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Test Tone or by ear? (1 Viewer)


May 22, 2002
Hi all,

I'm new to this site and will be asking you for advice soon on my new dedicated room, as soon as we move!, but for now a simple question I hope.

When I run the test tone setup and get all the channels even the films sound as though the rears are way to low. I always bump the levels up and get the films sounding right rather than the test tone levels, They are on +6 (out of 12) when my fronts are 0 and centre +2.

Does this mean I am ruining the setup.

Also when I move (we are looking for a new place now) I will have a dedicated room that's my only condition, I am sharing a converted garage with my kids toys at moment (ages 6 and 9), this is not good, I want to install bipole or dipole surrounds (whats the difference?) in a room (hopefully) 5m x 5m where should the speakers be on the walls in a 6.1 system with two centre backs. I understand they should be at the sides and on the rear but how high and how far apart.

My system so far is this:

Denon 3801 Amp
Pioneer DV-515 DVD
B&W 603 S2 fronts
B&W CC6 S2 centre

Shortly to be upgraded...
Mission 707 Rears (119 years old now!!)
Acoustic Energy Centre Rear (My old centre front)

For timber matching I'm thinking about upgrading to the B&W DS6 S2 x 4 for the rears and surround backs but should I think about aiming higher for future upgrades, The M&K Surround 55 get brill reviews in What Hi-Fi but will it ruin my setup being to good or different?

And lastly (honest) what is the best (Cheap!!) sound insulation, if I convert another garage I wouldn't mind putting some in.

Thanks for reading,

Bill Kane

Feb 5, 2001
David, welcome to HTF. You'll find it a fascinating space, and you'll find many more UK enthusiasts here.
May I suggest in the Basics Area board, going to Welcome to the HTF Please Read This First then A Primer for HT Newcomers to read Vince Maskeeper's A Quick Overview to HT Calibration.
Yes, nearly all modern receivers come with internal test tones, and, as you've discovered, it's dependent on your ears, which may be out of sorts one day or the other.
For a semblance of standards, we universally recommend buying a Radio Shack analog sound pressure level meter (sometimes only the twice-as-costly digital model is available)and the AVia or Video Essentials DVD test tone disc, which also provide very good video screen/tv calibrations.
Some listeners can pretty much peg the speakers levels by ear, others may be off 2-3 decibels. The subwoofer usually is the most variant (because louder sounds better). Using the SPL meter lets you know exactly that you are properly balanced and you'll be using the same "language" as others in talking about calibration.
As for the rears, yes, when one gets his new surround system, the rears seem weak at first ("where are the whizz-bangs?") In reality, up to 90 percent of DVD movie soundtrack is dialog from the centre/center speaker, with music tracks from the two mains. Rears carry ambient effects and often seem to be quiescent.
Subwoofers to me are the heart of DVD the .1 of 5.1 and an important unit to locate in the room and calibrate nearly equal to the output (dB) levels of the mains, or no more than 3-4dB "hotter."
I'll leave sub setting and sides/rears placement to another post. Dolby Labs website has a chapter on these placements HERE
Sound insulation batting is used when enclosing interior walls in HT rooms to shield the home theater from the rest of the house (kids sleeping upstairs, the neighbors, etc)
Timbre is most critical for the front stage (same manufacturer, same model line) and not so important for rears/sides.
hope this helps

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