New system has fatiguing, harsh high frequency sounds. How to fix?


I just purchased my first audio and home theater system (other than a bluetooth speaker or computer speaker system). I use it for listening to music as well as watching movies. It is a tremendous upgrade and I’m enjoying it. It has clarity and detail that I have never heard before. However, I notice a harshness in the high frequency sounds when listening to music.

I would like my treble to be smooth, sweet, soft, silky and gentle. Right now it is the opposite of that. It is annoying, screechy, metallic and harsh.

I am seeking a solution to that issue. From the little I have been able to find on this subject, it seems that room acoustics might be a big part of my solution. Is that true? If not, what is my next step? An equalizer? I can’t see many options for big changes in speaker placement. At most I can move them a few inches or change the angles.

My listening room is about 11.5 feet by 11.5 feet and square except for the doorway in the back corner which protrudes into the room 18 inches x 44 inches. In the room are a bookcase, couch, end table, media center stand (holding TV, center speaker, receiver, disc player and Roku), computer & computer monitor, my speakers (and rear speaker stands), a ceiling fan and that’s about it... I’m describing the room on the assumption that the room (or its contents) are relevant to the treble problem I’m describing. (However, throwing some thick blankets over my TV and computer monitor, as a test, did not change the issue.)

Here are my home theater components:

  • Computer monitor: WASABI MANGO UHD400 40" 3840X2160
  • TV: LG OLED65C7P 65"
  • Receiver: Sony STRDN1080
  • Disc Player: LG UP875 4K BLU-RAY PLAYER BestBuy SKU 5979504
  • Streaming Box: Roku Ultra streaming player (model 4660)
I mention the monitors (and their size) in case they play a role in reflecting sounds.

Speakers:
  • Front 1: Polk Audio RTi A7 floorstanding speakers
  • Front 2: Polk Audio RTi A5 floorstanding speakers
  • Center Speaker: Klipsch RP-250C Center Channel Speaker
  • Subwoofer 1: Polk Audio PSW125 Subwoofer
  • Subwoofer 2: Klipsch R-112SW Subwoofer 
  • Rear/Surround: Polk Audio RTI A3
Speaker Layout: 5.1 layout with two pair of front speakers and two subwoofers.

The front speakers are on either side of the LG TV on the front wall (and near the room corners. The front speakers are angled in. Minimum distance to wall is 10", but measuring straight/parallel from back of speaker to wall is at least 18". From side of speaker to wall is at least a foot (one side of room has 30 inches). There is only 3" between each RTi A5 and RTi A7 speaker.

The rear speakers are behind the couch at each corner and against the back wall.

One subwoofer is in the back corner. The other is midway on the other wall and angled toward listening area.

For music, I usually prefer listening in 2-channel stereo. The dual pairs of front speakers are awesome. (I initially started out with a 7.1 layout but I prefer this layout now.) The high frequency problem exists even in 2-channel stereo. It also exists if I use only 1 pair of front speakers.

Wiring
All speakers are bi-wired, except the center (and subwoofers), which don’t support it. (Not bi-amp’d, just bi-wired*.)

Speaker wire: Mediabridge 12AWG 4-Conductor Speaker Wire (100 Feet, White) - 99.9% Oxygen Free Copper - ETL Listed & CL2 Rated for In-Wall Use

* https://www.qacoustics.co.uk/blog/2016/06/08/bi-wiring-speakers-exploration-benefits/

Banana Plugs:
  • Mediabridge Banana Plugs - Corrosion-Resistant 24K Gold-Plated Connectors - 12 Pair/24 Banana Plugs (Part# SPC-BP2-12 )
  • Sewell Silverback , 24k Gold Dual Screw Lock Speaker Connector
  • Ocelot Banana Plugs, 24k Gold Plated Connectors, Open Screw Type
BTW, my prior speakers were the Edifier e25 Luna Eclipse. I thought they sounded good and I did not remember them having these harsh high frequency sounds. After listening to my new system for a week, I went back to those for a test and they sounded horrible in comparison. The harsh high frequency sounds are much worse, and every other aspect is worse as well. (That shouldn’t be a surprise given the price ranges being compared, but my incorrect memory had been that they didn’t have this issue.)
lowoverdrive
If its a new system I would expect for it to open up and sound better after break in period. I would give it at least 100 hours before listening closely. Otherwise ...I would point to that Sony receiver, not a big fan. A lot of Sony receivers I have listened to sound harsh and this gets worse at higher volumes.

Matt M
Here is a picture of my system:
https://imgur.com/a/o6QzA
Agree that you need some burn-in time. But you do need room treatments; absorbtion and/or diffusion.
mattmiller: yes, it is a brand new system. I can still return the Sony receiver. I bought it because many reviews rated it highly. But I'm happy to try something else. What would you recommend? The Sony STRDN1080 cost about $450. I could go up to $1000, maybe a bit higher if it will solve this issue.
lowrider57: for room treatments, how does one get started? Should I call in a professional? My budget is around $1000. Can I afford a professional on that budget? If I do room treatments myself, what is the first step? Thanks.
Actually it looks like a you have some good damping in the room.
Why are there 2 sets of front speakers?
Throw some pillows around the room and save your $$$. I think you should check out the Marantz NR1608 receiver 7-channels $749.

http://www.audioholics.com/av-receiver-reviews/marantz-nr1608

Or  If you could reach a little more the $1100 Cambridge Audio CXR120 :-)

www.cambridgeaudio.com/usa/en/products/cx/cxr120

Either of these should make for easy listening! Excellent sounding!


Matt M
Matt is right, to at least experiment. Big puffy things around and behind the speakers are a great help, even on the floor. Try covering the TV. Also, try listening off axis. Some speakers are designed to be listened to with less toe-in.

Also, for professional, great looking and sounding help, go to GIK Acoustics.
Well, although I’m not generally a fan of Sony receivers, my guess is that a harshness as significant as you describe is not likely to be because of the Sony. That said, I have generally liked the sound of my Onkyo and Denon receivers. These new receivers at the price of the Sony 1080 generally only weigh about 20 pounds, and I just don’t see how they can manufacture them to have great audio at that price. They tend to have very light power supplies and current output.

Since you can return the Sony, it won’t hurt any thing to send it back and move up to a higher level receiver, along the lines of a Denon 4300 or the new Onkyo TX-RZ920. You could experiment with that before spending money elsewhere. If a higher quality receiver fails to improve the harshness problem, then I would next evaluate your speaker situation and, as mentioned above, room reflections(you have a lot of square inches of very reflective TV screen in that room).

I’m also not a big fan of most metal dome tweeters, and it appears that you have a lot of them in the system. Considering your high frequency goals of " smooth, sweet, soft, silky and gentle", you might be better served by speakers with soft dome or ribbon tweeters. Changing speakers will make more difference to your sound than anything else.

P.S., high end audio people will strongly advise against placing two sets of speakers right next to each other like that, on the contention that they will interfere with each other’s performance due to reflection and possibly absorption of sound, affecting the sound stage and imaging of the sound.


I've found that the stuff the tweeter is made of is less important than how it's implemented by the designer…soft domes can sound harsh, metal domes smooth, etc. Also in the supplied pic you're very close to the speakers (and everything else{ so I imagine things get "shouty" in there due to proximity…it's a near-field thing where I bet a small monitor speaker matched appropriately with the sub would sound better, although not took as cool.
I’ve found that the stuff the tweeter is made of is less important than how it’s implemented by the designer…soft domes can sound harsh, metal domes smooth, etc.

Totally agree with Wolf. Your Polk floorstanders have soft dome tweeters but may not have good synergy with the receiver.

You have several issues to address:
No need to have 2 pairs of front speakers.
Listening position is too close to large speakers.
Too much glass causing reflections in that small room.

I would start by using only one pair of front speakers, turn off subwoofers and dial in a good 2 channel image. Cover the flat screens for now, the goal is to hear if you have good synergy with your basic components.
You can’t hear the true sonics with all those speakers and reflective surfaces. Also, in a square room sound waves will bounce around causing harshness to mids and highs.




I have to group all my replies into one message because the forum is limiting my ability to post multiple replies. (I'm new here.) Sorry for such a long reply.

lowrider57: RE: "Why two sets of front speakers?" I ordered speakers for a 7.1 setup and that was my original setup. But for music, I use 2-channel stereo mostly. The Sony receiver supports this 5.1 setup with two pairs of front speakers. The 2nd pair is connected to surround terminals, but the receiver remaps them to fronts. When I tried it, I liked it better than the 7.1 setup. It sounds very good in 2-channel stereo for music (and I can select either pair of front speakers or both pairs, but the fronts are the only speakers playing); and the 5.1 layout is still good for movies. To my ears I lost nothing from the 7.1 layout but gained something for listening to music in 2-channel stereo. The two sets of front speakers was (and is) just part of experimenting.

mattmiller: RE: Cambridge CXR 120
I can live without the Bluetooth and other features the CXR lacks. I generally like the trade-off of excess features for better components and better sound. But this is a show-stopper for me:
'HDMI 2.0 is supported, not 2.0a, so you’ll have to do without being able to pass HDR video to a 4K display.' I will definitely consider the Marantz NR1608 or any other receiver up to the price of the Cambridge CXR 120 (or maybe a bit more) as long as it also has the features I use. I do not use any streaming features, for example.

However, I also have the idea of getting separate components -- see below.

erik_squires: RE: "Big puffy things around and behind the speakers are a great help, even on the floor. Try covering the TV. Also, try listening off axis." Pillows seemed to help. Angling all the speakers out a bit also helped a great deal.

After the pillows and changing angles of the speakers and using the equalizer built into the Sony, I watched the movie Baby Driver and the sound was absolutely wonderful!! I used all the speakers (with both sets of fronts) in the 5.1 layout with DTS Neo:X surround format.

I also listened to some challenging music selections and the treble is better. It is far from perfect on my most challenging musical selections. However, these small changes helped on other music.

mtrot: RE: "high end audio people will strongly advise against placing two sets of speakers right next to each other like that." I'm sure that this layout isn't ideal, but I did testing with only one pair of front speakers and the issue was unchanged. The receiver gives me the option to turn off either pair of front speakers at the push of a button, so I have tried either pair multiple times. The two pair of front speakers might not be ideal, but it alone is not the cause of this issue.

wolf_garcia: RE: "I imagine things get "shouty" in there due to proximity…it's a near-field thing where I bet a small monitor speaker matched appropriately with the sub would sound better, although not took as cool." I just did a test where I disconnected both the A7's and A5's and used only a pair of A3 bookshelf speakers as front speakers. Even without a sub, they are indeed plenty for music. Together with the center, surround and subwoofer, they are also fine for movies. That just proves that my two pair of large floorstanding front speakers are total overkill in this room.

However, even with just theses small speakers playing music, the issue is not totally gone on my challenging selections. Maybe it is the Sony receiver or the room?

Here's a photo of this test. The ONLY active speakers are the small Polk Audio RTI A3's (which I sat on top of the A7's for the test).

https://imgur.com/EEkVyZK

lowrider57: RE: "Listening position is too close to large speakers." Yes, the room is too small for all this equipment. So I'm considering options (see below).

lowrider57: RE: "Too much glass causing reflections in that small room." Agreed.

lowrider57: RE: "Cover the flat screens for now, the goal is to hear if you have good synergy with your basic components." I had experimented with covering the screens previously and that alone did not solve the issue. However, I'll try it again in combination with my other changes mentioned above.

A more radical solution would be to split the music listening and the movie watching into different rooms, each with their own equipment. This room (and this equipment) are fine for movies, but even the much smaller speakers continue to be harsh for high frequencies. (The problem is very apparent on sitar music at higher volume. The sitar is a twangy instrument with it's metal strings, but in live concert the sound is not annoying or harsh at all, and that's what I want to replicate.)

I could keep the home theater in the smaller room with the smaller speakers. For music, I have access to a large room (about 25 feet x 25 feet with a high ceiling) that I could use for music listening. But it has lots of big windows -- the front wall is almost all glass. And there is some equipment in there that always has fans running. I have a second choice, a room that is around 20 x 25 feet, but has tile flooring and I can't put carpet in it. I would also have to do a lot of rearranging. I'm not sure if either is an ideal room for music, but they are larger. Would a room that large be too large for the speakers I currently have? (See original post for list of all speakers.)

For home theater (movies), I think the Sony receiver is good enough. In fact, as I said above, after the minor changes I made, the sound while watching Baby Driver was near perfect with this setup. And I believe that would hold true even if I drop down to the Polk Audio RTI A3's as the front speakers and use an older pair of Polk 35B bookshelf speakers as rears (and also just one subwoofer).

Then I could take the A5's and A7's and the Klipsch R-112SW Subwoofer to another room and pair those up with a nice pre-amp and power amp for music listening. Any thoughts on that?

All suggestions welcome.
The second Flat screen is causing an unwanted reflection
 Try removing that one to the left first.
Next push the other flat screen tv as close to the wall behind it.
 Next, pull the front speakers at least 5 inches in front of the Big screen.
  Let it run for many hours 175 at least.
 Make sure you SPL all speakers again.
Best JohnnyR 
Post removed 
If the speakers are not on carpet, get 2 small rugs and position them right in front of the speaker to soften the 1st arrival time. (johnnyR from AudioConnection in NJ told me about this and it works)
Return the Sony. You likely have a jitter or distortion problem (driving a tough load). Try Onkyo.
you may have a system synergy issue (bright amp + bright speakers) especially since each are new and not close to being burned in / broken in.  each should start sounding smoother over time- could take a year or so (seriously).  
however- your setup is not doing them any favors.  look up the term "baffle step compensation".  basically it is an adjustment of the speaker's crossover to reduce frequencies (midrange and treble) that are reflected forward by the front baffle of the enclosure.  
by having the monitor screens and another set of speakers in the same plane as your main speakers, you have effectively increased the surface area of the baffle and you are hearing lots of high midrange / low treble energy reflecting back to the listening position.  not good!  the speakers need air around them in all directions- two feet or so if possible..  get rid of the unused set, pull the speakers as far forward as possible from the screens, push the screens as far back as possible and then put thick quilts or blankets over the screens when listening to music. 
once you have done that any issues that remain are likely system synergy and break-in related.  
I am not so sure it is the Sony, but to be sure you have to diagnose properly, excluding one possibility at a time. Going through the chain from the beginning:
1 it could be the actual music. Listen to a live symphony orchestra, and at times that can sound pretty harsh. Use classical music as a source to judge this. Solution if there still is a problem and if this is the cause: face up to reality.
2 it could be the mastering. These days many pop recordings are mastered at very high levels, with clipping distortion as a result. This is intended, even of not necessarily by the original artists in case of a modern remaster. In that case the cure would be to get hold of anolder mastering. With classical music this is rarely a problem.
3 it could be a mismatch between signal levels of the analogue source and the analogue input, potentially generating clipping distortion. Many amplifiers cannot quite handle the high 2.0 volt (or more) signal levels of e.g. a cd player. This could also happen with digital sources, but less likely. Cure: an inline attenuator in the case of an analogue source, or a reduction in the digital domain (if possible). Question: do you suffer this harsh sound with all sources (including FM radio, or only with some?
4 Jitter from the inbuilt DAC of the Sony (if you are using the digital input). I doubt it will be as serious as your problem seems to be. Cure: a different receiver.
5 insuffient power, leading to clipping of the power amplifier. Hard to imagine in such a small room.
6 harsh speakers. I don’t know these speakers, but changing them around with some other speakers will identify if they are the culprits. Cure 1: get other speakers. Cure 2: use your amplifier’s tone controls.
7 a harsh sounding room. If your room has too many hard and reflective surfaces, use damping materials like rugs etc to dampen those reflections. If that is not enough, use the tone controls. Compare the sound when using the same gear in a different room.

Beyond this, have a close look at the settings of the receiver. This is a fancy piece with more options than you can imagine in your wildest dreams. And therefore more possibilities to get it wrong. Make sure you know what you are doing.

Reading about your own experiments, it looks as if the combination of speakers and the room is the real culprit.

You do not mention it, but in a small and square room such as this, the subwoofers are also likely to generate a lot of nasty room modes at the lower end. Just two small high quality mini monitors may well give a much better sound (or move all this gear to a bigger room in the house). This room really is too small. If you insist, use the room eq in the receiver, if you have not already done so. But in such a small room, room modes will be at pretty high frequencies (up to the room’s Schroeder frequency of 245 Hz or so for the fundamentals, and much higher for the harmonics), and equalization will only work over a pretty small listening position. Do not think using just one sub wil work: it will only make matters worse because multiple subs even out the response.

If you want to measure what you are hearing, get a UMIK-1 calibrated microphone and measure with the free REW software (unless the Sony allows you to do about the same).

I don't believe break in is a real thing, beyond maybe the first few hours for the speakers. There are just too many myths in audiophile land.
I agree with Shadorne. Inexpensive receivers have compromised power supplies and current delivery as also stated. It would be my first likely culprit but there may be other issues as well with room and reflection problems that might be mitigated/improved with room treatments. 
This has been very educational. Based on the advice received here (and my experiments so far), this room is too small for both home theater (with the large screen) and optimal music listening. Covering the screens while listening to music will prevent me from picking songs, etc.

So I am going to try moving my music listening location to another room.

I made a new post on that topic here:
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/amp-or-receiver-recommendation-for-polk-audio-rti-a7-floorsta...

For this small room, with the feedback I received here, I was able to achieve a great movie sound experience with the existing Sony receiver. This room can work well for home theater. Here are the speakers I'll use:

  • Front: Polk Audio RTI A3
  • Center Speaker: Polk Audio CSI A6 Center Channel Speaker
  • Subwoofer 1: Polk Audio PSW125 Subwoofer
  • Subwoofer 2: Klipsch R-112SW Subwoofer (optional)
  • Rear/Surround: Polk Audio 35B bookshelf speakers (5 yr old never used, purchased on Craigslist)
I feel like I have probably solved the home theater part of this, thanks to the advice given here, without spending any money.

I'm going to put my budget toward the music system that will go in another room. See thread linked above if you care of offer any suggestions.

Thanks for the great feedback here. I will keep experimenting with all this, so please continue to comment here if you wish and I'll keep reading and trying things.
Follow these directions, given by JohnnyR (audioconnection)861 posts01-02-2018 10:01amThe second Flat screen is causing an unwanted reflection
 Try removing that one to the left first.
Next push the other flat screen tv as close to the wall behind it.
 Next, pull the front speakers at least 5 inches in front of the Big screen.
  Let it run for many hours 175 at least.
 Make sure you SPL all speakers again.
Best JohnnyR  

I would also experiment with hanging a large towel on the front wall, slightly behind, but above the tv ( maybe using painters tape ) to further stop early reflections. 
lowoverdrive- Welcome!  As the responses to the OP amply demonstrate,  if you ask a question like this to 4 audiophiles, you will get 6 or 7 different answers.  You have done a good job of responding and describing the results of your experimentation so far.  Issues like break-in and cabling should not be the source of overwhelmingly harsh high frequencies.  Here are my observations, some of which align with yours:
1.  That is a lot of speaker for a small room.  You are listening in the near-field and that speaker is not designed for that. 
2.  One review I found noted a forward sound with sharp attacks and an edgy sound.  Another review said that could be a bit harsh.  A consumer review said they were for "treble lovers only".  In the near field with modest electronics, that could easily be perceived by someone else as a fatiguing harsh treble.
3.  The speaker is also described as requiring lots of power to open up.  The receiver has been measured to provide only 65 watts/channel at 0.1% distortion.  If that distortion is of the wrong kind, 0.1% can easily be very audible as harshness.  Solid state amps that use feedback to keep the measured distortion low often create that kind of distortion. 
4.  Your small room has two very large glass reflective surfaces (TV and computer monitor).

In sum, you have inadvertently created a sort of positive feedback loop; positive in the sense that all of these factors contribute to the sound quality you described, with an overemphasis on the treble. You found that changing the speakers helped some.  You also noted that the AVR and small speakers are quite adequate for movies, and asked about using the larger speakers with different electronics in a larger room for music.

That is probably the best solution because you probably cannot change enough of the factors that re-inforce each other in that small room.  Modest priced AVRs generally "sound" like they have less than their rated power when playing music and have much of their $$ allocated to digital signal processing, auto-calibration, and the gazillion input and output jacks/plugs/ports on their rear panels.  If you cannot return the large Polk speaker, then I would look for electronics known for a warm or slightly laid back sound (often described as a British sound) and put them in a larger space where the speakers can be well out from the wall behind them and where you can place furniture/pillows, curtains, etc to break up reflections and enhance diffusion of the sound.  If it's just for music, an integrated amplifier might be a good cost-conscious solution.   If you give us a budget and whether you want to buy new or used, we can make specific suggestions. 


Photos: before, during and after:
https://imgur.com/a/o6QzA

Starting point when I posted:
https://imgur.com/VRvxMB2
Dual pairs of large front floorstanding speakers. Treble was harsh and fatiguing.

Testing the A3's
https://imgur.com/EEkVyZK
I sat the smaller A3's on top of the A7's for a quick test. I was not using either floorstanding speaker in this test and the sound was improved. The quick test confirmed I was going in the right direction, just as you guys suggested.


Current home theater setup:
https://imgur.com/j2fGqAq
Sounds the best, but doesn't look as impressive. The various pillows behind the speakers and my extra speaker cables also detract from the appearance. However, after the small tweaks and moving the larger speakers out to open up some space, I don't really have any complaints now, even with sitar or sarangi music. It does not sound harsh or fatiguing. Music sounds very good and movies sound great. The Polk A3's put out a lot of sound. I'm using the Polk Audio CSI A6 center channel speaker now, but I'll have to swap out the TV stand for one with larger shelves to fit this larger center speaker. I'm still using two subwoofers. Movie sound in this small room is just as impressive as with the larger floorstanding speakers.
swampwalker - thank you for that nice summary.

RE: "If you give us a budget and whether you want to buy new or used, we can make specific suggestions. "

That would be awesome. I would like to keep the larger Polk speakers. I like them (build quality and appearance partly). I hope I can repurpose them into a nice music-only system in a larger room.

I describe more details here:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/amp-or-receiver-recommendation-for-polk-audio-rti-a7-floorsta...

In short, my budget is $1000 or so for an integrated amp (or preamp + power amp or whatever is recommended). But I would like to try the dual front speaker setup in the larger room, and that would require more channels.

Since I don't have much experience with audio equipment, I should probably buy new. And I prefer to buy on Amazon because of their generous return policy. I had been anticipating that I would not really know what I wanted/needed until I tried it.

Finally, I do have the option to return one or both pairs of the floorstanding speakers if trying to make a dual front speaker setup work is not a good idea.
OK. HT room sorted I would think. Are you using the room eq of your receiver?
For the music room, I moved to your new thread.
I agree with attacking the room first.  Once you tame the reflections no matter how you change equipment the room will be done.  

You are getting some good advice re: break-in time.  Be patient or run your system on a loop while you're out of the house.
Your room now looks like a comfy place to watch a movie. Looks much more balanced.
If the pillows behind the speakers are helping to tighten up the sound, you may want get a couple absorbtion panels.
Some good suggestions here. 
I would follow Johnny at Audio Connection suggestions as close as possible. He gave me some advice after I had played with my system for about 3 years. After I followed his suggestion I let him know how it turned out as he asked, then he suggested something else and no more issue after that. 
My opinion on your system. My first pair was RTI10 and the 505 sub with B&K components. These are bright to start with. Get them away from the wall about 18 inches so they can breathe. Get rid of the silver anything with those speakers,you need good solid copper with gold power cables and speaker cables. You can maybe throw in some silver interconnects to see how thin they sound or bright. Your Sony is also bright right out of the box. I would suggest Audience PC, they will smooth out your sound and tame the brightness down a bit. The others are also correct about the burn in time,although I don`t think Polk needs a lot of time for that. I had a Mark Levinson system that was bright. I bought some Audience Powerchords for all of my AC connections. I also have some interconnects and Powerchords left over from that system if you would like to try different things. The PC have a lifetime warranty and the best bang for the buck in my opinion with what you have going on here. Congrats on the new system. Let me know if I can help.
To address the elephant in the room, you're using Polk, Sony, LG and Klipsch equipment.  Mid-fi at best, and all known for over-emphasizing upper frequencies in a bid to sound "detailed" and "airy".  Your best bet is to turn the treble down on the receiver and move on.
There are a lot of good suggestions here, I’ll just give my .02:

- agreed this is way too much gear for a room of this size. Big speakers will do movies well but for music, smaller monitor speakers will likely do a better job.
- agreed the combo of Sony + Polk could be contributing. Break in of the electronics will help smooth out the highs but it will take a very long time, 400+ hours.
- Marantz leans a lot warmer and smoother and should help. I have a NR1403 and while I would never call it audiophile it’s quite pleasant and agreeable with music.
- I disagree the brightness is a lost cause in this room. The right gear will be a lot less harsh sounding and make it more livable even with all the reflections. Speakers are likely the biggest culprit here so if changing the receiver alone doesnt help enough, that’s probably your next step.
- wire can make a big difference. For something smoother and more mellow I’d try Anticables.
Ridiculously expensive power cords are of questionable value in a very high end system.  On a Sony they are an absolute waste of money.  On a similar note, while expensive interconnects and speaker cables may have more validity, their effects would be mostly inaudible in this system.  And don't let someone talk you into $150 fuses, either.  Back off on the speakers, you only need two - four tops, lose the subwoofers and stop trying to blow yourself away.
No offense folks, but we're talking about $600 speakers here. Nobody is hearing the qualities of cables through ANY Polk RTi series speakers. Those are simply bright speakers of not particularly remarkable quality overall. 
@ kosst_amojan

No offense to you, but I don’t see how the OP could NOT be offended by your dismissive comment.
get rid of the Sony and get the best Onkyo you can afford.. check latest model, used first.. I've had good luck with them before I got into seperates.. also use all copper cables, especially in the speaker cable..
@mtrot 
Well, that would be unfortunate. My buddy with the pile of RTi stuff powers his with a big honkin Onkyo and they're still bright and wildly out-classed by the upper level Polk center he bought. He can try throwing all the audiophile myths, snake oil, and tweaks he likes at the problem, but nothing is going to actually cure the core deficiency with the speaker itself. I'm not sure why he opted for 2 pairs of front channels, but the cash would have been better spent on a single pair of better speakers. The better ranges of Polk sound significantly better. 
It seems to me addressing the direct cause of the problem would yield the best result. Why am I always jumped on for pointing out the obvious? 
@ kosst_amojan

I agree with all you said in the last post.  Just thought your first post was a bit harsh, could have been a bit diplomatic about it. 

I can understand why a person new to audio might like the idea of two sets of speakers.  Heck, we always say if YOU like and enjoy your system, that's what matters.  But the OP doesn't seem to like the sound, so I agree better speakers would be number one on the to do list.
I have come to think that the problems need to be adressed at the root. Speakers and their interaction with the room are responsible for 90% of  sound quality:
1 it is an illusion to think that it will ever be possoble to have really good sound in that room. It is too small, and because it is square, the room modes will also be bunched together. All that is possible is casual listening with a pair of mini monitors (you could use your old speakers for that, with a cheap Sony STR 130 if you still want some sound in that room).
2 Since speakers are so important, and because they are also by far the most expensive component, you have too many of them and they are not as good as they should. Why not opt for a 2 channel HT system? That is what I did: you give up some surround effects, but you gain a lot of sound quality. Since you seem to be in a position that you can return a lot of your gear (all the Polk stuff, including the Polk Sub (?), the Sony, and perhaps also the LG disc player?), do so. Move over to the mid size room, and use whatever budget you have to buy some really good speakers (Harbeth M30.1?) and some affordable electronics (Harbeths do not need fancy electronics or cables - sell those too if they are worth any money). How much budget would this create? Electronics: for example an Oppo 205 disc player and pre amp (if your LG does not have the right inputs and outputs and volume control), plus a beefy Emotiva or pro audio power amp.
Hi allJust some thoughts: How about introducing a tube-based pre-amp in the set up? And smaller speakers.
I would not have used such large speakers (as in the first pictures) for such a small room.
Recently I was on a demonstration of amplifiers at a local HFi dealer. They used a relatively small listening room, with some large floorstanders. I commented that the sound was hard and "edgy". They switched to smaller stand mounted speakers and the sound became a lot softer and more comfortable to listen to.
I use Spendor SA1 speakers in my living room (together with the Sugden A21SE Amplifier and a vacuum tube based DAC). This gives an incredibly comfortable sound and has no problem filling the entire living room with sound.
Oh – and i always buy second hand stuff, so i get great sound for half the price :-)
I've owned an Onkyo and used Polk speakers and it sounded good with no brightness... but maybe kosst_'s knowledge is better than my ears
And for a cheaper version of my two channel HT suggestion, and more so if you cannot return the LG disc player: a Yamaha AS 801 2x100 watt amplifier with optical, coaxial and usb digital inputs, plus the somewhat cheaper Harbeth C7ES-3 speakers.
Unfortunately unlike the Oppo the LG player cannot quite serve as a pre amplifier because it does not have a digital input (apart from a LAN networking connection and a USB that will only take memory sticks but not computers).
Why did you not buy better speakers and buy a smaller tv? Sound, as you are not happy with, is more annoying than a smaller tv. It's only a tv. In that room the tv is too large. Have you attempted to use the eq in the sony to address the harshness? That would do more than anything else that's been mentioned.
I think the OP’s speakers are fine, if that’s what he likes.

Dealing with room acoustics will make everything better. If the monitors are just used for music selection, maybe an iPad or Android driven music server would help. At least that way when playing music you can cover everything up.

I have to shake my head at some of the thoughts in this thread. It seems like the desire is to spend lots of money to solve simple issues is strong here. This is why I think so many audiophiles should make at least one pair of speakers in their lifetimes. It would completely reset their expectations of money and value.


Best,

E
So much to comment on, so little time :-)  I see lots of solutions that swap pieces and throw money at the problem.  I'd first do some trouble isolation.  Step #1 would be to adjust speaker placement and angle to see not only if you can fix it, but if you can at least change it.  For example, moving the speakers off axis a bit might give you a HF decrease where you sit.

In the overall context cables and dragon-toothed plugs are a total waste of money.  Focus on the basics. I tend to agree that you likely have too much stuff, of too little quality, with too small a room, but proceed logically, step by step.

Can you borrow some components to substitute in?  I would substitute in a different source (CD/DVD) and see what difference THAT makes, next a receiver.  I am not up on current receivers, so i wont comment on brands - i live at the other end of the spectrum. In the old days NAD made some nice stuff, as did Rotel.  In that room you need less than 20 wpc, except maybe to drive a subwoofer for movies.

I also tend to agree that the first order effect is likely speakers, followed by speaker-room interaction.  I know you were asked, but why do you have four sizable speakers? Concentrate your fire!  Get smaller, higher quality speakers that you can position idally - and maybe move for music vs movies.  If in fact you have a 100% return policy, i might go in and ask - within the period, to listen to a bunch of smaller speakers of high quality and listen for "musicality". On quick back to back comparisons the louder or brighter speaker always wins - and will torment you ti; you;re "praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive" - a notably bright album I'll add :-)

To get an objective view of what;s going on maybe you cna find a local audio geek with a doppler or pulse spectrum analyzer. It puts out wide spectrum noise and then measures the in-room response. You find out if you really do have a rising high frequency, and then you ask the store "why?"  They wont know, but it outs you in a good place :-)

If i had a  small room, and I;ll date myself here, I'd have a  NAD 3020 and a pair of Met-7s, with some active subwoofer stuffed behind a table. Or similar.  Maybe something designed since man landed on the moon, but you get the idea.
lowrider57: "Your room now looks like a comfy place to watch a movie." Yes, indeed. I'm pretty satisfied with it for watching movies now. Thanks for everyone's help in getting to this point. :-)

willemj: "Are you using the room eq of your receiver?" Yes, that was part of the solution in this (movie) room.

RE: advice from Johnny at Audio Connection. Yes, I appreciate his advice and I have all of the things suggested that can be done now. (Break-in, for example, will take time.)

mrdecibel: "I would also experiment with hanging a large towel on the front wall, slightly behind, but above the tv ( maybe using painters tape ) to further stop early reflections." Interesting idea. I didn't try it yet, but I will keep this in mind. Thanks.

swampwalker: "In sum, you have inadvertently created a sort of positive feedback loop." Yes, it seems that way! :-)

"I would look for electronics known for a warm or slightly laid back sound (often described as a British sound) and put them in a larger space where the speakers can be well out from the wall behind them and where you can place furniture/pillows, curtains." That sounds like the approach I would like to take.

firstgrowth: "You are getting some good advice re: break-in time. Be patient or run your system on a loop while you're out of the house." Thanks. I know break-in time is controversial, but my system does seem to be getting better with time.

dskinner5: Audience Powerchords... they really work?

jnorris2005: "Your best bet is to turn the treble down on the receiver and move on." That was part of what I did, but it wasn't enough until I also made the other changes discussed above.

"You're using Polk, Sony, LG and Klipsch equipment. Mid-fi at best..." Yes, I know. But I don't have enough experience to warrant buying higher end equipment yet.

taww: "Marantz leans a lot warmer and smoother and should help." OK, good to know.

jnorris2005: "Ridiculously expensive power cords are of questionable value in a very high end system. On a Sony they are an absolute waste of money. On a similar note, while expensive interconnects and speaker cables may have more validity, their effects would be mostly inaudible in this system."

Actually, this is my feeling exactly. While I am open to trying anything that fits my budget, I think I'll hold off on trying expensive cords, cables, and wires until I have a true high end system.

kosst_amojan: "No offense folks, but we're talking about $600 speakers here. Nobody is hearing the qualities of cables through ANY Polk RTi series speakers."

Thanks. This further confirms my feeling. I'll forgo the expensive cables.

mtrot: "No offense to you, but I don’t see how the OP could NOT be offended by your dismissive comment." I wasn't offended at all. I realize people have different opinions. I also realize that the subject of expensive cables is very controversial. I realize bi-wiring is controversial too. I have good quality 4 conductor high strand count 12 AWG OFC speaker cables in a bi-wiring configuration. I think I'll stick with that until I have more expensive gear. (Some might say that even this bi-wiring configuration is overkill for my speakers and AVR.)

oem-wheels: "also use all copper cables, especially in the speaker cable.. ". Yep. :-)

"I'm not sure why he opted for 2 pairs of front channels, but the cash would have been better spent on a single pair of better speakers." I started off with a 7.1 configuration. When I realized 7.1 was too much for this room, I tried a 5.1 with the dual front speakers. I liked it better. But I only did it because I had an extra pair of speakers left over from the 7.1 config that I initially thought was going to work.

willemj: "Since you seem to be in a position that you can return a lot of your gear (all the Polk stuff, including the Polk Sub (?), the Sony, and perhaps also the LG disc player?)" Yes, I bought a lot of it from Amazon, and I think I can return it. But I bought it to begin my learning process. I'm not sure I know enough yet to know which higher end components to purchase. And by the time I can go somewhere to audition equipment, it will be too late to return this. I'm more inclined to take smaller steps. I have my movie room sorted now. As my next step, I would prefer to get a mid-fi music system set up in my larger room using an integrated amp or the Oppo disc player and/or some of the other options you have suggested. I'm trying to learn more about those options now. I like the idea of one of the Yamaha amplifiers you mentioned (e.g.P3500S), the But I'm inclined to keep the RTi speakers at this stage. Later, when I get better speaker, I'll appreciate them more. If I got the best speakers now, I probably would not be able to fully appreciate the sound.


harley52: "Why did you not buy better speakers and buy a smaller tv?" I like my TV. The movie room is fine now. No complaints. I dont' want to change anything about it at the moment. Now I'm focusing on a music system in a larger room.

BTW, if I had initially bought more expensive equipment there is a good chance I would just have made a more expensive mistake. It took the experience of listening to the equipment in THAT room to realize some of my initial ideas were just not realistic. That's why my main goal now is to gain experience step by step.
erik_squires: "This is why I think so many audiophiles should make at least one pair of speakers in their lifetimes. It would completely reset their expectations of money and value." That's an idea I really like! Thank you.


itsjustme: "I tend to agree that you likely have too much stuff, of too little quality, with too small a room, but proceed logically, step by step." I agree now too. And yes, I will proceed step-by-step. My goal is to learn and gain experience before I start spending a lot of money.

" I know you were asked, but why do you have four sizable speakers?" I started off with a 7.1 configuration. When I realized 7.1 was too much for this room, I tried a 5.1. That left me with two spare speakers, so I experimented.

"To get an objective view of what;s going on maybe you can find a local audio geek with a doppler or pulse spectrum analyzer." That interests me, but meeting trustworthy experts takes time. I hope I can do what you suggested, but I don't know how quickly I'll meet the right audio geek. I only started this project a couple weeks ago. :-)
I too am on a budget over here. The speakers I've got are really the prize pieces of the stereo cost-wise and I picked them for their sound AND the fact that they're extremely revealing of upstream gear. That characteristic suggests a very high degree of neutrality and transparency. I spent the money on them because I'm quite certain there's no possible way for me to have built anything that comes close to them for anywhere near the price. Everything upstream of the speaker's terminals was either built or rebuilt by me with the exception of a couple of interconnects. That's saved me a big pile of money. Who else here is enjoying 50 watts of Pass power for under $1000? That's what I'm talking about. 
My advice going forward is learn, learn, and learn. Understand the specs. Understand what impedance is and what it does at different stages of the audio chain. Learn modes of operation for gain devices. Learn basic topologies. Seriously consider building what you can. Cables are easy to build. Some amps are very easy to build. Buffer pre-amps are easy to build. I'm learning that Raspberry Pi-bases DAC sources are actually quite easy to build. My only complaint with Eric's suggestion that folks build speakers is the cost of acquiring a wood shop if you don't already own one. On the other hand, you can build a stunning amp with not many more tools than a screwdriver, a cresent wrench, a soldering iron, and some wire cutters. 
kosst_amojan - if you said which speakers you own, I missed it. I'd like to know. THanks.