Tip of the Day: Calibrate Your Receiver

Jul 30 2009



I recently found myself sitting in the family room and I realized something.  My receiver has only been calibrated once since I pulled it out of the box about 10 years ago (has it been that long already?).  Needless to say, we've moved since then, and re-arranged our family room three or four times at least.  As you can probably guess, the sound was way out of whack.

Most, if not all, receivers that you can get today will have the ability to produce a test tone that allows you to calibrate the system.  Some higher end units will even have a mic input that will allow the receiver to self-calibrate.  If your receiver is like mine and does not have that feature, tuning the audio levels is a simple enough task.  If you really want the best balance from your speakers, you can use a SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter, or if you just want it to be close then feel free to use your own built in audio sensitive tools (your ears).

In order to calibrate the setup properly, the receiver generates a test tone that is output on every channel of your setup, one speaker at a time.  The mic or you are then situated in a regular listening position, and as the test tone cycles through the various speakers you can adjust the gain for that channel so that each speaker outputs the same audio level.  This is a simple tweak that takes only a few minutes and can have a substantial impact on your listening experience.

One nice side effect for me in doing this tuning was that I found that my right and left surround channels had been swapped.  So for at least the last six months, maybe longer, my rear speakers have been reversed.  No wonder the rear channels didn't seem to be adding much to the viewing experience.

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