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Volume levels - Which is better?


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#1 of 24 OFFLINE   David Preston

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Posted April 05 2003 - 01:00 PM

I just got a new receiver(marantz 4300)and I have to really crank it up over half way to get great sound. I was wondering if its better to turn up the volume that high or just go into speaker set up and put them at a higher level. Thanks David

#2 of 24 OFFLINE   Jason GT

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Posted April 05 2003 - 02:04 PM

The end result is the same if you crank the volume or adjust individual speaker levels.

However, one should keep in mind that adjusting speaker levels was meant as a tweak, such that one could adjust for speaker placement, room dynamics, etc. It's not meant as volume control.

So the upshot is, just use the volume control. Posted Image

#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark Yatchak

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Posted April 05 2003 - 02:06 PM

What kind of speakers do you have and how big is your room?
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#4 of 24 OFFLINE   David Preston

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Posted April 05 2003 - 04:51 PM

Mark I have two cerwin-vega 12" floorstanding speakers up front a acoustic research center two cerwin-vega bookshelf rears and a 12" cerwin-vega sub(self powered). They sound great but I have to turn the amp way up. Is it best to put the amp on dolby pro logic II movie or is there a better sounding selection. Thanks David

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark Yatchak

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Posted April 06 2003 - 03:14 PM

When not watching 5.1 material, usually pro logic II will be the popular choice. I would highly recommend buying a Radio Shack SPL meter and doing a search on how to use it, this would be a great place to start. When you say you have to turn up the volume half way, I'm not sure how loud that may be to you. Under normal listening, that would seem to be a little loud. But define normal, all of us enjoy different listening levels. When watching a movie, very rarely do I listen at reference levels, my room is a little smaller than most and that would be excessive to me. I have a Pioneer 49TX and usually have the volume around -30/-25 and it will go to +12.
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#6 of 24 OFFLINE   David Preston

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Posted April 06 2003 - 08:51 PM

My volume goes from 70 something about -72 or -76 all the way to 18db. I have to put it on about -6 0r -7 to get good sound and all the way to 0 to get it to where it s almost to loud but tolerable. Am I in danger of messing the amp up or the speakers pushing it like this?

#7 of 24 OFFLINE   Shane Martin

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Posted April 07 2003 - 07:40 AM

I own Cerwin Vegas and I can crank it to -30 and its up to near ear blistering levels. At near 0, its quite overpowering. They are very efficient speakers so you shouldn't have to crank it.

Possible Solutions:
1. Your amp is not providing enough current/power to get the volume up to your preffered levels.

2. Your system isn't calibrated with an SPL meter.

If you have done #2, then I would suspect a defective receiver or its just a weak receiver power wise because Cerwin's don't need much if any power to get up to ear shattering levels.

FWIW, I have a Sony 444es.

#8 of 24 OFFLINE   ChadLB

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Posted April 07 2003 - 07:53 AM

I know when I looked at the Marantz sr5200 you had to have the volume in -25 area to get good sound and that was hooked up to some B&W speakers. I think marantz just makes there recievers like that.
Another thing is how effecient are your speakers. For instance mine are all 91-93db. If you land somewhere in the 88db range you will need to turn it up to get power out of it.

#9 of 24 OFFLINE   JeremyFr

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Posted April 07 2003 - 09:52 AM

having the volume at -30 or -25 is quite common on a reciever using this type of scale for volume. Its what they call a "non linear scale" the reason for this is that it works much like the scale for an earthquake, so in reality -30 - -25 on most recievers is the half way mark and from there it quickly goe's the rest of the way. I'm not sure on the numbers but if I remember right for every 3db your volume doubles. So it makes it seem as if you're cranking the amp to get any volume but in actuality you're not its completely normal.

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#10 of 24 OFFLINE   RobWil

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Posted April 07 2003 - 10:49 AM

Yeah...but he says, quote "I have to put it on about -6 0r -7 to get good sound and all the way to 0 to get it to where it s almost to loud but tolerable."

David....you didn't mention what source you were listening from...CD, TV, DVD??? Or else I missed it Posted Image

I recently have auditioned several receivers. To use as a reference, like most posters have already stated:
Kenwood 6050 - 100wpc - normal listening ranges between -25 and -15db.
Harman Kardon 320/520 - 65wpc/85wpc - normal listening ranges between -25 and -15db.
Onkyo 797 - 100wpc - normal listening ranges between -35 and -25.

All using same set of speakers...sensitivity 91db...and using the CD as source. The highest volume settings I listed were at nice and loud, rock'n'roll volume. The lowest settings comfortable, normal volume (for me still fairly substantial though). You'll notice the Onkyo being quite a bit more powerful! I have noticed TV and phono require higher volume settings.
If you have been listening to phono or Cable I'd say you're not that far from normal. If CD or DVD I'd say something's wrong.
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#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Mike Up

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Posted April 07 2003 - 03:46 PM

David,

It really depends on the sensitivity of your speakers, room size, calibration levels, and receiver sensitivity.

Here's my situation with a Denon AVR-3803. My room is 15' X 16' X 8', which is 1920 ft3.

My listening position is 12' from the center point between the 2 front speakers.

My speakers are all 89db sensitive except for my back surround speakers which are 86db sensitive. Infinity RS2000.4 fronts, Infinity CC-2 center, Infinity RS1 side surrounds, Infinity Entra Point5 back surrounds.

My speaker calibrations at the receiver's 0db volume level is 71db referencing Video Essentials test tones. To achieve 75db reference level, the master volume must be at +4db. Using the receiver's internal test tones, 75db is achieved at a master volume level of +2db. Front speakers are straight, not towed in. With front speakers towed in, I achieve 72db at a master volume setting of 0db referencing Video Essential's test tones.

My speakers are calibrated as follows:

Front L/R = 0db
Center = -3.5db
Surrounds L/R = -3db
Back Surrounds = -8db

My Denon AVR-3803 has a lower gain with a sensitivity of only 200mV compared to my Yamaha RX-V2095 and Pioneer Prologic receiver's 150mV sensitivity. Which means I have to turn the Denon's volume up 2.5db more, to get near the same power output. The Denon's volume is -80db to +18db on Stereo/Direct, Dolby Digital and DTS(?). Prologic and Widescreen 7.1 is -80db to +15db. Dts:Neo 6 is -80db to +12db. 0db being the 50% volume mark. My Yamaha RX-V2095's max volume is 0db and it's half way, 50% volume mark is at -16db.

Normal Volumes with Denon AVR-3803 and current setup:
I listen to 2 channel stereo/Direct with music CDs between -20db to -15db. DVDs with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS sources, between -20db to -10db depending on the mix. DVDs with Dolby Prologic 2 Cinema, from -15db to -7db. DirecTV's "Power Rock" Music channel(Music Choice ch. 815) between -10db and 0db with 2 channel stereo/Direct.

DirecTV's music channels are broadcast at extremely low levels. I can turn my Pioneer Prologic receiver, Yamaha RX-V2095 and this Denon AVR-3803 all up to "MAX" volume without any clipping or distortion. I believe the lower level makes it harder for some to record digitally, making studios happier. Dish Network was the same low level on it's analog output but it's optical output was up to the reference of 0db, unlike DirecTV's optical digital output. However Dish Net's music channel's quality was horrid, very metallic, compressed, and bright. DirecTVs is more dynamic without the metallic and bright edge.

Hope this helps.Posted Image

#12 of 24 OFFLINE   David Preston

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Posted April 07 2003 - 07:49 PM

I think I will go ahead and invest in a spl meter about how much are they. Can you get them at radio shack if not where? Thanks everyone you guys are awesome. Ohh yeah I noticed when watching tv its louder than watching dvd when set at the same db.

#13 of 24 OFFLINE   Carl Johnson

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Posted April 07 2003 - 07:54 PM

Yeah, Radio Shack carries SPLs, I paid about $25 for mine.

#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Yogi

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Posted April 08 2003 - 09:45 AM

The levels you play your receiver at is completely relative compared to the next guy running the exact same setup in a different room. If you had a big room with inefficient speakers then its not surprising that you have to crank your receiver high to get to decent levels. Also the db scale is a log scale and not a linear one. So if your receiver goes from -72 to +18 (total range of 90db) being in 45db doesn't mean you are using half the power. In fact you might only be using a watt or two when your receiver is at -25 db or so level assuming your CVs are of 90 db sensitivity. So dont go by the numbers on the receiver. Like everyone else suggested, buy a ratshack SPL meter and calibrate your receiver to 75db playback level from all speakers. Whatever the volume dial says for that level is the reference level you should be aiming to listen at. If you have a big room then dont be surprised that you have to go to '0' or to some positive number on your receiver. Also the listening level is relative to the mastering level. On some DVDs I have to crank up the volume level to -5db on my 3802 while some others like 'LOTR' I cant go above -25 without going deaf. So its all relative.

Best of luck.
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#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Greg Hart

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Posted April 08 2003 - 10:36 AM

David thanks for the thread. I was curious myself about setting the volume anywhere from -35 to -10 to get fairly loud listening levels. I think I too will check out the SPL meter thing.

#16 of 24 OFFLINE   John Garcia

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Posted April 08 2003 - 01:13 PM

SPL will be a useful tool, but it will not solve what sounds like is the real issue: Not enough power for the SPL you are trying to achieve. At -6, you are in the realm of the limit of this amp, meaning there is almost no headroom left, and are probably dangerously near clipping the amp, depending on what you are listening to.
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#17 of 24 OFFLINE   David Preston

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Posted April 08 2003 - 08:45 PM

Not really sure what clipping is what will it mess up amp or speakers. What can I do to prevent it? Upgrade to a amp with more watts per channel. Thank David

#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark Hedges

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Posted April 09 2003 - 02:40 AM

Clipping means that the signal is saturated and some of the peaks are getting cut off. It has a tendancy to blow out tweeters.

Do you have to listen to everything at those volume levels? There are big differences in source material volume. For example, last night I watched Secretary and the dialogue was so soft that I had to turn my reciever (which goes from 0-75) up to 55 to hear it well. But if I watch LOTR than I only have to turn it up to 25.

Mark

#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Yogi

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Posted April 09 2003 - 02:56 AM

Your best bet is to get a separate stereo amp for your two fronts, that is if your recv has preouts for those channels. This way you will take off most of the load from the receivers internal amps and it will give you more headroon to drive the center and surrounds. A used separate amp could be picked up on audiogon for around $250 and will go a long way in your system.

Best of luck.
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#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Vin

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Posted April 09 2003 - 06:59 AM

Here's the link to the SPL meter.

Here's a nice explanation by Vince Maskeeper on calibration discs and how they're used in conjunction with an SPL meter.

IMO, as an enthusiast you really need to calibrate your system before you go any furthur.

If you have any questions along the way (and you will) you've already discovered the place to get answers.

Good luck,
Vin