The Pursuit of the Perfect Super Bowl Sound

Tips to improve the sound for your Super Bowl party

Whether you love football or not, we can all agree that the Superbowl PARTY is America’s secular cathedral to sports. It’s one of the few sporting events that gets turned into a neighborhood event or gathering of family and friends. For it to be truly epic requires great food, great people, appropriate libations and a great theater system. Often Dolby is best enjoyed out in the living room, not ensconced in those deep, fluffy theater chairs and all the fancy acoustic treatment. So follow along as we give you a few tips for turning your system into a semi-public enjoyment machine, a sort of neighborhood sports-karaoke machine designed to transport you into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

No other sport sounds like football. To really get it, to truly grasp how fast and impactful the sport is takes a very good sound system, turned up (only briefly, during replay) a few times a game. Without it, without a system capable of rendering the hard, plastic snap of pads, the sounds of hand-to-hand combat in the trenches and the smash/slam of a great hit, the game doesn’t fully rise to the level of greatness that an epic Superbowl party experience should be. So put on your best chili recipe, whip up a batch of your freshest guacamole and, by all means, dial in your system to Superbowl status.

We thought it would be useful to provide a few tuning tips for those with true theater systems, and while we try very hard to be inclusive, this simply can’t be done with soundbars; especially the modern versions that are limited in output and dynamics requiring proprietary wireless “subwoofers” to provide even a modicum of upper bass.

Remember, you’re dialing in your system for a one-day semi-public event.

The following tips are for application in Dolby theater-based systems, below these I have added a couple tips for 2.1 systems.

Tip 1: Make sure your system has a truly quality center channel speaker when using multi-channel theater (Dolby 5.1 and up). Sporting events like the Superbowl requires a genuine quality center channel speaker to be able to deliver exceptional dialogue intelligibility with both play-by play and analysts occasionally contributing insight at the same time AND the audio feeds from the 30 or so live mic feeds being folded in.

Tip 2: Tilt up your center channel speaker so that it points above the heads of the crowd. Assuming you have 2-3 levels of viewers, the floor level casual viewers are usually more concerned with proximity to the dip, while the more serious sports fans tend to drift toward sitting and standing further away from the action.

Benefit: As far as we’re concerned, we just want everyone to have a good experience so as a knowledgeable tuning God, you should aim the center channel to fire slightly above the upper, seated/standing level it does 2 good things: it eliminates the annoying shout of the center channel in the ears of those closest to the center channel and it delivers clearer sound to those seated and standing.

Tip 3:  This one is specifically for REL powered subwoofer owners; make sure you dial in your High Level gain and crossover settings. Generally, we suggest crossing over just a little lower in frequency and turning up the subwoofer’s volume slightly. This helps with improving dialogue clarity, while the added output compensates for the absorptive effect of more warm bodies than you usually house in your listening room.

Tip 4:  If you are only using one REL in your system, try connecting the High Level Connection directly  to your center channel. The REL usually is best used on the Left and Right Main speakers, but experiment with connection to your center channel for this special event. Connecting to the Left and Right Main speakers produces tons of scale capturing the size of the arena, while connection to the center channel for this event may result in a more visceral, impactful presentation. Remember, we’re tuning for an almost sound reinforcement-style application here, not normal theater.

Stereo with REL 2.1 systems:

Many of us—especially those living in more compact quarters have chosen to use a simple 2.1 system, meaning a quality stereo pair of speakers and a single REL. This usually works great with flat panel televisions since the size of system is dictated by the size of screen and a center channel is often not necessary in a smaller tv (versus front projector) system. Here, the same two fundamental tuning tips as above take precedence:

Tip 1: If you are going to pack the living room full of folks, try raking your speakers back a few degrees to loft the sound higher. This gives more people access to better quality sound and reduces beaming directly into the ears for the folks sitting closest to the speakers.

Tip2: Again, same as the larger theater system described above, increase the High Level volume of your REL and slightly decrease your crossover setting to produce clearer dialogue with more impact.

January 16, 2018 - Posted in: Principles of Sound