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post #1 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 03:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Surround Speaker Levels

I'm sure that you'll just say it's down to personal preference, but at what level should the back channels be when compared to the front channels ? I'm pretty happy with my center and left and right channels, but have the back channels set WAY softer than the front. Should the back channels be just as loud, slightly softer, or slightly louder than the front channels ? In video games, a character will be behind me and I can barely hear them. If I turn towards them, they sound just fine. My center channel is +10, the left and right are about +6 or +7 (I'm not near my setup at the moment)

If those are my fronts, what should I set the surrounds at ?
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post #2 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 03:57 PM
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What receiver are you using? It is probably recommended for trim levels of speakers to be negative, otherwise you might unnecessarily send signal into clipping if you turn everything up too loud. So general suggestion would be to turn center down to 0, left/right to -3 and the rest accordingly.
Room size and seating distance from fronts would be helpful to know too.

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post #3 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 04:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
I'm sure that you'll just say it's down to personal preference, but at what level should the back channels be when compared to the front channels ?


Should the back channels be just as loud, slightly softer, or slightly louder than the front channels ?

Typically, the back/rear/surround should not be the same level(s) as the front L/C/R. Not much "info" there with movies.
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post #4 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 04:28 PM - Thread Starter
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so what would the rears be set to ?
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post #5 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 04:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by donktard View Post
What receiver are you using? It is probably recommended for trim levels of speakers to be negative, otherwise you might unnecessarily send signal into clipping if you turn everything up too loud. So general suggestion would be to turn center down to 0, left/right to -3 and the rest accordingly.
Room size and seating distance from fronts would be helpful to know too.
It's a theater in a box type of receiver. Onkyo R391. It seems to be a pretty good one...well, for my tiny room. You say the center should be 0 and the left and right to minus 3 ? So with my current levels of the center speaker being +10, the left and right would be about +6 or +7 ? Because that's where they're at at the moment. Would the surrounds also be at the -3 level ? So, for my current levels, also +6 or +7 ?
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post #6 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
Typically, the back/rear/surround should not be the same level(s) as the front L/C/R. Not much "info" there with movies.
Why do people still think that? Or does occasional soundtrack put in rear channels doesn't count as "much info"?

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Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
so what would the rears be set to ?
Get some kind of surround demo disc...dolby atmos demo for example. Or THX calibration disc.
The manual (by ear) way to do it would be:
- find audio track with some sound that sweeps across all your speakers in circular motion. For example, on dolby demo disc there is a movie with a bird that flies around, and you hear it circling around you over speakers. Match volume of all speakers so the bird circling sounds enveloping and apropriate across all speakers. Ideally, you want to do it at your most common listening levels since typically surrounds sound best at reference levels and below that they sound quiet so they might need some boost.

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post #7 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
It's a theater in a box type of receiver. Onkyo R391. It seems to be a pretty good one...well, for my tiny room. You say the center should be 0 and the left and right to minus 3 ? So with my current levels of the center speaker being +10, the left and right would be about +6 or +7 ? Because that's where they're at at the moment. Would the surrounds also be at the -3 level ? So, for my current levels, also +6 or +7 ?


If all your speakers are at equal distance from seating position then ideally they should all be at same level. If some of them are closer, those should have apropriately lower level.

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post #8 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 05:00 PM
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You do exactly what it says in the manual on page 41*. Using the internal test tone generator, you set the levels of each channel up or down until the perceived level of the test tone (noise) at the main listening position is the same according to your ears; what number appears on the display for each speaker is immaterial unless you are pegged off scale [more than +12 dB or less than -12 dB] in which case you have a problem with the setup.


What values your neighbor happens to use is also immaterial because they don't have the exact same speaker layout, distances, and room acoustics that you do. It's also not uncommon that although you might, for example, seem confident your left and right speakers are exactly the same distance to the seated listening position that you actually need to feed them with slightly different levels in order to achieve the same perceived loudness.


* http://www.manualslib.com/manual/491...page=41#manual
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In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #9 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 05:16 PM
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Many if not most people advise using the internal test tone generator method I just outlined as a starting point, but then tweaking the sound to taste. They are wrong. If your goal is high fidelity, which means high truthfulness to the balance of sound you would have experienced in the movie theater originally, as intended by the artists who made the movie, then you do this calibration once and then leave it alone unless you reconfigure your room or move the speakers.


If your goal is instead to gimmick the sound and alter it to what you find most pleasing, then by all means, tweak away and set anything to whatever values suit you.
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In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #10 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 05:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donktard View Post
Why do people still think that? Or does occasional soundtrack put in rear channels doesn't count as "much info"?



Get some kind of surround demo disc...dolby atmos demo for example. Or THX calibration disc.
The manual (by ear) way to do it would be:
- find audio track with some sound that sweeps across all your speakers in circular motion. For example, on dolby demo disc there is a movie with a bird that flies around, and you hear it circling around you over speakers. Match volume of all speakers so the bird circling sounds enveloping and apropriate across all speakers. Ideally, you want to do it at your most common listening levels since typically surrounds sound best at reference levels and below that they sound quiet so they might need some boost.
maybe there's something like that on youtube. Probably....

But should the rear channels really be as loud as the front speakers ?
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post #11 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 05:48 PM - Thread Starter
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what is a good c weighted, slow SPL meter ? Something preferably in the 30 dollar range....
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post #12 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 05:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
maybe there's something like that on youtube. Probably....

But should the rear channels really be as loud as the front speakers ?
There isn't. Since there is only stereo content on youtube.

Just follow the advice of m. zillch

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post #13 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 06:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by donktard View Post
There isn't. Since there is only stereo content on youtube.

Just follow the advice of m. zillch
I would...but that's how I ended up with my currect speaker levels.....center channel +10, left +6, right +7, back left 0, back right -5......

guess I'm screwed. I don't have the money for a demo disc....
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post #14 of 41 Old 08-06-2016, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
I would...but that's how I ended up with my currect speaker levels.....center channel +10, left +6, right +7, back left 0, back right -5.........guess I'm screwed..

If I'm not mistaken, you've just quoted these levels as if there's a "problem" with them. Since none of these values are at the red-line, pegged off scale "+/- 12 dB" level, why exactly are you concerned? Did someone foolishly tell you there is some goal of making them all the same value? Or all 0 dB?


A demo disc would give you the same results.

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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The only correct way to set individual speaker levels in any system is to set them so that the same test signal in each individual channel produces the same acoustic level (SPL) at the listening position, similar to the instructions linked to in Post #8 (though better AVRs now automate the calibration process). The calibration process takes into account the speakers and their relative position to the LP. Individual channel trim levels will almost never be identical, and that's perfectly fine, in fact, necessary.

The actual sound level you get from the surround speakers during a movie is dependant on the choices made during production. They were made in a room calibrated in much the same way. It will not be the same movie to movie, and some may not use surround at all. Generally, 60-70% of the total energy in a surround system over the course of a movie comes from the center, with very little being contributed by the surround channels.

If you don't like the amount of surround sound in a particular movie, you have the option of changing it, but doing so will no longer represent the intent of the creators, and will also reduce the likelihood of having surround levels correct again without re-calibration.
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post #16 of 41 Old 08-07-2016, 06:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donktard View Post
Why do people still think that? .
Because it's true?


What I meant was even if ALL speakers were set to reference "volume" levels, many soundtracks do not utilize the rears/surrounds as aggressively as the front LCR channels. Therefore, the rears/surround are perceived to be not as loud.


IMHO, set them to a level that works best in your room and suits your tastes.

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post #17 of 41 Old 08-07-2016, 08:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
Because it's true?


What I meant was even if ALL speakers were set to reference "volume" levels, many soundtracks do not utilize the rears/surrounds as aggressively as the front LCR channels. Therefore, the rears/surround are perceived to be not as loud.


IMHO, set them to a level that works best in your room and suits your tastes.
Well, yeah...in the end you should still set your speakers as recommended by reference. If you decide to lower volume of surrounds compared to mains just because someone told you so, you will be seriously lacking. And I have heard many cases where rears dominate or complement fronts.
Again, its very situation wise (room, speaker/seat position, etc etc), one time auto-calibration decided to set trim levels of my rears higher then those of fronts...and everything sounded just as it was supposed to.

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post #18 of 41 Old 08-07-2016, 08:32 AM
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Well yeah, depending on the room size/layout, acoustics of the room, the processor, speakers, speaker placement, personal preference, etc.


It's possible (probable?) that the OP's HTiB doesn't have a sophisticated "auto-calibration" feature or access to the measuring tools to set to "reference".
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post #19 of 41 Old 08-08-2016, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
I would...but that's how I ended up with my currect speaker levels.....center channel +10, left +6, right +7, back left 0, back right -5......

guess I'm screwed. I don't have the money for a demo disc....
Do you have a smartphone? If so, just download an SPL meter app. Then, using your system's internal test tones (as m. zillch mentioned) and set the trim for all speakers so that each speaker produces approximately 75dB at your main listening position (MLP). These smartphone apps aren't the most accurate, but they work perfectly for setting the relative level for all speakers.

You will then be calibrated. After that, if sounds in games and movies don't seem to be loud enough (or too loud) in the surrounds, that was the intention of the game designers or movie sound mixers.
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post #20 of 41 Old 08-08-2016, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Alan P View Post
After that, if sounds in games and movies don't seem to be loud enough (or too loud) in the surrounds, that was the intention of the game designers or movie sound mixers.
And raise or lower the volume to your taste(s) if necessary
(The "surround police" won't remove your system if you try to swim upstream.)
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post #21 of 41 Old 08-08-2016, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Alan P View Post
Do you have a smartphone? If so, just download an SPL meter app. Then, using your system's internal test tones (as m. zillch mentioned) and set the trim for all speakers so that each speaker produces approximately 75dB at your main listening position (MLP). These smartphone apps aren't the most accurate, but they work perfectly for setting the relative level for all speakers.

You will then be calibrated. After that, if sounds in games and movies don't seem to be loud enough (or too loud) in the surrounds, that was the intention of the game designers or movie sound mixers.
There's an old iPhone that is several years old. I'll have to dig it up and see if an spl will work on it. Cat is sleeping on it at the moment, and i don't have the heart to move her.....
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post #22 of 41 Old 08-08-2016, 06:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan P View Post
Do you have a smartphone? If so, just download an SPL meter app. Then, using your system's internal test tones (as m. zillch mentioned) and set the trim for all speakers so that each speaker produces approximately 75dB at your main listening position (MLP). These smartphone apps aren't the most accurate, but they work perfectly for setting the relative level for all speakers.



You will then be calibrated. After that, if sounds in games and movies don't seem to be loud enough (or too loud) in the surrounds, that was the intention of the game designers or movie sound mixers.


Yes. Do exactly this.

In my experience, auto cal is usually pretty accurate, but there's always a little tweaking needed.


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post #23 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 11:26 AM
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(The "surround police" won't remove your system if you try to swim upstream.)
The better term would be "high fidelity police". People who aspire to accurately set the balance not to what's most pleasing to the ear but rather closest to what is most faithful to the balance one would have actually experienced from the original work of art, sitting in a real movie theater.

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #24 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 12:04 PM
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When I have a problem with the volume settings of rear/surround channels in a real movie theater, I'll complain to the management. But how would I know if that is the theater's fault or what was intended as "closest to what is most faithful to the balance one would have actually experienced from the original work of art"?


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post #25 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 12:35 PM
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When I have a problem with the volume settings of rear/surround channels in a real movie theater, I'll complain to the management.
They'll likely ignore your protests because nearly all use calibration themselves, not "what sounds best".


Quote:
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But how would I know if that is the theater's fault or what was intended as "closest to what is most faithful to the balance one would have actually experienced from the original work of art"?
Assuming you are in a calibrated commercial theater, and most are, then if you are sitting in the central, good seats you can safely assume the balance you are hearing is indeed what the artists who made the movie intended. Don't like it? Fine, then you don't like the movie.


See my signature for more.

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

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post #26 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 12:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
They'll likely ignore your protests because nearly all use calibration themselves, not "what sounds best".



Assuming you are in a calibrated commercial theater, and most are, then if you are sitting in the central, good seats you can safely assume the balance you are hearing is indeed what the artist who made the movie intended. Don't like it? Fine, then you don't like the movie.
So... if I can't sit in a "central, good seat", who do I complain to? The "artist" or the theater? How do I know it was the artist's intention, poor seating, or poor calibration by the theater? Also, I go to see and enjoy the artistic content and entertainment of the movie.


Just stay home and wait for the DVD and you always have a good seat.


Anyway.... IMHO, in a "HOME THEATER", set volume levels as you like or... what sounds best to YOU in YOUR home.
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post #27 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Spottedfeather View Post
I'm sure that you'll just say it's down to personal preference, but at what level should the back channels be when compared to the front channels ?
First as a Dolby pro audio dealer for 45 years, I have had the pleasure of learning from the best (including Ray Dolby himself). It is NOT up to personal preference but instead, it is up to a calibrated playback system according to standards developed since before you were born. Second, let's liken this to a blank canvas. There is a reason artists canvas' are white. If they were yellow, the final product would be off. Third, color bars help us set the visual side so that the program material looks its best. Test tones do the same for the audio playback. I will be the first to admit (as I have mixed TV shows, concerts, movies, and records) that *that* product *is* up to personal preferences but I expect it to sound best when played back on a known good system. You will do yourself a favor to buy a sound level meter (there are good ones for iPhone, not so sure about the Android platform) and use the receivers built in test tones for a level check. Most if not all newer systems self-calibrate (although they do the subs incorrectly--see <http://soundoctor.com/testcd/index.htm>) for a few lessons. With your level meter, one typically calibrates to 85dB.

A few BTWs: if you set a particular channel at +7, realize you are adding 7dB to that gain structure. You are also reducing the headroom of that (or those) channels by the same 7dB. With todays digital sources you may not have 7dB to give up. Note that once calibrated, you may soon realize that some mixes suck. That is not on you--thats on the idiot that mixed it. Finally, use <http://soundoctor.com/surround.htm> as a guide. I have no financial interest in that site, but I have known Barry for 45 years. He is one smart SOB. We attended many Dolby training sessions together. He knows his...business.
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post #28 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
Anyway.... IMHO, in a "HOME THEATER", set volume levels as you like or... what sounds best to YOU in YOUR home.
Ratman, as long as don't argue that what you do is an attempt at high fidelity to the source, I have no problem with you ignoring what calibration tones indicate and instead setting it to what you prefer.

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For the very first time in audio history, rudimentary yet quite reasonably accurate calibration means are now built into most medium to upper level AVRs. Hurray!

In A/V reproduction accuracy, there IS no concept of "accounting for personal taste/preference". As art consumers we don't "pick" the level of bass, nor the tint/brightness of a scene's sky, any more than we pick the ending of a novel or Mona Lisa's type of smile. "High fidelity" means "high truthfulness", faithful to the original artist's intent: an unmodified, neutral, accurate copy of the original master, ideally being exact and with no discernable alterations, aka "transparency".

Last edited by m. zillch; 08-09-2016 at 01:24 PM.
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post #29 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Klay View Post
First as a Dolby pro audio dealer for 45 years...........
Good post Klay!

You really should post more than once a year.
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post #30 of 41 Old 08-09-2016, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by donktard View Post
What receiver are you using? It is probably recommended for trim levels of speakers to be negative, otherwise you might unnecessarily send signal into clipping if you turn everything up too loud. So general suggestion would be to turn center down to 0, left/right to -3 and the rest accordingly.
Room size and seating distance from fronts would be helpful to know too.
distance to the left front speaker is, I think, 4 feet. distance to center is 5 feet or so. distance to front right speaker is about 5 feet. distance to back left is, I think, 3 feet. and distance to back right is, I think, 3 feet. I'm not at my setup to be able to make absolutely sure.

my room is a smallish bedroom. I'll try your turning level down suggestion later tonight. Hopefully turning it down that far will still allow me to balance the sound left and right, as I hear far more on my right side. That's why my level may seem so weird....
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