Originally Posted by JHAz
DId you run the autosetup? If so, unless something went wrong, if you buy new amps and rerun autosetup the system should be exactly the same SPL at any given volume setting as before. If the Onk's amps cannot keep up, you'll hear distortion./harshness at higher volume settings. But if you set the volume control to zero (reference) it should be mighty loud.
I guess I'm wondering whether you're experiencing discombobulation because the volume control scales differently than an old fashioned volume control. So if you're setting it at -30 dB you are using 1/1000 of the power that would be needed for reference level, at -20 you're using 1/1000 of that power and at -10 you are using 1/10 of that power. I'd expect that system to be perfectly capable of playing dialog and routine sound of a movie at reference but if you're running out ofpower, you'd possibly notice it on the louder passages, which can be up to around 20 dB louder than dialog (per speaker).
Almost correct. Those decibel settings have nothing to do with "reference level." It's the gain of the preamp. The amp section will have a fixed gain which is added to this number to give you the system gain (for that "volume setting" and that particular input). Some gear may let you recalibrate the volume display so that you may attempt to calibrate it to reference level (which would vary given the input, speakers, room, listening distance, etc., and would thus need to be custom calibrated), but otherwise it has nothing to do with reference level. I am pretty sure most gear doesn't even let you do that, but I do believe some does. I am not 100% sure about that part because it is absolutely pointless and I would never bother with it, myself. I listen to the volume level that I find comfortable... I certainly don't care about some arbitrary volume level that some people want me to listen at.
You are correct about the relative levels, though. -30dB is indeed 1/1000 the power of 0dB, whether 0dB is calibrated to be approximately reference level or not. Decibels are easy to compare like that
(the great thing about them is that when you have multiple sources of gain, decibels just add and subtract to find system gain, no need for more complex multiplication or division like you have to use otherwise). The vast majority of people not only do not need an amp, but rarely use more than a few watts per channel. I'm sure a higher percentage of people on this site do listen louder, but still, the vast majority of us also do not need an amp. I personally use one because I have DIY speakers with an active crossover.Edited by DonoMan - 9/11/12 at 1:53pm