The setup dance

September 20, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

In my new book, The Audiophile’s Guide, The Loudspeaker I liken the challenge of system setup to that of a dance.

As in my earlier post about devilish details, the setup dance can either be feared or embraced.

Fearing the dance inevitably leads to shortcuts: desperate attempts not to get sucked into the vortex of one-change-leads-to-another.

In the end, it’s better to embrace the dance as something to look forward to.

This is your chance to really make better that which you have invested so much time, love, and resources.

The end results of dancing with your 2-channel partner can be breathtaking.

If you have a chance to pick up a copy of the book, the associated SACD/download will be available at the end of September, beginning of October (and you will need both).

I’ll keep you in the loop.

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22 comments on “The setup dance”

  1. A Waltz, Samba, Charleston, Salsa, Tango, Folk, Line dance, Ballroom, Hip Hop, Tap, Irish, Fusion, Free, Baroque, Renaissance, Mambo, Rumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Pasodoble, Bunny hop. Lambada, the Madison, the Shake, the Twist, the Watusi, the Turkey Trot, Square dance (appropriate for most ageing audiophiles), Breakdance, Electric boogaloo, Harlem shuffle, Boogie-woogie, the Jitterbug, the Robot, Rock ‘n Roll…???

    Oh God…I’m exhausted…where’s my defibrillator!!
    Just let me listen to some music while I sit in the sweet-spot…
    ‘Sweet-spot’…now THERE’s a nice dance 😉

  2. I’d like to know the difference between the table of contents in your Audiophile guide vs the Speaker Guide as I already used the first guide and achieved really good results repositioning my speakers with minute toe-in adjustments. So, what what more would I learn from this speaker guide before I make a purchase.

    I’m more than happy with the way my system sounds now since I made these last adjustments and I’d like to make my own decision about what this specific guide will add to what I’ve already accomplished.

    1. That crossed my mind. I bought the last book but not the download. The main thing I learned when my speakers were set up professionally was how easy speakers can sound muddy and congested when the bass smears the mid and upper midrange. What you need is a track with very tight, clean bass with an equally good female vocal on top, in the contralto range. It is a massive topic, given the innumerable options, my greatest gain was more luck than anything, moving the stereo to a smaller room and sitting much closer, albeit with physically larger speakers.

      1. I like that technique. I usually start off with a single instrument or a female vocalist like Kathleen Battle and then change one or two instruments at a time usually acoustic Jazz or early period works. When I feel that this is correct I start working with every type of instrument and voice that I can and go to large orchestras at the very end because that’s what I listen to the least.

        I totally agree with you about the upper base muddying up everything above it and with my Maggies that is an issue but not when the recordings are done properly. I never get awesome Bass but I will get tight, harmonically correct Bass. I have my subwoofer tuned so that it is invisible yet it works like a charm and I’m quite happy with the overall ”SQ of my system at present.

  3. The new book is a much more in depth approach that encompasses the two main setup challenges of long wall vs. short wall. The setup techniques are pretty much the same in both books.

    The new SACD is much better (out October 1).

    If my goal was getting the most out of my speakers I would opt for the second book, The Loudspeaker.

    The first book is more of a generalized approach to the whole system while this new book is more specific to speaker setup.

    1. Paul, I just ordered and got your The Stereo book to set up my Aspen FR30’s just before I saw your new book. Will I still need The Loudspeaker or The Stereo should suffice? Also, will you be able to use The Stereo with the new SACD? Will this new SACD be available to buy as a Hi-res or DSD download as I no longer use a SACD/CD transport as I load everything onto my Aurender to feed my Directstream DAC?

      1. If you got aspen FR30s a package will soon arrive with a CD version of The Loudspeaker’s SACD and a pared down version of the Loudespeaker specific to your FR30.

        If you need a download version you can reach out to your sales guy and he’ll make it happen.

        1. I believe I got the first pair of FR30’s in Canada along with the full BHK and PP15 set up (already had DS DAC, Transport and Stellar Phonopre). I’ll reach out to my Dealer to see if they can get it for me. Thanks.

  4. [PaulMcG: The end results of dancing with your 2-channel partner can be breathtaking.]

    AMEN! Been doing the “2-channel Setup Dance” these past 3 months! Always had “In Mind” Paul’s philosophy of sub/mains integration through speaker wire inputs to the subs high-level inputs for continuity of sonics! However, never implemented as my preamp had HP/LP adjustable outputs that saved my monitors (RAAL Tweeters and 6″ Mid/Bass drivers) from being overworked (past mid-fi amp). Extreme Control over the main transducers -All Changed- with a new cool running 18lbs. GaNFET class-D amp…700 damping factor with 375 continuous/700 watt peaks @ my 6 ohm load (4 ohm load is 500/1000 watts)!

    Removed the preamp from the setup and pushing the power amp with the variable outputs from my CD player. The full range monitor bass depth, tonality, punch, definition and timbre is the Best I’ve ever heard (also upgraded to Morrow SP7 Grand Reference speaker cables)! With the single source CD player driving the new amp directly, now decided to try running speaker wire from the amps outputs to the subs high level inputs (first time these past 16 years)…AMAZING tonality blend and total system balance and integration (18hz to 28Khz)!! System/Speakers/Room=GONE…only thing left is The Music in All Its Glory!

    Don’t know if you “hear” the big grin on my face, but it’s there!!! 🙂

    1. Theo,
      What I find interesting is that you are getting such great results from using the variable gain (out) in your Philips 880.
      Back in the day I found that the sound quality was greatly degraded when employing the ‘variable out’ on any CD player built in the ’80s or the ’90s when compared with their ‘fixed out’.
      I always found that a little high quality passive pot in between the ‘fixed out’ & the ‘power-amp input’ always sounded better…just a suggestion 😉

      1. FR,

        Current arrangement (Var. CD to power amp) shows what I’ve been missing all these years using the Emo Pre! Also suggest a dynamic synergy between the 880 and new amp. May still get a pre-amp in my setup (possibly the SGCD) to hear if any further improvements are possible but for now, I’m in Audio Nirvana! 😉

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