upgrade your surround for 35.00

For years now i have had surround sound in all its forms, pro logic.dolby digital,and dts.I always thought i could set up the sound levels using my ears[wrong].I went to radio shack and bought a sound level meter[35.00]and the improvement in sound is tremendous.Everything is tied together between the speakers and the sound is a lot more realistic and detailed. If you have not used a sound level meter in your home theater,your cheating your self.I just held the meter at ear level in the sweetspot and adjusted all the channels including the subs.Some of the posters here, probably are smart enough to own a sound level meter, but for the rest of us get one now.
I have always heard this, but with music and different movies, I am constantly adjusting the rear surrounds so they are not too over-powering. I sometimes have to adjust the center for the same reason. If movies are too forward, don't you adjust also? After all, all movies and five channel music is mixed differently. Please convince me.
While were here maybe its best to inform those who are unfimiliar with the SPL Meter (analog NOT the digital meter), how to use it. First, its best to also use a camera tripod (1/4 in for Radio Shack analog meter). Set the tripod at the listening position, ear level. Screw down the meter to the tripod. Start your test tone generator on your processor (reciever). Best to use in manual. Set the spl meter to C-weigh, Slow Responce. Set the dial to 75 or 80 (or what your manual recommends). Take notice that there is a + and - for the settings. Now balance out all the channels one at a time. Best to perform this with no outside noise, the meter will pick up any other external noise. PS; don't forget to turn the meter off when your finished. Also this can be performed with a test disc and for 2 channel stereo.
Which is better, the analog or the digital meter???
NO NO DO NOT USE THE DIGITAL METER only use the analog meter C-weigh -- Slow responce.
Thanks Mike,
I was given an analogue meter and exchanged it for a digital one, assuming it was the better model. I haven't used it yet and will now excange it again, whew! Do you know why the analogue meter is superior?
I have owned and used the Radioshack SPL meter (Digital) for aproximately 1 1/2 years now and wouldnt trade it back for my original analog one. I only calibrate my system with my "AVIA" set-up disc or my "Ultimate DVD Platinum" set-up disc. These discs both have sustained test signals and not the "short test bursts" that my actual processor does so I can still get very accurate settings with a digital meter. I just sit in my actual listening spot with my meter in hand and take my actual readings where my head/ear levels are. I use my remote to adjust the individual channels (sub levels included). If I couldnt use sustained signals for testing then I probably would have stuck to my analog meter because it was very accurate. Another slight plus is that its just easier for me to read! I occasionally change my settings slightly for certain movies but not overly so. Some movies make excellent use of the full digital sound but most are lacking in one sense or the other,(ie; insufficient rear info, weak or too forward center channel dialogue, etc.). As far as meter settings go, Mikec in the above posts is correct. However I am always open to suggestions and if I found that my methods could be improved upon I would certainly give it a try! Later....
so, the digital meter is slower than the analogue readings , (If I understand Bigwood correctly)?
Or, is the analogue meter just more accurate?
Appreciate your help here everyone.
Bmpnyc, have always read not to use the digital meter. Have read that a more accurate calibration is achieved using the analog meter. The analog meter set to "C-weigh - slow responce" is slower than the digital meter and will be more accurate. I believe what Bigwood is saying is that using the test disc he mentions will work with the digital meter. The digital meter will not be accurate using the test tone generator on the AV/pre or receiver. Also its best not to just place the meter in your hand while calibrating. Sound waves will be bouncing off you and affecting the spl. I do find that using a test disc instead of the test tone generator on the AV/pre results in obtaining a better balance. Maybe someone with a better explaination can jump in and explain why its best to use an analog meter set to C-weigh - slow responce than to use the digital meter. Anyhow according to Bigwood you can use your digital meter with a test disc he describes. I used Video Essentials with the analog meter and never had to adjust. But i do recalibrate once a year or if i change cables, reposition the speakers etc. Using the meter is the only way to go for balance, but after all channels are the same level you can than fine tune to your taste by ear, say add a little more to the rears of compensate for some hearing loss etc. Hope this helps
Actually, were not too far out of agreement Mikec. I also re-calibrate my levels whenever I change cables, components, speaker placement, or whatever else may have affected my settings. What I meant in my previous post is that with my digital meter when the initial signal is generated. the meter takes a second or two to "settle in" (for lack of a better term) to the actual reading being observed. An analog meter will shoot the needle actually faster to the setting than my digital meter takes to proccess then display the result! This is why I only use sustained test tones, I can run each tone for minutes as opposed to the few seconds each that my processor outputs (it has no manual setting). I hope that clears up any confusion on my original post. As far as sound pressure levels bouncing off my body, thats a good point, but the way I look at it my body's going to be there every time I'm listening anyway! (joke intended!) Anyway, for the 35 bucks or so for these meters you cant really go wrong when compared to calibrating by ear! Later...
Our processor setup asks for speaker position and distance and size, etc. I thought that we had it licked by this set up. so, would we see better results if we used this? Are you still talking about the $35 meter? If so, it may be worth the experiment. any thoughts?
Angela, Yes to your question. Get the 35 Radio shack (analog spl meter) and a surround set-up test disc, follow the instructions in the previous post and have fun.
thanks, Mike! Sounds like a fun experiment.