Achieving the non-fatiguing sound of movie theater in the home environment - AVS Forum
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Old 01-25-2011, 11:35 AM - Thread Starter
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It is amazing to me that the most minute settings of speaker-distances and levels determine how many times I will be saying "what?" to my conversation partner later that evening after watching a movie on my home theater. Example: One night I made an adjustment to subwoofer distance by 6 inches, (6 inches!) and the following week a lot of that bass pressure was alleviated, and I suddenly could hear conversations around me much easier. It has been this way for years for issues related only to my HT. There is nothing wrong with my ears, it is just that they are susceptible to distortion, whether it's time-delay problems or unbalanced sound.

For years I have struggled with finding a setup which yields that smooth and balanced sound which does not create pressure and ringing in the ears. I've made enormous positive strides but I still have not made it there 100%. Last night I attended an IMAX 3D presentation of Green Hornet, and for 2 hours my ears were inundated with as powerful a sound in an auditorium that I've ever heard. Afterwards, like any other time, I'll walk out with my ears no different from before, and very much unaffected. Why can't I ever walk out of even an hour of listening to my system at home unscathed?

Audyssey MultiEQ has been the biggest help in making theater sound bearable in a small living room. Before this, if i had the wrong speakers, or an incorrect setting, my ears would be pained even from short intervals of only moderate SPLs, as bright or detailed speakers playing unbalanced sound are more a burden than a pleasure.

I have come a long way with sound in 10 years. I live in an apartment, and can still play reasonably loud levels using Dynamic EQ without a single complaint. I can tell my sound response is much flatter than before. My subwoofer is smooth and controlled to the point where the neighbor complaints about floor shaking is history. My sound is as close to theater as I've ever remembered it being. Still, as balanced as the sound is, I feel that occassional discomfort which I never have in a theater.

Audyssey is a staple, but it is also a bit of a crapshoot in terms of results. I have gotten results using identical mic-locations which range from bearable to unbearable in terms of clarity/brightness of sound. The one constant however is that any deviation from its settings throws off the balance of the soundfield, which always expedites ear-fatigue. This is true with subwoofer-distance as well, which is the hardest but also one of the most important settings to get correct. In the end, ears always tell me if something is off. In that respect, there is only one correct setting for subwoofer distance to your last set of measurements, and if it's not in harmony with other speakers than the sound suffers.

I'm beginning to think that certain rooms are borderline impossible to work with. As it is now I set my HT up down one length of an "L" shaped room. I always seem to have a problem with one frequency or the other, but I'd say now at the very least I'm at the best it's ever been.

Here are a list of things that seem to have positive effect in the past:
1. Running Audyssey correctly, with result that is clear and balanced sound.
2. Speakers moved at least 3 feet from wall (sub included).
3. Speakers toed-in to center spot, reduces sidewall reflection.
4. Making sure receiver speaker-distance and actual distance is identical.
5. reasonable quality of speaker - Energy C-series.

*Front speakers all at ear-level - surrounds angled down to listener. Have noticed that avoiding tweeter at ear level in past reduced ear fatigue in poor rooms to avoid direct sound at your ears, but this shouldn't be neccessary.

Speaker placement and Audyssey results seem to have the most effect on everything. Toeing in speakers seemed to produce a more bearable sound in a 12 x 20 foot room. Ideally I think only a slight toe-in is more ideal, but given the narrow room, this isn't as ideal here.

I do have minimal treatments/traps for area behind speakers, especially the corner with subwoofer. Still, I suspect that ceiling/wall reflections are creating some sort of distorted sound-wave that is bothersome to my ear in expediting a slight pressure and ringing. This does not happen in a movie theater which has even louder sound.

I'm thinking I should just keep experimenting with Audyssey until I get that perfect balance - if it is possible. Or, maybe I'm looking for something that is only obtainable with the perfect room, and/or more advanced equipment. My goal really is to maintain the great soundfield I have but eliminate any of the fatigue.

If any of you have experienced this same challenge, and can provide any unique solutions or advice as always I'm all ears no pun intended!
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Old 01-25-2011, 02:42 PM
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I will take a shot and say turn the volume down!

Sounds good!
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Old 01-25-2011, 03:54 PM
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Why can't I ever walk out of even an hour of listening to my system at home unscathed?

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5. reasonable quality of speaker - Energy C-series.

Sorry but if you are saying the Energy C-series are your speakers then its pretty simple. Its your speakers.

You have to realize that with HT/movies you need speaker designs that have higher dynamics, better directivity and enough sensitivity so that the amp does not need to produce more then 100Watts.

99% of all speakers talked about daily do not offer all of those.

High sensitivity Waveguide choices are the only way to eliminate the distortion created by speaker driver compression/amp clipping that exists in 99% of all HT experiences.

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Old 01-25-2011, 04:48 PM
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Start simple. Try absorbing the side wall first reflections. Can be just temporary with the cushions off your couch, for example. See what happens.

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Old 01-25-2011, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by penngray View Post

High sensitivity Waveguide choices are the only way to eliminate the distortion created by speaker driver compression/amp clipping that exists in 99% of all HT experiences.

I would love to see the evidence behind this.

Without knowing how loud people listen, I don't understand how you could make such a claim.
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Old 01-25-2011, 10:05 PM
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Actually, penngray is right. He doesn't need to know how loud, because the dynamics of HT sound will always require high output from the speaker, even at modest levels.

The energy C series is decent, but not exceptional. Harmonic distortion caused by amp pushing and driver pushing is going to fatigue quickly.
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Old 01-26-2011, 02:30 AM
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I think particular speakers will largely determine how fatiguing a certain system is. Some speakers are better than others on this.

However I totally agree how much of a difference setting up your system can make.

First I believe room placement should be for optimum audio performance first - then you plan your room setup/usage around that. Room placement has a much larger effect on audio quality than any amount of acoustic treatments will ever make.

And speaker distance settings in a 5.1 system is crucial for a balanced soundfield... but you don't have to stick to actual distances for what is best for your ear.

For example, I have my front L/R speaker distance in the receiver set 10 cm further away that what they actually are so I end up receiving their sound fractionally before the others. Considering they are the dominant speaker as far as the soundfield is concerned... it stands to reason that they should be dominant in the time domain as well. Set up this way I have found gives more focus/definition to vocals and particular instruments that are near the center of the soundstage. I find it less fatiguing than when distances are set by what the measuring tape says and the singer's voice seems to get separate out over a larger area instead of coming from one spot in space.
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Old 01-26-2011, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post

Actually, penngray is right. He doesn't need to know how loud, because the dynamics of HT sound will always require high output from the speaker, even at modest levels.

Ah yes, the it's right because he says it's right and as proof I'll just restate the claim argument. A big hit among critical thinkers everywhere.
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Old 01-26-2011, 10:26 AM
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Penngray's been on this kick for the last year or two. His advice nearly always assumes a user with a large, dedicated HT room who regularly plays their system at reference levels.

Mourning the disappearing usage of the -ly suffix. Words being cut-off before they've had a chance to fully form, left incomplete, with their shoelaces untied and their zippers undone. If I quote your post (or post in your thread) without comment, please check your zipper.
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Old 01-26-2011, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
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I think particular speakers will largely determine how fatiguing a certain system is. Some speakers are better than others on this.

However I totally agree how much of a difference setting up your system can make.

First I believe room placement should be for optimum audio performance first - then you plan your room setup/usage around that. Room placement has a much larger effect on audio quality than any amount of acoustic treatments will ever make.

This above has had the most impact. I re-state that Audyssey has as well - in that some of their results have produced a distorted sound that fatigues after 2 minutes, while others produce something which is far more natural and far less fatiguing. Again, it's amazing how mic-locations and simple settings determine how well I can hear in the days which follow.

Proper set-up and ear-fatigue have gone hand-in-hand in my case. Merely "turning down the volume" does not attack the correct cause of the symptom, and if it were the solution I wouldn't be posing this conversation.

I'm convinced this is largely a room issue. The sound I get now produces the least amount of fatigue in recent months, and also is very clear. But it still has effect and I want less of it. The Energy C-Series were purchased because of their "high-quality/entry-level and non-fatiguing" reviews... seems to be case in comparison with previous models I've owned. I briefly owned Onyx speakers whose sound almost eliminated the idea that a speaker was even there, but the enormous detail they produced were far too much for the room and my ears. Again, my HT area now is @ 12 x 22 feet so I'm dealing with a room that demands heavy attention to detail, and i've done a lot to work with it so far.
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Old 01-26-2011, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Napoleon D View Post

I do have minimal treatments/traps for area behind speakers, especially the corner with subwoofer. Still, I suspect that ceiling/wall reflections are creating some sort of distorted sound-wave that is bothersome to my ear

Exactly. Further, absorption behind your speakers does nothing to reduce the glare of echoes off the side walls and ceiling. Assuming your loudspeakers are not themselves harsh, absorption at the reflection points will help enormously.

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