Speaker Calibration: Best via Avia or through Receiver's internal test tones?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Bill_Boston, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. Bill_Boston

    Bill_Boston Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello ... was wondering what was the best way to calibrate my speakers using a SPL meter. To use Avia II's DVD test signals, or the internal test tones generated through my Sony DA3400ES Receiver? Any advise on what is the desired method to calibrate? Thanks!
     
  2. Bill_Boston

    Bill_Boston Stunt Coordinator

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    Oh, I should mention that I'm using my PS3 for decoding 5.1 and sending the output format to my receiver in PCM. Not sure if that matters ...
     
  3. David Willow

    David Willow Babbling Idiot
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    Use the internal test tones. Most likely these will be -30db reference. Set the SPL meter weighting to C and response to SLOW. You should get 75db from each speaker. You may want the subwoofer a bit higher (the meter is not very accurate for the sub). Maybe 77 to 80 db.

    Too many variable with the DVD.
     
  4. Stephen Tu

    Stephen Tu Screenwriter

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    I disagree, use the DVD. If everything is working properly, the results should pretty much be the same. But using the DVD can expose stuff like if the receiver is one of the old ones that had issues with not boosting LFE 10 dB when getting PCM over HDMI.

    More variables is *good*, because those variables will be present during actual movie playback and you want to calibrate based on what's going to happen during movie playback. But if you do find a major discrepancy like the LFE down 10dB, then the receiver test tone is good to remove variables so you can figure out what is off, and how you'll have to adjust for different sources.
     
  5. David Willow

    David Willow Babbling Idiot
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    How do you know if your not boosting LFE 10 dB with the DVD? What can you compare it too?

    If your system does have this issue and you calibrate the sub based on the DVD, the sub will be 10 dB hot for everything else. If you use the internal test tones, you are guaranteed that the levels will be correct. Then you can test with AVIA if you like to determine if there is an issue.

    Am I making sense or is it just past my bed time?
     
  6. Bill_Boston

    Bill_Boston Stunt Coordinator

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    Interesting comments. So, using the internal tones, I calibrated all my speakers to 75db at RL (Master Volume at 0). I also calibrated my LFE to 77db.

    When I switched to Avia II to compare; at RL, my 5 channels all increased to around 81db +/- 1db. And, my LFE dropped a to around 75/76db.

    So, I'm not sure where to go from here. Calibration thoughts/comments anyone ...
     
  7. Stephen Tu

    Stephen Tu Screenwriter

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    Doesn't your receiver also have an auto-calibration with a microphone? That might be more accurate than the Radio Shack meter. Probably should have started with that :).

    I guess what I really meant to say was you should try multiple methods and see if you have glaring differences. The Avia also is exercising the bass management since its test tone is in the actual 5 main channels, not LFE except for the track marked for LFE. It would be normal for the Avia test tones to read higher since AFAIK they are supposed to be @ 85dB.

    What's your "HDMI subwoofer level" set at in the receiver menu? I think it should be either auto or +10db.
    I would also test with the PS3 set to bitstream, see if there are differences with the receiver decoding instead.

    Your channels seem level either method, so the only issue is the sub level, and in the end you should just go with what sounds good to you anyway ... Radio shack meter I don't think is that accurate at the low frequencies.
     
  8. Bill_Boston

    Bill_Boston Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, I auto calbrated right out of the box. The one thing it really helped with was determining the distances to my sweet spot. But, after auto-calibrating, I went to Avia II, and found the channels to be off a bit. So, I re-calibrated using the Avia II DVD. Then, I found that I had internal tones built into my AVR. So, I decided to change again and re-calibrate using those tones. And that's kind of where I am now. In any case, auto-calibrating gave me one set of settings, Avia II another set of settings, and internal test tones a third set of settings. :(

    I have read a number of threads here last night and it seems some people have said that the sub should be internally set within the AVR to about a -5 db setting to facilitate a cleaner signal. This is what I did. In addition to being at -5 db internally and 77 db on my sub through the SPL, my volume/gain know physically on the sub is only up to about 1/8 to 1/4 full power -- which does not seem correct, for some reason.

    So, my project this weekend is to continue to play. I'm not really an audiophile, so I'm mainly relying on "best practices" to calibrate my sub to get my baseline, then tweek as my hears feel fit. But, it's getting to that baseline -- bass mainly -- that I seem to be struggling with at this point.

    All advise at this point is welcome! Thanks!
     
  9. ShanonS

    ShanonS Stunt Coordinator

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    Forget the SPL meter. Does something about the auto-calibration sound bad to your EARS?

    As previously mentioned. Most low-cost SPL meters are notoriously bad, especially on the low end. It sounds like the meters that come with most of the newer receivers are much better and do a better job setting the proper levels than anyone could do with a handheld SPL and any kind of test tones.

    It also does not matter where the gain on your sub is set if it is producing the proper level of sound. My 12" 300 watt sub has always been set on the low end of gain to get the proper sound level. With the autocalibration, I would try to keep it within + or - 5. Actually, I would think 0 would be the optimal setting, but personally, as long as it is less than 5 either direction, I would leave it be.

    If your system just sounds bad with the auto-calibration, then, and only then would I look to another method. Then I would use AVIA, through your DVD player (PS3) since that is how you watch movies. Personally, I have always calibrated at something closer to my listening level, instead of reference, unless that is how you watch movies. Unless your receiver has a good dynamic EQ program, or you have all identical speakers, your level calibration may not be level at your movie watching volume.

    Of course, this is all just one man's opinion and YMMV, but unless you have some very high level, calibrated equipment, forget the readings if the automatic calibration sounds ok. With all of that said, I have had mixed results on a few auto-calibrations from one to the next, so it may take more than one run, or adjusting a sub location, adjusting speaker angles, making the environment absolutely as quiet as possible, etc to get the best result, but I would try that before going back to the SPL meter.
     
  10. Bill_Boston

    Bill_Boston Stunt Coordinator

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    That begs the question ... why would you want to calibrate your speakers to 75/85 db; RL 0 if that is not the volume you plan to listen at? I think most people, in home theater environments, would listen at some db level lower than RL 0, correct?
     
  11. ShanonS

    ShanonS Stunt Coordinator

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    Instead of going into that whole, long history lesson (which can be easily found with a little searching), let me ask the other question - Why would there even be a reference level if all systems kept the same level balance throughout the level of volume?

    If a system had the same balance across speakers at say 25, 50 or 70, then there would be no need at all for a reference level as long as you picked some level and balanced everything there. So, you could just balance at a lower level without scaring the kids and household pets. Either way, if my premise is incorrect, then just balance at the lower level and you will still be perfectly in balance when (if ever) you crank it up to reference. If I am correct, then at least you will be closer in balance at the level you actually listen...
     

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