Does a non-audiophile have to calibrate?

To all
I was at an audiophile store for the first time in my life not too long ago and heard the most amazing and beautiful music I ever heard in my life. I watched bits of few different movies that were just breath taking. The conversations sounded like they were in the room. At one point someone in the movie called a character with the same name and I turned around thinking the sales guy must have called me.

So I bought me a system:
Sonus Faber Cremona (Mains)
Sonus Faber Cremona Center
Sonus Faber Cremona Subwoofer
Sonus Faber Concerto (Surrounds)
NBS Serpent III Speaker cables and interconnects
NBS Omega IV digital cable
Krell Showcase Processor
Krell Showcase 5.1 AMP & NBS Omega II power cord
Marantz DV8400 Universal Player
Marantz VP-12S2 projector
V Inc. Bravo D1 DVD Player
VOOM HDTV receiver
Monster HTS 5100 Power Conditioner
76' Stewart StudioTek 130 ceiling recessed w/masking system

I just hooked it up and it sounds good. Now people are telling me I have to calibrate. Would a non-audiophile appreciate a calibration or only a trained audiophile ear can appreciate the difference. I went to HAA’s site and still do not understand why. The site said my system would lack clarity and was very vague and using audiophile words like tonal balance, checking for voice matching, frequency response, room resonance, ambiance effects, and standing waves.

How does this translate in to English? What am hearing wrong? What is not clear? I am not an audiophile, and it sounds fine. I have no problem hiring a calibrator; I just want to understand why.

Perhaps my room dictates a calibration? My room size is 19'L x 11'2"W x 8'H. It is also a library. It’s all filled with books. There are also artistic cabinets built in to the shelves so there is a lot of exposed wood. I have a bench bay window in front of my room, behind the speakers. Inside the room is a love seat and a recliner and a gas fire place that is 4’H x 2’D x 5’L.

Please help me understand,
To enjoy the best performance of your system, it certainly should be "calibrated". Your dealer should have done this with the audio equipment at the time of installation. It's a bit of a misnomer to use the term "calibrating" when referring to the process of balancing the sound levels of the 5.1 surround system. You could do the "balancing" yourself to ensure that all speakers have the same volume levels -- it only takes a Radio Shack SPL meter, which costs about $40. Your Krell HT processor has a built-in "calibration" tone which will move from one speaker to the next, and all you need to do is adjust each of the speakers until they have the same volume level at your listening position.

Calibrating a video monitor, however, is much more involved, and requires special equipment. Most high-end audio/video stores have a technician with special training that can calibrate the brightness level, color balance, etc., of your video monitor, and it often makes a substantial improvement in the picture quality. If you choose to have a professional do the calibration, look for a technician who is certified by "ISF" (an abbreviation for "Imaging Sciences Foundation", as I recall). Many video monitors come from the factory with their color balance, brightness level, and alignment out of adjustment with the NTSC standard, and it's well worth the several hundred dollars to get your monitor adjusted. Given what you've already spent, I strongly urge you to get the best possible performance from your system (which is a DAMN nice system!).
Wow looks like you jumped right in Cap ! If not an audiophile will be one soon enough! It takes time and a lot of listening to tune your ears. It's just something that will come in time.You can start with a sound pressure meter and run your speakers thru the test tones. 75 db is a good place to start. From your listening position get all your speakers to peak at 75 db on the meter one at a time. You will have to go into your processor and make the proper adjustments.It probably has a input for footage you can measure where you sit from each speaker and it will calibrate itself for time delays.

The most important thing to remeber.. is if it sounds good to you then it is all good!!

Happy listening!
Capn- At the price you must have paid for some VERY GOOD equipment, you should get the dealer on the horn and demand that he send an ISF certified video technician AND an audio tech over to calibrate and adjust that system. You will not get the best from it, esp. with regard to video set-up AND best imaging and soundstage from the audio. Trust your ears but demand the level of service that you undoubtedly paid for.
Ditto what "Swampwalker" said ...
Thank you all for your advice. I did buy the AVIA DVD and the one thing I understood was the tonal balance, which was the first step. I got lost at steps 2,3,4,5 when they were doing phase tests. I’m questioning if I need to do anything besides a tonal balance. Will I hear a difference?

I posted this forum in audio because I've already hired an ISF technician. The video I understand. How can I possibly calibrate what should be a proper red without being biased in to thinking the shade I like best is the proper red. I want a system that can be as close to realism as possible. When I play with the video controls, I’ll watch and think that looks good. Than I change back to the defaults and it now looks even better and more realistic.

However, perhaps music is not the same. Perhaps I will not even hear the difference between what is more realistic. Perhaps only an audiophile can hear what might sound a bit closer to realism.

Besides, what is my goal in calibrating? To make it sound as realistic as possible? Is my room suppose now sound like an orchestra is present? In my old garage? I don't think that is a realistic goal. I doubt if there is a system in the world that would get confused for a live performance.

After a certain price point I did not hear any difference, even when listening to speakers that jumped up $10-20K from the one I just listened to. I could not even tell the difference between the cables that I got and Monster. I tested after I bought my system. I bought my speakers because it matched my library very well and it sounded great. So I just looked for the best deal on those speakers. I told my dealer that I wanted a reference system to go with my speakers and he suggested the items that I bought. I researched all the items in this forum and Secrets and they all go good reviews and it looked nice so I agreed.

My dealer is offering to calibrate, but he has no test equipment. He says he can do all this by ear. I’ve been advised that it is not possible, though he insists he can. He just came the other day and did not even try to move my sub or do anything else but 2 channel listening. He says he can “hear” my weaknesses and that I must upgrade my cables and get cleaner power. (This forum really seams to frown on Monster, but I love the wattage usage indicator on my Monster power conditioner) But I question if I’ll hear a difference in upgrading the cables or a calibration, let alone by someone who does not use test equipment. My biggest priority is time. I have none to waist. Time is money.

I have spent far too much time on this project already. I installed every thing my self. I used many vacation days. I really do not have more time to spend on this project at this time unless I really must. I’m prepared to take this last step, if I understand that I must. I am just inquiring if it is worth my time for something that I might not even hear.

I asked my dealer about the audiophile buzzwords like standing waves and resonances and he said don’t get caught up in that bull**** and reminded once again about my weakness of using monster power.
Nothing wrong with Monster power centers...if it's not that important to you why bother? You clearly don't have the time or drive to want to deal with the stuff.

That is the difference between an audiophile and someone just looking for some good tunes. This hobby isn't for everyone ..once they find it takes more than dropping thousands on some gear that got good reviews...The party is over. So to answer your question bluntly. No don't bother wasting any more time or money and enjoy it like it is.

You could have saved yourself some time and money and picked up a Bose all in one system. Not being sarcastic just honest.

Happy Listening!
This is the same dealer that sold you the Monster Power Conditioner in the first place?? If he thinks it's not good then I'd question him on why recommended if for a system of this caliber.

The room is always one of the most important variables (if not THE most important) in a music (or HT) system and I think that's the general consensus here. It doesn't take a genius to realize that room resonances are going to affect the frequency balance at the listening position (not that you have any resonances) and you can hear them if you know what to listen for. I'm not convinced you're dealer can do this by ear given his other comments. However, since most resonances tend to be in the bass, some people might actually prefer the added energy in that region for HT ... but it's not accurate. If I was after accuracy, I would have someone balance it with a meter. Given the time and money you obviously have in this system, I think it would be a shame not to get the best out of it. That said, this can be done at any time. In fact, you may better appreciate the differences the adjustments make after you've had time to listen to the sound as it is now.

You might want to check out Rive's Audio's web site for more detailed info. Maybe Rives himself will chime in on this thread.

Just my 2 cents.
From your description it sounds like you've been royally screwed. Your dealer sucks! Based upon the quality of your equipment and the amount of dollars you've paid, your dealer should handle all aspects of the design and installation of your system. This service should include an inspection of your listening room prior to the actual selection of the equipment. Anything less would seriously bring into question why you would buy a system with such performance potential. It's an unfortunate fact that the better quality the equipment, the more critical the setup/installation required to maximize their in-room performance.

I'm assuming that you've purchased this equipment from authorized equipment dealers.
You could have saved yourself some time and money and picked up a Bose all in one system. Not being sarcastic just honest.

That is a bit harsh and I'm not an audiophile. Bose was my initial plan until I heard bookshelf speakers from Polk that was less money and sounded much, much better. It was night and day even to my non-audiophile ears. So I thought why stop there. I did a Google search of what is considered a high end speaker. All the audiophile stuff and stores resulted. So I auditioned, and it sounded much better. But I think that is perhaps my limit of appreciation of audiophile speakers. It certainly sounds better than Bose or Polk, but do I have to go as far as deal with standing waves? Will I notice that standing waves got minimized? Will I hear more clarity if I minimized the reflections? Don't get me wrong I love this hobby I subscribe to 4 audiophile magezines and read it from cover to cover. I spend a lot of time in this hobby and I thoroughly enjoy it. I play with my system probably more than I actually watch it. (Well it is still under construction so I have to take it apart every time I do more work.) I just have issues with wasting time. I want to be assured that I am not. HAA's web site asks are you getting the potential out of your system? I just don't understand why I have to. Just plugging in a high-end system not calibrated sounds much better than Bose. It sounds right to me. (Well maybe, my sub is a bit boomy. I’m thinking about getting the Subwoofer Optimization System that was review in Audiophile Guide To Home Theater. It is suppose to automatically calibrate the sub.)
This is the same dealer that sold you the Monster Power Conditioner in the first place??
No. He actually recommended against it. I just liked the cool wattage usage display. I had him demo the difference between a NBS black box and the Monster Power Conditioner and I did not hear a difference so why not get it? I like to see when my system peaks, It's like my system is having an orgasm. OZZY and Shwartzigger make it multiples.

From your description it sounds like you've been royally screwed.... This service should include an inspection of your listening room prior to the actual selection of the equipment.
In this forum, I once inquired if these speakers would work in my room. I thought my room might be too small. Every said it would be fine.

If I was after accuracy, I would have someone balance it with a meter.
I am after accuracy, I just question if an untrained audiophile hear can hear more accuracy if it was calibrated. For example, I toed in my speakers and I heard no difference. My theory is that there are few select people in the world who can hear the nuances of a song and can hear the differences that a cable can make. I am certainly not one of them. Perhaps I cannot hear the difference between calibrated system and one that is not. Thus, the title of my thread: “Does a non-audiophile have to calibrate?”

your dealer should handle all aspects of the design and installation of your system.
When I bought everything, I insisted that I install and calibrate. It looks like so much fun. Installation was very intuitive so that was no problem.
Calibration, on the other hand, I realized I couldn’t do. I could not get passed the phase testing. And that was step 2.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that room resonances are going to affect the frequency balance at the listening position (not that you have any resonances) and you can hear them if you know what to listen for.
I thought every thing not bolted down, will resonate.
So tell me, what should I listen for? I love this hobby. I love the toys. I would love to understand. If my frequencies are not balanced will I hear it? The ISF technician showed me the difference. I understood and clearly saw. For audio, maybe only a trained man will hear the difference.
>>Does a non-audiophile have to calibrate?

You do if you want to get the best of your system. It has pretty much been said above by Scott Campbell and Swampwalker. Your dealer has let you down IMHO. Standing waves (and the rest) are not BS. Set-up and tweaking is necessary for any high quality system. Without it you are just not going to get what you paid for. It is a like the Collimation process with a decent telescope. No sense paying for resolution you are not going to take the time to acheive. But that, it seems, is where you are at.

The nice thing is that if you dealer leaves you flat (apparently he has), you don't have to do it all at once.
If you are out of time now put it on the back burner and make it next summer's project or find someone else who has spent a couple decades in audio in your neighborhood.

I remain,
Sorry my friend I mean no harm. I didn't want to candy coat the situation.I am sure there are others that are thinking the same thing..but aren't going to say it.

I hope you truly enjoy your system and will grow to appreciate it even more in time.
I am sure there are others that are thinking the same thing..but aren't going to say it.
My point exactly! There are audiophiles that think only THEY will appreciate a system that is superior to Bose. That is all I want to know. Can a untrained, non-audiophile hear the difference. That is all I want to know. Video, the biggest idiot in the world will see the difference a calibration can make. Audio, I am not convinced.

It's OK, I prefer no candy coating. Tell me as you see it. I appreciate that.
One easy way I get non audiophiles to understand this stuff is by sitting them down in the sweet spot(two channel music of course). Having them close their eyes. Put on a well recorded cd with good spacial information..something with several singers or musicians spread across the soundstage. Then I ask them to point out to me where they hear these singers or instruments , one at a time.

The ones that didn't understand ..normally do after this little test.And the look on their faces are hilarious!
This is only the tip of the iceberg but it does open the door to understanding this hobby.
QUOTE: My theory is that there are few select people in the world who can hear the nuances of a song and can hear the differences that a cable can make. I am certainly not one of them.

My experience suggests that the “select few” is much greater than you express. I fortunately found a dealer with excellent equipment, objective opinions, as much a hobbyist as a businessman, and he helped me “educate” my ears, and vastly improve my system.

From you descriptions, it sounds like you have the desire to enhance your audio acuity, and unless you have significant hearing loss, experiencing the sonics of well-coupled components and set-up systems will quickly “educate” your ears. Having a friend, or dealer on-hand to create, and explain A/B comparisons would help immensely. Folks on this site either provide this service or have more than likely found dealers who will help.

Although I live in a large metro area, I’ve driven hundreds of miles to audition equipment, and find dealers like I have just described.

Perhaps if you advise your location, an Audio Society may be nearby, or folks on this site can suggest dealers as I’ve described. In any case, don’t be too quick to dispel yourself as not, or being able to get it!

One other suggestion, check out the following web site:

I’ve found Arthur to have a very good ability to describe what we Audiophiles should be hearing. While I’m sure some folks may disagree with his opinions, equipment ratings etc., I’ve found his site to be a wonderful wealth of information.
Dude i think you got a sweet rig.

You might have to add some room treatments, etc, to get it to sound as good as at the dealers place.

I dont really claim to be an audiophile, more of a Toy-guy, i like expencive toys and i like learnign everything about them.
Like you, i would insist on installing everything myself, for guys like us, that is half the fun! :)

It boils down to this. Do you like your rig?

I will be the first to say this will put ANY cineplex to shame, even in a room that is less than optimal.

I disagree with the BOSE comment though.
I like to think that my ears are developing nicely, i dont have the 20years experience in this hobby as many, but any half-deaf moron could listen to your rig, then a bose rig, and think his hearing suddenly got worse.

every now and then an audiophile will make a comment that all that wonderful gear is wasted on less-than-golden ears. The way i see it, just because you and me might not be able to tell the subtleist of changes like some people can, does NOT mean that we cannot appreciate the wonderful sounds being created, and it definatly does not mean that we cannot tell the difference between your rig, a bose acraptimass system, and a clock radio.

Enjoy your system man!

Someday maybe i will haave something as nice as that.

Good luck on getting everything set up. It can be a very time consuming process, but at least a system like that sounds incredible even if it is not calibrated totally yet.
Just look at it like this, IT ONLY GETS BETTER FROM HERE.
An "audiophile" by definition is someone (anyone) who is an enthusiast for high fidelity sound. Period. One could be partially deaf and be an audiophile.

I never ask a visitor "did you hear that?". Most people take their music on face value and if you introduce the sound quality factor, they either say "no" or "WOW".

That said, becoming an audiophile is either inborn (perfectionist) or comes from hearing a system that makes you say "I want one of those!". Unattainable goal of bringing the performance into your room. But you can come close. That's what it's all about.

I have entry level gear that I love (Anthem/Martin Logan) and I read this site for tips and suggestions to help me tweak in my gear. In my case, I'm sure a power conditioner and power cords would kick me up a notch. Or should I buy a new DVD player? Perhaps a stand alone CD transport? Bang for the buck. But that's MY problem.

Bottom line for my post agrees with someone above who said you should live with it awhile. Get very familiar with a few recordings and then start to move things around and change cables and such. It does matter.
Even a fine automobile takes some driving and time to be able to really punch and feel how it handles. Then really be able to open it up and see where it will take you...

The same goes here. You aske if you will "hear" the difference. You heard the difference between the bose and your system so obviously you have an "ear" for sound. You obviously want to learn more and know what your system will and won't do.

I would venture to say that "yes" it will make a difference and "yes" you will be able to hear it, but don't rush into it. First savor the system in all its glory now. As time passes, you will begin to know your system. Then you can make tweeks that you will be able to differentiate whether it is responding better or not and then make the decision.

Hope this helps.
Hi! If you really want to make a difference and save time, space and eventually money- buy TacT. Given the amount of money you've spent already, and a potential complexity of proper speakers placement and acoustic treatments, I would suggest you go with TacT TCS MkII, which is a multichannel, HT room correction system ( and much, much more). And yes, your ROOM is the most important component of the System. Sorry for bringing bad news to you- reflections, standing waves and resonances ARE VERY REAL, actually, that's exactly what you hear to a large degree, and not just your system. Just out of curiosity, please check TacT Audio website. Regards.
Hmm... You read four audio magazines, assemble yourself the system, enjoy music, seriously concerned what you can hear and what can't... and you call yourself not an audiophile!
Sorry to say it, but you are.

P.S. Understanding od standing waves is nice to have, but not mandatory to qualify.
The simple answer to your simple question is YES, anyone who takes the time to try will be able to tell the difference between a properly setup system within a room and a system that has not been optimized. Cables, on the other hand, maybe not. The room/speaker interaction is THE most important part of putting together an excelling sounding system, more so than the speaker choice.

Wow! Nice to see this thread revisited. I have learnt much since I started it. What I discovered is that every tweak makes a difference with material I am familiar with (Except for the $1200 PC which did no audible difference). That is not to say better or worse, just it's different.
Anyway, I decided to hire a local professional calibrator, though that has proven very difficult, so I just might hire Rives. I figure I'll start with a flat response and tweak from there. I wanted TacT, but my media room went well over 100% over budget and that would put another $10K on my system.
I ditto the suggestion to contact Rives. He usually does jump in on threads like this one. If you can get Rives to review the above it will be to your advantage. I understand his calibration equipment is both good and user friendly.
I've contacted Rives. Very nice and helpful people there. They answered all of my questions. I will fill out the application (as soon as I get the time) and hear what they have to say.
Rives is/are good people. Trust them.
A simple reason to have your sytem either engineered for your room and calibrated properly for your setup is that it will make your system sound tremendously better!
You have so many varriables in such a small acoustically challenged space, that working with someone can yeild a tremndous(perhaps 3 fold or better) sonic(and visual) improvment! It would be akin to having WolfGang puck drop off all the great ingredients to a dish, and not leaving the dirrections!...and thus you make the dish with less than par results..even though it may seem tasty to can can taste sooooooo much better!'s a choice.
You do have the advantage of a diffuse soundfield will adresssing reflectio npoints in the room with the books/shelves. Your immaging and soundield will be better than most if you have books all over the place(would have to see your setup). Still, there are many many other variables, like bass response, volume for each speaker, proper crossover selction, phase, soundstage width, cohession between speakers, proper possitioning of speaker/seats, Speaker toe-in, perspective and height/placment of speakers, etc, etc.
Anyway, there are lots of ways to do it all so very very wront and compromised for optimal results. If you've never heard it done correctly, you might never know what you're missing, or what you could have with some edjucated consulting.
User name lrsky was very helpful. He is definitely a knowledgeable audiophile. He helped correct some of my room issues over the phone and gave me some clever tips. Thank You.