Issues With My Onkyo TX SR600; Decoding, Calibration, Volume, More...

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Scott Adam, Jun 27, 2003.

  1. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello Gang,

    Being new to the Forum, I wasn't sure if this belonged under Receivers/Separates/Amps, but I figured I'd give it a shot and share some issues with my fellow home theater hobby addicts in order to gain some insight from you guys...if you could take a couple of moments and read the lengthy post and give me some insight, I would really appreciate it...thanks in advance...

    I have an Onkyo TX SR600 six channel receiver at the heart of my system, feeding a Polk 5.1 bookshelf setup with a 10" powered sub. This receiver decodes Dolby Digital, DTS, Pro Logic II and even Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES six channel soundtracks; however, I do not have the sixth "back surround" channel in order to enjoy six channel DVDs such as Gladiator and Attack of the Clones...my question is, because I personally feel that DTS sounds much better than standard Dolby Digital, when I have the choice on a DVD's menu to select DTS, I do so---even when its a DTS ES soundtrack, as on Gladiator....but because I have a 5.1 speaker array, without the back surround channel(s), what is happening when I playback films with Dolby Digital EX or DTS ES 6.1 soundtracks----am I "losing" any information because I dont have that speaker? People have tried to give me all their theories on this, saying that the sixth channel is really for small ambient effects, and have also told me that if I have my receiver set to acknowledge that there is NO back surround speaker in the setup menu, the receiver will automatically "matrix" the back surround information into the two rear surrounds----is this true? They say it will cause a kind of "phantom" or "ghost" center image if I sit EXACTLY BETWEEN the two rear surrounds; is this so? Is my receiver "matrixing" that sixth channel's sound into the rear surrounds when playing back 6.1 channel DVDs?

    And on the topic of decoding properties, what are all the differences here and am I missing something by not having THX certified gear? I understand Dolby Digital, being a standard 5.1 system, and DTS, being another 5.1 system (but sounding better in my opinion---much louder and precise in effects placement)...but then there is DTS ES, which expands to six discrete channels, right? And so what is the difference between DTS ES and Dolby Digital EX? Are they just competing formats doing the same thing? My Gladiator DVD offers a DTS ES soundtrack on the menu; my Exorcist and Episode II:Attack of the Clones DVDs both offer Dolby Digital EX soundtracks...the remainder of my DVD collection contains movies that only have normal Dolby Digital 5.1 or normal DTS...but my Onkyo decodes only standard Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS ES, DD EX...it is not THX certified or some such rhetoric; am I missing something with this receiver I have----even if its only connected in a studio apartment with a small listening space?

    Now, I have heard it all about calibration and getting an SPL meter/disc and all that---fact of the matter is, my speaker system is calibrated based on the values an ex-co worker surround-phile of mine punched into the receiver when he first set the system up for me, and it sounded PERFECT in my opinion---he had it set up so that the two fronts and two rear surrounds are all at "+6" on the calibration, and the center and sub are bumped up a bit higher at "+8"; it seems everything sounds about right at these levels. Still, even with the Onkyo "INTELLI VOLUME" system set for all components at "+12" (maximum) (this is a system which allows you to set individual volume gains for each piece of equipment plugged into the receiver----I have it set to "+12" for all gear so that each component is getting full volume output through the receiver) it still seems like on many DVD soundtracks---especially Dolby Digital selections---I need to crank the volume up to at least 45 to 55, maybe even higher, in order to get "significant" sound levels out of this receiver. This SR600 is rated at 80 watts x 6, but I need to crank the volume up to pretty high numbers in order to get the DVD soundtracks---or even stereo music---really crankin'...

    Now, I have heard countless theories on this, as well...that it is normal for Dolby Digital DVDs to sound weaker compared to others, and that the dialogue is always softer than the effects or music...and I have read many, many reviews of this receiver on the Internet, and all owners have said the same thing about this model..."useless volume below 40..." "why did Onkyo even bother putting a volume control on this thing below 50?"....the reviews are endless on this problem...is this normal for an 80 watt per channel receiver---that is, needing to bring the volume up pretty high in order to get satisfactory listening levels? I have been told not to look at the number value on the screen when raising or lowering the volume because these are digital volume steps, unlike old stereo receivers which were analog in volume control, and you were able to tell when you were literally "halfway up"...I was told with these new digital surround receivers, there is no such thing as "halfway up" really, and I shouldnt really look at where the volume number is....is this normal?
     
  2. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    I owned the Onkyo 600 so I will give you info on what I remember.
    For one there should be no reason you have your speakers at +6 and +8 unless you have ineffecient speakers. I think you should really get a SPL meter and the Sound & Vision disc it makes a world of a difference. I was set up in the + range on my speakers before I bought into the SPL meter/disc and thought it wouldn't be night and day difference but it was....my rears were set to high as well as my L/R Fronts. You can view my webpage for all my settings.
    On the Volume part if I recall I watched TV at 40-50 and movies were usually 50-65.....
    You might want to list the models of the Polks so we can see if they are above 90dbs
     
  3. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Screenwriter

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    I have the 600 with Polk RTi28's and a CSi30 center... and reference level for me is 82 on the volume control. Normal DVD viewing takes place around 72 and TV between 60 and 66. But then, I'm not running anything on Intellivolume or using the channel trims for anything other than level matching. The previous poster is correct about you needing to get a SPL meter. From my experience, the 600's internal tones are pretty much dead on with calibration discs, so you should get a meter and calibrate. Trust me -- as much as you think it sounds perfect, it's almost impossible to do it by ear.
     
  4. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    "I have the 600 with Polk RTi28's and a CSi30 center... and reference level for me is 82 on the volume control. Normal DVD viewing takes place around 72 and TV between 60 and 66. But then, I'm not running anything on Intellivolume or using the channel trims for anything other than level matching. The previous poster is correct about you needing to get a SPL meter. From my experience, the 600's internal tones are pretty much dead on with calibration discs, so you should get a meter and calibrate. Trust me -- as much as you think it sounds perfect, it's almost impossible to do it by ear."

    Thank you Jeremy...I believe I have the same model Polks...I need to double check. Wow, 82 on the volume control??? I have been complaining that 45 or 50 is too high in order to get satisfactory audio!

    Yes, this is most definitely because you are running ZERO on the IntelliVolume as well as on the calibration values...I was not at all happy with the way this system sounded with the components all at 0 on IntelliVolume...way too weak for me...so, my reasoning for cranking them to "+12" was to make sure they delivered maximum volume output into the receiver---I kinda slept better at night knowing each component was giving maxmimum effort and volume, so I keep them all at "+12"; anything less and I am REALLY unhappy with the power of this SR600...

    Now, with calibration levels, what exactly do those test tones which play back through the speakers when going through the receiver set up mean? As the sound moves from speaker to speaker, the "swooshing" sound comes from each channel, but I do not understand how you are supposed to judge what would be an acceptable volume level from them just on this process alone? I am asking, if someone didnt get an SPL disc, how do you calibrate through the receiver's test noise? How is this determined? I know my co worker friend sets his systems up at "+6" on mains and surrounds, and bumps center up to "+8" for enhanced dialogue and it sounded fine through my system like this; but how are the test tones determined on their own what is an acceptable level? I was just curious how this works when calibrating with the receiver only...
     
  5. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    If you use the Receivers test tones you can go thru each channel starting with the left front and calibrate each speaker until it hits 75db on the spl meter. So for example turn the volume up to 82 and leave it there and go thru each channel and set the level until they all read 75db on the meter. For example mine read FL - 0, center -4, FR - +1, Rears are both -3 this sitting from the center(sweet spot).
    Any questions let us know.
     
  6. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Chad,

    Thanks...and nice homepage, I checked it out....good job!

    I was asking assuming I was NOT using the SPL disc; how can you simply take those test tones coming out of the receiver and calibrate? I set mine at "+6" because thats what I thought my co worker who originally assisted in setting my system up had them at, and he said they were "set right" for my listening area; how can you calibrate JUST with the test tones? Is there a way to know if you are at the right levels?
     
  7. BobAZ

    BobAZ Stunt Coordinator

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    Scott Adam - how can you simply take those test tones coming out of the receiver and calibrate?

     
  8. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    "Scott Adam - how can you simply take those test tones coming out of the receiver and calibrate?"

    I was reading the owners manual for the SR600 online, and it said that the user should go from speaker to speaker and "match" the volume -- BY EAR -- of each speaker's pink noise...like listen to the left channel and remember the tone, and then go to center and match, etc etc...it actually said that...
     
  9. BobAZ

    BobAZ Stunt Coordinator

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    Funny you should mention that...I saw the "by ear" reference after looking at the manual yesterday so I could reply to GioAngeles' post. Yes you can do that, but you really don't want to, especially when calibrating the subwoofer.
     
  10. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    But how IS that done by ear, speaker by speaker...what would I be listening FOR doing it just by ear?
     
  11. BobAZ

    BobAZ Stunt Coordinator

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    You are listening for the same sound pressure level, the same loudness, at the listening position from each speaker. But it is just a guessing game as you go through 5 speakers and a sub. There is no sure way you can remember what spkr 1 sounded like when you get to spkr 5. At best, it is an approximation. Don't settle for that.

    The only answer you will get from HTFer's is "If you want to do it right, go buy/steal/borrow an SPL meter and adjust each speaker to the same level". Then there will be no question.
     
  12. Jack_TN

    Jack_TN Stunt Coordinator

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    Scott,

    Most receiver manuals will say you can calibrate by ear -- play the test tone and as it moves through the speakers, adjust each speaker level so the tone sounds at the same volume from all the speakers. Everyone here, though, will tell you that this is very inaccurate and you need to use an SPL meter to be able to precisely match the speaker levels and get the best sound. But doing it by ear is probably better than not calibrating at all.

    Jack
     
  13. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Jack,

    Thank you for your reply and continued assistance...I understand its difficult if not damn near impossible to get each speaker to sound the same by ear in terms of pink noise...hence the reason I set all at "+6" except for center which I bumped up a bit; as I look into getting a calibration meter to assist, per everyone's suggestions, let me ask you this...assuming I try to "ear match" all speakers in the system with the receiver's test tones, how should I be doing this? Where should the volume be? Does this matter? In other words, how do I know if I should be boosting the pink noises into the positive ranges while listening, or toward the negative ranges? Do I begin at "0" all around for all speakers and raise or lower like that, listening to see if other speakers sound lower or louder than the one I begin on?
     
  14. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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  15. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank You. I shall take all this into advisement. This was most helpful.
     
  16. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Screenwriter

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    Many things factor into the levels for your particular setup. For example, I have RTi28's all the way around with a CSi30 center. The center channel's sensitivity is slightly higher than the other speakers, and hence must be turned down slightly to match the levels of the other speakers.

    Trust me -- a SPL meter will be one of the best purchases you'll ever make for your home theater, and will absolutely make your system sound more cohesive. What you want to do is set all channels to 0 and Intellivolume to 0. Then play the left speaker's tone and adjust the master volume until the SPL meter reads 75dB. The number shown on your master volume is now your reference level -- the level at which the soundtracks were meant to be played back at theatrically (though this is usually too loud for home playback). Reference level theoretically gives you 105dB maximum output from any given channel and 115dB maximum output from your subwoofer. Then, you move through each speaker's tone, adjust up or down to make every speaker play back at the same level as the others. This will get your system calibrated the same way that the sound engineer who mixed the movie had his system, which will recreate the intended presentation in your home.

    Also, having the same speakers doesn't necessarily mean my values will be the same as yours, as room reflections, frequency humps, acoustics, etc. will make your system differ from mine even if we're using the same exact equipment. To give you an example, my speaker settings are:
    Left: 0, Center: -2, Right: 2, Right Surround: 1, Center Surround: -4, Left Surround: 0, Subwoofer: -3 (turned down intentionally because I'm EQ'ing for flat response before the signal hits my SVS).
    But these numbers are meaningless to you, because my room is different than yours. And in fact, any time I move furniture into the room or rearrange, those numbers change because of the way the sound interacts with the room and the objects in it. Without a SPL meter, there is no way I could get the speaker levels to match.

    About Intellivolume and running the channel levels higher: You're essentially doing nothing by doing that, other than changing the number on the receiver. What I mean is this... The maximum volume on the 600 is 99. If you turn Intellivolume to +10, the maximum will now be 89. If you don't believe me, try it. The same goes for the individual channel settings -- if you set a channel to +6, you're essentially reducing the maximum volume level's numerical indicator from 99 to 93. Does this make the system play any louder overall? NO, it merely lowers the number shown. And this is not what those functions are for. The channel level settings are for matching the level of each channel. In other words, if you're setting mains to +6 and center to +8, this is the same thing as setting mains to 0 and center to +2. Intellivolume is simply to adjust individual sources so that they're fairly equal in volume. For example, normal listening level for DVD is around 72 on my volume control but normal listening level for my digital cable is around 66. Adjusting Intellivolume for one source can make them sound roughly the same with the same number showing on the receiver.
     
  17. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank You For All Your Thoughts, Jeremy...

    I totally hear where you are coming from with all of this, and understand what you are saying about the levels simply making the receiver max out at a lower volume value the way I have it; I just could not stand the way the components sound when I had the IntelliVolume turned down to below maximum, which is "+12"; the effect was way too weak for me; it's like I had no gain until I got into the 70's on the volume display.

    Can you give me detailed instructions on how to use the SPL meter? First of all, is it a disc of some kind? Where is it inserted then? And what is the procedure once getting it? I am going to be turning the MASTER VOLUME up in correspondence with the SPL reading---NOT the speaker calibration levels?

    And I believe what you are saying regarding the IntelliVolume, that the overall maximum number for volume will be reduced if I crank the IntelliVolume up to "+12"; but I dont know how to tell how much discrepancy there is between each component plugged into my SR600; in other words, I cant really tell how different the DVDs sound from the CDs because I have each component set at maximum "+12" IntelliVolume, my reasoning being this way I can get maximum volume from each piece of audio equipment; how do you judge the IntelliVolume values then? Do I keep, say, the DVD player on a certain volume, and then switch to CD and see if I like that volume at that number on the display, and reduce/increase IntelliVolume? How is IntelliVolume set?
     
  18. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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  19. Rick_Brown

    Rick_Brown Second Unit

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    Scott, for Intellivolume I'd start with every component set to 0. Then compare, DVD, CD, VCR, TV, radio, cassette, phono - whatever you have. Rank them from loudest to quietest. Set Intellivolume for the middle one to 0, and then go into minus values for the loudest, and plus values for the quietest, seeking a balance between all.

    Interllivolume is there to help prevent huge differences in apparent volume when you change from one source to another.

    There is a danger, I think, that you could go into preamp overload by pumping everything up to +12. As other posters have told you, you gain nothing from this action, other than fooling yourself with numbers.
     
  20. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you Rick...what should I have the master volume set at while Im doing these comparos?
     

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