Believe me: Your speakers ARE small!

June 3rd, 2010

I came across a great blog post today on the Audyssey web site discussing the question of whether you should tell your receiver that your speakers are “Large” or “Small”.

As Chris Kyriakakis explains in his post, this option was added by manufacturers to give consumers “choice”, but unfortunately all it has led to is mass confusion and lots of home theaters with bad-sounding bass.

This discussion is only relevant in a system with a subwoofer. If you don’t have a subwoofer, then you generally will only be able to set your speakers to “Large”.

If you do have a sub, however, there is one simple rule: Set all speakers to “Small”. Always.

What this does is tell the receiver to send all the low-end frequencies (in THX systems, those below 80Hz) to the sub and NOT to the individual speakers. Not only does this allow the individual speakers to produce a cleaner sound above 80Hz, but it reduces or eliminates a myriad of interference problems that occur when you have multiple low-frequency drivers in a system.

Whether you are listening to music or watching movies, a properly tuned system with appropriate crossover points and all speakers set to “Small” will result cleaner bass and a better sound.

Many auto-calibration systems (including Audyssey) will automatically choose the speaker size for you. Change it to “Small” even if it chooses otherwise, and unfortunately, all too often, it seems to choose “Large”.

Most people assume that “Large” is better. Of course – big speakers are better, right?!? However, a better name for this control would be “Bass Management: On or Off”:

  • “Large” = “Bass Management Off” = bad (in a system with a sub).
  • “Small” = “Bass Management On” = good!

Run – don’t walk – to your receiver and go make this change if you need to.