HTD Level 2 Speakers in a 5.1 configuration
Klipsh RW-12D Subwoofer, placed in a corner, 2 inches from the back wall 9 inches from the side wall (best sounding placement according to my ears after moving it around for an hour)
12x24 room, sitting short ways in the room
So, not ever being happy with how MCACC sets up my speakers automatically I started doing a lot of reading around on manually setting up my speakers, and in almost every article "reference" level is mentioned. Matching all the speakers at ~85DB at the desired listening position, how its hard to get speakers/subwoofer that will do this without distortion and have some headroom etc.
I picked myself up an SPL meter and start playing with speaker placement vs seating positions, adjusting to reference level via SPL meter, listeing and starting over till I got the sound I wanted, to feel completely enveloped by whatever was playing through my speakers.
Once I got my speakers where I wanted, my subwoofer setup to where it sounded best, I re-checked all my speakers one last time with an SPL meter, finding a balance between the left/right side of the love seat as I usually sit on the left, wife on the right.. and when shes not home I make myself a nice ass groove in the center
Setup the test tone, at 0DB, and started turning up the individual channel volumes until each speaker hit ~85DB in the general area I would like them too, meter pointed towards the celing inward at about 40* hit 85DB much easier than I was thinking it would I got to the subwoofer expecting to hit no where near 85DB cranked up, started at -20 on the sub and slowly turned it up on the reciever, not close to 85DB, ended up turning up the sub to -10 and was pretty close, turned up a couple of notches on my pioneer to +4 and now I was hitting around 92DB (I went above the 85 as people seem to say the radioshack meteres are a few DB's off) I was quite suprised, I was expecting if I even got here that my subwoofer would sound like it was dieing as so many people say it takes a lot for a sub to hit reference level.
So i play some test tones that start at 20HZ and work their way up, and i was getting between 86-104DB on my meter, move around the room and im getting the same reading pretty much everywhere in the listening area.
I throw in a few movies, with heavy bass and a lot of action, turn my system up to 0DB everything set to reference level (which is WAY to loud for my room) and I am impressed, nothing ever seems to break up, explosions punch on my sub, they don't sound muffled or garbled or crappy, everything sound crisp to me, My ears are bleeding, my house is rattling but its amazing, I feel like im in the middle of it all.
So my question is, is reference level that hard to hit these days? am I just randomly somehow lucky because iM in a small area and for whatever reason my completely stupid room layout works well? I mean I doubt it sounds as good as soome $10k + systems, but I was completely expecting it to sound like crap, lows breaking up, high killing everything, but they never did.. everything sounded great, transformers for example sounded just as it did when I went to Regal RPX (which was VERY LOUD when I went and saw it, probably the loudest movie I saw in theaters to this day, my wife couldent take it)
For a budget system, I was not expecting much, but I think this sounds fantastic and I was amazed it was hitting it.. Granted room size/layout plays a lot, so this setup in another room may not do what mine is doing as well as I belive it's doing it.