Negative Volume

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by drobbins, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    I have a question about the volume numbering on my new receiver. It starts in the negative numbers (around -70) and then goes up. The receiver is a YAMAHA HTR-5740 and powers JBL speakers that came as a package deal from BB. I understand that numbering is a relative thing and they are only reference points. I once knew someone who had an 11 on his guitar volume and he thought it played louder than everyone else that went to 10. I was wondering, how high does it go? My experience with stereos is that some of them are powerful enough to blow their own speakers. I don’t want to do that with my new system. The volume that I am comfortable with during normal listening is around –20. I have turned it up to +1. I am concerned about my son getting crazy and doing the system in. I don’t want to find out what the limit is by going past it. Another question about balancing the system. What is the difference between turning up the front speakers and turning down the rear speakers? The result sounds the same.
    Dave
     
  2. EricRWem

    EricRWem Screenwriter

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    This leads to an even more obvious question that I may as well have the courage to ask.

    Why do they rate volume figures like that with "-" symbols insteead of "+"

    It's like Golf's scoring system. It makes no sense to me. [​IMG]
     
  3. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

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    Volume controls are actually attenuators. At 0, the amplifer is wide open and will give full power and maximum volume. Everything else it is attenuating the signal to make it quieter. Volume controls are usually represented in decibels. So at -10 the amp is lowering the volume by 10db.

    Everything has to be inreference to max power, because that is the only fixed point an amplifier knows.
     
  4. ChuckSolo

    ChuckSolo Screenwriter

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    11 on the volume dial? Does your friend play in a group called "Spinal Tap?"[​IMG] I agree with you Eric. It does get frustrating to see these symbols. It would make more sense just to use "+" from 0 to whatever. I guess it's like in math class when someone asked "Why does a negative number multiplied by a negative number result in a positive number?" The answer always was: "Because that's just the way it is."[​IMG]
     
  5. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Brian is exactly right.
    Furthermore, the potmeter is usually a logarithmic one, so using decibels make sense (and turning down 10 degrees from loudest will already accomplish something you can hear).
    There's a slight anomaly at the lowest position: the connection will touch ground there so it becomes -inf. actually.

    It's almost the same. In practice, you would only experience a difference at the max position of the main volume dial. Not something to worry about. [​IMG]


    Cees
     
  6. EricRWem

    EricRWem Screenwriter

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    Wow, thanks! GREAT explanation! [​IMG]
     
  7. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    As noted, your "friend" must be from spinal tap, as this in remarkably dumb.
     
  8. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    My speakers are rated at 100watts max and my receiver puts out 85 in surround mode and 130 in stereo mode, so my only worry should be in stereo mode then. Right?

    Brian you said:
    "Volume controls are actually attenuators. At 0, the amplifier is wide open and will give full power and maximum volume. Everything else it is attenuating the signal to make it quieter."

    That is what I originally thought. Then I was wondering, why, when I first powered it up, was the volume was set on "0"? I thought it would be strange for a company to want their component turned on at max power. The other question is if "0" is max power, What is "+1"? I did not have the guts to turn it up higher. The numbers are db.

    I read on another thread about CD and DVD volume levels that "0" is the max level that audio can be recorded at. Maybe the receiver can amplify it further.

    Chuck,
    I don't remember the name of their band, but they didn't have troubles keeping drummers alive.
    [​IMG]

    I would be happier if they just used 0 - 50 or something. I can't wait to try to explain it to the wife and kids. I am sure they will eventually learn to use it though.
    Thanks[​IMG]
     
  9. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    Nope. Its highly unlikely you'll push the receiver to that point and if you did you'd fry the speakers through clipping rather than overpowering them.

    Ignore the settings on the receiver and purchase yourself a SPL meter from Radio Shack and calibrate your speakers at 75db with the receiver at 0 on the volume. You'll probably find that when watching movies you'll never go above -10 on the dial unless your room is large.

    Kevin
     
  10. AaronMg

    AaronMg Stunt Coordinator

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    So what happens when you push the reciever past 0 (as I have gone as for as 5) ?
     
  11. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    calibrate your speakers to 75db (or 85db), yes, but put the receiver's volume setting wherever it's necessary to achieve that.

    "0" on the receiver's volume is essentially meaningless; that's the point of this whole thread, isn't it? [​IMG]

    the volume setting on the receiver that's necessary to achieve reference level is going to vary from room to room, receiver to receiver, speaker to speaker, and setup to setup.
     
  12. Rick_Brown

    Rick_Brown Second Unit

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    Some receivers, like my Integra 6.2, allow you to set a maximum level that the volume can be turned to. If you have a similar setting this can be used to prevent too high a level.
     
  13. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

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    Technically we are now talking about 2 slightly different things. When I said 0 was max power, I was making the assumption that it was as high as the volume would go. It made it easier to make my point without confusing things more.

    The 0 you are referring to is what is called Reference Level. It is the volume that has been determined as a standard reference point for recording and playback. At reference level you should acheive a SPL of 105db from the main speakers and 115db from the sub. Your receiver may go louder, but most manufacturers put 0 at reference so when I say I was listening at -5db and you say you are listening at -5db it should be the same volume.
     
  14. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    how can the same setting on a receiver produce the same SPLs in every user's home regardless of their speakers, their speakers' distance from their sweet spot, or the room dimensions? it can't. the "0" may have a meaning to the manufacturer, but you'll be hard-pressed to find what that meaning is. it's definitely not the same standard across manufacturers. it's not even the same standard between models within the any manufacturer's lines, for that matter.

    unless you have a receiver that allows you to reset the receiver's volume scale so that it reads "0" at YOUR UNIQUE REFERENCE LEVEL, then , for all practical purposes, the "0" setting on the receiver's master volume control is meaningless.
     
  15. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

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    When you calibrate your individual speaker levels with a SPL meter and test disc that is what you are doing.

    But I realize that every system is different, and not exact, so people's levels will vary. But that is the general idea.
     
  16. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    There's a few issues at hand with regard to what "0" means. Assuming you haven't made any adjustments to the channel volumes for each speaker then the zero implies that the volume control is set at a point that it is neither amplifying or attenuating the incoming signal from your source device. It would be the same thing as directly connecting your CD players interconnects to the amps inside your receiver. This is obviously going to be very loud so your receiver will give you the ability though its volume control to reduce this signal. It does so by reducing the voltage coming in from the source and displays to you how many decibels lower the volume will be relative to the full on state. Now most pre amplifiers these days can also amplify the incoming source signal which will make it even louder then a direct connection to your amps...in those cases it is displayed as a positive number.

    Now what confuses the issue is that when possible you should use an SPL meter and a calibration DVD like Avia Guide to HT or Digital Video Essentials to calibrate your system. When doing that ideally you should set your receivers volume to zero then adjust the gains on each channel until they read 85 or 75 dB depending on which DVD you're using. Once all the channels read say 85 dB at zero you can then watch DVD's at a known "reference" volume that will be identical (well close enough anyway)to everyone elses that has undergone the same calibration process.
     
  17. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    when calibrating, you should try to set one speaker's trim level (usually the front left) to 0.0 and then use the receiver's master volume level to set it TO WHATEVER SETTING is necessary to achieve reference volume from that speaker at the listening position. that's the setting, whatever it may be, on your receiver, with your speakers, at their distances, in your room, which produces reference volume at your listening spot. this setting required to achieve reference level will vary entirely from individual situation to individual situation. the other speakers' trim levels are then used to adjust them relative to the first, while leaving the receiver's master volume set to that setting (whatever it was) which produced reference volume in the first speaker.

    what you're suggesting is using the individual speaker trim levels to force the "0" readout on the receiver's master volume to be equal to reference volume at your listening position. you can do that, but that's not only incorrect, but will be impossible for some in certain situations, such as really large or small rooms and/or speaker distances. it's best to keep those individual speaker level trims as close to 0.0 as possible and use the receiver's master volume as a gross attenuator to achieve reference level when calibrating.

    again, "0" on the receiver's master volume means nothing in any real practical situation because everyone's speakers have different efficiencies, are setup at different distances from the listening spot and setup in different size rooms, with different floor coverings and furniture.
     
  18. Kevin. W

    Kevin. W Screenwriter

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    Then explain how you can make each speaker the same db level at any given setting on the receivers master volume. You can't! This is the whole reason that one sits with a SPL meter and either using pink noise or a dvd test pattern, adjusts each speakers trim so that at any given point on the master volume(I pick 0, actually my receiver(56TXi) picks it during calibration) when the same sound is sent through the speakers, each will produce the same db level. Otherwise your rear speakers would over power what your hearing from the fronts, and/or your front channels will sound unbalanced with one producing a louder sound than the other. As far as it being impossible, in some situations, I could only see it happening in large rooms, but then the problem is with the receiver not being able to power the speakers to reference level and the owner should look at adding an external amp or upgrading to a more powerful unit. As far as in a small room all it means is instead of picking 0 on the dial to calibrate the person may pick a value in the "-" region of the volume and adjust the trim levels to match all speakers. Now as an example my setup is in a 10x10 corner of my basement with a low ceiling(small room) and my 56TXi calibrates at "0" on the dial and adjust the trim levels to match all speakers. If one wants to keep trim levels as close to 0.0 as possible and use the receivers master volume as the gross attenuator then they would be better off calibrating their setup manually, and pick the value on the master volume that allows the trim levels to be as close to zero as possible.

    Kevin
     
  19. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    that's what i said. [​IMG]

    receivers, like yours, that autocalibrate actually DO reset the "0" point as reference level, as appropriate. but it's still a relative point on the volume scale. your receiver does the math for you. it doesn't force the "0" point to equal the reference volume by adjusting individual speaker levels. instead, it moves the "0" point.
     
  20. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    It looks like I am not the only one who doesn't understand this issue. I bought a calibrating DVD and SPL meter yesterday. I hope to get to it this weekend.
    Another question, If the surround sound uses the digital inputs, are there equalizers that use digital inputs? How are they connected?
    Thanks for all your input.
    Dave
     

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