, are. So if you want to use your AVRs bass management and have speakers that have an extended response you might want to use 60Hz as your crossover frequency.
good info to know.
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Old 02-07-2008, 03:23 PM   #12
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Does anyone have any good/bad information on wireless surround sound? I have 7.1 surround sound (kenwood) now... thing is... it's about 3 years old, it sounds pretty good... but i'm sick and tired of worrying and hassling with wires!!!!

any thoughts? recomendations? advice? opinions?
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:03 PM   #13
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Crackin, great guide, but there is one thing which I would like you to add. I get questions on how to hide speaker cables when people cannot go underneath their baseboards, so I tell them to look into cord channels. Here is a link to what I am talking about: http://cableorganizer.com/wire-cover...4&zmap=DL-7306

They have adhesive backing to stick to walls, are unfoldable so you can lay the wires inside instead of just pushing them through, and they have a built-in locking mechanism so they will not unfold on their own. Also, they can be painted to match walls. I have them and people do not even notice them.
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:32 PM   #14
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Crackin'...You Da Man!!!............ Every newbie in the country should read that thread!
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Old 02-08-2008, 12:38 AM   #15
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Crackinhedz, thank you. Very informative, especially for those new to this arena, good work!
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Old 02-08-2008, 12:45 AM   #16
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extremely helpful thread
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Old 02-08-2008, 01:10 AM   #17
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Very nice, thank you.
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Old 02-08-2008, 03:31 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crackinhedz View Post
* Placement. Low-frequency sound waves are omni-directional, so you have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to subwoofer placement. If you have a spot in your room picked out, consider the dimensions of the sub's cabinet to make sure it will fit. And remember that placing your sub near a wall, or, even better, in a corner, can increase bass impact noticeably.
On the whole a nice article, but I must take issue with this subwoofer placement advice. A corner is the worst place you can place a subwoofer. Yes, the bass will be more pronunced, but it'll be less accurate, and less "tuneful". Muddy, one-note bass is not something to aim for!

Quote:
What gauge do you need?

The thickness of a wire's conductive copper bundle is identified by its American Wire Gauge (AWG, or usually just "gauge") number. The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire, and the better its capacity to pass the amplified audio signal. Most speaker wire available on the market today ranges in thickness from 12 to 16 gauge.

When choosing wire gauge, consider the quality of your components and speakers, the overall sound quality you're trying to achieve, and the budget you're working with. Also, keep in mind the distance between your receiver or amp and your speakers — long wire runs can cause significant power losses, and thus require thicker cable.
I always wondered why so many people think that wire gauge is the most important consideration when it comes to choosing speaker cables. A cable's sound quality is determined by more than just its gauge. One needs to consider the purity of the metals used in the conductor, the type of the dielectric (insulation), construction, etc.

Quote:
* For audiophile-quality music systems, or Dolby® Digital home theater, thicker wire helps your system deliver fine musical detail or the explosive effects of 5.1-channel surround sound.
There's that cable gauge thing again! A cable's gauge has essentially NO bearing on how good it sounds

Quote:
In order to carry the amplified signal from your receiver's (or amp's) output terminals to your speaker's input terminals, speaker wire consists of two leads, typically encased and bundled in plastic insulation — one for the positive signal, and one for the negative. Your speaker wire will probably be marked (+) and (-) to help you distinguish the two leads — if not, there will be some way to visually tell them apart.
Good advice, though it must be stressed that speakers must be wired with the correct polarity. Speakers that are wired out of phase don't sound as good. Also make sure that all speakers are wired in the same phase; not doing so is worse than wiring them all out of phase.
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Old 02-08-2008, 03:56 AM   #19
crackinhedz crackinhedz is offline
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rich, I think you're trying to read way too much into it.

Its a basic explanation...not precise, and maybe not to your liking or preference.


but your oppinion is appreciated.
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Old 02-08-2008, 04:13 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richteer View Post
Good advice, though it must be stressed that speakers must be wired with the correct polarity. Speakers that are wired out of phase don't sound as good. Also make sure that all speakers are wired in the same phase; not doing so is worse than wiring them all out of phase.
Note made.
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