Introduction

I have been around to a friend recently who just bought the latest and greatest Avantage Receiver from Yamaha and AU$5000 worth of speakers but didn’t bother to read the manual in how to set up the receiver correctly.

Good sound is dependent just as much on doing the setup correctly, than it is on buying great gear. I was shocked and horrified to learn that after spending almost AU$10K on his setup, he didn’t bother to go through the expert setup procedure, he simply placed the mic on the couch (a big no no), measured one microphone position and off he went. Then he complained to me that the system sounded like $h1t, pardon my French! Of course it did…

However, after fixing his setup, I realised many people do the same, so it’s time for showing you how to do Yamaha YPAO – and actually most other home cinema receiver – setup correctly. Some of the advice below can be applied generally to all receivers. I will highlight Yamaha YPAO only advice here.

General Setup

Before anything else, you should go into the Manual Setup section under Speaker Setup and set the amp assignment correctly, dependent on which speaker terminals you used for which speakers and whether you used external amplification. You will need to refer to your receiver’s user manual as it does differ dependent on the the make and model of your receiver, even if we only look at Yamaha Receivers.

Microphone Placement

Firstly, auto setup should be configured as follows:

  • Multi-position: this is true even if you are only using one chair in one position to listen to the system. Although manufacturers include a single placement setup procedure, it is nearly impossible to get great sound using only one sample. They will either over-correct or under-correct for variations in frequency response. ALWAYS select multi-position measurement.
  • Angle Measurement (YPAO only): this will ensure that CinemaDSP will be configured correctly and if you have an ATMOS or DTS X enabled receiver, the height information will be used to ensure sounds are steered correctly to the different speakers. I would recommend to always select this option as well.

Ok, now with regards to Microphone placement:

  • DO NOT place the microphone on a hard surface like a table or even your couch (either on the seat or head rest) by itself. This will allow it to absorb reflections from the couch or hard surface in a way that is not natural. Unless you plan on listening to your system by putting your ear where your @$$ is or by placing your head on the coffee table and resting your foot on the couch (sounds rather uncomfortable if you ask me!), do not do this.
  • DO place the microphone on a tripod. The microphone has a grove that goes into your standard camera tripod. If you don’t have one of those, elevate the microphone by taping it to an upside down glass (the kind you drink out of). I usually use a plastic cup that has a slim bottom so it doesn’t act as a hard surface for reflections. Make sure you only tape the bottom of the mic. When I do this, I elevate the glass or cup using soft pillows to ear height, and not some other hard surface like a box or – as my friend did – a metal hollow side table.
  • DO make sure that the microphone has a “line of sight” view of all the speakers in the room if possible – at all microphone positions. The only exception to this is the subwoofer which does not need to have a line of sight view from the mic. I sometimes make some exceptions to this when it is totally unavoidable. For example, I have the back surrounds on a bookshelf which the back seats don’t have a line of sight view of. When I switch to the calibration which includes all seating positions in my home cinema, there were some mic positions at the back that did not have a line of sight view. However, all the front seats did. Not a huge deal but I don’t listen with that calibration when we only sit in the front row as it’s not ideal.

Have a look at the diagram below which you can find variations of in Yamaha documentation. The below is the correct version with number 1 position being in the centre of the couch (or chair). Some versions of this diagram were incorrectly putting number 1 on the side of the couch.

i361_070815

However, this is where it ends for me. I usually do the following, which seems to work with YPAO and other receivers as well:

  • Position 1: in the centre of the couch with microphone at ear height, away from the  headrest of the couch. Basically, this is right in the centre of where your bum will be but at ear height. The reason this needs to be in the centre is that the delay / distance measurements are taken from the first position. If you were to place this first measurement off centre, some seats would get better distance measurements while others a lot worse. We want to even this out and have every seat experience the most ideal sound the room allows.
  • Position 2: Same position as number 1 but to the seat to the right of the centre seat. On a 3-seater couch, this will be the right-most seat.
  • Position 3: same as position 1 and 2 but to the left. In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t matter if you go left or right.
  • Positions 4-6: Now I repeat the same measurements I did in Positions 1 to 3 but with the microphone placed much closer to the headrest where your ears would be, but at just enough height that it clears the back of the couch by a cm but also that it is getting some of the reflections off the back of the couch. Why? Because this is the position your ears will be AND there will be reflections that will muffle the sound that originate from the headrest of the couch.
  • Positions 7 and 8: I normally do these positions just between positions 1-2 and 1-3 (just a little off-centre) but in the same elevation and distance from the back of the couch as positions 1 – 3. This is to ensure we give the receiver enough variation for the room acoustics and don’t overwhelm it with having to compensate for that particular couch.

If you were configuring one seating position, a chair or arm chair, do the above exactly but divide up the chair equally or do some positions to the left and right of the chair at ear height as well as just a bit in front and above ear height.

If you have multiple couches, I recommend, doing more positions on the couch that will be your primary listening position and doing the rest on the other couch(es) following the above principles.

Angle Measurement (YPAO only)

YPAO in higher end Yamaha receivers will allow you to do something called an angle measurement. You will have to do this in Position 1 above, but use the little boomerang that came with your receiver like the one below.

YPAO mic

The positions are marked. Position 1 on the boomerang must face towards your front speakers, while 2 and 3 towards the back. The boomerang can be fixed onto a tripod as well. I really recommend this. Otherwise the taping method works here as well.

Measure each position by following the on-screen guidance. Please note that the height position is only available on Atmos and DTS X receivers.

Manual Configuration

Cabling and Crossover

Once YPAO (or other Receiver config) has finished, check the following:

  1. Speaker cabling is normal in all positions.
  2. Check what the crossover frequency was set to on your speakers.

Even though your speakers may be able to do frequencies below 80hz, it is not recommended to go below this cross over for movies as those frequencies are hard to control even from the subwoofer alone. However, your milage may vary. If you don’t have a separate subwoofer EQ, but only using the Yamaha, you may want to leave crossovers below 80Hz or leave speakers as “large” so no crossover is applied to them. As a rule of thumb, if Yamaha configured your speakers with a high crossover, you should not lower it (e.g. from 100Hz to 80hz), you can however up the crossover frequency (e.g. from 60hz to 80hz).

The reason you should not lower crossover frequencies is because the setup routine determined that anything lower than the crossover frequency doesn’t reach the seating positions without major dips (-3dB which is 1/2 of the percieved volume) in frequency response. If you lower the crossover, you may still get an uneven response or may not hear certain frequencies at all as now the subwoofer is not playing them back either.

If the crossover set is much higher than you know the speakers can reproduce, you may want to repeat the setup routine paying attention to mic placement. If they still come up short, think about aiming the speakers with the woofers pointing at the main listening positions.

Equalisation Curve

The equaliser on Yamaha receivers can be set to the following:

  • FLAT: this is the default. You should set this if you listen to a lot of TV, not just movies or you listen below reference level (around -17 volume on Yamaha receivers, 0 volume on THX and Audyssey enabled receivers) and your room has lots of soft furnishings.
  • NATURAL: this is the old CinemaEQ curve. It tames the high end to make sure that movie soundtracks don’t sound too bright if you have a normal living room with lots of hard surfaces like floors and walls without carpet or other soft coverings. Also use this if you are listening to movies LOUD as otherwise even without hard surfaces, just being much closer to the speakers than in the cinema will elevate the high frequencies beyond what was intended. Please note that some DVDs and Blu Rays had EQ applied during mastering to lower the high frequencies for playback in the home. If a movie sounds too muffled with this, you have two options: up the treble 2dB which may work or switch to the flat curve.
  • FRONT: this leaves your front left and right speakers alone and will timbre match all the other speakers to them. Unless you like how your front speakers sound because they are some ultra-expensive supersonic beasts, do not set this. Leave this alone. This is there to please a special few who spent $50K+ on their front two speakers.
  • THROUGH: no EQ is applied. Why would you do this unless you sit inside an anaphoric chamber? Seriously! Don’t!

Other settings

  1. Adaptive DSP should be switched on. It variates the DSP strength based on volume.
  2. Adaptive DRC (Dynamic Range Control) should be switched on if you’re listening at lower volume levels (below -25). Anything above -25 I would recommend switching it off as it can introduce a harshness to certain sounds on any receiver without YPAO Volume.
  3. YPAO Volume should be switched on. I am going to do a review of it in June 2017, at which point I’ll make further recommendations and check if it needs to be switched off for reference listening (anything above -25 really).

Surround and Surround Back Speakers Volume Levels

The only major issue I see with Yamaha receivers – or most receivers that don’t have Audyssey – is that they don’t variate surround speaker volume levels dependent on volume. When listening to surround programs at lower volume levels, the surround and surround back speaker volumes might need to be increased in certain setups to maintain the same surround envelopment. I have heard different views on this but it seems to me like those that have their surround speakers at ear height seem to have less trouble with this than those who have them somewhat higher than ear height or further away than the front speakers.

I believe both Audyssey and Dolby researched this and found it to be true, however. I find the same when listening in my home cinema where the surround speakers are somewhat higher than my front speakers while my presence speakers are on a third plane altogether near the ceilings. I normally increase surround and surround back channels by 1-2 dB dependent on how loud someone is listening to the system in general. You could even design a reference setting and a low volume setting turning this and other features on and off. On Yamaha you can do this using something called “Scenes”.

Give me feedback in the comments below and let me know how you go! Happy Listening!

13 Comments »

  1. Good thing your mate has you by their side, otherwise that’s a crime against the laws of sound!

    I hope they also got some kind of AntiMode, I think that should come bundled with any decent sub, it’s THAT essential!

    Good write up of YPAO though. In my experience I found the Single Point measurement, along with Angle adjustment, does a superb job, with sound steering and imaging. I’ve done Multipoint measurements {x4 positions: MLP, 1ft to the front and 1ft left & right of MLP} in the past and didn’t notice a massive difference, aside from it taking an extra 1-2db extra from the sub {per “seat”}, due to covering a larger area

    Could be down to my listening area {3 seater in a 10 x 10ft room}, with only me watching, not being a big enough space to make it worth doing.

    I’ll have to try the full 8 and get back to you.

    By the way, here’s my setup:

    Yamaha RXA3040 AVR
    Yamaha MXA5000 power amp

    B&W CM10 S2 Fronts {bi-amped}
    B&W Centre 2 S2 {bi-amped}
    B&W 685 S2 Surrounds.

    SVS PC2000 x 2 {though currently only using the 1, as a 2nd doesn’t seem to add much for dual mono}, aside from being a bit smoother, I didn’t seem to have many nulls to fill.

    As far as XO goes, YPAO sets them to 40hz by default, so I’ve found 60hz works best for the Fronts {any higher and I’d have to reverse sub phase}… and, well 60 all round really.

    Something that did confuse me ’til I gave it thought was that it cut the bass from the Fronts at around 50hz by 10db {tested with test tones and SPL meter}. At first I thought YPAO was robbing me of it, then realised it was probably a massive peak it was simply flattening!

    Like

    • Yes I recommended a used SVS As-EQ1 like mine but he hasn’t done it yet. It’s a shame spending so much on a system and have a muffled sub. I said to him at least he needed to move it from next to the glass doors (!!!) but I did as much as I could to make the system sound better which it did, including the sub but you are right the sub was still not great.

      Your setup is very good. I think 60hz is fine for crossover as long as there are no nulls. It sounds like you set things up great.

      Like

  2. I would recommend you put the “right” mic positioning diagram (your approach) instead of the “wrong” one. Info should match, and visuals are better than text. I think you custom diagram will help better to achive the article goal. Thanks for all info shared, specially since for the Yammy community isnt much out there.

    Like

    • No worries, Javier. That’s a great suggestion. I will make a custom one. Or even a better idea! Are you good with graphics software? If you put one together, I can put it on the site and credit you with it. I’d love the community to contribute to the site. 🙂 let me know, otherwise I’ll put something together.

      Like

  3. Hi, thanks for this excellent guide – I am not experienced in this area so those informations are priceless for me. Currenlty I have yamaha rx-v773 and 5.1 set based on Dali Zensor 7, Zensor 1 and E-12 sub.
    Honestly I have never used YPAO before – probably it is a mistake:)

    There is a lot of people on a/v forums claiming that solutions like YPAO or even using DSP are doing more wrong than good for sound experience – well i just don’t know – currently i run only Sci-Fi DSP, manually set speaker distance and thats it. My ear is not very trained so while I tried to compare some DSP while watching movie it just sound…different:)

    I presume that your recommendation is to definately use ypao and DSP for movies, isn’t it?

    Like

    • Well, listen Blazej. I think set it up both ways and see what your ears prefer. After all no matter how much one camp is saying use it, while the others say don’t, I think it depends whether you like the result or not.

      My opinion is that those who don’t use EQ don’t know much about how to set them up to begin with. Yes, it takes time and care to not hurt the sound quality and I think when no such care is exercised you are better off turning it off for sure! Follow my advice and see if you like the result. If not, turn it off and don’t agonise over it.

      I hope that helps.

      Ps. I love the Sci Fi program on the Yamaha also. 🙂

      Like

  4. Question about the levels: if the setup boosts certain frequencies even up to 5.5 db, should I reduce the overall gain of that channel by the same amount to prevent digital distortion?

    Like

    • In addition, do you prefer to listen in straight, surround processing, or pure direct? I feel like pure direct has the best sound imo (depth, response, naturalness) except when it’s stereo content and I can’t use my center channel for dialog.

      Like

      • Hi Edward,

        Actually, if you’re using an external amp for those channels, increase the volume on the external amp and re-run the setup.

        If you are running the internal amps, leave it as is. It’s really rare that digital distortion would occur with modern receivers. The only time I have heard digital distortion with a Yamaha was when using Dynamic DRC and only then with two movies out of hundreds and only on certain scenes.

        Like

      • Hi Edward,

        Have a look at my article on CinemaDSP. But in essence, I don’t like pure direct because it doesn’t engage the EQ. If EQ is set up properly, it should clean up the muddiness in the sound. Unless of course you have an acoustically excellent room with little room interaction. In that case, pure direct may be better. Cheers!

        Like

      • Hmm I’ve read somewhere that the room EQ is still in effect for pure mode, just not any DSP…

        I have my left and right channels (large towers) externally amped and center channel receiver amped on my yamaha tsr-7790bl. I find the room EQ adds at least 4.5db of gain on the center and none on my towers. I think it’s being overshadowed. The center’s PEQ also has points with an additional 5db of gain.

        I tried lowering the overall channel gains by the highest PEQ gain amount, volume matched my L + R amp gain, and use volume control to increase volume. This actually sounded less harsh than the original setup. Do you think the op amp in the receiver is being over driven in the original setup?

        Like

      • Yes that is correct re overdriving the amp / introducing digital distortion due to the 10db overall gain. This is why it’s critical to level match first when using external amplification.

        Pure direct should disengage the EQ (all digital circuitry actually – including video output on some models). Straight mode leaves EQ on but disengages any other DSP. However, for surround processing, straight mode will still allow you to do pro logic, Dolby, DTS matrix decoding.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s