Originally Posted by RichB
I find the high frequencies annoying when played too loud in the Cinema which I attribute to distortion because, I am not sensitive to this at home at similar volume levels.
Cinema sound quality is a lottery. There are standards, but they use the wrong target curve and do not apply it consistently. I explain it in nauseating detail in Chapter 11 of the third edition of my book. Things should change, but there is huge inertia, money and some egos in the way.
As it stands, cinema sound is only for cinemas. Now that we watch movies at home it means that someone has to "repurpose" film sound for distribution to homes, etc. - anywhere that is not a cinema. It is not always done, or done well, as is evident when playing some movies in a truly good system at home. Sadly, music video concerts suffer greatly from inconsistent sound quality.
I participated in a combined SMPTE/AES event in Hollywood a few days ago where the emphasis was on the creation of programs not aimed at cinemas - Netflix was a participant, as was a Sony person substantially responsible for repurposing - mastering if you like - cinema soundtracks for home theaters. Dynamic range is reduced, dialogue levels modified to compensate for lower than reference playback, some mods of immersive "steering" for home systems, and so on.
My role at this event was to explain what the X-curve is, and how very different it is from practice in what I called "the rest of the audio world". It would be great if everybody aimed at the same sound quality target. BTW, subjectively highly-rated audio in both large and small venues is strongly associated with the delivery of a flattish, smooth, direct sound. The X-curve cannot do this. Complicating things is the fact that room curves are not reliable indicators of sound quality and they dominate existing calibrations.
As for cinema sound often appearing to be too bright, or having distortion, it totally depends on the cinema you attended. Many facilities have B-chain systems (loudspeakers, amps and room) that were optimum for analog soundtracks but they are stressed in the age of digital soundtracks and the expanded (upwards of course) dynamic range and average sound levels. So, distortion is a possibility, including amp clipping. In addition there is the "knee" in the X-curve at 2 kHz that I know I often hear as a highish frequency coloration.