Setting up a subwoofer

I have a James EMB-1200 with B&W 803s as my main speakers and an AVM-20 processor. When I set the subwoofer level using pink noise from the AVM, I must set the gain on the subwoofer to near max volume (the james has a 1200 amp) to get a consistent read on my Radio Shack SPL between the 803s and the sub.

When I play bass-intensive soundtracks like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, the bass is overwhelming and the subwoofer gets close to bottoming out.

My question, is there a more accurate way to set the subwoofer level, or is it that movies like Star Wars and LOTR are just over-the-top bass intensive?

It is difficult to set up a subwoofer using a Radio Shack sound level meter. The meter may be somewhat nonlinear at low frequencies, i.e., it may not be as sensitive, so you wind up setting the volume higher than it should be. Also, low frequencies have a habit of forming standing waves in rooms. If you position your meter in a null node, it will read a very low volume. If you position it in a wave maximum point, it will read a high volume.

You may choose to put it at your favored listening position, and you could find a node or a maximum. This would suggest relocating either your subwoofer to a position more appropriate for your room, or you might want to adjust your listening position.

I recommend starting out with some balanced musical material that includes bass and setting the level by ear. You can spend more money if you are still unhappy after that. There are elaborate and somewhat costly systems that address room tuning, from outfits like Rives and TacT and others. Good luck.
I totally agree w/Jameswei. I've had only limited success w/the Radio Shack and always revert to doing what my ears (nature's SPL meter and still the best) tell me is right. Bass perfection is impossible, but very good bass is not.
Appreciate your thoughts! I never gave it much thought that I might be measuring with the SPL in a null node. I only have 3 positions with which to place the sub. two are on the same plane as the main speakers. The third is on a wall perpendicular to the mains (about 10 feet away). I'll give this third spot a try.

Also, any thoughts on using Outlaw's ICBM outboard bass management system or Velodyne's SMS-1 bass EQ in facilitating subwoofer placement and integration?

I have enough experience setting up a sub and was doing it today. Use the Radio Shack analog meter and research the adjustments to each frequency. If you can't find them let me know, but there are many posts around that list them. I have had to move my sub and sitting position around to try to get a flat response. It is almost impossible to be flat across the spectrum. The ICBM will only help with the individual cross-over frequencies for each of your speakers. To tame the peaks, you have to add acoustical alterations to your room or an equalizer. Good luck!
go to their manual for the ufw-10 has the "exact" calculations for compensating frequencies with the radio shack spl meter. you might be able to download the manual or ask 'em for one.
Ha ha ha. That is pretty funny, Uncertainsmile. I like your response. I think that I could feel what you wrote. When I posted my answer, I knew that Rfjaudio had a pretty good sub, as he posted another thread regarding the calibration for his James EMB-1200. However, I posted my answer b/c he was asking for movie clips, not better sub. Phew. Good luck w/ your quest on both threads, Rfjaudio.
Sorry Uncertainsmile for the wrong post. I had multiple windows opened w/ a bottle of Heineken in my hand at 12AM. Thus, the rest is history. :> ) Now I'm sobber and reading the thread, I go, "huh?"
I have an old (but effective) Mirage BP400 sub and an Anthem AVM-2 and a RatShack SPL meter. The test tone for the sub out of the Anthem measures off the scale. I set the Anthem to cross at 80 and all else flat and tune the Mirage cross/volume by ear.

After all, are you gonna tell your friends "This bass is GREAT!!! Just look at my meter....

Play with the other placement for sure.

And I too, am intrigued by the Velodyne EQ system but I'm not gonna throw $800 at a $1000 sub.

And I'm glad Lej1447 is now "sobber".