Do You Demo?
  
   
There are so many breathtaking audio and video scenes to choose from

Let's face facts, seriously listening to an audio system tends to be a somewhat anti-social activity; we mostly to do it alone. When was that last time you heard of someone getting three of their closest friends to sit close together to listen to the latest Rihanna release? Mark that a "never", right? Personally, I can tell you that after almost 50 years in audio it's pretty rare to find someone who actually wants to hear my system, outside of friends in the business or musicians. Oh sure, there's the polite acquaintance who tells you they'd like to hear the system but usually within a moment or two of the demo start, their interest starts to wane.
 
However, there are those times when someone is sincerely interested in hearing your high performance audio/home theater system. In those cases do you give'em a real "Professional Demo" or do you simply choose whatever source is convenient at that moment and let'er rip? Our choice would be to do the demo like a pro. So we're going to let you have a peek behind the proverbial curtain and share the finer points of giving your buddies a "knock your socks off" demo.
 
We'll separate the demo into two components; the demo itself and the material you choose to play, and we'll talk about the differences between home theater and audio demos as well.
 
Home Theater Demos
 
As you're probably aware by now, proper setup of bass management, channel levels and speaker distances are key to getting the most involving and believable surround sound from your system. We strongly urge you to use either an SPL meter or an SPL meter app on your smartphone. Even if you've used the auto setup function of your receiver/processor we recommend that you check bass management settings and level settings using an SPL device. For more on this aspect please see our Newsletter Volume 1, Issues 3 and 4 located here  and here .
 
Anatomy of the Great Demo
  1. Be sure to have the viewers seated in the best spots, or as close to them as possible. Remember that no matter how good it is, the system will sound different depending on where you sit, particularly in the bass and the volume levels between the speakers.
     
  2. Explain what you're going to do. You've carefully chosen a particular movie or concert scene that will highlight the video and audio performance of the system.
     
  3. Point out that as much fun as huge, thunderous bass is (mostly to us guys), or constantly hearing those surround speakers, the real goal of a well set up surround system is to draw you into the scene taking place on the screen and "suspend disbelief"*. It should make you feel that you're "where the action is", nothing more and nothing less.
     
  4. Make sure the overall volume level is properly set. Most of us are aware that there seems to be a "just right" volume level for most material, a level that brings out the transparency and details in the mids and highs, is impressive in the bass yet isn't overbearing or strident. That's the level you want. It just sounds... right.
     
  5. Point out that they should watch for, clear, clean video, natural, accurate colors, clear details in the highlights and shadows, etc. They should listen for natural sounding voices and special effects. Sounds should come from where you'd expect them to be positioned. Bass should be impactful but not boomy or overblown.
     
  6. Note that although we've pointed out how the system should be set up with correct subwoofer levels and the surround speakers set properly, the vast majority of people will want to hear extra bass and constant output from the surround speakers no matter what you've explained. So choose a scene that includes substantial bass and a good deal of surround information to satisfy their expectations (see next section below).
     
  7. Dim the lights and play the scene. When it's done ask them if they heard and saw what you've pointed out and if they enjoyed it. Usually the big smile on their face or their exclamation "wow!" after the demo will tell you that last part.
 
Many animated movies offer great demo scenes
 
Choice of Movie Demo Material
  1. Pick a scene that tells a complete story, that has a beginning, a middle and an end. If you're demoing for your guy friends you may wish to choose an action movie scene with all the requisite explosions and crashes. However, consider the reaction others might have to those crashes and explosions, not to mention blood, guts and gore. As exciting as battle scenes from your favorite war movie may be, it's always better to make your viewers feel good instead of uncomfortable.
     
  2. The scene should be no more than 5 to 6 minutes long. Longer than that and they'll either start losing interest and/or get caught up in the movie and forget that they're checking out the system.
     
  3. There are dozens if not hundreds of appropriate scenes. Among the best movies are several in the Pixar family of animated features. Why? They have great, vibrant color and excellent surround sound recording. Of course, there are many scenes from lots of other movies that will "fill the bill" as well.
     
  4. Object based demos - If you've got a Dolby Atmos or DTS-X object based surround system there's more than one way to deliver an impressive demo. First, Dolby includes the "Dolby Surround Upmixer" in Dolby Atmos enabled hardware. It's capable of delivering a good object based surround demo when using a standard Dolby Digital 5 or 6.1 channel source. Give it a try. Second, there are a limited number of Atmos/DTS-X soundtracks currently available on Blu-Ray discs. As always, action/adventure or animated films are likely your best place to start. A few Dolby recommended choices are included at the end of this article. And some of the Atmos trailers available from Dolby are great demos.
     
  5. Getting back to standard surround demos, you might want to try a cut from a surround sound concert, if you have one available. But remember that in a fair number of music videos some sounds may be steered to speakers that don't jive with what you're seeing on the screen because the engineer decided to "place" you up on the stage or at some other location. This can be disconcerting to some viewers/listeners, so check out your chosen cut for this and if necessary choose a different concert video with a more realistic audience perspective.
     
  6. As we've mentioned in the past, most movie special effects are happier with 2 to 3dB extra subwoofer compared to most music cuts.
 
 
Jeff Beck Live at Ronnie Scott's Blu-Ray
 
Choice of Music Demo Material
  1. As with movie demos, preview the chosen cut(s) to ensure that they're well recorded and capable of exhibiting the system's high fidelity prowess. Everything on Sandy's Demo List is of exceptional demo quality, you can't go wrong choosing cuts from there.
     
  2. Although it's great to play a cut of the listeners favorite music, if their choice is less than stellar be sure to also demo something that's really well recorded.
     
  3. As mentioned above, there seems to be a "just right" volume for most demos. Loud enough to bring out high frequency details and transparency along with impactful bass yet not so loud as to cause stridency or harshness. Experiment.
     
  4. Point out what imaging and soundstaging are and that they should listen for those qualities.
     
  5. Mention that they will be able to "see" those qualities better if they close their eyes while listening. This gives their ears a chance to fool their brain into believing the musicians are spread out before them. It's just another example of suspension of disbelief.
     
  6. Choose a 3 to 5 minute song or two. Play the demo and ask if they heard the qualities you mentioned.
     
  7. In general the following musical genres are typically well recorded:
    Jazz (all kinds including vocalists)
    Select rock artists (Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, Dire Straits, Bonnie Raitt, etc.)
    Folk/Vocalists - James Taylor, Lady Gaga, etc.
    Country - Many country albums are very well recorded
    Classical, if they're fans
     
  8. There are lots of well recorded DVD/Blu-ray concerts available that can kill 2 birds with one stone, letting you demo a surround sound system and music.
Below are a few websites that recommend specific high quality recordings ideal for demos.
 
Movies (some of the films are older but are still valid):
  
  
  
 
Music:
  
  
  
  
 
* The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.  Suspension of disbelief - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 
 
All trademarks and images that appear in this newsletter are property of their respective owners. All contents copyright © GoldenEar  Technology  and may not be reproduced without written permission.

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