Some "Room Filling" Audio Questions/Issues...

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Pat_TL, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. Pat_TL

    Pat_TL Stunt Coordinator

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    Forgive me if I do not have the correct place to begin this thread; if so, administrator please re route it to the correct area...

    I own an Onkyo TX-SR600 receiver which powers a Polk 5.1 speaker array, including a 10" powered sub (Polk); the source, amongst other units, is a Panasonic DVD-RA60 DVD audio/video deck. While calibrated to my liking, it seems whenever I watch Dolby Digital encoded DVD soundtracks, I need to crank my Onkyo up to at least "50" on the volume display to really begin getting "immersed" in the film I'm watching; some DVDs, if it doesnt carry that great of a soundtrack (like some "Dolby Surround" discs I own which decode to Pro Logic II) require me to crank the volume WAY beyond that number, and it just seems illogical to me that it would be necessary to do this because the receiver only goes up to a maximum of 99 or 100 I think on the display....50 is already "half way there" and as I said, sometimes I need to go into the 60s in order to get the soundtrack "really rocking"....with most DTS discs, I do not need to do this---50 seems plenty on the volume, ESPECIALLY if it is a soundtrack like Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, etc.

    Then, there is the issue of the sound "filling the room"...I am in a rather small listening area, in a studio apartment, and yet STILL when I crank certain films up, and when I have company over, either a friend or my girlfriend, and we are sitting on the couch (me in the sweet spot of course), it seems that I can easily conduct a conversation over the audio coming from my surround system, especially when just dialogue is coming from the center speaker. Is this normal? Sure, when bullets and explosions begin ripping from an aggressive soundtrack like Saving Private Ryan, its harder to talk over, but for the most part, with most soundtracks, it seems like it is easy to talk over the movie that is playing through my system...is this a normal issue with home theater? I already have my center channel cranked 3 dB's higher than all my other channels to compensate, but still, with dialogue, the sound doesnt seem to "fill the room" that aggressively unless I begin turning that Onkyo WAY up...do any other Onkyo owners experience the same thing? Is it okay to need to crank our receivers to get really room-shaking sound out of them --- even if we feel we are approaching maximum output from them?

    As I said, Dolby Digital soundtracks usually begin to heat up around "50" on the volume display of my TX-SR600; below this, unless its late at night, the DVD soundtrack doesnt have a bone-crunching impact --- especially with dialogue. DTS soundtracks dont usually require that much volume power, but recently, I noticed on my Spider Man 2 Superbit DTS track that I needed to crank that soundtrack into the "40"'s on the display in order to get it to open up sufficiently.

    I should probably also mention that my Onkyo's "IntelliVolume" settings are up to "+10" across the board, so I know the input levels arent turned down which could have been causing the problem; I know it cannot be the IntelliVolumes.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    It doesn't sound like you have calibrated your speaker levels, and without equal levels coming from the speakers, your system is not operating at it's best.

    If you are talking about a Polk sub/satellite setup, that is likely another factor. Small satellites will never put up a big presentation. They will give you sound through the room, but to me it is never convincing. IMO, you need a decent speaker capable of at least 60Hz (lower is obviously better) to pull off an acceptable HT and music presentation.

    50% is no big deal on the receiver, and 50 out of 100 does not necessarilly mean 50% of it's capability, because the volume is not always linear.
     
  3. Pat_TL

    Pat_TL Stunt Coordinator

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    "It doesn't sound like you have calibrated your speaker levels, and without equal levels coming from the speakers, your system is not operating at it's best.

    If you are talking about a Polk sub/satellite setup, that is likely another factor. Small satellites will never put up a big presentation. They will give you sound through the room, but to me it is never convincing. IMO, you need a decent speaker capable of at least 60Hz (lower is obviously better) to pull off an acceptable HT and music presentation.

    50% is nothing on the receiver, and 50 out of 100 does not necessarilly mean 50% of it's capability, because the volume is not always linear."

    John,

    Thanks for the input. Yes, I do have a Polk satellite/sub setup; I was under the impression, after I dumped a two channel floor standing JBL tower system for this 5.1 setup, that these satellites would be all I needed for good HT.

    Interesting what you say about the "50" register on my display; I have heard this theory before, that with these digital receivers today, there is no such thing as really "halfway up"; I was told before to just set the volume at what I think is satisfactory and ignore the number on the screen. Do you really believe 50% is "nothing" for a receiver to dish out?

    Also, what about my other question, regarding being able to talk over dialogue in a film when you have company over...is this normal? Even when dialogue should be firing with some power from a center channel speaker during a 5.1 presentation, does it seem normal to be able to carry a conversation with someone else on your couch while a soundtrack plays in your HT? Even sometimes over some heavy action scenes in films?
     
  4. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    If you were running at 90%, I would be concerned, but 50% should be no sweat for that receiver. I recently installed a 601 and felt it had plenty of power even in a fairly large room ~15x18.

    You should be able to carry on a conversation, but I would expect during a big action scene you would not be able to do it easily without turning it down.

    The problem with small satellites is that they just don't move enough air and lack sufficient lower midrange to give what I would call a good presentation. The main thing is the front 3 speakers, since that is where the majority of the sound comes from. Surrounds can be average and smaller, but a larger bookshelf or bi/dipole will still sound better than a tiny satellite. I use a bookshelf/sub setup in a large room (~19x20 w/high vaulted ceiling) and it is definitely capable of filling the room.
     
  5. Pat_TL

    Pat_TL Stunt Coordinator

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    John,

    Thanks a million for your input; perhaps I was not clear in my description of my speaker arrangement; my Polks are NOT tiny satellites; the fronts are large bookshelves on stands, toed in toward the sweet spot, there is an average-sized center channel, a 10" sub on the floor to the right of my right front speaker stand, and the surrounds are smaller versions of the Polks I am using as mains, also on stands, to the left and right of the couch, aiming toward the listeners' ears.
     
  6. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    The "50" on Onkyo receivers is not a percentage of power, it is a decibel rating (similar to the '-' dB's on Denon receivers, denoting dB's less thanfull power). Since dB's are logarithmic, 50 dB is nothing. My sister has an Onkyo and a volume setting of '50' is not that loud, about 35dB less than her reference of 85, which is pretty low.

    One important question that was not answered was John Garcia's inquiry about calibration. Have you calibrated your system using an SPL meter and test tones? If not, every speaker could be giving off a different volume level and turning up the master volume to hear dialog could very well be causing music and effects to blow you away. Calibration will remedy this. Often the simple answer to questions like "I can't hear dialog, it's too soft" is a simple calibration.
     
  7. Pat_TL

    Pat_TL Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Guys,

    I was also wondering if larger Polk bookshelves on stands as mains, and smaller bookshelves of the same Polk series for the surrounds, is "good enough" for a system; these are not TINY satellites as was thought; the two main bookshelves are not that small. They are are on stands, toed in toward the sweet spot.
     
  8. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    OK, so with those speakers, it may be something else in your setup. Check to see if you have a "night" mode or attenuation turned on somewhere in your receiver's setup menu, that could affect the system's overall levels as well (for digital sources).
     
  9. Pat_TL

    Pat_TL Stunt Coordinator

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    John,

    My Cinema EQ or whatever Onkyo calls it, is turned off, so no high frequencies are being cut...also, Digital Range Compression on the DVD player has been turned off.
     

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