Blu-ray, Ceiling Speakers, Sub Crawl

Blu-ray Blues
My TV is a Panasonic TH-42PZ80U and my Blu-ray player is a Samsung BD-P1500. They are connected with an HDMI cable. I've noticed that some Blu-ray discs aren't as sharp as others and really look just like a DVD. Am I being ripped off? Are some Blu-ray discs simply DVDs labeled as Blu-rays to make more money? I can't see anything wrong with my setup. Has anybody else had the same problem? How do I fix it so I get Blu-ray quality every time I watch a Blu-ray?

Brian Carkhuff

There's nothing wrong with your setup. It's simply a fact of Blu-ray life that some titles are sharper than others, though they aren't simply DVDs in disguise. Be sure to check out Ultimate AV's new Ultimate Demos feature for the best-looking and sounding Blu-rays, and read the movie reviews on both UAV and HT, which discuss the picture and sound quality of the discs.

Sound From Above
I'm putting together an entertainment center in a family-room addition I'm building. Due to the room geometry, I have to locate my surround speakers in or on the ceiling. Should I have the speakers hanging down from the ceiling, or will I get good performance out of flush-mounted speakers? Also, I have heard you talk about the importance of matching the speakers in a surround system, but how do I match a system if I use flush-mounted surround speakers?

Nate Timmerman

I don't think it will make much difference if the speakers are hanging down or flush with the ceiling. Neither is ideal, but having the surrounds in or on the ceiling is not nearly as bad as having the fronts up there. The surrounds are used mainly for less-directional ambience, so you should be fine either way.

I'm glad you took note of my assertion that the speakers in a surround system should be tonally matched. Fortunately, there are companies that make both freestanding and in-wall/in-ceiling speakers that can be matched. For example, look at Atlantic Technology and Aperion.

On Your Knees!
In order to do the "subwoofer crawl" for my listening position on the couch, I know I have to move the entire couch out the way and place the subwoofer there. My question is, should I put the subwoofer in the middle of where the couch should be or where I usually sit, which is all the way to the left side of the couch? Or does it even matter? Also, in order to crawl around the perimeter of my living room, do I have to move everything away from the wall, or could I just go in front of it?

BTW, I love the new question/answer section. You do us all a great service.

David Celestin

I'm glad you're enjoying Ask Home Theater! For those who don't know about the "subwoofer crawl," it's a technique for finding the best location for a subwoofer in your room. First, place the sub at your listening position and play some familiar music. Then, crawl around the perimeter of the room to find the spot at which the bass sounds the most smooth and even. That's the place to put the sub, which will then produce the most even bass at your listening position.

In your case, the sub needs to go where you normally sit, not in the center of the couch. It does matter—a couple of feet can make a big difference. Moving stuff away from the room's perimeter is best, but if that's impractical, stick your head close to the wall as often as you can while crawling around objects. Keep in mind that you're looking for a place in which the bass sounds most even and where you can actually place the subwoofer.

As an alternative, master acoustician Floyd Toole of Harman International has determined that the best place for a sub in a rectangular room is at the half or quarter point along any wall. For example, if the room is 20 feet long, placing the sub 10 or 5 feet from either end along that wall will yield good results. This rule is not foolproof, and the subwoofer crawl will certainly find the best spot in any room, but if you don't want to crawl, it's a good approximation.

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Johnny Mac's picture

I recently set up a new blue ray player and had the same problem. In my case I found out that my player was set to 480 not 1080 as the default resolution. I changed it to 1080 and it was fine. It took a while to find the menu and change it. I can't imagine why the manufacturer would set the default to 480. I certainly was frustrated until I discovered the problem.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Wow, I've never heard of a Blu-ray player that defaulted to 480, so it didn't even occur to me that might be the problem. Also, Brian seems to indicate that not all Blu-rays look like DVDs, which they would if the player was outputting 480. But it's an excellent comment, and Brian should definitely check to see what output resolution his player is set to.

jack's picture

I have a 12x14 bed room, and i have two towers and a center channel. I notice there are some echo in my room when its very quiet. the echo is coming from back right corner when i say hello. and there's a closet door. is there away to fix this echo? or will this effect the sound of my 3.1 system?

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Jack, it probably does affect the sound of your system, but fixing it might be far more expensive than it's worth. Hiring an acoustician to install acoustic treatments ain't cheap, and if you can only hear it when it's very quiet, the difference these treatments would make could be pretty small. If it doesn't bother you when you're listening to the system, I wouldn't worry about it.

FS  Level Alignment's picture

Requested information:The review that was done in the Februaury 2009 issues Vol.16#2. The Blu-ray 2500 states that the player da a levle alignment and time alignment(speaker distance) to set up the 7.1 analog out put, however when I go into my 2500 I only see the test tone button and I need to know how to find the speaker distance and level ajustment.

ender21's picture

Hi FS, I assume you're referring to the Samsung 2500 blu-ray player? I took the liberty of downloading the manual for it. Under Setup> Audio Setup > Speaker Setup, it shows adjustments to change speaker size (Large/Small), and to press the Red (A) button to trigger the test tone to "test your setup." Unfortunately there's no more info on distance or levels. It would seem it's up to your AVR to control that. If so that's a bummer! You shouldn't have to D/A/D/A your hi-res sound in order to hear it! A significant oversight in Samsung's player, in my opinion.