Is calibrating at reference useless.

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Doug_Z, Jan 11, 2003.

  1. Doug_Z

    Doug_Z Agent

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    I have calibrated my receiver and speakers for the first time.The reason I did it was people keep asking me how loud do you listen to movies. SVS subs asked me and so did people on this forum. I also often read posts from people who say they listen at -10 to -15 dB. Others says that's way to loud and they listen at -15 to -25. I have frequently been asked how I can listen to Pearl Harbor at negative 10 dB with out being blown out of the room?
    I thought we were all talking about the same volume level.Of course you would have to take into account the size of the room, whether it had wall to wall carpet etc. but that's not what I'm talking about.I'm referring to the volume level of the sound output by the receiver and speakers. Now I'm being told, by some apparently knowlegable people, that(assuming proper calibration)the output at reference level would be the only volume that all could reliably compare.They say that once you start turing down the master volume level the volume output will vary depending on your receiver. So -15db is not the same on all calibrate receivers.Another poster wrote:
    It is important to remember that the volume indication on any amplifier reference or not when marked in decibels, indicates level relative to the amplifier's designed maximum gain, not to reference SPL levels or any sound level. While you can calibrate for a given SPL at a particular volume position, you can't expect the two scales (dB SPL vs. dB gain) to correlate exactly. So, -15db indicated could actually be 30db quieter then your reference calibration and -15db on a 1000 watt amplifer vs -15db on a 100 watt amplifier are two totally different SPL levels as well, so we can't actually compare very easily unless we're all using amps with the same gain. The real reason for calibrating (on systems with sufficient power) is to hear the sounds at the levels the director intended (when played at reference level only).
    He went on to say that only reference level is reliably comparable.Once you start decreasing the Db level then numbers such as -15 or -20 can't be compared. That would explain why some people say they listen at -25 and I would find that to be an extermely low level. Maybe it's not a low volume on his receiver or pre/pro/amp? The only reason I ask whether others agree with this is that, if it's true, I will take peoples listening volume preferences less seriously. If -10dB on a properly calibrated system is not comparable for all then why give your listening levels and have people say "wow that's loud". [​IMG]
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I think you already answered your own question [​IMG] Unless you are talking about identical setups, in nearly identical rooms, with the similar furniture, there is no honest way to compare. However, comparing the volume level of the same [/i]receiver[/i] (or amp) in a given room, once calibrtated, they should have very similar scaling of volume.
     
  3. keir

    keir Stunt Coordinator

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  4. Doug_Z

    Doug_Z Agent

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    Thanks for those replies. I hope someone else can comment on this situation. If what John (above) and the poster on another Forum I quoted says is true then we should all stop comparing listening levels at less than reference level.On my system -10 db (after calibrating with internal receiver test tones and test disc) is not that loud. At least not so loud that people should be questioning whether I have hearing problems. I don't.
    I would think this is a question people on this forum would be interested in since there are many times I have read threads where people are comparing their listening levels. It sounds like most people think they are accurately comparing their listening levels but,in fact,probably are not.[​IMG]
     
  5. Dustin B

    Dustin B Producer

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    When I refer to listening 10dB under reference, I calibrated to 75dB with Avia. I didn't calibrate to 85dB and then turn my master volume down 10 notches. Turning the master volume on your receiver and relying on it's numbers to indicate the change as you've mentioned won't work. But testing to find out what dial setting results in a particular level will work. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

    On my receiver -5dB it at the numeric readout 64, -10dB what I normally list to is at 60 and -15dB is at 55. I don't rely on the difference in the dial readout, I rely on the dial number when my spl meter reads -15, -10 or -5 from the Avia test tones.

    Mind you this is moot for calibration (level match and listen at what is comfortable for you), it only matters when trying to compare to another individual.
     
  6. Steve_Ma

    Steve_Ma Second Unit

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    Who cares if somebody else's actual SPLs and mine differ slightly at -5 or -10? Let's say a friend and fellow enthusiast makes the following statement to me:

    "I bottomed my sub while watching Lord of The Rings at -5."

    I've never had a problem because I could not quantify that statement with the precise SPLs involved. I still have a GENERAL idea about what was going on in that room with regards to the volume.

    I don't mean to minimize the question, but my point is this: It's MUCH more important to have all of one's channels calibrated relative to each other. The fact that calibrating to "reference" gives us enthusiasts a little common ground is a bonus as far as I'm concerned.

    --Steve
     
  7. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    To answer your original question Doug, no it is not useless. Calibrate at reference then listen at whichever volume level is comfortable to you.
     
  8. Doug_Z

    Doug_Z Agent

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    Thanks for the replies. My Post topic language was poorly structured. What I was trying to ask is whether calibrating to reference level at 0 db on the master volume is useless for purposes of trying to convey to someone else what your listening levels are, assuming you listen below reference.

    From your responses it seems it's not useless, for this purpose, but it's of marginal value at best.

    Next time I see a post that says a person listened to LOTR's at -10 or -25 dB I will take it with a grain of salt.To bad. I liked it better when I thought -15 db on the master volume level readout was the same volume for all who had accurately calibrated.
     
  9. Steve_Ma

    Steve_Ma Second Unit

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    I probably dodged your question with my first response.

    I don't think it's useless at all, even assuming we are usually listening below "reference." I've listened to more than a few "calibrated" systems. Volume differences like the ones you referr to are relatively minor, in my opinion. I've never experienced them to be so great that they have prevented me from appreciating someone's comments about a particular setup or movie scene or piece of music or something.

    --Steve
     
  10. Jonathan Dagmar

    Jonathan Dagmar Supporting Actor

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    I have been confused about this issue as well.

    Actually I have never understood why decibels are respresetned with negative numbers. If someone can explain that so I can lay it to rest that would be great.

    On the other hand, obviously volume readings cannot be compared from reciever to reciever. On mine anything louder than -25 is uncomfortably loud.
     
  11. WayneO

    WayneO Supporting Actor

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    Volume goes negative with the "relative display" because 0 is supposed to be reference volume. Anything lower would be a "-" number to be less than 0.

    As far as similar volumes. If a person has calibrated his system at 0 reference with an SPL meter, it gives us a general ballpark idea where that other person is listening at if he says -5. Of course they'll be different between brands, they should be relatively close enough though, but there are always exceptions. And usaully a poster will say calibrated at 75db with DVE or 85db with Avia, that will help us further understand the volume to be described.
     
  12. Lee-M

    Lee-M Stunt Coordinator

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    After scanning this thread, I did not see a reference about the effect that speaker sensitivity has on calibrating speaker levels; specifically (and this is much more important a factor than room size, IMHO), speakers that are more sensitive (like my Klipsch) will be much louder than other speakers, with a receiverHT processor set at the same volume level.

    ... So speaking of calibrating with the speaker volume level seems meaningless to me; in fact (and I don't know if this is accurate, but it works well for my ears), when I calibratebalance my speakers, I usually have the volume set at -15 dB for the test tones, and this registers around 76 dB on the SPL meter.
     
  13. Dustin B

    Dustin B Producer

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    Stating reference as 0 on a receiver is meaningless. Different receivers, different rooms and different speakers will make this level vary by huge margins.

    Reference comments are only meaningful when stated from a point of calibration with an spl meter to a source with a known output level.

    Dolby has defined the levels DD signals on DVDs can have. This level for each of the 5 full range channels should result in a maximum output of 105dB. So the loudest signal you can record on DVD should output 105dB from a speaker. Avia backs this level off 20dB to 85dB and records a tone that should be that loud. VE backs this level off 30dB and records a tone that should be 75dB.

    If you level match your speakers to 85dB with Avia, and someone else with an entirely different system level matches his speakers to 85dB with Avia, the two different systems will be playing the same levels on a DD soundtrack. If you reference your calibration as being a certain level with a certain reference tone, comparisons can be made. This is reference comparisons. 0 on a receiver has nothing to do with reference levels (unless you are comparing the same speakers, in the same room on the same receiver).

    The only exception to reference level comparisons being accurate is if the room introduces a weird peak that throws off the calibration.
     
  14. GregBe

    GregBe Second Unit

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    Even if it is not completely accurate, it is not useless. For example, there is a running thread started by Edward JM for an SVS PB2-Plus. In that thread Edward references several scene demos that he used to test the sub. For each movie he shows at what volume level he listens to each of those movies at. I know our systems are nowhere near equal (although I love my modest system), but from his postings I can see that for example, Attack of the Clones is recorded much hotter than The Phantom Menace, or The Haunting is recorded much hotter than The Matrix. For me, I have my comfort level which is -15db on most soundtracks. Threads like Edward's allow me to move my volume up or down for a certain soundtrack as a good starting point.

    Greg
     
  15. Matthew Todd

    Matthew Todd Second Unit

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    This is an interesting discussion. Anyone out there want to use the SPL meter and VE or Avia to measure SPLs at reference (we know this should be 75, 85 respectively), then at -5, -10, -15, -20, and -25 AS MEASURED ON THE RECEIVER. If the above is true, then these levels will not necessarily match 70, 65, 60, 55, and 50 dB when using VE.

    I would do it with my receiver, but my receiver (Onkyo) doesn't include a digital display of volume. I just get to turn the knob. Maybe I'll go ahead and put my own -5, -10, -15, etc markings on the knob for myself. I've always wondered what my typical listening level is.

    Of course, I'd have to move the markings anytime I recalibrate.

    Matt
     

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