Problem with Home Theater Volume

This is driving me absolutely nuts, and is getting worse with time.

In surround sound modes my system has a major lack in overall volume. Set at max, I mean max, the loudest passages in a movie hits 95db at most. The problem is getting worse and worse and I am at a loss.

I have tried different DVD players, different digital cables/inputs, different power conditioners, different ac circuit for the pre amp to be plugged into, different amp ac circuit, different power cords. The late night mode is not on, I have reset all the settings to factory defaults in case I goofed something up.

Any ideas? The amp is 200x7 only using 5 channels and the speakers sensitivity is 90.5db.

Curious as to which surround processor and amp you are using, and does your amp use a "steering" mode which divides
the power into the active channels? It could be that in surround modes, the available power to the five channels is reduced and therefore limiting your volume. Good luck!
No "sterring" that I know of. Basic level controls for each channel.

Simaudio Attraction processor
Simaudio Titan amp

Marty, i ran into the same problem when using a couple of previous Preamp / Processor's. Some of them simply do not have the required gain that we really need to make things stroke. This can be evidenced by looking at the output levels that Sound & Vision obtained when comparing the Anthem AVM-20, Aragon Stage One and Sunfire Theater Grand Mk III. While these are the specs for subwoofer output, one might logically assume that similar specs could be carried over to their full range outputs also.

The Aragon could only put out a MAXIMUM of 2.2 volts prior to clipping. While this is enough to drive most amps to full output, one would have to have the gain levels pretty much cranked and have a relatively strong input signal from the source to "make the system rock" in this case. If this sounds familiar to you, it was the same situation that i had been put in previously also. While the gain control on one unit that i had would read out up to a +10 mark for "full blast", i consistently found myself running the control at 0 or even +2 just to get reasonable volume out of the system. With the same discs, power amps and speakers being used, my current Pre / Pro allows me to keep the gain set at -25 or so. This results in volume levels that will literally shake the house during loud passages and / or have a lot of low frequency content.

In the same Sound & Vision review, the Anthem and Sunfire units were both capable of well in excess of 8+ volts of output prior to clipping. As such, both of these units have more than enough gain to drive any amp that you want to. There is enough amplification and headroom here to easily compensate for weakly recorded signals and / or sources that simply do not output sufficient signal to really "drive" the preamp hard enough to sustain high level output.

Given the fact that you have "matching" preamp / power amp, i would "assume" that the manufacturer took steps to make sure that they were compatible with each other. While you mention trying other DVD players, cables & inputs, etc..., exactly what inputs have you used ? You only mention digital inputs, which leads me to believe that you have not tried the analogue outputs from the DVD player into the analogue inputs of the Pre / Pro. While i can understand wanting to take advantage of the higher quality DAC's in the Pre / Pro, if you haven't already tried this, it might be worth a shot.

Just as a side note: Have you ever read the manual ? You might look for notes on if the unit has "input trim" adjustments for the digital circuits. Some units come set very low from the factory. They do this on purpose so that one would have a harder time overdriving the input of the Pre / Pro. If they did not do this and someone was using a very high output source with a strong recording, this would tend to clip the Pre / Pro, sound like hell and potentially do damage to it and possibly the amp / speakers also. As such, they adjust the controls conservatively and hope that an owner will either read the manual and / or experiment with the unit enough to make it work as they would like.

Have you ever contacted your dealer and / or Sim Audio about this problem ? Sean
To go along the same thought line as Sean, if you can, try setting all of your component's settings back to default factory settings and start over with your config. Maybe that would reset something you've modified but forgot.

If Sean's suggestions do not fix the problem, perhaps you should state more specifics i.e. room demensions LxWxH, room acoustics (dead or alive), speakers, etc..

It's odd that you say the sitution is getting worse and worse. Perhaps it's happening every time you try to make a correction.


Thanks for the input. The weird part is when I got the gear, I could easily over drive the speakers/myself. Things got very loud. Electronics don't usually degrade, which is the hard part. Watching the same movies, same room, same gear, using a spl meter to confirm I am not going nuts. The part in "Enemy at the Gate" where the bombs are falling on the factory, big explosions ect. the unit it maxed and the meter is maxing out at 95dbs. Really average volume. I should be able to shoot the speaker drivers across the room...

I wear manuals out, they really can be useful. More than once I have at a later date paged thru one and said, wish I had know that.

I have reset all the settings to factory defaults, using the manuals procedure. The Sim has very few settings, you would be surprised. The digital inputs do not, as far as I can tell, have looked specifically for this, input trim. The analog inputs do. I have not found that I have needed to use these. I also have the Simaudio Stellar cd/dvd player and use the analog outs for all 2ch listening.

Side note, boy 2ch can get addicting.

In two channel play back using analog pass thru I an not sure if things are right. The system gets louder, with the woofers in the mains seem to bottom out at around 105db. This is another topic, I thought the system should hit 120 but that is for another thread. Using the analog/digital inputs in "stereo" mode leads to the same basic results as analog pass thru.

The amp has no settings...on/off

I would like to eliminate all the possible errors on my end before sending the unit in. It could be the surround circuits are messed up. The worsening over time part really leads me to think I am doing something wrong. Electronics usually do not react in this fashion, but anything is possible. Voltage is stable, 120-121v. Dedicated lines, I have tried different lines, no difference.

I tested the voltage output(rca output) of the processor in analog pass thru with a "full weighted"(? test disc with the max output -0db 1kz sine wave) with the processor volume at -0 and the output was a touch over 8 volts. Should blow up any amp.

Just for reference the processor has a digital true logarithmic scale. -0db max.

The room is 16x24x8, average room. Speakers are Meadowlark Heron-i's for the front three. New rears are on order, currently 3.2 system. Inputs used are the BNC digital, coax rca digital(different dvd player), rca analog, optical for sat(tried from dvd, same), XLR to amp.

Any ideas are greatly appreciated. This just does not seem right, I guess the next step is to find out what's bad, the processor or the amp. Any ideas for controlled tests are appreciated. I have a old 2ch Denon 200x2 amp I was going to play with.


I think I might know aht could be happening. When I first set up my system, everything was fine and nice and loud. Once, when listening to my CD, I saw that the LED on my Pre/Pro said "OVERLOAD - Attenuating"

Basically what had happened is that it noticed the signal coming in was too high and it auto adjusted that input to a lower level and kept it there. Perhaps your system has attenuated the input too much and now you cannot get it to run at full power output.

Try to adjust the gain on your inputs and possibly on the output channels and see if you can turn them up. I know that I purposely did just the opposite at my friend's house when he borrowed some equipment so that his wife and kids wouldn't overdrive my amp and blow out my speakers. Full power wouldn't clip anything.

Are you finding all 5 channels are too low , or is it just certain channels like the rears for example. Is this just a digital isssue, ie only from the DVD player, How is the surround sound off of the TV feed.?
One interesting thing learned, with the rear speakers turned off the processor seems to cut the output for all channels by 5db's. I flip the settings and can hear a difference.

Reset all settings to factory defaults, with rears on(I physically do not have any hooked up), the opening battle in "Gladiator" maxes out at 100-105db's. The voltage output on the amp end is between 30-35volts. This is loud, just worries me that this is at the max volume settings, -0. A month before -10 was producing insane spl levels.

The unit does not have an automatic attenuating, the reset to defaults should clear this I would assume.

Thanks for the help.
From what it sounds like, the speakers are damaged. Do you have another pair of speakers to play around with ? With 35 volts hitting a woofer, the cone should be popping out of the basket.

I would also be concerned with the fact that your signal to the mains was changing if & when you engage the rears into service on the processor. Sounds like you may have multiple problems here.

As to trying to hit 120 dB's with 90 dB speakers and 200 wpc, good luck. Maybe if you're in a room the size of a walk in closet. Most speakers go into compression WAY, WAY below that point, especially if you are talking about average listening levels and not peak. Sean
I was looking at peak volume levels. All numbers listed were peaks.

Multiple problems are not fun to deal with. I do have a second set of speakers to play with, good old Cerwin Vegas...

Throw the Vega's in there and see where you go. While they are probably more efficient to begin with, this will give you some idea as to where the major problem exists. Sean
I threw in the vegas and the vegas play way louder. I don't know the sensitivity of the vega's or the impendence of the Heron-i's so it's hard to tell what is happening.

Sean's da' man!!!
While i'm not familiar with the Heron's, the fact that the Vega's will play as loud as you like tells me that the main culprit in this situation is your speakers. The fact that they used to play as loud as you like but no longer do so also points to your speakers, especially after verifying proper operation with the Vega's. My first step would be to contact their manufacturer and see what can be done.

I would also contact Sim Audio and inquire about the volume disparity when throwing the surrounds into the situation. I think that something is "funky" there too. Sean
Darryl- I missed you post. Currently the system is a 3.2 setup with the rears on order. All the channels act in this fashion. The center is 1-2db below the mains...The tv feed is basically the same, louder in 2ch playback with severe drop in surround modes.

I have the rears ordered from Meadowlark, Osprey's- 3 way floor tower type. When these come I should be able to compare and give Meadowlark clear reading from two different products.

Meadowlark wanted to know the output voltage under load, and now I have that info. Time to chat with them.

Thanks all
Hi - can't tell you what the problem might be with your system, but...

The THX standard for surround sound levels is: dialog 75dB and loudest sound 105dB. So if you're reading 100-105 dB at your viewing/listening position, your system may really be OK?

Using Terminator II Special Edition (re-mixed and remastered in THX), and using the recommended levels (at the viewing position), the loud passages will rock you out of your chair. Dolby and DTS levels are approximately the same as THX (I would have to go back to my references to find exact playback levels for each encoding system).

I have tested the 75/105 dB standard on all of my THX movies, and in fact, if you set the dialog at 75 dB - the loudest passage is right at the 104-105 dB level.