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December 1999
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Precision Alignment Made Simple
Review By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Sound Alignment Syetems R2D2  My love affair for these product began during the CES of 1998. While walking through the usual maze of ho-hum displays my bloodshot eyes gazed upon what seemed to be a full Formula 1 racing outfit! Formula 1 racing is my love, my soul, my passion! Needless to say i went gaga. Those who know me realize my deep love for all things Ferrari. From the substantial to the mystique, once you have been bitten by the "Prancing Horse" bug there seems to be no turning back (and why would you want to?). The point? Formula 1 is like high-end audio where even the most minute details are thoroughly explored. Small, almost immeasurable advancements in a full setup can spell the difference between winning and losing a race. Of course every Formula 1 team uses the most state-of-the-art tools for consistency and utmost precision. So why is it that for system set-up a high-end system owner uses lousy tape measure... or worse still "by one's eye" for proper speaker placement setup? Would you align your automobile's front tires "by eye"?

Get real! Your home music reproduction system is an investment as is your car. Would you want the manufacture it to simply judge parts alignment during the initial design "by eye"? And how about your home you systems resides in? Shall we build that by eye too? How about the initial land survey taken to achieve your property lines? So if all these professions use high precision tools for proper alignment how about high performance audio? Well it is now time i introduce you to the ultra-precise, totally accurate, Formula 1 meticulousness of speaker placement. Welcome to the Sound Alignment Systems' (SA-S) Laser Tools Checkpoint Professional system.

The Checkpoint system consists of various laser pointing products, laser accessories plus speaker Stackers and Base Plates. To give a basic overview simply think of how a land surveyor completes their job. We are referring to high-precision work where mistakes are not forgivable. What the wise men at SA-S. have done is make available tools much like a surveyor for the truly died-in-the-wool "audiophile" and system contractor to accurately setup their speaker systems. Of course the videophile will use this system for projector and screen alignment if they truly value proper placement. As for audiophiles, once you have decided where the basic positioning for the speakers and listening position are, then it is mapping time.

Angle GuideSA-S provides the professional installer with various grids to properly map frontal (front of the room), intermediate (approximately front 1/3 of the room) and center positioning (center room). This positioning could translate into being either the listening position or component location. Once all the basic positioning is well planned within the grid we can then use the SA-S's various laser tools and accessories for absolute precise placement.

Magnetic Switch and Base PlateAs for accessories, they offer quite a few, though the main ones i used here the magnetic Mag Switch and Base plate. The Mag Switch attaches to the back of the laser tool (shown here in red) and attaches to the metal black Base Plate that has been attached to the speaker (preferably near the center). The laser then projects a red dot from the front. In my room the dot then shined on the rear wall and i was able to mirror-match the right and left speakers by insuring the red laser dot was hitting the wall at precisely the same alignment spec per each speaker's given proper positioning. So what happens if you want to insure vertical or horizontal alignment, or set-ups that use multiple speaker surround sound setup?

Sound Alignment System Line Lens  Sound Alignment System Beam Splitter

SA-S also offers accessories such as the Line Lens (green) or the Beam Splitter (red). The Line lens converts the single laser point into a laser line so that i got a straight line shining on to my sound room's rear wall. The Beam Splitter allows the usual dot to shine straight out of the front, but it also shines a dot 90 degrees simultaneously. This allows for absolute alignment to, say, those who desire perfectly square aligning of a system. Both accessories also rotate 360 degrees about the Lens Adapter Base and works in conjunction with the Protractor for degree referencing. There are other accessories offered, yet the above are the ones i used the most. The SA-S website gives full details of all the available accessories.

Rotary Base R2D2Well, those and the R2D1 or R2D2 Rotary Base. The R2-D1 is a single plate Rotary Base designed for tabletop or surface use and the R2-D2 is a double plate Rotary Base designed to be used on any surface application. Suffice to say i use the R2D2 unit. The really cool thing here is that it also fits onto any standard camera, video, light stand! For dudes like me who use professional medium-format photographic gear, the SA-S helps to establish the "zero" plane of reference for height and to calibrate product layouts for those important photo shoots.

The complete SA-S system brings a professional and thorough set of tools and procedures to insure a system is 100% aligned within it's environment. As much as i tried to describe the step by step procedure, the simplicity of the description on the SA-S website did a better job so here it is:

Component Placement 
Sonic Alignment


In the first step, "Component Placement", do not worry "which way" anything points. Simply set the actual paired speaker system symmetrically, meaning equal distance and height from the listening position. Each pair should be equal and opposite as in two front, two rear, etc. Use the SA-S layout sheets to aid in diagramming of this layout position so you can return to a particular set up that sounds the best after the alignment. Use the A-1 Box on the layout sheets as the listening position and simply measure and "plot" your components on the layout sheet. An outline of the room dimensions plotted on the layout sheet grid also helps orient this procedure. By using the layout grid sheets and the footage or distance scales to reference (i.e. the 5' front and 5' to left) for each component, the angle is then easily referenced by looking at the layout grid and locating which angle line is closest. In this case, you would see 45( as the angle of reference and now be able to confirm the actual footage "out and over" to make each side or pair equal in layout.

Now that this is established, let's set the "sonic alignment". This may require two steps, the first being to zero the alignment and secondly to set any desired toe or offset if required by recommendation or just to establish your own listening preference.

Take your Standard or Pro-SA-S unit with the Standard or Mag Switch attached and simply set the back of the unit flush against the face of the speaker enclosure as close to the main drivers as possible. Use your index and middle finger to straddle the SA-S unit, putting pressure on the front of the switch holding the back of the alignment switch flush on the enclosure. Now simply point the dot by moving the speaker enclosure to the exact listening position. Use the back of the chair or anything else as the target in the primary listening location. You have just "zeroed" the sonic alignment. Move from speaker to speaker to zero each enclosure exactly to the listening spot. When all are zeroed, test the sound.

This may be the optimum layout for many speakers and the recommended layout for many speaker manufacturers. Test for yourself. If toe and offset are required or desired this in an easy and exact second operation.

Hold the toe/offset Angle Guide with both hands in front of you. Look at the A-1 position box on the sheet. That (the A-1 box) is theoretically the speaker and it is facing "frontal" just as your eyes and body are. (Hopefully)

Look at the toe chart and establish what degree of toe you wish to try to achieve. Find the appropriate degree line and follow it on the sheet to where it intersects with the exact distance that the speaker is away from the target location or "where the dot is hitting". Remember that your speakers are zero, so looking at the toe chart will show you exactly the distance in inches from the -0- dot to move the laser dot and establish the desired toe angle you have chosen at a given distance.

Go back to your layout plot and write in the toe degree number on each component you have plotted. Now you have an exact component and toe angle plot sheet from which to reference the sound. Try three or four different toe setups with differing component placements. "Plot" each setup on a new layout sheet and you can easily go back to exactly the one you liked the best for a particular music selection. You may develop a specific layout for jazz, a second for rock, and so forth. Each one is easily repeatable with a few short SA-S procedures. We obviously recommend you advance to the pro-SA-S accessories and advanced layout procedure, using Base Plates, the Mag Switch, Lens Kits and a host of other professional tools. You can easily setup and certify the most demanding sound systems, although, as you can see, basic SA-S work can be easily accomplished with use of a standard SA-S unit and alignment switch.

 

Ok, so you have the tools, you read the instructions and you have precisely aligned your entire system. So what is the benefit. Ahhh, here is where the men are separated from the boys. The men use the SA-S system as it brings their system into such precise focus that it will scare the pants off 'em. This includes my very well aligned system, which previously was setup precisely through measuring, was actually a bit off in some spots. Admitting off by a little bit, yet still not perfect. Once my system was fully SA-S laser aligned i was amazed how the depth of field was even more in focus and in fact became slightly deeper too! There was a small yet perceptible "opening up" of the envelopment. i would surmise the reason for the more opening up and envelopment is because the phasing precision of the right and left speaker now reach each ear at precisely the same time. This, in turn, gives a more unified sound cues to my ears. This is why we have time and phase aligned speakers, so it makes sense to time and phase align the speakers as they are within your sound room.

The bottom line here is that the SA-S is so important and so very impressive it has been given the THX blessing. While the system is not cheap, my feelings are that anyone who truly wants to have their system properly setup should investigate using these tool for themselves. If you claim to be a professional sound contractor, your customers deserve your using the SA-A system. In fact all high-end stores should offer the usage of the SA-S system to their customers. As for "professional" reviews such as myself, how do they know the speakers are truly setup correctly if they do not use the SA-S system? As for me, it's a keeper. Within the past three months this system has been used with standard box speakers, horns and panels. SA-S should be commended for finally offering the true music lover and music professional tools for proper systems alignment. Your system and your ears will thank you.  As always... Enjoy the Music!

 

Manufacture's Reply

Steve,

  A quick note to say thank you for the very thorough and positive review. Your very good, and it's good to know that the industry is represented so well by you and Enjoy The Music.com™.

Sincerely,

Tom Rodgers
Sales Manager
Sound Alignment Systems by Checkpoint
Email: sassales@gte.net

 

 

Fit and Finish 95
Value for the Money 95

 

Part # Description MSRP
  770 Laser Tools  
1330 770 SAS Standard Kit $159.95
1335 770 P-SAS Professional Kit $189.95
  770 Components  
364 Mag Alignment Switch $28.95
365 Standard Alignment Switch $15.95
366 SAS P-Switch $21.95
367 SAS Stackers $12.95
368 SAS Base Plate $16.95
393 SAS Tech Belt Case $24.95
1303 SAS Lens Kit $166.99
359 90 Degree Projector Lens $59.95
380 Two-Way Lens $69.95
381 Line Lens $59.95
362 Lens Adapter Base $16.95
358 Protractor Plate $19.95
382 SAS Target/Valve/Mount $29.95
357 Bore Tool TBD
1302 Bore Tool Kit TBD
  Mag Bases  
308 Super-Vee Mag Base $39.95
309 Stubby Mag Base $32.99
312 Magnum Mag Base $44.95
  Rotary Bases  
374 R2-D1 Table Top Rotary Base $129.95
375 R2-D2 Tripod Rotary Base $149.95
383 Rotary Base Plate (RBP) $149.95
  Internal SAS  
384 Internal SAS-001 $159.95

 

Checkpoint Laser Tools
3112 Kashiwa Street
Torrance, CA 90505

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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