Setting 6-ch. levels isn't as easy as you think
A not-so-rhetorical question for us multichannel fans--just what do you use to set levels?
Why do I ask? A few weeks ago I auditioned a particular high-end preamp, comparing it with my Marantz AV9000 pre/pro that has been in my system for 5 years or so. I was concerned that it might be handicapping my entire system; turned out it wasn’t much, but I pursued the matter, apparently suffering from a flareup of upgraditis. I decided to simplify my system a little and bought an all-analog 6-channel preamp* that’s arriving tomorrow. It has no interchannel level-setting capability, so I’ll need to use the level- and distance-setting features of my DVD player, a Denon DVD 2900. After I bought the preamp, I read something somewhere that lead me to believe the 2900's level setting does NOT affect SACD output, only DVD-A and DVD-V (DTS and DD) output. Hmm...that is NOT good! I better find an SACD with reference levels on it. Oh boy...there are 2 that I and others can find–-the Telarc Tchaikovsky 1812 (#SACD-60541) and the DMP surround sampler (#20016SACD). After visiting 3 large retailers in the Phoenix area and NOT finding either, my friend found the Telarc at Best Buy. Now I have 3 discs to use to send 6-channel levels to my pre/pro**--The Telarc ‘1812' SACD, the Chesky Ultimate Surround Sampler & 5.1 Set-Up Disc DVD-A (#CHDVD221), and the DTS Technology Music Demonstration and Set-Up Disc (#DTS-CD 96091), PLUS the generator inside the 2900. BTW, I’m using a Phonic Personal Audio Assistant 2 set on C-weighting to sense these levels at the listening position.
To get to one point, I’m highly relieved that the 2900 does indeed adjust SACD levels as well as those of DVD-As and DVD-Vs. So this 6-channel preamp will work, yes? Problem solved, yes? Well, yes and no. Have you ever had to choose to believe ONE liar of many? That’s sort of where I am now. Fortunately, all 4 levels sources are virtually identical for the front 3 channels, but the surround channels aren’t so lucky. They’re about 4-1/2 dB different from lowest to highest, with the Chesky DVD-A having the lowest and the DTS disc having the highest. However the big issue is the LFE-channel level--they’re FOURTEEN dB different, with the DTS disc and the 2900 generator about equal and high, and the 2 hi-res discs about equal and low.
Anyone know why? Do these different coding systems use such different standards? Do I have something set incorrectly somewhere? (Believe me, I’ve looked.) HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
* an Audio Refinement Pre-5
** It's set on 6-channel bypass for all of this, and all levels are zerod and all distances are set on 10 feet.