Optimal center channel volume? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Optimal center channel volume?

Are there thoughts or theories about best center channel volumes in relationship to left and right volumes that provide a better soundstage or imaging from a LRC setup? I understand there are many variables in play here, but I THINK I remember reading somewhere that "ideally" the center should be a couple of db higher than the L/R. Thoughts and input appreciated.
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post #2 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 12:54 PM
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Optimal center channel volume?

The center increase a dB or two will make the dialogue easier to follow while not being enough to make draw too much focus from the rest. Which is why so many do it. Its practical and works very well for lower volume casual tv watching while still working great for high qualiy movie soundtracks on bluray.

Edit: P.S. I use a 1.5dB center increase over auto setup levels, it helps a lot.

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post #3 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 01:00 PM
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I set mine to where it sounds best with my room, my speakers and seating.
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post #4 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 01:21 PM
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I do not advise overriding the results of the auto mic test for optimal performance. If you turn up the center channel then obviously it becomes louder and easier to hear but how many people do you know who apply a proper test to see if the experience is any different in actual use compared to simply leaving the center properly calibrated and turning up the master volume knob instead by the same number of dB? None that I know of. Instead people apply an improper test and studies have found small, increased level changes are always perceived as "better" when in truth they are simply louder.

If you intentionally mis-calibrate and crank the center you will narrow the sound stage and the volume of TV commercials will seem artificially boosted, the music and effects in movies will seem suppressed, plus your system will fail this image location test [if it were in 5.1]:

Last edited by m. zillch; 09-13-2019 at 01:27 PM.
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post #5 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 01:32 PM
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Maybe someday in the future they will invent some sort of clever computerized system where rather than guessing what level to set all the speakers the system will have some sort of self-calibration device, capable of detecting far smaller level changes than the human ear, to set them as the content provider intend us to hear it, so there is no trial and error nor guesswork involved? . . . . OH wait, We have that now.
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post #6 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
I do not advise overriding the results of the auto mic test for optimal performance. If you turn up the center channel then obviously it becomes louder and easier to hear but how many people do you know who apply a proper test to see if the experience is any different in actual use compared to simply leaving the center properly calibrated and turning up the master volume knob instead by the same number of dB? None that I know of. Instead people apply an improper test and studies have found small, increased level changes are always perceived as "better" when in truth they are simply louder.



If you intentionally mis-calibrate and crank the center you will narrow the sound stage and the volume of TV commercials will seem artificially boosted, the music and effects in movies will seem suppressed, plus your system will fail this image location test [if it were in 5.1]:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N02Y7vaVDNo


One or two dB isnt much and the point is to hear voices easier without having to increase the master volume which also increases everything else and doesnt neccessarily make it easier to hear. (And can give you a headache)
Now those who increase 6dB or such do mess up the coherency of the soundfield a lot and should find other ways to clear things up (like positioning etc.)

Now if we could just get all mastering done without so many movies/programs with very hot centers or very hot effects things would be easier.


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post #7 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 01:56 PM
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If one's goal is to increase dialog intelligibility and it's "SNR" at the expense of movie sound quality then of course we should increase the channel the dialog comes out of, the center, and decrease all the others since they are "noise" and the dialog is the "signal". But when if F's up other things like sound stage image placement and TV commercial volume, don't come crying to me. This is also why this common forum advice to crank the center somewhat is not condoned by any official party like Dolby, DTS, SMPTE, ITU, etc.. . . .
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post #8 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:11 PM
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Seriously?
My goodness. What did "WE" do before calibration software?


Ron Popeil says, "set and forget it". It doesn't break any rules.



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post #9 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
Seriously?
My goodness. What did "WE" do before calibration software?
Answer: Wing it and mis-calibrate often by several dB.
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post #10 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonfromCB View Post
Are there thoughts or theories about best center channel volumes in relationship to left and right volumes that provide a better soundstage or imaging from a LRC setup? I understand there are many variables in play here, but I THINK I remember reading somewhere that "ideally" the center should be a couple of db higher than the L/R. Thoughts and input appreciated.
After the loudspeaker levels are calibrated I usually leave levels as is, but sometimes in films the center channel, surrounds, or sub level can be a bit too loud or soft, so I make small adjustments on the fly. I have the on-screen display shut off so others in the room are not aware of or distracted by my level changes. (Our Yamaha AVR has direct access to channel levels and I can read the AVR's front-panel readouts from my seat.) Conveniently, the temporary adjustments are erased when the AVR is shut off.

In short, I suggest calibrating first, then tweak as needed.

Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
Theater room: Panasonic 65S60 plasma television; Yamaha RX-A2020 (preamp section); Adcom GFA-5503 and GFA-5400 amplifiers; Polk LSi25, LSiC, and LSiF/X loudspeaker system; Velodyne FSR-18 servo-subwoofer.
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post #11 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Answer: Wing it and mis-calibrate often by several dB.
And so what?
Do what you like in your home.


If one desires to crank up the CC channel/speaker volume.... Enjoy!



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post #12 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Leeliemix View Post
One or two dB isnt much and the point is to hear voices easier without having to increase the master volume which also increases everything else and doesnt neccessarily make it easier to hear. (And can give you a headache)
Now those who increase 6dB or such do mess up the coherency of the soundfield a lot and should find other ways to clear things up (like positioning etc.)

Now if we could just get all mastering done without so many movies/programs with very hot centers or very hot effects things would be easier.


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There are a lot of AVRs that have a setting to bump up the vocal channel for low-level/night listening without having to tweak any of those settings.

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post #13 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Alex F. View Post
In short, I suggest calibrating first, then tweak as needed.
And... no one will knock on your door and take away your audio system if you don't follow the rules.



If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Albert Einstein
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post #14 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:50 PM
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post #15 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Ratman View Post
And... no one will knock on your door and take away your audio system if you don't follow the rules.
That is another reason why I have the on-screen display shut off when I make non-approved adjustments--no one else knows the seriousness of the crime being committed. I do not want witnesses.
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post #16 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:52 PM
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First and foremost: tweak to what sounds best to you. It's not wrong to like what you like...

however... the auto level calibrations (unless the mic wasn't set up right which is a whole subject on its own) are correct.

no tweaking should be needed to get a good soundstage and dialog intelligibility. IF you find after listening that you feel its needed and like the results, good on ya, you found what ya like. Yay!

If not though, you likely need some room treatments, speaker placement optimizations, or both.. If the "best" soundstage came from setting the levels differently "as a rule of thumb", then they'd have just programmed the calibration software that way to set it up for us...

Mastering is set up with playback at the levels you get when equalizing the levels, but if you prefer things differently for whatever reason, that's not incorrect, but a preference. Hopefully the takeaway is that there might be a reason for the preference that could be a room acoustic issue. Or it's just what ya like...

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post #17 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Alex F. View Post
That is another reason why I have the on-screen display shut off when I make non-approved adjustments--no one else knows the seriousness of the crime being committed. I do not want witnesses.
Never underestimate the power of the internet. They're watching! Be very, very careful.
If you make adjustments... NEVER talk about it on a forum!



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post #18 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 03:02 PM
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Never underestimate the power of the internet. They're watching! Be very, very careful.
If you make adjustments... NEVER talk about it on a forum!
Uh, oh!

What happens on AVS stays on AVS?
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post #19 of 19 Old 09-13-2019, 03:27 PM
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Depends.
Big nits or little nits. They're out there!



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