How loud is HT really supposed to sound?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Sebastian, Jul 8, 2002.

  1. Sebastian

    Sebastian Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Okay, I know that a home theater system is supposed to replicate a commercial movie theater. 105Db and 115Db for the sub I think.
    Anyway, I just calibrated my HT and I feel that the center was adjusted too low using the RS SPL meter. (-3Db)
    When I listen to it at an acceptable volume for me It is hard to hear some dialog and the special effects are pretty loud.
    What I am wondering is, is this how it is supposed to sound?
    If I recall correctly movie theaters special effects are extremely loud and the dialog is just right. So most likely if I were too listen to movies close or at ref level this would probably not be a problem.
    Am I correct in assuming this.
    Where the special effects are supposed to be extremely loud and the dialog just loud enough to hear everything (center and mains are supposed to blend right?
    Any good DVD to test this out on where it would make it obvious if they were not?)
     
  2. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2002
    Messages:
    794
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Yes, reference level specifies peaks at 105db/115db, with normal volume being around 75db-85db.
    The RS SPL meter is correct. Try to get used to this. Most people have their center channel too loud. The reason dialog is hard to hear is an accoustical issue, not the system. Movie theaters have better accoustics than your home theater. (Note that they always have fabric walls and no outside noise) You may be getting outside noise from your house that makes quieter dialog harder to hear. Your room may also be affecting the dialog frequencies. Try different DVDs. Some just have quieter dialog than others. There is nothing you can do about that.
    Having a reference system in your home is extremly difficult unless you specifically build an accoustically correct HT room (Not many of us have the $$ for that) Therefore, their will be some sacrifices like quieter dialog so that you get an even sound.
     
  3. Sebastian

    Sebastian Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Yeah that is what I thought. Oh well. I guess I will have to wait until the baby gets older then I can listen to DVD's louder.
     
  4. Albert M

    Albert M Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2001
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    You may want to try "midnight mode" if your receiver has this feature.
     
  5. Niel_JL

    Niel_JL Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2002
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    my wife likes to watch movies at such a low volume that I always turn the subtitles on in case I miss something ( the baby doesn't help either).
    Then I usually go back when I have time and put it on full blast when my wife is out of the house.
     
  6. Sebastian

    Sebastian Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    yeah I used the late night mode the other night. The ironic thing is, the special effects are not loud enough with late night mode on and too loud with it off, figures.
    Sounds like my system is calibrated right. I just thought that I may have done something wrong, but sounds like the dialog is sometimes hard to hear unless you have your system cranked.
     
  7. Sebastian

    Sebastian Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    And come to think about it, the sound engineer or director needs that extra bit of headroom (loudness level) to surprise and sometimes scare us to make the movies as real as possible. I mean how could you make someone jump without a huge increase in volume during a scary or shocking seen in a movie.
     
  8. Mark Tranchant

    Mark Tranchant Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    If you are always listening at well under reference level in a sub-optimal room for HT (like me in my semi-detached house's living room with off-centre TV, volume-intolerant wife and 1-year old daughter) - simply boost the centre channel if you find the dialogue hard to hear.

    There is no point in striving for theoretical perfection if you never listen in a mode that takes advantage of that perfection. Set the system up for maximum enjoyment.

    I know my system is so far from optimal HT that I haven't invested in an SPL meter. I set the channel levels by ear with my receiver's test tone from the centre of the room, then adjust to taste. I run the centre at about +3dB relative to the mains to catch the dialogue and to focus the sound on my off-centre screen, and the rears at about -2dB because room constraints put them closer to the listening position than is ideal.
     
  9. Bill Lucas

    Bill Lucas Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 1999
    Messages:
    530
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Not every speaker system can play at Dolby Digital reference levels cleanly. In fact, more can't than can. If the dialog is breaking up, it's because the drivers are compressing and you've pushed your speaker system beyond its' limits. Not an uncommon occurance on this forum, I might add. [​IMG] Regards.
     
  10. Mark Tranchant

    Mark Tranchant Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Bill - that's not the problem being discussed here. The issue is that at well under reference levels, the dialogue in the centre channel becomes harder to hear above the rest of the mix. It's a psycho-acoustic issue, not an equipment problem.
     
  11. Miles M

    Miles M Agent

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2002
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Sebastian,
    I am glad you brought this issue up. I also set my system to reference levels using Video Essentials, but found that the dialogue was difficult to hear. I think some of it has to do with the volume 'de-sensitizing' my ears(listen to loud music, after a while it doesn't seem loud so you you turn it up more, then after a while longer it doesn't seem loud and ....) But while I think this may be part of the problem, I think it is just that center channel content is recorded to low for my tastes(I think there was a thread on this a week or two ago).
    I find that with my system calibrated properly, whether I listen at high or low volume, I cannot hear the dialogue fully(and of course I tried the Low/Mid/High dynamic compression on my receiver). I finally got sick of struggling to hear dialogue or turning on the C.C. to read what they are saying, so I did as Mark menitoned and am now running my system with the center channel ~+3-5dB depending on movie.
    I understand the importance of having a calibrated setup, but that shouldn't preclude your ability to hear the dialogue without struggling to catch every word.
    /Mike
     
  12. itai

    itai Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2002
    Messages:
    221
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    The problem I have is that I spent 5k on HT equipment that cant be used because there are people living next door!...
    Jeez... it's like having a Ferari, but you cant go fast with it, cause it upsets other drivers!...
    oh well...
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  13. Sebastian

    Sebastian Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2002
    Messages:
    361
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  14. steve nn

    steve nn Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2002
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I notice a difference on different DVDs on the center. Some will be kind of low- some just right and others on the high side in regards to volume on the center. I have noticed this at the theater to. Your experience is like what most or all of us experience. I had your very same question when I started out.
     
  15. Kirk Mango

    Kirk Mango Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2002
    Messages:
    88
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I have calibrated my system using the preamp's internal tones to 74 dB all the way around. B&K suggested I try and keep my Mains and Center around the 0 mark and adjust all my speakers up or down from that point until I got reference levels. That put me around 74dB. At this level the dialog in a movie like Titan A&E runs around 73 dB and I have no problem making out the dialog. In fact it is a very rare occurrence where I cannot make out even soft dialog. I think once in X-men when Xavier is talking to Magneto in the hallway near the begining of the film I had a little trouble but very little. I run an OMC-2 for a center with 2-3 feet of room beind it. Maybe the omnipolar design makes for clearer dialog? For me to get 73dB out of the center, I run my B&K Ref 30 at about -15dB. The Peak bass I get is probably around 105dB, but I am guessing here. I will have to test this out and see. I wonder if I am running my system regularly below Ref levels. Hmm, I wonder.

    Kirk
     
  16. RandyKudor

    RandyKudor Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2002
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I have experienced the exact same problem at a few of my friends HT systems..

    Generally, they always turned the center channel up a few notches louder to compensate. However, this also throws off the balance.

    Movie theaters have multiple center channels and taking this into account, the best HT system I every heard had (2) center channels, neither was on top of the TV, both were on opposite sides of the tv standing vertical.

    This solved the problem and presented a wider soundstage for the center channel, dialogue was perfect even at low volumes..
     

Share This Page