System Tuning Guide

An introduction to system tuning from basic techniques to equipment.

Correct system alignment and tuning is an important step in the process of setting up a sound system…but what does it mean, what is required and how is it done?

What is system Tuning?

It’s the process of EQing and Time Aligning a sound system to get all of the respective parts of the system to act together as one large combined system.  This is done through the use of tuning software, measurement, and processing is typically performed with a Digital Signal Processor controlling the whole system.

What do i do first?

Here at Sonos Libra we believe that correct system specification, design and installation will lead to a much easier system tuning. In other words, if something is wrong on the design, it is impossible to fix later on.
So the steps we follow in a successful system tuning are outlined below:

1. System Design to match the venue and program material
2. Correct and safe System installation as per the system design
3. System Verification to ensure all parts of the system are operating correctly
4. System Tuning and Alignment

Regarding the overall percentage each step of the process has on the end result, rough values are below:
1. System Design: 50%
2. System Installation: 20%
3. System Verification: 20%
4. System Tuning: 10%
So spend time on the simulation getting a good design before proceeding to the next step.

What is system Tuning?

It’s the process of EQing and Time Aligning a sound system to get all of the respective parts of the system to act together as one large combined system.  This is done through the use of tuning software, measurement, and processing is typically performed with a Digital Signal Processor controlling the whole system.

What do i do first?

Here at Sonos Libra we believe that correct system specification, design and installation will lead to a much easier system tuning. In other words, if something is wrong on the design, it is impossible to fix later on.
So the steps we follow in a successful system tuning are outlined below:

1. System Design to match the venue and program material
2. Correct and safe System installation as per the system design
3. System Verification to ensure all parts of the system are operating correctly
4. System Tuning and Alignment

Regarding the overall percentage each step of the process has on the end result, rough values are below:
1. System Design: 50%
2. System Installation: 20%
3. System Verification: 20%
4. System Tuning: 10%
So spend time on the simulation getting a good design before proceeding to the next step.

What equipment do i need?

1. Measurement Software
2. Measurement Microphone
3. Audio Interface
4. Cables to connect it all up
5. A sound system with adjustable processing

An example of measurement software is Rational Acoustics Smaart, of which two versions are available: Smaart V8 and Smaart Di2. Smaart Di2 allows transfer functions to be taken using 1 microphone at a time, so for small systems or for starting out with system tuning, this is ideal.

Smaart V8 expands the functionality to include simultaneous measurement of more than 1 microphone, room measurements and SPL monitoring, so for larger systems and more in-depth analysis this is ideal.
Measurement microphones are dedicated microphones for the purpose of measuring, with a flat response from the lower limit to the upper limit of the frequency response of the system.

There are many different brands and price points of measurement microphone. The cheaper microphones tend to have very different frequency response characteristics between different microphones of the same model, and also a lower level of build quality. As we move up in price, tolerances between microphones of the same model tends to narrow, build quality increases and warranty periods lengthen.
Any audio interface with at least two input and two output channels may be used for Smaart. Typically a measurement microphone will require 48v phantom power, so professional grade XLR cables are typically required. The sound system must also have some level of adjustability. Typically on a large scale sound system each individual element of the system may be controlled individually, whether it be through the DSP integrated to the amplifier on the enclosure, DSP integrated into the rack amplifier or external DSP unit.

Example set up 1

1. Software: Smaart Di2
2. Measurement Microphone: iSemcon EMX-7150
3. Audio Interface and Mixer: Allen and Heath ZED i10FX

This is an extremely easy to use system with a single microphone. Pink Noise is played from Smaart to the mixer through USB, and sent to the sound system through the XLR outputs. The main LR outputs are also sent back to Smaart through USB as the reference channel to be compared with the Mic 1 direct channel.

example set up 2

1. Software: Smaart V8
2. Measurement Microphone: Earthworks M23R x 4
3. Audio Interface and Mixer: Allen and Heath SQ5

This is a more complicated set up with Smaart V8 and 4 microphones, plus an Allen and Heath SQ5 which can be used as a main mixer as well. All data can be sent to the computer through the USB connection at 96kHz.

Sonos Libra set up

The equipment we use for tuning at Sonos Libra is detailed below:
1. Software: Smaart V8
2. Measurement Microphones: Earthworks M30 & iSemcon EMX-7150
3. MiPro ACT-848 Dante Wireless Mic System with TA-80 x 4
4. Xilica SolaroFR1 Dante Audio DSP
5. Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand x 4
6. Luminex Gigacore 12 Dante Switch
7. Mac Mini with Bootcamp for System Control (in Sonnet Mac mini Enclosure)
8. Mac Mini for Smaart and Music Playback (in Sonnet Mac mini Enclosure)

how to?

For a full training on how to tune and align your system, we highly recommend coming to a hands on training at Sonos Libra headquarters in Bangkok. For a basic overview, please see below.

We always start with the same procedure for each element of the system. The goal is to gradually introduce individual parts of the system and get them to work together with the system as a whole.
1. Response (EQ in your DSP)
2. Level (Gain in your DSP)
3. Polarity (Polarity in your DSP)
4. Timing (Delay in your DSP)

Each of the above steps is applied to each of the individual systems. We start with the main LR system; EQ to get it sounding perfect as everything else will be compared to this. Typically we will use many microphones during this step to get an average response of the system across the coverage area.
If there is any need to adjust timing of the main system, for example to align with instruments on stage, do so now.

For subwoofers, do your EQ and balance levels, then proceed to polarity and delay on your DSP. The goal is to have both the mains and the subwoofers phase aligned at your point of measurement (which must be chosen carefully to get the most benefit from this step). Gradually add delay to your subwoofers (in a typical set up) until the slopes of the phase trace are parallel. If you get to the point where the traces are parallel but not overlapping, flip the polarity on the subs.

To book or enquire about the next Smaart training session (in Thai Language), please contact us.

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