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Crutchfield: The Podcast Ep. 1

Mac and his home stereo system

In this episode:

Mac, a Crutchfield Advisor who's a big fan of British audio engineering, invites J.R. to his home and explains the thinking behind his home audio system. Plus, they talk about Mac's experience watching the infamous dark episode of Game Of Thrones on a Sony TV.

Some of the gear discussed includes:

After the interview, J.R. and Eric answer a question from the customer comments on our Stereo receivers buying guide about powering indoor and outdoor speakers from the same stereo receiver.

Explore more episodes

Read episode transcript

Welcome to Crutchfield, the podcast. I am your host, Jr, I'm the training manager here at Crutchfield with me in studio today? One of my cohorts in the training department, eric how you doing? Eric doing great. What do you like about working at Crutchfield? I love that day in and day out. We get to talk to customers about toys, the fun stuff. Absolutely. Crutchfield started with car audio and expanded into home audio. We've expanded several times to. Since then we sell pro audio stuff. We have vendors coming in, Sony ken, would LG pioneer anybody in here showing off their new stuff. So we get to hear it, we get to see it, we get to touch it, play with it and experience it. And we've got how many employees now? 600 ish. Yeah. 600. If you factor in the warehouses, the marketing, the accounting, the sales advisors, the tech support, multiple call center locations here in Virginia and eric Yeah, that's a lot of people. Quite a few. And that's not counting dogs, people are buying stuff all the time around here. And we thought, what better thing to talk about than what are our employees buying? They have access to thousands of the coolest products on the planet. What did they choose and why? And is that why that's kind of the most important part of it? Because 600 employees here, everybody's situation is unique? 16,000 products. Is that where we're at now? 16,000. And we figured let's find out why specific individuals are choosing the gear they are choosing? And what is their situation? We always want to know about the application, what are you using it for? What kind of music are you playing? Who are you playing it for? How loud do you want it? We wanted to talk to our employees to find out what they're buying and why and today we're talking to Mac. Mac is a sales advisor, he's been at Crutchfield for a few years now and he got pretty excited at a vendor training for a particular brand of speakers and all of the gear that goes with it to make it sound great. So eric, one of the reason I wanted you here in studio with me today was exactly, absolutely. Actually, we are going to listen to this interview with Mac and you and me are going to absolutely interrupt it from time to time. We might add some context to maybe explain some of the technologies that Mac is using at his home and I'll let eric say a few words from time to time, I appreciate that. The thing catching my eye right now in front of us is these beautiful floor standing wharf dale speakers, exactly which model is that they are the wharf dale diamond to thirties. Wharf dale diamond to thirties, that's that's the floor standing speaker with the twitter and then to offer 2, 6.5 inch Wolfers. Um, so they would be, they would consider a 2.5 way they've got, they have a a crossover built in, so that there is a true mid range with the same size as the base driver. So they called like a 2.5 way speaker, 2.5 way, so helps with kind of that, that vocal clarity and everything. They passed the test as well. I love how they look, my wife look how they look. So that was that was a big win. Yeah, they, I really love these things when brought them through to have us listen to them. So that, is that how you decided by, by hearing them and seeing them in in our vendor training when came to Crutchfield? Yeah, they brought them through and this speaker I believe was one of the exact ones they brought and I was in love immediately, I would have had have been talked off of something different. So they really, really were impressive how early in your Crutchfield career, was that because people definitely have a tendency to buy the first set of speakers they here in training because it's often the best speakers they've ever heard. Unless people come to Crutchfield with lots of experience listening to speakers. Typically they don't, they come to Crutchfield and they start getting training on a regular basis and exposure to all these products and the first set of four changing speakers are often the best things they've ever heard and they just go buy them, which, you know, it's, That's fine, but it might be advisable to wait and hear a few more. Give yourself some options. How many how many how many vendor trainings where you got to hear speakers? Did you experience before? You heard these? I was probably 18 months in so probably had heard a pretty fair amount of speakers. That's a prudent approach a year or so of going to trainings and hearing a bunch of speakers. Yeah and I wasn't in a rush, I had a pair of old um like seventies style floor standing speakers that were doing the job so I wasn't in need of speakers. Um But there there came a time when it was it was time to upgrade and these these kind of rose to the top. We're not in a huge room. So I think they made a lot of sense for the size of space. We had, I didn't necessarily want behemoths in the living room but I did want something pretty substantial to give me some good full sound if I wanted it. Yeah so let's talk about the room a little bit hardwood floors like you said, not huge but I mean it's not like you're in a cramped new york city apartment or something, it's it's a nice size living room and lots of hard surfaces. Did that play into your decision at all? Like as opposed to like having a bunch of carpet that soaks up the sound. Yeah a little bit um These are really cool their bottom so they have a report on the bottom. So I knew that the hardwood would really like that a little bit. Give me a little bit extra bass response. Okay. Um, so it helped. It did a little bit. There are pretty, uh, I would say they're not very bright speaker and so because they've got a soft dome tweeter, just in general kind of warmer sound. I knew that all the hard surfaces were really going to play well with that. Yeah, if it was super bright, you'd have all those reflections, it would almost be kind of harsher, you know, tiresome to listen to. So max talked about the downward firing ports on these speakers, which is, it's a pretty cool technology. It's not unique to warfare, but they execute it wonderfully. They absolutely do. So there's two types of speakers in an enclosure. It's either ported or sealed, sealed enclosure, acoustic suspension. The air on the inside of the box completely sealed off from the air outside ported bass reflex, there is a hole somewhere in that box that allows base to come out of it at a certain tuned frequency where you're gonna get a lot more base. If the box is ported the tune, the porter's tuned like a musical instrument would be exactly the question is always where to support some companies put it on the back of the speaker. Somebody put it on the front of the speaker. If you put it on the back though, sometimes you run into issues being too close proximity to the wall plays a big role in front. Sometimes that base comes out punchy kind of in your face a little too much. Sometimes, if you put it on the bottom, what happens is, is the base comes out of the bottom of the wolf, of the bottom of the speaker cabinet and hits the floor and sort of radiates out in all directions. Bases already sort of an omni directional frequency band of frequencies and firing it straight down into the floor helps that even more so that the base is just sort of all encompassing in your room, right? But if you have a carpet or super reflective surface that sometimes can add or subtract from the sound in ways that aren't but a great, great way to overcome that is with that plinth design. Exactly. So the whole fires out of the bottom of the speaker into a flat piece of wood or whatever it is. They're using probably particleboard with a real wood veneer that the sound fires directly into that. So whether you're putting these speakers on carpet, hardwood floors, concrete, or any type of car. But the sound could be dramatically different without that plinth that equalizes things. And so in max room with his hardwood floors, that's going to help keep it from being too boo me. And if he were to move that into a new house or something and go to a room with carpet, it's going to keep it from getting the losing all the base into his shag carpeting flexible. I'm pretty sure he's going to have shag carpeting in his new house. I can see that. So these uh these wharf Neil diamond to thirties, what do you have powering? And that look like Cambridge audio? It's Cambridge audio. The Topaz are 20 stereo receiver. 2020. And how much power does that thing run? Do you remember? Um It's rated at about 100 watts per channel Rms per side. And that's Cambridge audio power so that they don't they don't embellish numbers at all over there. So that's a conservative rating if anything. Yeah, they it's got some juice behind it. Um It's 100 watts is really I think where these speakers are happy at and it's got power supply so nice and clean. Um It's a british company. So I really like that british tone. I play a little bit of guitar, like that box amplifier. So I knew I would kind of like their stuff and uh kind of took a little bit of a leap of faith and paid off. So max Cambridge audio. Topaz? S R 20 has a to royal power supply, Easy for you to say. Yes, it is. I've been saying it for years, not as easy for you, what is that? What does it do that helps the Cambridge audio amplifier and anything that has a to royal power supply provide consistent, clean, strong high current power to all of the components inside that amplifier. There's some electronics in there. There's there's some you know there's there's processors, things like that and of course there is an amplifier and that amplifier needs consistent high quality power to do its job. And to be able to handle low impedance speakers to be able to handle extremely loud volumes. The dynamic range the peaks that you want to hear. Uh Did uh do we do we know what the difference is between peak and RMS power? Peak is a number that typically is used in the industry to put a really big number on a box. Um And uh RMS is the actual number that we care about because it's more realistic when we're listening to music that that the the RMS rating is what our speakers are going to see over the long run. So the continuous continuous all day long sort of power. Exactly what does RMS stand for? Do you remember means square. I don't know why that has anything to do with music but that's what it stands. What the are the M. And E. S. Stand for? That's right. Do you know the acronym all also associated with peak power? The W. L. S. Power? No I don't know if I've heard this. So peak power is often also referred to scientifically in the community as W. L. S. Power when lightning strikes. That's right. One frequency for one millisecond once. Right? That's that's peak power. The the amplifiers ability. What is the absolute most amount of power it can do for the for any length of time? Probably about one second. It's not lying. The math they use is definitely questionable but it's not a lie. But at the same what we really care when matching a speaker to an amplifier is the RMS power. And when you see things like to royal Power supply which you had something to add on that. Well it does look like a donut and it does add some weight. I know in the past people used to go up to a piece of electron kind of pick it up. Good stuff was supposed to feel heavier, right? This is one of those bits and pieces that make things happen. It's a big heavy fire. That adds a lot of heft to a high current amplifier. And with that with that droid power supply you get better RMS power continuously. It always sounds good. It's pretty clear why you went with the Wharf dales. How'd you decide on the Cambridge? Obviously you have these in front of me every day. So I know what kind of products are out there but even I dug in I probably research for months before I made the decision on that. I knew I was gonna like even things like the digital to analog converters that are built into it. I like that kind of warmer sound that they lean toward. Um I knew I needed some power. So all those things I wasn't really looking for features um doesn't have things like bluetooth or wifi, so it's a little bit more simplistic but I knew I could add that on with other pieces. There's plenty of other boxes that do bluetooth and wifi, putting those radio receivers and transmitters inside the box responsible for power is a great way to introduce a little bit of noise. Maybe maybe lose some of that precision and Cambridge really isn't really isn't into not sounding amazing. So exactly. You know, they took out some of those things that can introduce noise. They make really smart decisions like um separating the power supply from the preempt preempt session which are really sensitive to noise. And they just, I just think that they kind of over engineer a little bit which in the on the products that makes a whole world of difference. So if that thing is not on the internet because it doesn't have wifi or bluetooth or anything, how do you listen to music? Sure. So I'm a little bluetooth receiver that is nice and simple. Um it's harmon cardi, B. T A 10 that's that is a faithful little guy right there. I have one. I use it with my band's P A system. So if we want to play music during the breaks, that's how I do it. And that thing is just fantastic, inexpensive, it's just powers on automatically. I don't have to, it's always part of my phone. It's really simple. So if I'm putting on background noise and not really sitting down and really trying to get the details, Little bluetooth receiver is great for that. Um I've also got a DTs Play Fi piece. It's a a it's a definitive technology w adapt I believe is the name of that thing. That sounds right. Um and it's for kind of more like wifi streaming and um does can do digital outputs and things like that directly into the, so it's an audio streamer. So DTs play Fi is a wireless multi room audio system. There's a bunch of these systems out there so knows one, but you can get Ceos from Denon and Marantz, you can get Yamaha's music cast. These are all very brand specific. You have to stay within a particular brand of products to have a multi room music system. So, unlike those other brands, DTs Play Fi is available as a software piece in lots of different brands of electronics. So clips uses them. And deaf tech here is using DTs Play Fi to make it part of a wireless multi room music system. So it can, it can be one zone in a bigger system. That's right. So if Mac say wanted to add a speakers in another room. If he went with another piece of electronics that is DTs play fi enabled. He can use the DTs play fi app on his phone and control the music in multiple rooms of his house. Spotify, the same station playing in his kitchen at the same time playing next to his television here. So you're running analog audio cables from the deaf tech down to the Cambridge speaker Wire over to the wharf dales. That's a pretty simple two channel music system with access to some pretty high res great sounding music as well as everything else. Yeah. And then we got the tv running through it as well. So I even chromecast or Youtube or whatever from the T. V. If there's something else I want so I can get access to most anything I want to play through it. So for the T. V. Connected to the Cambridge, is that optical optical? So then anything playing on the Tv, you are using Cambridge audio's D to a converters, correct? So that's gonna sound pretty good. It does, it does. And it looks like you have them you have some support on the low end with that powered sub over in the corner there is a little definitive technology. Eight inch little powered Subway actually just added really makes a difference when we're watching movies or something Kind of a bit more impact there. Do you turn the sub off when you're listening to just music. Are you like a purist when it comes to that? No, I keep it on at this point it doesn't do a whole lot. Honestly, it's really there for maybe listening to some hip hop tracks or mostly when the movies are coming on of good solid floor standing speaker. A nice big one can handle everything from the highest ties out of their twitter all the way to the lowest lows on their will for. But the trend has been go a little smaller, a little more slim. And you don't always go as low in current and not in these war feel speakers as maybe as maybe the music might go. You might have deeper lower notes when that kick drum hits on the drum set, A bass guitar, barry white, you know, things like that. And so that's why Mac is out of the subwoofer is to just fill in the lower most of the low. Just the deepest bass that his wharf dales can't quite hit as with it with the impact that you can with a sub. And he's gone with definitive technology. Uh, and eric knows a little bit about deaf tech. Tell us about that sub. Yeah, so that particular sub that he has uses an eight inch driver, which you mentioned but also uses a cool technology called a passive radiator and basically makes a subwoofer act bigger than it is. So by acting bigger, it helps it achieve lower frequency response. So that particular sub is rated down to 20 hertz, which happens to be where we as humans typically stop? Right? So by complimenting his speakers with that sub um he's adding just a few notes in there that he wouldn't otherwise get. And I tell you I I've done an experiment before when people uh you know we're going from tower speakers adding a sub and not having a sub on there and at first you don't hear a huge difference. Then I play the sub and they say okay alright I'm getting a little bit extra warmth, there may be a little bit more impact but then I go in the middle of the song and remove the sub and it feels like the air was let out. Exactly. So um I suspect in that system that by adding just that little bit of frequency range he's actually getting a good deal more warmth and fullness overall in that even with the tower speaker which is definitely considered a full range speaker, it still adds that that bottom uh that bottom impact and warmth. And he feels like it the subs not doing much right? And that's because he went with the right sub for those speakers, they blend together really well. They work together as a system. That's right, it doesn't I don't see any surround sound speakers here. I don't even see a center channel speaker here. How can you possibly watch TVs and movies without actually having a surround sound system. This is just a 2.1 stereo system. How can you, how can you do that? The Sony tv does the hard work in that regard. It down mixes any surround sound signal, just two channels down to the Cambridge. And so it's taking what would normally be in that center channel and splitting it out to left and right. And that way I'm still making sure I'm getting that dialogue nice and clear. Um granted if we were doing if we wanted that true home theater we would start to add in center channels and things. But um quite honestly it's it's a show or two every now and again we're not doing a whole lot of big movie watching and stuff. This works out great for us. Plus you have to put those wires somewhere hard work. We have to put some carpets in or something to hide those. Do something with it. Yeah so maybe a three channel down the road. A little center channel but that would probably be the uh a stopping place for a little while at least got you and you? Game of Thrones parties or what did you host? A bunch of people coming over to watch? We had a couple dozen people that come over and watch. What kind of comments did they give you on the on the audio and video performance of your system. If you recall there was an episode where everybody complained how dark the episode. I remember it. Yeah so you went into that episode not knowing that you also went into that episode with your T. V. Dialed into the way you like it. So you've probably gone into the settings and stuff on the T. V. To kind of tailor it to your room, your brightness levels. How did you talk about that at all? Did you, did you go did you watch the video to figure out how to do that or did you just adjust the settings until you were happy? How did that work for you? Yeah I just put on some familiar stuff and adjusted to the way I liked it. I didn't I didn't watch a video or go into any specs or anything so it may not be perfect but it looks good to me. Um So were you surprised like the next day when everybody's talking about how horrible that episode looked and it was yeah we we did have an issue. I watched it again later. We always re watch the episode and I watched again later didn't after knowing that people were saying they didn't have a problem. So hey, if you want a tv that looks good, here you go. Yeah this is fun man this is a pretty awesome system and super simple just looking at it. It's elegant. I mean it looks, if it sounds as good as it looks it's gonna sound amazing. Thank you. It does. I think it sounds pretty awesome. I'm pretty, so interviewing Mac at his home was way cool, way better than hanging out here at headquarters. Kind of nice to get out in the field, get to a house, see an actual stereo system set up and in the environment where it's used. That's where we got to talk about. It was pretty cool on Crutchfield dot com. We have an article called the stereo receiver buying guide and on our articles we receive real questions from real P. We do try to answer them right there on the page but I figured we'd take one of those questions and answer it here so we can help you in case you're thinking what stereo receiver should I get? This might be helpful to you as well. This question comes from Randy. Randy has an older Rs 201 from Yamaha. That's an Yamaha stereo receiver. The RS 201 he bought it a few years ago at and it's for his beach place And Randy says he's driving Pandora tunes through it to a built in set of 30 year old speakers inside plus a set of outdoor speakers. And what I take from that is that he's got a set of speakers that came with the house built into the wall of the house. That's why they're still there since he bought this place from whoever he bought it from and there is a pair of speakers outdoors as well. So he's got two pairs of speakers he wants to drive. Line one and two have stopped on me with only FM audio output. Now I take that to mean that the inputs on that Rs two A one labeled line one and line two aren't working anymore. For whatever reason we don't really know why. The only thing randy can listen to is FM radio. He wants to know he's considering a new one. Should a mismatch of speakers be a problem. Will the combination of in wall speakers inside outdoor speakers outside? Will that clearly different speakers. Will that be a problem for the new Rs 202 Omaha's newer version of that same receiver. Uh And will the Rs two oh to be more reliable or do you have other recommendations? So randy's idea of replacing the Yamaha Rs 201 with an Rs 202 will certainly fix his line input problems. Right. Yeah and if he was happy with the sound that he had before that sound quality due to the power that should be read in the same line. So yeah and the idea of mixing and matching or using it with two very different speakers shouldn't be a problem. Not a problem. That's not what failed on the 201. I do have a suggestion if randy if you're streaming Pandora that tells me you probably have internet at your house and that you like to listen to music from the internet. So one of the things you might consider is the R N 303 from Yamaha, it's about the same amount of power you're not gonna be losing anything there. However you will gain internet connectivity. It is net workable through wifi or a wired connection. You'll be able to stream Pandora using wifi instead of sending it to your receiver via bluetooth or via an Ox cable from the headphone jack, which your new phone may not have any way, no way. He doesn't have to worry about going out of bluetooth range when he goes out on the deck to enjoy the sunset. Exactly. So that about does it for this week's episode. Many thanks to you eric for joining me in studio today to give us some insights. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. It was a lot of fun. Also thank you to Mac for inviting me into his home. I'm your host. Jr If you have questions about what might be the right system for you, if you're looking for a stereo receiver, speakers, Dita converters, TVs, drones, cameras, literally anything go to crutchfield dot com. In fact, you can get more information on the podcast at crutchfield dot com slash podcast and of course right there, you can submit questions. We might answer them here on the podcast but if you have something a little bit more urgent, give us a call phone numbers right there on the website you can chat with us online, you can send us an email. We got advisors available seven days a week. Ready to help you figure this stuff out. Thanks so much for listening to Crutchfield the podcast.

Last updated 12/5/2022
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