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Question Quiet centre channel after Sony DN1080 auto calibration

vexille

Standard Member
Hi there! I'd be very grateful to receive some AVForums wisdom. I've looked around for answers so hope I'm not duplicating other threads.

I invested in my first surround setup in December: Sony DN1080 and QA 3050i cinema pack. I've been excited to get a flavour of how much fun 5.1 can be, but also frustrated that dialogue seems to be rather quiet compared to the rest of the soundstage, so much so that when I turn it up enough for the dialogue to be clear the rest of the audio becomes almost deafening.

I've run the auto calibration a few times and I notice that it adjusts the centre channel down -3.0dB, even though all the front speakers are pretty much the same distance from the listening position. Does it sound like there's a problem with the auto calibration?

I assumed I wouldn't need to be setting levels for each channel manually but is that the solution. Should I be boosting up the centre? And if so, how do I know how much to do it by? I feel like I'm teetering on the cusp of a great AV experience.

Thanks for any advice.
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
You should really start by ensuring the centre speakers level is correct relative to the other speakers and as measured from your listening position. The Sony hasn't a relative volume scale so you'd be more concerned about ensuring the measured responses are equal as opposed to trying to attain a certain reading relative to the master volume the receiver is set to. I'd still suggest turning the volume up while outputting the receiver's test during the measurements though. You'll need an SPL meter with C weighting and a slow response setting option or you could use one of the SPL meter apps on an Android or iOS device? Mayb this one:
‎SPL Meter

If the levels are all okay then you should also be made aware that you'd ordinarilly experience some issues listening to quieter aspects of a soundtrack at lower master volume levels. This isn't a fault with the hardware and simply due to the soundtrack being mixed at a higher volume level. You'd not be getting the full dynamic range as heard by the person who mixed it unless listening at the same relative level. The reference level associated with film soundtracks is rather loud though and not really the kind of level most would want to use in a home. This means that dialogue can be harder to hear in comparison to loud effects portray at home. You could invoke a nightime listening mode to try compress the dynamic range and make quieter aspects more audible at lower listening levels?

The last option is to bump up the centre level a few decibels. This can help make quieter dialogue become more audible at lower listening levels, but can also result in the centre speaker standing out in some instances. Note that not only dialogue is portrayed via the centre speaker so pans across the front soundstage would also be effected by this adjustment. I'd ordinarilly not suggest boosting the centre level by more than 3db max.
 
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Deleted member 39241

Guest
It is fine to increase the level of the centre channel a little bit, to improve the clarity of the dialogue, and is fairly common practice.
 

ArcticWolf710

Active Member
Hi there! I'd be very grateful to receive some AVForums wisdom. I've looked around for answers so hope I'm not duplicating other threads.

I invested in my first surround setup in December: Sony DN1080 and QA 3050i cinema pack. I've been excited to get a flavour of how much fun 5.1 can be, but also frustrated that dialogue seems to be rather quiet compared to the rest of the soundstage, so much so that when I turn it up enough for the dialogue to be clear the rest of the audio becomes almost deafening.

I've run the auto calibration a few times and I notice that it adjusts the centre channel down -3.0dB, even though all the front speakers are pretty much the same distance from the listening position. Does it sound like there's a problem with the auto calibration?

I assumed I wouldn't need to be setting levels for each channel manually but is that the solution. Should I be boosting up the centre? And if so, how do I know how much to do it by? I feel like I'm teetering on the cusp of a great AV experience.

Thanks for any advice.

As always great info from the guys :).

As mentioned there is a specific dynamic range compressor on the 1080, you can find it in settings -> audio settings -> dynamic range compressor. Enable it & see how you get on. You could also try the sound ootimiser as well (it's in the same place) & see if that helps too.

I often have my center speaker increased by 0.5 to 1.0 Db but I don't need either of the above options with my 1080. Ultimately, creep the center level up by 0.5 Db at a time until you hit the sweet spot. As the guys have said though, don't go too high or it could end up being detrimental in other ways.
 

vexille

Standard Member
Thank you all very much for your advice. If I understand @dante01 correctly, he suggests I output the test tones from each speaker and then measure their volume an SPL app and then adjust them so that they all match each other? Which speaker should I use as the reference level as it were. I guess the front R and L as they're currently at 0.0 adjustment after calibration.

Is it the case that the autocalibration putting the centre channel down by -3.0dB doesn't sound that strange? As in, it doesn't sound faulty or anything? Given that it's essentially level with the Front R and L and is a smaller speaker.

Thanks also @Rambles. For now I've just boosted the centre back to 0.0dB. Does that sound drastic? I thought it might just be me, but my housemates have also complained. I think I probably need a quiet day at home to experiment. Can you change the levels which your watching or do you have to keep going back into the Setup menu?

@ArcticWolf710 I've just turned on Sound Optimiser (Normal) because I'd found it while browsing. How does that compare to the dynamic range compressor? Do they do the same thing? Which would you recommend?

Once again I'm very grateful for the help. I'm so excited to finally have surround sound and just getting a bit frustrated that I'm not getting the perfect experience yet. Richer Sounds implied it would all be tickety boo after autocalibration but I guess these things are sometimes more complicated. Thank you!
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
All that really matters is that each speaker's output measure the same SPL relative to the same master volume level as measured from the main listening position. Just ensure that the centre speaker's level isn't lower than that associated with the other speakers. It is unlikely that ths is the issue, but is worth checking.

Film soundtracks are mixed using a setup who's speakers are all calibrated to the same level relative to where the person mixing it is located. This is basically what an home AV setup tries to emulate. The only issue with this is the dynamic range associated with the soundtrack is greater during the mix because the setup's master volume will be set louder than most home users can portray content at. You will therefore not hear some of the quieter aspects of a soundtrack at lower listening levels and dialogue may become less audible because of this? You could increase the master volume to try account for this, but you'd then more than likely start to distub neighbours and or other members of your household? You could try compressing the dynamic range in order to make quieter aspects of a soundtrack more audible at lower listening levels? Here's how to go about this with your receiver:

STR-DN1080 | Help Guide | Compressing the dynamic range (Dynamic Range Compressor)

This is unfortunately only applicable to audio formatted as Dolby TrueHD. Sony don't include any provision to adjust the dynamic range in association with non TrueHD formatted audio. This is unusual for an AV manufacturer and other manufacturers incorporate dynamic and adaptive volume settings that come into play at lower listening levels.
 
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Deleted member 39241

Guest
Running the centre speaker 'hotter' than the other speakers by 3db is fine, and not that unusual. Let's call it a hack, and if it means that it is easier for you to hear the dialogue, then job done!

Personally compressing the dynamic range is the last thing I would want to do as that is what makes the audio fun and exciting. The loud bits and the quiet bits have been painstakingly engineered in there by the audio mixers to give us a good listening experience.

However, if you share a house, have neighbours or sleeping children, then I understand that having loud sections of a film suddenly playing, might not make you very popular.
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
Agree with Rambles - Audyssey also calibrated my Centre speaker as lower than my Front L&R (about -1.5 dB, I think), so I just boosted it back up to 0 dB to match them.

Auto calibration is incredibly convenient but it's not flawless; Audyssey also has a tendency to reduce the output of Subwoofers during calibration too. Again, I just boosted mine manually afterwards.

Dante's right about studio soundtrack mixing, but none of us live in studios! We live in reverberant rooms with hard floors and glass windows. Unless you've custom built a HC space, you'll always have sound compromises.

Personally, I use Audyssey as a base guide, but am happy to make any personal adjustments to suit my room and my hearing. I don't care about what's "right", just what's right for me! So you're not doing anything "wrong" if you make changes to suit you.:)
 

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