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Do I really need an SPL meter?

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12 replies to this topic

#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Chris_House



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Posted May 09 2002 - 11:46 PM

I am getting my new digital receiver in a few days, and I have been reading that I should use an SPL meter to properly calibrate my speakers. Will calibrating my speakers with an SPL be a huge difference over calibrating with my ears? Is it one of those high tech, audiophile things? Or would a ten-year-old be able to tell the difference? My system is not high end, and I am not what you would call an audiophile. So would it still be worth it to buy the meter?
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#2 of 13 OFFLINE   Martin G

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Posted May 10 2002 - 12:16 AM

When I first calibrated my system with a SPL meter I noticed a huge improvement in the imaging of my system as well as an improvement in the bass. The biggest difference was the fact that I had my sub calibrated about 15 db to high. You will be extremely hard pressed to find any tweak or upgrade that gives you more for your money. In short it's the best $40 you can spend on your home theater.
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#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Noel

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Posted May 10 2002 - 12:40 AM

Exactly what Martin said. You have no idea how bad you need an SPL meter until you've finished calibrating your system with one. Huge difference!
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#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Steve_Ma


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Posted May 10 2002 - 02:17 AM

No, You don't really NEED an SPL meter. But then again I don't really NEED alot of the things I use on a regular basis. Posted Image

Jeffery and Martin are right. Spend the $40. It's a good tool to have and if you passion for the hobby grows, you'll be glad you got it.


#5 of 13 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Forner

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Posted May 10 2002 - 02:23 AM


Will calibrating my speakers with an SPL be a huge difference over calibrating with my ears?


Chris, in my opinion, there is no possible way you can calibrate your speakers with only your ears. You need some form of insturmentation to achieve any accuracy.

That said, the $35 you would spend on a Radio Shack SPL meter is a necessity if you hope to get the best sound out of your equipment. Whether your gear is high end or not, proper calibration will make movies and music sound better, more balanced. The first time I calibrated my system with an SPL meter, I had a Bose system... hardly what the gurus around here (myself included) would call high end. But I'll tell you, it made a very noticable difference.

While we're on the topic, I also recommend you order a copy of the Avia Guide to Home Theater so that you can set proper reference levels and adjust your TV properly.

May I ask what kind of equipment you have/are getting (speakers, subwoofer, receiver, etc.)?

#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Tom Beski

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Posted May 10 2002 - 04:57 AM

Chris, About two months ago I asked your same question to the Forum, and got the same answers that you have. I was still in doubt....so I calibrated my system by ear, and then went out and bought the Rat Shack SPL meter (nice surprise - it was actually on sale that week for $29.99) My thinking was that if the SPL meter gave me the same settings as my ears just did, I would return it the very next day. Needless to say, my ears were way off....and the SPL is now a permanent part of my HT. It really does make a big difference....especially with the Sub's test tones. Tom
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#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Bob McElfresh

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Posted May 10 2002 - 05:54 AM

Chris: Since HT is a Hobby, why dont you do your own investigation. Setup your system by ear and live with it for a month or so to get used to the sound & features. Then, go get a SPL meter and calibrate. Pop in a favorite DVD and listen for yourself. Note: you DONT need a SPL meter if: - All 5 speakers in your system are identical - You sit at the center of a perfect circle with the speakers all on the edges - The alignment of all the speakers is the same with respect to your listening position - Your room has wall several feet away from each speaker. Level-adjusting your speakers is designed to compensate for all the above less-than-ideal placement and equipment differences. Good Luck and let us know what you do.

#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Shawn_S


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Posted May 10 2002 - 07:42 AM

Slightly off topic... I there a FAQ or a particular post that goes into detail on how to use a spl meter? I have Avia along with Sound & Vision HT Tuneup. Thanks.
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#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted May 10 2002 - 08:21 AM

Initially I considered an SPL a splurge item because I figured I would use it once and not need it again. As it turns out, like any gauge or measuring tool, the meter provides an objective reference and therefore an assurance that everything is up to spec. I've used it many times now, whether it's because I've rearranged some speakers or simply wanted to verify my settings. It IS difficult to calibrate with the naked ear, especially the subwoofer. I don't think you will regret buying one - you will come to depend on it like a carpenter depends on a good ruler. As far as how to use the meter, here is what I do. I'm going off memory here, so everyone please correct me if I'm wrong or misinformed: Set the dial of the meter to "70," the weighting to "C" and the response to "slow." Position the meter at the listening position, angled upward about 45 degrees. When you start the test tones, you'll want the needle to hit five units above zero, which would make the level 75db. Zero on the meter is whatever you set on the dial, so anything above zero you add to that dial number. I calibrate all my speakers to 75db. Others I think set it to 80db and I've also read the sub should be set at a lower level than the other speakers. I just stick to 75 all around since I like a little more bass anyway. Have fun metering!

#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted May 10 2002 - 08:23 AM


I touched on it a bit on the "PRIMER FOR HT NEWBIES" thread in the archive. Here's a direct link:


Need an introduction to home theater? Check out our FAQ and Primer!!

#11 of 13 OFFLINE   Jack Keck

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Posted May 10 2002 - 08:23 AM

BEWARE.... I had to go to three different Radio Shacks befroe I found one that HAD the SPL meter. Now I have to remember what my signature line is.

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#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Chris_House



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Posted May 10 2002 - 01:29 PM

Thanks for all the input guys. Here is my equipment (the mains and the receiver I am getting early next week.) Receiver: Yamaha HTR-5540 Mains: Polk RT35i Rears: Polk R10 Center: Polk CS245i Subwoofer: Sony SAWM40 And I have them set up in a bedroom (about 15 X 15 foot).
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#13 of 13 OFFLINE   erikk


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Posted May 10 2002 - 02:05 PM

The BEST $40 upgrade you can make for any system bar none.

How to use it:

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