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Confusion on surround speaker distance setting in receiver

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6 replies to this topic

#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Dale Cornibe

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Posted November 29 2005 - 03:43 AM

I'm a bit confused regarding the receiver settings for distance, particularly in regards to surround speakers. Here's my scenario:

My couch (and therefore listening position) is against the back wall. I have the surround speakers mounted on the back wall high above my listening position, as I've read that one should for best results (I have standard 8 ft. ceilings and the speakers are mounted about 1 ft. from the ceiling). Because of the assymetrical nature of my living room, the surround speakers are not equidistant from my listening position. One surround speaker is directly above my listening position, the other is about 8 feet from that one. How do I determine the distance setting for my receiver, for the surround speakers? First of all, do I determine by measuring from the speaker to my head position (which would be 4 ft. for one speaker, 8 ft. for the other), or do I measure laterally straight out from the wall to where I would be seated on the couch (about 1 ft.)? If the former, would I split the difference and set it for 6 ft?

By the way, my receiver is a Pioneer VSX-D509S and it only has settings for speaker distance in feet, not measurements in time delay (i.e., milliseconds). It also does not have separate distance settings for each surround speaker, only one distance setting for both surround speakers (in a 5.1 setup).

#2 of 7 OFFLINE   rob-h


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Posted November 29 2005 - 04:06 AM

Normally 1ft = 1ms

Your setup sounds very tough to get setup. The surround should not be directly above and behind you. I think you are going to have to settle for sub par effects if you cant move them to the proper position.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Dale Cornibe

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Posted November 29 2005 - 04:57 AM

Okay, fine, it's not a perfect world. I know I'll have to sacrifice some of the really good surround effects. I haven't seen one floor plan of a typical suburban single family home (that's very modest for most of us to afford) that's designed in a home theater-friendly manner. Anyway, I digress...

With that said, given the facts and figures I posted, what would you say is a good compromise for the surround speaker distance setting in my receiver? Sure I can experiment, but if I'm in the ballpark I won't have to adjust too far.


#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted November 29 2005 - 05:10 AM

A couple of issues: first don’t measure the lateral distance, as the point is to handle the delay in sound from different locations as it reaches your ears. That is, measure the distance from the speaker(s) to your prime listening location. Since the difference to your prime listening location is not equidistant from your two surround speakers, the best compromise is to take the mean distance as your base measure (split the difference).

Measure the distance from each surround speaker to your prime listening location (not lateral distance). Add and divide by two.

BTW, make sure that you measure the volume for each speaker from your prime listening location. Put your SPL meter where you intend to sit when you set each speaker’s level.
¡Time is not my master!

#5 of 7 OFFLINE   rob-h


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Posted November 29 2005 - 05:37 AM

Older/cheap receivers had only one setting for both. They assumed you would place them an equal distance from the listening area. With out changing your receiver you are going to have to choose one and live with the timing being off for the other.

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Dale Cornibe

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Posted November 29 2005 - 05:46 AM

Thanks Lew, now that's helpful. I did set all the speakers' levels with my receiver's built-in pink noise generator and used a Radio Shack sound level meter. I set the range to 70, the weighting to C, and response to slow (this is based on what my test DVD Video Essentials tells me to do). Just to make sure about all this, while I'm at it:

Are those settings mentioned above correct? And what master volume do I initially set the receiver at (highest possible volume is listed as 0 dB on my Pioneer VSX-D509S receiver)? What initial volume settings for each of the 5 channels? I think I set all the 5 individual levels to 0 dB (factory default according to my manual) and set the receiver master volume to -20dB (which I found "comfortable" for the pink noise also according to the manual). Then, I found a discrepancy between the Video Essentials DVD and my sound meter's manual. Video Essentials tells you to hold a sound meter (and they actually use Radio Shack's as an example) at arm's length away from you, pointed slightly upward toward the front viewing area, keeping the same position for all 5 speakers. However, the Radio Shack sound meter manual says don't ever hold the meter directly in front of you, but perpendicular between you and the sound source. Which is right?

Anyway, I did it the Video Essentials way (frankly because I don't know how I'd sit sideways on my sofa at a distance from the sound meter and still read it -- that seems stupid anyway). I got everything to move the needle to 0 dB. The surround sound overall is pretty darn good with those equal volume settings, even with my surround speaker placement problem, but the dialogue (from the center speaker) sounds pretty quiet compared to the really LOUD sounds of all the other speakers. Are movies just mixed that way? I have to turn up the master volume just to hear the dialogue ADEQUATELY, but then all the other sounds are just WAY TOO LOUD. There has to be more of a balance between dialogue, effects, and music that isn't THAT off. Setting the levels evenly for the sound meter yielded the following:

Front Left: +2 dB
Center: -2 dB
Front Right: +2 dB
Surround Left: +1 dB
Surround Right: +3 dB

Anything I'm doing wrong? Should the master volume be set at a higher or lover level when setting all the speaker levels?


#7 of 7 OFFLINE   WayneO


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Posted November 29 2005 - 08:17 AM

Best thing is to try a couple and listen from the main seating position. Without making too technical of a discussion and seeing your room layout, is there any way to face the speaker right above the listening position to bounce off a nearby wall to delay the arrival from that speaker?
If the best advice is "listen for yourself", then why offer your opinion?