Assoc. Editor @ AVS Forum
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
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As it is currently worded, the poll can only apply to one single listener, who happens to have an AVR that uses Audyssey and is perfectly calibrated, sitting in the prime LP... and then that person has to always set the volume knob to Zero, cross their fingers and hope the movie plays back at exactly the right level. What a funny way to watch a movie! It's easy to mock, but it's a caricature that doesn't apply to anyone who actually voted 1 in the poll.
In practice, when folks are having a 'movie night' at home, in a competent dedicated HT, their levels will end up (roughly) consistent with the range that would be considered 'reference' barring mitigating factors like nasty neighbors or sleeping kids. On a calibrated system, turning the volume up on a 'quiet' movie and turning the volume down on a 'loud' movie achieves the same final effect, getting the overall volume closer to reference.
For the car analogies, it's worth acknowledging that people who don't like to drive fast avoid fast cars... some avoid cars altogether. People who don't like reference-level surround sound tend to skip buying a reference-capable system all together... so what you've got - for the purpose of this discussion - are audio enthusiasts (and hypothetical car enthusiasts). People who know better than to think '0' on the dial represents much of anything beyond a reference point (not level) in practice.
On another note, 180mph on the road is not safe, while 85db at the LP is safe. A better example of risk/reward (as it relates to volume vs. speed) is whether a driver feels confident passing someone - or making an emergency maneuver - on the highway. "Passing power' = headroom - and the point of a 'reference capable' system is it makes cruising at 75mph so darned comfortable, while the economy car makes a 75mph feel unsafe... and then it's time to pull an emergency maneuver and the sports car doesn't even blink while the econobox struggles to avoid the semi rig that almost knocked it off the highway. Listening to 120+ db demos? That's taking the car to the track for speed runs - where the sports car is so in it's element, going fast feels good... unlike the economy car which literally might kill you if you even try to go 180 on the track.
The OP keeps saying 'trust me'... but I see no reason to do so. In the end, my answer to the OPs question is an emphatic 'no'. Measured, calibrated reference level in my system is not too loud for me - nor is it too loud for my guests.