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  1. #1
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    Am I doing something wrong setting up DB readings or is my hearing in Bizarro World?

    Curious if anybody has had the results I've just gotten trying to set my receivers DB levels with a (Radio Shack) Digital Sound Level Meter using the (Denon) receiver's built in test ones. The first thing I might have done wrong, please tell me this, is I turned off my air conditioning/thermostat unit which emits a small but not noticeable
    sound when on. I need to leave this on at 70 degrees on fan all the time because of my sinuses, thus my normal listening to my speakers is with that in background, but its not obtrusive. Should I have measured the DB's when I did my test with the air conditioning unit on, instead, as that's how I normally listen to music/dvd's?

    My results were very bizarre and I think I followed Denon's instructions perfectly. The meter was set on "C", slow and to read a 75 decible level. In all fairness to Radio Shack, this digital meter was very easy to use. Anyway, I placed it by my ear and had no trouble setting all the test levels to 75 db's. My results were I think bizarre, you tell me:
    Front Speakers: Left Minus 5, Center Minus 6, Right Minus 7
    Back Speakers: Left Minus 8, Right Minus 7
    Sub: Minus 8 I retested everything 3 times and got the same results each time (albeit it was done with the air conditioning unit off).

    Does this sound normal or did I screw up or something? Anyway, when I then played a bunch of CD's (with my air conditioning unit on),whereas before at db settings of 0 on all speakers and +2 on the sub, I heard an incredible full depth and range of music with a great soundstage playing everything in the All 5 channel & Sub Natural Sound Mode, under these new minus DB settings from above, the music just sounded totally lifeless like it was all coming from one spot instead of spread out.

    Can someone please tell me what is going on? Obviously I'm going to go back to my 0 settings. I think Paul had done this the week before with a music DVD disc tester and got much different results closer to my 0 DB settings but I might be wrong about that.

    Any advice, or should I just stick with what I like & have no scientific basis prefering? Oh PS, as an aside, and this may change once I have my cable TV sound hooked up optically to my receiver (currently the Time Warner HD 8000 DVR can't do that), I also have to put my DB's on all speakers up to +6 & +8 on the sub and put bass & treble up to +6 for both, to get the TV sound I like from my receivers.

  2. #2
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    No, your hearing is not in bizarro world. First off, I'd highly recommend you go back and exchange that digital spl meter for an analog one which is recognized as far more accurate. Next, buy or borrow a test disc like Paul's to do your calibrations. When you are measuring, you don't want to be near the mic of the meter as sound will literally reflect off your body and skew the results. I know Wooch used a camera stand or something when he did his. Personally, I hid behind the couch and stuck my arm out to the listening position. Yes, you're going to look like a goof ball doing this...accept it. The process of calibration ensures that you are receiving equal volume from each speaker and that it is in phase. Because the A/C may or may not be blowing at a constant level, I'd do the calibration with it off. Hey, be happy it's not July, right ?

    Now then, understand that your settings, whether they are -6 or +6, will be different from everyone else because of we don't have your speakers, room acoustics, and listening position. Therefore, your setting will be different from mine which are different from Paul's and so on. Just set it up so everything is equal.

    BTW, all you are doing by cranking the settings to +6 across the board when watching TV is increasing volume. I if you want it to sound that way when you have the setting equalized at -6, turn the receiver's volume up. It doens't sound better because you set the left main to +6 and the center to +8, it sounds better because it's louder.

    Hope this helps.

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    Thanks for Advice Topspeed

    Thanks for your advice. It's great to be learning, not, by trial and error. I know you guys have probably discussed things like that in the past but because they were not relevant to me at the time, they went in one ear and out the other.

    I definately held the stupid thing all wrong based on what you're saying. I'm going to try to retest it tommorow holding it up the way you suggested to see how much different my results will be. I don't know why the instructions just say hold it up to your listening level.

    I'll hopefully get Paul to rerun his disc test again, I wasn't really paying attention and didn't write down his results.

    Are you saying that I'm better off with the test disc then testing against Denons test levels? Are you 100% sure that the analogue meter is better than the digital? I guess that's my built in bias- I always assume the more expensive a product is, the better.

    One thing I still don't understand is what you were saying about the TV sound. For me personally, the sound is much clearer and crisper if I hear on this specific receiver all the speakers set at 6 DB's and the volume say set at "10" then hear the speakers at say 2 DB's with the volume set at say "30" if you get my drift. I'm not an engineer so I don't understand this from a technical angle which doesn't make any sense to me. To be honest, when I did record producing as a side profession 10 years ago, the record studio engineers did the technical work and I made the adjustments to the sound I wanted without technically knowing most of the time what they were doing (i.e., I 'd say try more reverb, bass, compression, etc. and when I heard something I liked I'd say use that).

    I'm still amazed though how the sound on this Denon receiver with the Harmon Kardon DVD player is producing musical sounds that I never heard before. The sound seems to be
    suspended accoustically in a dimension I never heard before. I'm amazed, that the (I think this was you) 3805 wasn't enough power for you and you had to connect it through an amp to get more powerful sound.


    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    No, your hearing is not in bizarro world. First off, I'd highly recommend you go back and exchange that digital spl meter for an analog one which is recognized as far more accurate. Next, buy or borrow a test disc like Paul's to do your calibrations. When you are measuring, you don't want to be near the mic of the meter as sound will literally reflect off your body and skew the results. I know Wooch used a camera stand or something when he did his. Personally, I hid behind the couch and stuck my arm out to the listening position. Yes, you're going to look like a goof ball doing this...accept it. The process of calibration ensures that you are receiving equal volume from each speaker and that it is in phase. Because the A/C may or may not be blowing at a constant level, I'd do the calibration with it off. Hey, be happy it's not July, right ?

    Now then, understand that your settings, whether they are -6 or +6, will be different from everyone else because of we don't have your speakers, room acoustics, and listening position. Therefore, your setting will be different from mine which are different from Paul's and so on. Just set it up so everything is equal.

    BTW, all you are doing by cranking the settings to +6 across the board when watching TV is increasing volume. I if you want it to sound that way when you have the setting equalized at -6, turn the receiver's volume up. It doens't sound better because you set the left main to +6 and the center to +8, it sounds better because it's louder.

    Hope this helps.

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    Hershon- I'm curious to know why none of your speakers is set at zero? Perhaps I'm wrong about this or misenterpreting, but to set the speakers at a reference level of 75db don't you take the first speaker in the chain that gets the test tone (typically front left, at least on mine) and adjust the Master volume until the SPL meter reads 75db while the speaker in question is at zero? From there you use that output level as reference for the right, center etc. I think you'd be a bit closer to zero with many of your settings, if that's what you're after.

    For example, when I set mine up the test tone starts comparing left and right mains. I set the Master volume to a level that show 75db on the SPL meter for the left front while it's at zero. Then to get the same output from the right front I have to set that one to -1. My center channel is much more sensitive than my mains and it gets set at -6 to equal the mains output at 75db on the meter etc. Aside from the very efficient center channel, most of the speakers are only +/-1 and some are at 0. Just a thought.

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    In the end, I don't think it matters what the +/- levels on the receiever are as long as the SPL meter measures them all the same...a reference point is just that, a reference point.
    I know some people that say to hell with 75 dB and do it at 65 because that's the volume they listen at more often than not...If they're happy, I can't see anything wrong with that (though I kind of suspect background noise might skew the results a bit more at lower volumes, but that's another topic).

    This is why I really love the auto-setup feature on my receiver...The YPAO parametric EQ is rather unimpressive IMO, my speakers match and my room doesn't seem to require eq'ing at the higher frequencies according to Yamaha but with all 3 of my SPL meters the levels and delays are are as accurate or better than me and any test disc have produced to date. Of course, you need to kick everyone out of the house and hope no planes fly by while running it...and the subwoofer setup is useless, but when you have 7 speakers it sure speeds things up a bit.

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    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    I had him on the phone and walked him through the menu but he didnt have the meter yet so i pm him to phone again and i;ll try again. Auto set-up isnt right on everything. I do it the old way now. After doing auto setup,recheck the level with a meter and the distence and speaker size. Mine were off. Fronts set to lg,distence were off on my sub and surround left and level was above 80db on my meter. Yes,i know how to do it right. LOL
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    Toenail This is the Denon way I think

    What I did was, and if anyone with a Denon thinks this is wrong please let me know, was play Denons test tone for 6 specific channels (left front, center, right f, left rear, right right, sub) and according to Denon for each tone, I am suppose to move the bar of the Denon volume DB's using the remote till it registers to 75 on my SPL meter at 75 on slow setting. Thus each Dennon DB channel is initially set at O and I need to move the Denon DB bar per channel till 75 shows up on my SPL meter. So in the case of the first channel, I had to move the Dennon channel bar till it said -5 dbs to get a 75 on the chart. Whoops, I think I see a possible screwup on my part, I don't think I reset the SPL meter for each channel, IE. after I got to 75, I then went on to the next channel and the initial SPL meter base was 75 instead of being reset as 0. Don't know if this makes sense to you. Anyway, thanks for alerting me of this possible screwup of me not reseting the SPL meter for each channel tested. Not sure if this makes a difference. I have met the enemy and he is me!


    Quote Originally Posted by toenail
    Hershon- I'm curious to know why none of your speakers is set at zero? Perhaps I'm wrong about this or misenterpreting, but to set the speakers at a reference level of 75db don't you take the first speaker in the chain that gets the test tone (typically front left, at least on mine) and adjust the Master volume until the SPL meter reads 75db while the speaker in question is at zero? From there you use that output level as reference for the right, center etc. I think you'd be a bit closer to zero with many of your settings, if that's what you're after.

    For example, when I set mine up the test tone starts comparing left and right mains. I set the Master volume to a level that show 75db on the SPL meter for the left front while it's at zero. Then to get the same output from the right front I have to set that one to -1. My center channel is much more sensitive than my mains and it gets set at -6 to equal the mains output at 75db on the meter etc. Aside from the very efficient center channel, most of the speakers are only +/-1 and some are at 0. Just a thought.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    One other thing to keep in mind Hershon is the levels you set your receiver at are not that crazy considering how powerful the Denon is. Also keep in mind your receiver is crossed over rather high at 120 or 160hz. This in turn makes the receiver that much more powerful. This is why your levels are in the negative. This is good. Not bad. In fact from the numbers you listed everything looked consistent. A job well done. Enjoy !!!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by hershon
    What I did was, and if anyone with a Denon thinks this is wrong please let me know, was play Denons test tone for 6 specific channels (left front, center, right f, left rear, right right, sub) and according to Denon for each tone, I am suppose to move the bar of the Denon volume DB's using the remote till it registers to 75 on my SPL meter at 75 on slow setting. Thus each Dennon DB channel is initially set at O and I need to move the Denon DB bar per channel till 75 shows up on my SPL meter. So in the case of the first channel, I had to move the Dennon channel bar till it said -5 dbs to get a 75 on the chart. Whoops, I think I see a possible screwup on my part, I don't think I reset the SPL meter for each channel, IE. after I got to 75, I then went on to the next channel and the initial SPL meter base was 75 instead of being reset as 0. Don't know if this makes sense to you. Anyway, thanks for alerting me of this possible screwup of me not reseting the SPL meter for each channel tested. Not sure if this makes a difference. I have met the enemy and he is me!
    Herson,
    As has already been suggested, I would trade the digital meter in for an analog meter. There is a difference in the test tones used on the well known calibration discs and the tones generated by your Denon receiver. I think this has been covered already too, but the test discs use a narrower band of pink noise (which I think is technically referred to a "white noise") that is more accurate for level matching the speakers than the receivers pink noise generator. I've experienced this first hand. The advice to either use a tripod or position yourself behind the listening area is good too. You should also point the meter in the direction of the center channel speaker but angled upward about 45 degrees. Then with all of your speaker levels set at "zero", turn the receiver's volume up until it reads -0db (this is essentially full volume); many Denon product set the volume at this level automatically once the internal tone generator has been activated. Start the test tone sequence on the calibration DVD and adjust the speaker levels so that each speaker reads 75db from your listening position. It shouldn't surprise you that they will not all be the same. In theory, setting the system up this way allows you to set your volume at -0db to a have a reference level for playback, but you may find that this volume setting is much too loud to make the adjustments for a 75db reference. That's okay. You can just decide on a lower volume setting to achieve this reference level but try to make it something that is easy to remember such as -20db or -15db. Once you have all of your speakers calibrated so that they are each reading 75db per SPL at this volume, you are done. It is a good idea to find a balance between the receiver's volume setting and the calibration levels so that at this volume they read as close to "zero" as possible. As one person suggested, adjusting the volume so that the left front main speaker reads 75db when set at "zero" is probably a good place to start. This just gives you wiggle room to adjust the rest of the speakers up or down as needed. Hope this helps, good luck.

    Q

  10. #10
    IRG
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    Thanks...

    Quote Originally Posted by toenail
    Hershon- I'm curious to know why none of your speakers is set at zero? Perhaps I'm wrong about this or misenterpreting, but to set the speakers at a reference level of 75db don't you take the first speaker in the chain that gets the test tone (typically front left, at least on mine) and adjust the Master volume until the SPL meter reads 75db while the speaker in question is at zero? From there you use that output level as reference for the right, center etc. I think you'd be a bit closer to zero with many of your settings, if that's what you're after.

    For example, when I set mine up the test tone starts comparing left and right mains. I set the Master volume to a level that show 75db on the SPL meter for the left front while it's at zero. Then to get the same output from the right front I have to set that one to -1. My center channel is much more sensitive than my mains and it gets set at -6 to equal the mains output at 75db on the meter etc. Aside from the very efficient center channel, most of the speakers are only +/-1 and some are at 0. Just a thought.
    I was about to ask this question, and you have answered it here for me. Like Herson, I just bought my first RS spl meter last night (I got the analog kind). And everything was pretty straightforward, but I guess I didn't understand where I was supposed to start at. So I think I do now. I have a test disc in the dvd player, start with the left speaker, and begin with my speaker setting at 0 db. Put the spl meter at 70, and try to get to a +5 reading on the meter. And adjust the speaker level accordingly, up or down. I think I did this right last night, but I wasn't sure where the starting point (volume wise) had to be at on the receiver. So basically it doesn't matter. My readings also went around -6db.

    For placement purposes, can I put the meter next to me on the arm of an overstuffed chair (just forward of me, to prevent reflections (if that is sufficient) or should I place it on the actual seat, and lean over to look at the meter, trying to get out of the way altogether. I do not have a tripod. Or should I just hold it in front of me? Thanks.

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    I'm a Bit Lost & Overwhelmed IRG

    The best advice I can give you IRG, is to take the best of these responses & use that when testing, Ultimately though, if the finished result isn't what your ears like, reject it!
    On the Denon Receiver, the way their self testing works is, for each channel you move it up or down until the final resting position coincides with 75 DBs produced on your SPL
    meter. Thus when I tested the first channel, I got a -5 on Denons DB Chart which was the final place after I adjusted it up to produce a 75 SPL level. Then you do each of the other channels. I'm going to reset the SPL each time which I didn't do yesterday. Apparently from what TopSpeed said, if you just hold the SPL by your ear in the listening position from where you'd normally be sitting, your body still is blocking sound even though its not physically blocking the SPL microphone so its best if you leave the SPL in the same positon coordinates by either a tripod or stack some books underneath it or tape it- if you get my gist as long as your body is not there. I'm going to try this and also do another reading with the normal background noise of my air conditioner/thermostat running as well as its on all the time. Finally, hopefully early next week, one of the people on this board who lives relatively near me and has helped me alot, will use his sound testing DVD/Disc
    and also do a reading using his analogue SPL (I'll compare those numbers on my digital
    one). The end result will be, I'll have a few sets of levels and I'll then chose the best sound from one of these levels or continue with my totally unscientific setting of 0 DB's for each channel except +2 DB's for the sub. For just listening to TV, right now the bizarre setting of 8 DB's across the board & bass/treble at +6 seems to temporarily do the trick (the way my cable company has set the DVR's up right now you can't use an Optic Cable but this feature should be available shortly). The bottom line is don't force yourself to listen at levels for which you don't like the sound even though technically you should be liking the sound! The ultimate catch 22 from all this stuff & advanced technology is the better a product seems to be, the more open it seems to be in terms of a slight error you're not aware of, probably because a manual isn't written in simple and precise detailed language, of setting off a disastorous chain of events.


    Quote Originally Posted by IRG
    I was about to ask this question, and you have answered it here for me. Like Herson, I just bought my first RS spl meter last night (I got the analog kind). And everything was pretty straightforward, but I guess I didn't understand where I was supposed to start at. So I think I do now. I have a test disc in the dvd player, start with the left speaker, and begin with my speaker setting at 0 db. Put the spl meter at 70, and try to get to a +5 reading on the meter. And adjust the speaker level accordingly, up or down. I think I did this right last night, but I wasn't sure where the starting point (volume wise) had to be at on the receiver. So basically it doesn't matter. My readings also went around -6db.

    For placement purposes, can I put the meter next to me on the arm of an overstuffed chair (just forward of me, to prevent reflections (if that is sufficient) or should I place it on the actual seat, and lean over to look at the meter, trying to get out of the way altogether. I do not have a tripod. Or should I just hold it in front of me? Thanks.
    Last edited by hershon; 04-01-2005 at 10:31 AM.

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    Again, this is where I must sing the praises of Yamaha. With my Yamaha, you cannot adjust the levels of the front L/R, therefore, they automatically act as the reference point against which all other channels are adjusted. With Hershon's Denon, all channels are adjustable and I think the confusion/disaster that he is experiencing is that he is not using any one or two channels as a reference point, thereby resulting in the +6db across the board. I tried to explain this to him, but not being present when he calibrated the system yesterday, my suspicision is that he is not using one channel set at 0 for refernece against which all other channels would be adjusted. When you don't use any one/two channels as a reference point, then calibration will go horribly awry.

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    Yeah I did exactly what You Said, I'll Wait Till You Help Me, Pretty Please!

    Well I did exactly what you said. Hopefully you'll help me out and reset this next week. I'm curious what the difference will be between your analogue and the digital slp's if you do them simultaneously. I still can't believe I didn't write down your original settings which I think were around 0 anyway except for a rear speaker and the sub.


    Quote Originally Posted by paul_pci
    Again, this is where I must sing the praises of Yamaha. With my Yamaha, you cannot adjust the levels of the front L/R, therefore, they automatically act as the reference point against which all other channels are adjusted. With Hershon's Denon, all channels are adjustable and I think the confusion/disaster that he is experiencing is that he is not using any one or two channels as a reference point, thereby resulting in the +6db across the board. I tried to explain this to him, but not being present when he calibrated the system yesterday, my suspicision is that he is not using one channel set at 0 for refernece against which all other channels would be adjusted. When you don't use any one/two channels as a reference point, then calibration will go horribly awry.

  14. #14
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    You can use the digital one,the main thing they are set to the same db.
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    I couldn't imagine setting the master volume to 0db on my Yamaha and then activating the test tones. It may technically be below clipping or at the threshold, but I'd need earplugs to pull that off!

    Paul- which Yamaha are you using? Mine allows for this adjustment.

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    Denon users As An Experiment, Humor Me & set DB levels to 0 except +2Sub

    Well, I got some good advice from Mr. Shokhead, thanks, namely that your bass/treble levels should be on 0 when testing and point your SPL Meter Mike directed directly at the ceiling from your listening position & got some different DB results, however the sound quality from these SPL DB settings still weren't half as good as my totally unscientific, pure chance DB settings. If anyone has a Denon receiver, humor me and temporarily set your DB's at 0 for all your speakers except +2 for your sub and set your bass and treble levels at +2. Now listen to your favorite CD on the 5 speaker & bass natural sound mode. Please let me know if you think your CD's sound better, worse or the same (?) at these levels. For me personally, the sound is 1000% better and again I can not offer a rational explanation of why.

  17. #17
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toenail
    I couldn't imagine setting the master volume to 0db on my Yamaha and then activating the test tones. It may technically be below clipping or at the threshold, but I'd need earplugs to pull that off!

    Paul- which Yamaha are you using? Mine allows for this adjustment.
    Well if you want to do it right like the other millions that do it that way,it needs to be on 0db. There is a reason it automatically goes to zero when you do the test tones. Its the right way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by toenail
    I couldn't imagine setting the master volume to 0db on my Yamaha and then activating the test tones. It may technically be below clipping or at the threshold, but I'd need earplugs to pull that off!

    Paul- which Yamaha are you using? Mine allows for this adjustment.
    I have the RX-V 3300. I just try to hit 75dbs as close as I can. I have the analog meter.

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    In my situation, I use 70 db as my reference. Master volume set at 00db and then each speaker set individually to 70 db at my listening position. With some movies I can listen at (my) reference and some I cannot bare. More like -3 to -5. If I did use 75db as my reference, then instead of listening at -3 to -5, I would be listening at -8 to -10. The only thing that matters is that all your speakers match one another.
    Last edited by cam; 04-01-2005 at 08:55 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    Well if you want to do it right like the other millions that do it that way,it needs to be on 0db. There is a reason it automatically goes to zero when you do the test tones. Its the right way.
    Mine doesn't "automatically" go to 0db. When I activate the tones the master volume still controls output. I can activate the tones and set it anyhwere I want. I think doing it "right" reagrdless of how millions of others do it, means setting the output level the same for all speakers relative to EACH OTHER, not relative to 85db. If setting all the speakers the same relative to 75db offers a different sonic result than to 85db, there are some considerable non-linearities in the system.

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    IRG What did you think of your SPL Settings?

    For me, when all has been said and done about setting my DB's based on the Denon on screen DB adjustments based on its test levels and I think doing the reading correctly this time based on what Shokhead said ("0" bass/treble, aim the microphone on the SPL to the ceiling from ear level, try to turn off all extraneous noise), I was not happy at all with what it did to my sound and I went back to my unscientific, it sounds great, set all speakers to 0 DB's, sub at 2 db's, bass and treble to "2" levels and it sounded great again. Curious if your happy with your results. Again all my results were between -6 and -9 Db's for all the speakers & sub. When I'm going to try next week to use a music DVD test instead of the Denon method, I'm going to see if there is much difference in my results. I'm also going to use both an alalogue and digital SPL.


    Quote Originally Posted by IRG
    I was about to ask this question, and you have answered it here for me. Like Herson, I just bought my first RS spl meter last night (I got the analog kind). And everything was pretty straightforward, but I guess I didn't understand where I was supposed to start at. So I think I do now. I have a test disc in the dvd player, start with the left speaker, and begin with my speaker setting at 0 db. Put the spl meter at 70, and try to get to a +5 reading on the meter. And adjust the speaker level accordingly, up or down. I think I did this right last night, but I wasn't sure where the starting point (volume wise) had to be at on the receiver. So basically it doesn't matter. My readings also went around -6db.

    For placement purposes, can I put the meter next to me on the arm of an overstuffed chair (just forward of me, to prevent reflections (if that is sufficient) or should I place it on the actual seat, and lean over to look at the meter, trying to get out of the way altogether. I do not have a tripod. Or should I just hold it in front of me? Thanks.

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    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by toenail
    Mine doesn't "automatically" go to 0db. When I activate the tones the master volume still controls output. I can activate the tones and set it anyhwere I want. I think doing it "right" reagrdless of how millions of others do it, means setting the output level the same for all speakers relative to EACH OTHER, not relative to 85db. If setting all the speakers the same relative to 75db offers a different sonic result than to 85db, there are some considerable non-linearities in the system.
    Of course the master volume still controls the output,nobody said it stopped. Most units,when the test tones come on to set up the speaker levels goes to 0Db because thats where its suppose to be,automatically or you do it but it should be on 0db. I dont care about relative to each other as long as each speaker level is set the same,70,75,80,1000000000000000000000001,whatever you want. Just because 99% of us use 75 or 80db,dont think we know what we are doing,go ahead and do it the way you feel good about.
    Look & Listen

  23. #23
    DIYaudiophilehack
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    Ahhhhhh, that sheds quite a bit of light on the subject. I was not aware that most receivers default to 85db when test tones are activated. I had incorrectly assumed that like mine, the master volume had to be set manually to a reading of 85db on the SPL meter (probably 0db on the dial as you've indicated). Making assumptions about all the manufacturers doing things the same way has made the learning process a bit frustrating at times. Hopefully others can learn from this.

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