Subwoofer calibration for HT is a pointless waste of time

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Brian Fellmeth, May 22, 2004.

  1. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Avia, VE, receiver test tones and sine waves will all give different results. Which is "correct" ? None of them. All of them.

    Perfect subwoofer calibration is not only arbitrary but not even possible (in an untreated room). Try this- get the level just right with whatever noise reference source. Then move the meter 6 feet in any direction. Level will change by as much as 10 dB. So the calibration is only valid for one noise set at one point in space.

    Besides, even if it was possible to get it perfectly calibrated- what have you acomplished ? You will then hear the amount of deep bass that the engineer mixing the track intended. So what- thats just a person with an opinion- no more or less valid than your taste in level of deep bass for the soundtrack.

    The answer is to just let the sub trim float and adjust to taste, movie to movie. If it sounds weak, crank it up a few dB. If its annoyingly over bassy, dial it down. Treat it like the main volume- set where you like how it sounds- movie to movie. Why enforce the sountrack mixer's taste on yourself if you like it more or less bassy ?

    Note, the above remarks do not apply to music playback in a treated room and/or equalized subwoofer. Then a flat FR does matter.
     
  2. Tony Genovese

    Tony Genovese Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for clearing the whole calibration thing up. And to think I've been wasting my time all these years.
     
  3. Ned

    Ned Supporting Actor

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    Ah, yes. This is exactly the problem you will have when you don't calibrate something. You will constantly be jockeying up/down the level. When you don't calibrate your tv you have the same problem with having to constantly adjust the brightness/saturation/tint for every single movie. It's the same with people who don't calibrate their mains. They'll say "I have to increase the center channel sometimes because I can't hear the dialogue". All of my speakers are calibrated and I *never* have to adjust the center level.

    He who calibrates rarely has to adjust.

    He who doesn't calibrate will be endlessly adjusting.


    All that said. The final level of the LFE channel is subjective. For movies it sounds weak to have it set even with the other speakers at 75db. But I still prefer to know that I'm running 3db hot rather than just guessing.
     
  4. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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  5. ChrisBee

    ChrisBee Stunt Coordinator

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    Brian

    The obvious question is: Why would you want to calibrate for anywhere else but where you normally sit to watch films or listen to music? That you get a different meter reading somewhere else in the room is simply irrelevant.

    My RS SPL meter is placed (on a camera tripod) precisely where my head is when I'm sitting in my listening chair when I'm "playing about" with test tones.

    Regarding flat settings for music I would agree. I found this could be judged exactly by ear over a range of music well known to me. There was no discernable difference when set by ear from the meter reading taken weeks later when I finally got round to calibrating.

    For films my 16-46 gain control is raised two "notches". I have never bothered to test its effect on the SPL meter because it works so well at that setting and fills the room with superb bass effects. Without having artificially high levels of dialogue.

    So I suppose I'm agreeing with you. [​IMG]

    As an aside, but on-topic: Don't you think it's crazy that the average customer of this multi-billion dollar, worldwide AV industry relies on an imperfect $30-40 SPL meter from a cheapo electronics store? Or doesn't bother to calibrate at all? It's like sending man to the Moon with just an Instamatic camera to record the whole event. [​IMG]

    Regards
    ChrisBee
     
  6. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Ned



    This seems to be changing. More and more systems are comming with mics and auto calibration routines built in. The technology is caatching up to address this problem.
     
  7. steve nn

    steve nn Cinematographer

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    Imo you make a very good point Brian. Maybe not the most politicly correct but none the same. I have found over time myself to be a .1 tweaker. I know where calibration is but on some material it is to much and then on a few others it is to little. Mood and who is home plays a factor along with the listening level. So many variables.
     
  8. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I always sit in the same spot, and any guests I might have won't know the difference so I just calibrate to my listening position. And yes, I do set the sub level about 2 db "hot", but I never change anything to suit a particular movie except the main volume control.
     
  9. Cam McFarland

    Cam McFarland Supporting Actor

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    I'm selfish the same way....[​IMG]
     
  10. Ned

    Ned Supporting Actor

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    This is what bothers me about your supposition. I get the feeling that you are changing the LFE level everytime a movie doesn't live up to your expectations.

    kaboom... not enough bass, I'd better jack it up and rewind 30 seconds.

    KABOOM... woohoo, that was awesome. Hmm, now the music is too bassy, more adjustments...etc, etc.

    Soundtracks just vary. If everything always sounded as bassy as everything else you would get tired of it. My favorite theater in Toronto (was) the Uptown. The floor rumbled easily and often. Then I saw this stupid movie called White Squall with Jeff Bridges. The theater shook and rumbled for 2 hours, over and over, the same way everytime. It was totally boring.
     
  11. Chuck*W

    Chuck*W Auditioning

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    Honestly, Brian, I think you are just trying to yank our chains a bit. But I'll try anyway:



    Why? Music isn't mixed? I swear I've seen mixing boards in recording studios. Why does that mixer's opinion count for more than a film's mixer? What if someone likes their music "more or less bassy?" Shouldn't they just change the sub's level on a song by song basis?
     
  12. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    I only calibrate 'cuz I'm paranoid someone will come over and check. This post has allowed me to relax a bit.
     
  13. steve nn

    steve nn Cinematographer

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    I only calibrate 'cuz I'm paranoid someone will come over and check. This post has allowed me to relax a bit. >>>>>>>>>>>>>




    [​IMG] Very funny Jack
     
  14. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Thats the whole point. Jack gets it.
     
  15. TimRP

    TimRP Stunt Coordinator

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    I never got the whole music vs movie differences in audio play back performance, and your statement is even more perplexing since the sound engineer whether mixing for movies or for music will mix the subwoofer either high or low depending on his/her taste 100% of the time. Maybe you can live with the differences in music better than for movies, but to deny that the differences are there is well, not correct.
     
  16. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    well, i've never described a movie's effects soundtrack as "having soul"? have you?
     
  17. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    I would think that a movie soundtrack mixer/producer/engineer is as serious and tries to be as good at it and as professional about it as a mixer/producer/engineer for a CD or lp or SACD or DVD-A...
     
  18. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    the soul comes from the musician, not the engineer
     
  19. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Yeah, calibration is really pointless. I mean why even bother placing your main speakers correctly. Put one in one corner, and put the other in the opposite caddy-corner and point that one at the wall. I mean after all you can't get things perfect ever, so why bother at all?

    (angry sarcasm)

    [​IMG]

    If you have a good subwoofer like an SVS, I don't see why you shouldn't calibrate it and work on good placement. Most of the bass freq created by a sub like an SVS won't be affected by room treatments anyway, they will largely be absorbed by the wall structures or exit the room. You can get excellent bass with a properly placed and calibrated SVS. Once calibrated, you can tweak a few dBs to taste after you are familiar with how things are supposed to sound.
     
  20. Chuck*W

    Chuck*W Auditioning

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    What right answer? The color and exposure of a theatrical print is set in timing sessions. The timer is just a guy with an opinion. Why should we be bound by his ideas of what the movie should look like? And what, exactly, is the "right answer" when mixing an electric guitar against a trumpet, a kettle drum, and a human voice? It's all judgment calls.

    Happily, HT gives us all the opportunity to do it our own way. Some guy can spend weeks calibrating his sub to micro-dB precision only to have the cleaning lady move it so he has to start all over again, somebody else can just crank his up to annoy the neighbors, Brian can get a little box with a big knob and crank the sub up and down all through every movie to prove that he's better than any mixer, and it's all good. Who are we hurting? Ain't technology grand?

    And, BTW, I know Brian doesn't do that. I think it would be funny if he did, but I know he isn't advocating anything like that. It was just a joke.
     

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