Just about every home theater receiver comes with an automatic speaker setup and calibration system: Denon, Marantz, and Onkyo feature Audyssey; Pioneer has MCACC (multichannel acoustic calibration); Sony's is called DCAC (digital cinema auto calibration); and Yamaha's proprietary system goes by the name YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer). The systems handle the basics like determining the sizes of all the speakers, setting speaker and subwoofer volume levels and the speaker-subwoofer crossover point, measuring the distances from the speakers to the listener, and checking that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up. Some autosetup systems also employ equalization to balance the frequency response of all the speakers, and they try to minimize room acoustic problems.
To accomplish these goals, the systems send test tones through all of the speakers and the subwoofer, and they all use a microphone to capture the sounds of the speakers. Autosetup is a great idea, but there's no guarantee you'll have a perfectly adjusted home theater sound after the test tones have run through all of their beeps, whooshes, and thumps. The volume levels of the speakers may not be perfectly adjusted, the speaker-to-listener distances may be inaccurate, and the subwoofer volume may be too loud or too low. In the worst cases, the autosetup sounds worse than doing no setup at all.
These malfunctions can be caused by a number of things: your room may not be quiet enough, microphone placement can have an effect, or your subwoofer's built-in volume control may be set too low or too high. I'd recommend checking that all of the speakers are wired "in-phase," meaning red/+ and black/- connections are consistent at the speaker and receiver ends. Some autosetup systems check the wiring, but try to get it right in the first place.
I recently met with Chris Kyriakakis, Audyssey's CTO and founder, to talk about new developments at Audyssey, and while I had his ear, I brought up my concerns about autosetup problems. He followed up with a list of tips that generally apply to most autosetup systems. There's a lot of useful information about Audyssey setup on the company's Web site.… Read more