Why do my surround speakers sound louder than my mains? Power? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 07-07-2014, 09:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Why do my surround speakers sound louder than my mains? Power?

Hello Everyone,

I recently upgraded from a Denon x2000 to a 4520CI, going from 90 WPC to 150 WPC. I've read that this WPC number is not always 100% accurate, but lets ignore that fact. My question might seem elementary to some, but assuming that I'm running 150 watts to all of my speakers in my surround, why do my surround speakers have apparent better bass response than my fronts?

Fronts: RTi A7 (300W max, 89 sensitivity)
Surrounds: FX-80RT (installed in custom built (by me) 1.2 cu/ft enclosure per polk cu/ft size recommendation, in ceiling, 110W max, 89 sensitivity)

When I play music on the "Multi Channel Stereo" function on the denon receiver, it always sounds like the surrounds are MUCH louder than the fronts, and have MUCH more bass, and tighter bass response. Is this just because I have more than enough power (150W on 110W max) for the surrounds, but I am short on power (150W vs the 300W max) for the A7s?

If this is the case, I have another question. If I were to get the 300W of power per channel for the A7s, I'm sure they might sound a little better (Emotiva XPA-2 or something). However, would this create a balance issue during movie (7.1) applications since now my front speakers are running 300 watts when my center and surrounds are running 150 watts? Or would this balance issue not be a problem because I'm at 300W/300W for the fronts and 150W/110W for the surrounds?

I've been trying to find the answer to my question everywhere, but I can't seem to find it. Hoping that someone here might be able to help!

Thanks! Ryan
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post #2 of 22 Old 07-07-2014, 10:17 PM
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Most obvious thing is that your speakers might have different sensitivity (perceived loudness per used watt) You need to calibrate your speakers to the same loudness. This means calibrating the gains and speaker "size" settings / bass managent right in the receiver. It has nothing to do with watts. Speakers dont actually have "watts".

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post #3 of 22 Old 07-07-2014, 10:32 PM
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Also double check, you may have the surrounds hooked up to the fronts speaker output.
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post #4 of 22 Old 07-07-2014, 10:46 PM
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Did you set up your system using Audyssey? Why do you use all ch stereo?

ps You have a misconception on how the wattage numbers work....

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post #5 of 22 Old 07-07-2014, 10:55 PM
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Did you have the same problem with the X2000? or did you change something else?

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post #6 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 08:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pviljaka View Post
Most obvious thing is that your speakers might have different sensitivity (perceived loudness per used watt) You need to calibrate your speakers to the same loudness. This means calibrating the gains and speaker "size" settings / bass managent right in the receiver. It has nothing to do with watts. Speakers dont actually have "watts".
This was my first thought as well, but both speakers actually have the same sensitivity (89 db). Also, I ran the Audyssey config on the receiver (XT32).

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Did you have the same problem with the X2000? or did you change something else?
I guess it was somewhat similar on the X2000, but it's weird that my surrounds seem to have so much more bass than my fronts now. My fronts sounded like they had more bass response on the x2000.

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Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post
Did you set up your system using Audyssey? Why do you use all ch stereo?

ps You have a misconception on how the wattage numbers work....
Yep, set up using audyssey (XT32). Just using all ch stereo because it sounds like I have better bass response when using my surrounds than just my fronts. I literally need to bump my volume up at least 10db on the control to get the fronts to reach the same volume that the surrounds had when I turn the receiver back to just "stereo" when listening to music

I'm still trying to understand the whole watts thing... What would the benefit be to running 300 watts to the fronts while running 150 watts to the rest of the speakers in a surround setup?

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Originally Posted by charmerci View Post
Also double check, you may have the surrounds hooked up to the fronts speaker output.
Everything works as it should for speakers in the correct outputs. Audyssey probably would've told me I was an idiot if it wasn't set up right. I did double check though too
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post #7 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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After reading more about Audyssey, I see that they recommend using a tripod. I didn't use a tripod, and I actually may have screwed up the process (resulting in the system calibrating for less bass than it should be from the fronts). Don't laugh, but I actually set the microphone on an empty box (shortcut). Thinking through this logically, I'm thinking that the box may have amplified the bass response (vibrations on the box, translating to vibrations in the mic), thus resulting in the system calibrating with reduced bass response. The effect may have been more pronounced from my fronts because they (should) produce more bass, therefore the surrounds may not have been as badly affected. Long story short, I think I probably need to recalibrate tonight after work. I'll post the results.

My other question still stands though - What would the benefit be to running 300 watts to the fronts while running 150 watts to the rest of the speakers in a surround setup? How does this actually play out considering my setup mentioned above?
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post #8 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Skidude04 View Post
What would the benefit be to running 300 watts to the fronts while running 150 watts to the rest of the speakers in a surround setup?
You'd have 3dB of additional headroom before distortion in the amp became a problem. But even though the speakers are rated 300w that's a thermal rating, where the voice coils melt. You'd never want to actually put 300w into them. Chances are the speakers themselves will distort pretty heavily with more than 150w input, so doubling the power will have little, if any, practical benefit.

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post #9 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post
You'd have 3dB of additional headroom before distortion in the amp became a problem. But even though the speakers are rated 300w that's a thermal rating, where the voice coils melt. You'd never want to actually put 300w into them. Chances are the speakers themselves will distort pretty heavily with more than 150w input, so doubling the power will have little, if any, practical benefit.
Thanks for this reply! So there wouldn't be sound level balance issues then with the 300W vs 150W when turned to the same volume level on the receiver?

So the quality of the sound wouldn't necessarily change much by connecting them to 300 WPC unless the amp itself were better? Would something like an Emotiva XPA-2 be noticeably better than the amp in the receiver?

If that question is better for the amp forums, I can ask it there, but I'm wondering if it's still related to speaker performance.

Thanks!
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post #10 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Skidude04 View Post
So there wouldn't be sound level balance issues then with the 300W vs 150W when turned to the same volume level on the receiver?
No, because you'll seldom exceed 50w, with 15-20w being what you're probably running on average. It's almost impossible to hear any difference between amps, unless one of them is just plain defective or it's being pushed to clipping. Many pundits think that they can hear a difference, but they also claim to hear the difference in wires, while claiming to be immune to placebo effect. Required viewing:

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post #11 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Skidude04 View Post
Hello Everyone,

I recently upgraded from a Denon x2000 to a 4520CI, going from 90 WPC to 150 WPC. I've read that this WPC number is not always 100% accurate, but lets ignore that fact. My question might seem elementary to some, but assuming that I'm running 150 watts to all of my speakers in my surround, why do my surround speakers have apparent better bass response than my fronts?

Fronts: RTi A7 (300W max, 89 sensitivity)
Surrounds: FX-80RT (installed in custom built (by me) 1.2 cu/ft enclosure per polk cu/ft size recommendation, in ceiling, 110W max, 89 sensitivity)

When I play music on the "Multi Channel Stereo" function on the denon receiver, it always sounds like the surrounds are MUCH louder than the fronts, and have MUCH more bass, and tighter bass response. Is this just because I have more than enough power (150W on 110W max) for the surrounds, but I am short on power (150W vs the 300W max) for the A7s?

If this is the case, I have another question. If I were to get the 300W of power per channel for the A7s, I'm sure they might sound a little better (Emotiva XPA-2 or something). However, would this create a balance issue during movie (7.1) applications since now my front speakers are running 300 watts when my center and surrounds are running 150 watts? Or would this balance issue not be a problem because I'm at 300W/300W for the fronts and 150W/110W for the surrounds?

I've been trying to find the answer to my question everywhere, but I can't seem to find it. Hoping that someone here might be able to help!

Thanks! Ryan
Perhaps the fronts are wired out of phase?
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post #12 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 02:29 PM
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Check to see if Dynamic eq is on, it will boost the surrounds compared to the fronts.
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post #13 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by primetimeguy View Post
Check to see if Dynamic eq is on, it will boost the surrounds compared to the fronts.
This is likely your culprit. I had the same problem with the surrounds in my system. They were significantly louder than the fronts and center. You need to adjust your "offset" which will lower the volume of your surrounds accordingly. Adjust it until they are equal to your fronts.

https://audyssey.zendesk.com/entries...eference-Level
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post #14 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 04:46 PM
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Sensitivity seems like the first obvious answer, but when I looked them up your mains are actually higher sensitivity (89 vs 88 according to Polk web site). The next most obvious answer is distance from the listening position - sound pressure levels drop quite quickly as distance increases - are your surrounds much closer? I suspect that they are. Stand an equal distance from both speakers - do they still sound louder?

The part I don't know about is running your automatic room EQ - I believe that this should set the channel trims so that all the speakers are the same volume at the primary listening position. Have you tried turning this off and setting the channel trims manually with an SPL meter or a $1 SPL app on your phone?

I also like 5 channel stereo mode when doing something besides critical listening - when sitting down and doing critical listening I go back to 2 channel mode. I just like the additional SPL / room filling sound you get with all 5 / 7 speakers going at the same time.

Maximum power is only needed when the input signal reaches its maximum, which is almost never and only for an instant - so called "crest factor" you can search AVS for the many posts mentioning this. Doubling the power will make a barely perceptible change in the volume level - it takes 10x the power to double the perceived volume. Additional power isn't going to change this - but an amp with higher input sensitivity would change things. If your AVR amp delivers 10 watts of power to your speaker with a 200mV input and an external amp delivers 50 watts to the speakers with the same input - the amp will make the speakers seem louder - even if the amp is "smaller" and has a lower maximum power output. Years ago I had an Onkyo AVR with 120w to the fronts and 40w to the rear - and yet the rear speakers were louder. I suspect the rear channels had a higher input sensitivity and / or the rear speakers were more sensitive - when all the speakers are only receiving less than 5 watts each (normal listening volume) it doesn't matter what the maximum power of the amplifier is.

But again, the channel trims should be adjusting for any different amp sensitivity (which you probably don't have with a modern "same power to every speaker" AVR) or different speaker sensitivity.

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post #15 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by mtn-tech View Post
Sensitivity seems like the first obvious answer, but when I looked them up your mains are actually higher sensitivity (89 vs 88 according to Polk web site). The next most obvious answer is distance from the listening position - sound pressure levels drop quite quickly as distance increases - are your surrounds much closer? I suspect that they are. Stand an equal distance from both speakers - do they still sound louder?

The part I don't know about is running your automatic room EQ - I believe that this should set the channel trims so that all the speakers are the same volume at the primary listening position. Have you tried turning this off and setting the channel trims manually with an SPL meter or a $1 SPL app on your phone?

I also like 5 channel stereo mode when doing something besides critical listening - when sitting down and doing critical listening I go back to 2 channel mode. I just like the additional SPL / room filling sound you get with all 5 / 7 speakers going at the same time.

Maximum power is only needed when the input signal reaches its maximum, which is almost never and only for an instant - so called "crest factor" you can search AVS for the many posts mentioning this. Doubling the power will make a barely perceptible change in the volume level - it takes 10x the power to double the perceived volume. Additional power isn't going to change this - but an amp with higher input sensitivity would change things. If your AVR amp delivers 10 watts of power to your speaker with a 200mV input and an external amp delivers 50 watts to the speakers with the same input - the amp will make the speakers seem louder - even if the amp is "smaller" and has a lower maximum power output. Years ago I had an Onkyo AVR with 120w to the fronts and 40w to the rear - and yet the rear speakers were louder. I suspect the rear channels had a higher input sensitivity and / or the rear speakers were more sensitive - when all the speakers are only receiving less than 5 watts each (normal listening volume) it doesn't matter what the maximum power of the amplifier is.

But again, the channel trims should be adjusting for any different amp sensitivity (which you probably don't have with a modern "same power to every speaker" AVR) or different speaker sensitivity.
If you click on the link I provided above, it explains what Audyssey does with the surrounds. They provide an adjustment in Dynamic EQ called "Reference Offset" that adjusts the volume of your surrounds based on how loud you want them. Apparently Audyssey boosts the volume of the surrounds specifically so that subtle surround content is more audible, but this has an effect on the volume of the surrounds if you play multi-channel music or like to use Pro-logic or DTS music modes. When using All-Channel Stereo, the surrounds will be obviously louder than the mains in this case.

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post #16 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 06:53 PM
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I'd certainly rerun Audyssey with what you said about your initial setup. Aside from the Audyssey offset level you might also check to see if your avr offers, as my Onkyo does, various adjustments (panorama, dimension, center width are available for Dolby IIx Music setting for example in mine).

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post #17 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 07:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mtn-tech View Post
Sensitivity seems like the first obvious answer, but when I looked them up your mains are actually higher sensitivity (89 vs 88 according to Polk web site). The next most obvious answer is distance from the listening position - sound pressure levels drop quite quickly as distance increases - are your surrounds much closer? I suspect that they are. Stand an equal distance from both speakers - do they still sound louder?

The part I don't know about is running your automatic room EQ - I believe that this should set the channel trims so that all the speakers are the same volume at the primary listening position. Have you tried turning this off and setting the channel trims manually with an SPL meter or a $1 SPL app on your phone?

I also like 5 channel stereo mode when doing something besides critical listening - when sitting down and doing critical listening I go back to 2 channel mode. I just like the additional SPL / room filling sound you get with all 5 / 7 speakers going at the same time.

Maximum power is only needed when the input signal reaches its maximum, which is almost never and only for an instant - so called "crest factor" you can search AVS for the many posts mentioning this. Doubling the power will make a barely perceptible change in the volume level - it takes 10x the power to double the perceived volume. Additional power isn't going to change this - but an amp with higher input sensitivity would change things. If your AVR amp delivers 10 watts of power to your speaker with a 200mV input and an external amp delivers 50 watts to the speakers with the same input - the amp will make the speakers seem louder - even if the amp is "smaller" and has a lower maximum power output. Years ago I had an Onkyo AVR with 120w to the fronts and 40w to the rear - and yet the rear speakers were louder. I suspect the rear channels had a higher input sensitivity and / or the rear speakers were more sensitive - when all the speakers are only receiving less than 5 watts each (normal listening volume) it doesn't matter what the maximum power of the amplifier is.

But again, the channel trims should be adjusting for any different amp sensitivity (which you probably don't have with a modern "same power to every speaker" AVR) or different speaker sensitivity.
This is an AWESOME response! I ended up just downloading a spl tester on my phone, and found that when running test tones, they are all averaging 80 db... so thats good! Auto room eq is doing its thing!

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If your AVR amp delivers 10 watts of power to your speaker with a 200mV input and an external amp delivers 50 watts to the speakers with the same input - the amp will make the speakers seem louder - even if the amp is "smaller" and has a lower maximum power output.
Regarding the input sensitivity thing, that kinda explains what I was wondering regarding this point. How can I find out if there is variance between these numbers? When looking at the specs for the 4520, I'm not sure what I'm looking for, and the same thing for the Emotiva-XPA2. My guess is that being a higher quality amp, the EXPA2 would probably have more(?) input sensitivity, therefore changing the dynamics slightly.. Probably also a big assumption. But again, if I were to calibrate for the room, I guess it would end up working out so that the levels were adjusted somehow, therefore changing the overall levels.. which gets me to what I posted below

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Originally Posted by NuSoardGraphite View Post
If you click on the link I provided above, it explains what Audyssey does with the surrounds. They provide an adjustment in Dynamic EQ called "Reference Offset" that adjusts the volume of your surrounds based on how loud you want them. Apparently Audyssey boosts the volume of the surrounds specifically so that subtle surround content is more audible, but this has an effect on the volume of the surrounds if you play multi-channel music or like to use Pro-logic or DTS music modes. When using All-Channel Stereo, the surrounds will be obviously louder than the mains in this case.
This is definitely true. I actually tested it out by turning Dyn-EQ off while in Multi Channel Stereo mode and found that the levels of the surrounds dropped to an overall quieter level, similar to the fronts while in normal stereo mode. HOWEVER, is the dynamic EQ also doing something to my fronts while in MCStereo mode? When listening closer, it sounds like I have a bit more overall bass response from the fronts too while at lower volumes while in MCStereo mode, they still don't sound as relatively loud as the surrounds with DynEQ on, but they sound different than when in normal Stereo mode.

So here's my next question - while in stereo mode, is dynamic EQ less prevalent or disabled somehow? When measuring using my new handy dandy SPL meter on my phone, I get exactly 10db higher level with MCStereo on. When I turn MCStereo off and switch to Stereo, I need to turn the receiver up 10db to reach the same SPL level. As you can imagine, the bass response is lower in stereo than MCStereo.

Any more thoughts on this?

Btw, you guys are geniuses. Thanks again!
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post #18 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 07:10 PM - Thread Starter
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I'd certainly rerun Audyssey with what you said about your initial setup. Aside from the Audyssey offset level you might also check to see if your avr offers, as my Onkyo does, various adjustments (panorama, dimension, center width are available for Dolby IIx Music setting for example in mine).
I did re-run my setup using my super nice carbon fiber tripod that I was too lazy to get out for the first setup. I do notice a slight difference in tonal quality vs the previous run. I definitely now see that I might as well do it properly if I'm gonna do it..
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post #19 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 07:47 PM
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I did re-run my setup using my super nice carbon fiber tripod that I was too lazy to get out for the first setup. I do notice a slight difference in tonal quality vs the previous run. I definitely now see that I might as well do it properly if I'm gonna do it..
I assume you did all mic positions? Reviewed the Audyssey thread here? In thinking about your situation I dug into areas of my avr I haven't in ages....I think I'm more the set and forget guy rather than a constant tweaker these days....

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post #20 of 22 Old 07-08-2014, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NuSoardGraphite View Post
This is likely your culprit. I had the same problem with the surrounds in my system. They were significantly louder than the fronts and center. You need to adjust your "offset" which will lower the volume of your surrounds accordingly. Adjust it until they are equal to your fronts.

https://audyssey.zendesk.com/entries...eference-Level
I've had this same problem for quite a while.

Going into the Marantz 8001's setup menu, I adjusted the "offset" and now it sounds more balanced.

Thanks for posting.

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post #21 of 22 Old 07-09-2014, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Skidude04 View Post


This is definitely true. I actually tested it out by turning Dyn-EQ off while in Multi Channel Stereo mode and found that the levels of the surrounds dropped to an overall quieter level, similar to the fronts while in normal stereo mode. HOWEVER, is the dynamic EQ also doing something to my fronts while in MCStereo mode? When listening closer, it sounds like I have a bit more overall bass response from the fronts too while at lower volumes while in MCStereo mode, they still don't sound as relatively loud as the surrounds with DynEQ on, but they sound different than when in normal Stereo mode.
Yes, Audyssey and Dynamic EQ are always doing their thing. You can defeat Audyssey by entering a "Pure Direct" mode, which bypasses ALL processing that your AVR might be doing and drops the information directly from the source to your speakers not touching it at all.

What Dynamic EQ does is that it adjusts the volume level of your surrounds so that content played at lower than Reference Volume will still maintain it's Surround integrity. At higher volume levels, Dynamic EQ does nothing, or very little. The lower the volume you play content, the more Dynamic EQ kicks in to maintain your surround content. Dynamic EQ might do something with your main and center speakers, but not nearly as much as it does to your surrounds unless you activate your Dynamic Volume setting, which then compresses the dynamic range to even out the volume of the content you are watching (good to activate if you like watching content at lower volumes, but have trouble hearing the dialogue or get tired of TV commercials blasting you out of your armchair) then Dynamic EQ affects all of your speakers accordingly.

Quote:

So here's my next question - while in stereo mode, is dynamic EQ less prevalent or disabled somehow? When measuring using my new handy dandy SPL meter on my phone, I get exactly 10db higher level with MCStereo on. When I turn MCStereo off and switch to Stereo, I need to turn the receiver up 10db to reach the same SPL level. As you can imagine, the bass response is lower in stereo than MCStereo.

Any more thoughts on this?

Btw, you guys are geniuses. Thanks again!



yep, in Stereo mode, Dynamic EQ isn't doing as much as in surround mode, because Dynamic EQ mostly EQ's your surrounds to be more "dynamic" when played at lower volumes. That doesn't mean Dynamic EQ isn't doing anything to your mains. I'm sure it is, just not as much as it does to your surrounds.

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post #22 of 22 Old 07-09-2014, 03:51 PM
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Dynamic EQ increases the low frequency and high frequencies in all channels to compensate for listening below reference level. Ever notice at low volume levels using has no bass? That is what it is designed to fix. It also boosts surround volume level to maintain the surround envelope that is lost as the volume is turned down.

So it boosts bass, treble and surround level based on your volume setting.
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