Originally Posted by Foxbat121
Most ppl don't listen @ reference level. I'd be bleeding in my ears in that level. My movie listening level is at -20db. TVs are -25db. Most modern receivers have room corrections that also calibrates audio level at the listening position to remove the relevance of the efficiency of the speakers. So, when I listen to -20db, it will be -20db below reference level using the test tone. Of course efficiency of the speakers still matters to AMP so that it won't have to work as hard.
With our Audyssey XT, supposedly everything gets calibrated, based on the listening area microphone positions and full band frequency pings, so when setting the volume control to reference, the loudness (SPL) is set to the level the mixing engineers heard it, when they were carrying out the filmmakers' intentions. At least that's what several sources, including Chris K of Audyssey says (all bets are off with TV, since it is not standardized, at least by the time it reaches us). In most cases, that's what we want to hear, what the filmmakers intended.
Subjectively, it sounds about like what we hear in the better commercial cinema houses. Tellingly, in Star Trek into darkness
sounds just about like the SPL I'd expect from an orchestra in a concert hall from about the 10th row, or so. The dialog
is also quite plausible in level. It's just the special effects
that seem to be pushed up against the top of the permissible SPL range that cause concern. I agree with you that speaker efficiency still matters to the AMP, and I'm guessing that people with 60 to 200 w.p.c. receivers (unfortunately, often spec'd with only two channels straining the power supply) and speakers with the typical 90 dB/1w/1M sensitivity simply don't turn their volume up to near reference, because the regular distortion -- and even the sound of clipping (?) -- sounds too bad at that level, and that saves their bacon.
Originally Posted by astrallite
Same here, even sitting ~15 feet from my TV in my home theater setup I've never had to kick it up above -15 db during a movie. If you feel like you may have to, you may be losing your hearing. In that case the best case of action may be to turn on subtitles and to keep the volume down.
The reason we run most movies at reference is that we want to hear what the filmmakers intended, rather than feeling that we need that volume in order to hear the film articulated well enough (or even with the appropriate, if attenuated, emotional response). In most cases, with most movies, that works well for us, with very clean and pure sounding reproduction. Our hearing is fine. As to future damage, the usual highly transient peaks in most movies we run are thought to be less damaging than more or less steady level Rock at a lower SPL. Paul Klipsch used to say something like to reproduce the "blood stirring" levels of a live symphony orchestra from fairly close up you need "115 dB at your ears." I believe that, and I've seen even higher figures. Of course, these are the leading edges of very brief peaks.