Terms such as audiophile, videophile, or custom AV pro do not adequately characterize the skill of my late friend Steve.
Steve was an AV wizard. He based the foundation of his craft on his assertion that “everything makes a difference.”
He would add that his objective was to “minimize the compromise” of the distorting differences.
Steve meticulously hunted down compromising difference points. He listened, viewed, and evaluated each difference point, including the electrical outlets, all interconnecting cables, and attached components, as well as the acoustics and lighting environment.
Then, if economically and physically feasible, he modified, replaced, or removed the compromising difference points.
His methodical “minimize the compromise” process consistently delivered hair-raising results of frisson.
Frisson (pronounced ‘free-sawn’) is a sub-category of the goosebump. It is a goosebump chill or thrill triggered by music, film, or art.
A simple song can activate moments of frisson. The images and soundtrack of a movie can also induce frisson.
Steve’s frisson-able process sealed a bond with customers that competitors could not break.
Sometime in the last century, an audio dealer was confronted by a customer who did not want to see or sacrifice floor space for a speaker system. He was prepared to trade audio fidelity for his vision of room aesthetics and settle for lower, yet still pleasant, audio fidelity. This begat the custom in-wall/in-ceiling speaker. Its understandable compromises — small woofer, attachment to a room boundary, and (often) above-ear level placement — impede frisson.
Although handicapped by the custom speaker, frisson can still be achieved if compromises are minimized, with a tailored recipe of amplification, audio/video sources, speaker placement, interconnecting cable, and acoustical modifications.
Consider the following list of Steve-type ingredients.
• Select a receiver/amplifier with larger and better-isolated power supplies.
• Use high-resolution audio and HDR UHD video sources.
• Install speakers as close to ear level as possible If surround sound — at least the center channel.
• Engage ‘small’ or adjust the crossover in the speaker setup to avoid over-driving small woofers.
• Reroute low-frequency audio to a sub-woofer.
• Hide the sub-woofer (in a wicker basket?) while avoiding distorting room mode placement.
• Install acoustic absorption at the ceiling 1st points of reflection and behind seating near a wall.
• Install carpeting or a throw rug with extra padding at the floor 1st point of reflection.
• Reinforce sheetrock-mounted speakers with a SandTrap.
• Reduce noise from the exterior and interior sources. It is as simple as closing a window or as complicated as soundproofing the room.
• Regarding video performance: minimize the influence of direct lighting, ambient lighting, plus any reflected color within the room.
• Calibrate the audio and video.
Form an unbreakable bond with your customer. Select applicable workable ingredients from the list. Spice it up with your ingredients. Stir, bake, and then install your custom concoction of frisson-able AV wizardry.