Dynamic EQ and Reference Level

What is Dynamic EQ and reference level?

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Movies are mixed in rooms calibrated for film reference.  To achieve the same reference level in a home theater system each speaker level must be adjusted so that –30 dBFS band-limited (500 Hz – 2000 Hz) pink noise produces 75 dB sound pressure level at the listening position.  A home theater system automatically calibrated by Audyssey MultEQ will play at reference level when the master volume control is set to the 0 dB position.  At that level you can hear the mix at the same level the mixers heard it.

    Audyssey Dynamic EQ is referenced to the standard film mix level.  It makes adjustments to maintain the reference response and surround envelopment when the volume is turned down from 0 dB.  However, film  reference level is not always used in music or other non-film content.  The Dynamic EQ Reference Level Offset provides three offsets from the film level reference (5 dB, 10 dB, and 15 dB) that can be  selected when the mix level of the content is not within the standard.

    0 dB (Film Ref): This is the default setting and should be used when listening to movies.

    15 dB: Select this setting for pop/rock music or other program material that is mixed at very high listening levels and has a compressed dynamic range.

    10 dB: Select this setting for jazz or other music that has a wider dynamic range.  This setting should also be selected for TV content as that is usually mixed at 10 dB below film reference.

    5 dB: Select this setting for content that has a very wide dynamic range, such as classical music.

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    Dathon

    I have the Onkyo TX-SR607 that only has 2EQ. It doesn't seem to have these options to adjust the offset. I find that modern jazz music still sounds okay with Audyssey turned on, but other music not so much. My receiver has two menu settings for Audyssey: (Dynamic EQ: On/Off, and Equalizer: Audyssey/Manual/Off).

     

    Is my only choice to turn off Dynamic EQ for music listening? Do I need to turn off both options listed above, whenever I want to listen to music?

     

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    In AVRs that don't have the Dynamic EQ Reference Level Offset feature, you can achieve the same thing by turning down the digital input trim for that source.  Onkyo calls it IntelliVolume.  Turn it down by 10 dB.  Then you can turn the master volume up by 10 dB to get back to the same listening level. Dynamic EQ will apply less compensation because it will see a higher source level.

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    mario abb

    Hi, I am trying to understand how Dynamic Eq works, in order to make a good use of it in my system.

    I dont understand how it happens that music which is typically mixed at higher listening levels should be reduced by 15bB in the processor and the TV should  be reduced by 10dB when it is mixed at lower listening levels as compared to film standard. I am a little confused and would love to understand.

    Thank you

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    The Dynamic EQ reference offset is not reducing the level of the content.  It is simply telling Dynamic EQ that the reference level is higher than that of film (by 5, 10, or 15 dB depending on the choice you make) and so Dynamic EQ applies less compensation than it would for film content.

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    Raanan

    Hi Chris,

     

    I'm using a Denon AVR-2310 which contacin Dynamic EQ (and Dynamic Volume as well),

    I have 2 questions:

     

    1. If I understand your explanation correctly, then theoretically when watching a movie at a lower volume then 0db, Dynamic EQ should always be ON, there is no reason to set is to OFF as according to your explanation the recording will sound more authentic with Dynamic EQ ON, is that true to say? also - if I raise the volume above 0bd, will Dynamic EQ still do anything or will it be automatically disabled?

    2. can you please provide the same clear explantion anout Dynamic Volum and it's purpose? is it a replacement for "Night mode" or it has some other purpose?

     

    Thanks,

    Raanan.

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    Chris Kyriakakis
    1.  Your understanding is correct.  Dynamic EQ should be left on.  It will preserve the octave-to-octave balance of the content as you turn down the volume to make up for the changes that happen in human hearing at lower listening levels.

    2. Dynamic Volume solves the problem of constantly changing levels in the content (soft dialog to loud explosions) or from content to content (TV show to commercial).  Unlike old "night mode" methods, it is not a simple limiter.  Limiters cause artifacts because they don't know how to react to content that is changing in level at different rates.  A slow approaching train that gets very loud needs to be treated differently from a sudden gun shot.  Dynamic Volume uses a look-ahead method to constantly estimate the perceived loudness of the content about to play and then makes adjustments so it doesn't get louder than the user wants to.  Also, unlike other methods, it is based around dialog level: you set the volume for the dialog level you want and then you don't have to worry about anything getting too loud or too soft.

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    Raanan

    thanks for the prompt response :)

    can you please clarify what happen with Dynamic EQ once I raise the volume to 0db or more?

    will it still try to touch the balance?

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Yes, Dynamic EQ will operate above 0 dB on the master volume to preserve the reference balance.

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    Raanan

    what about at exactly 0db?

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    It's not needed at 0 dB because you are already at reference level.

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    pradeep

    Hi Chris,

    I have read some literature and also hear people referring to SMPTE spec. which they say

    -20dBFS of pink noise should produce 85dBSPL for movies and 79dBSPL for television as being the standard.

    Is this information correct?

    But i read here (link http://ask.audyssey.com/entries/73283-dynamic-eq-and-reference-level )

    that -30dBFS band limited pink noise should produce 75 dBSPL for movies..

    Please enlighten :)

    regards,

    pradeep

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    Raanan

    Hi Chris,

     

    I have another question,

    I played quite a bit with MultiEQ and DynamicEQ recently and I reached to a conclusion that I would like a stronger dialog from my center (but not stronger special effects) and I would like less treble in general, so the best option I could find is to set MultiEQ to manual EQ and after copy the curves from flat to manual EQ I lowered the treble in all channels and increased the 500hz and 1khz in 2-3db in the center channel - I think that the overall sound is much better now, my problem is that when using MultiEQ set to Manual EQ, It looks like Dynamic EQ is off by default, after few tests I made, Dynamic EQ can be on only when MultiEQ is set to Audyssey (haven't checked with Flat and ignore L/R) - any idea why this is the case?

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    Frank Romeo

    Hi chris
    I've been told reference ( 0db ) is the way to watch movies but Ive also been told and read that it can damage your hearing. I have to admit at reference it's at a comfotable level don't get me wrong it's loud but a detailed loud no distortion.

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Hi Frank,

    Reference is the level at which movies are mixed.  Most people at home listen 10-20 dB down from there.  In the past, this would change how you perceive the balance of low and high frequencies in the mix because of human hearing differences at lower volumes.  But, Dynamic EQ addresses that so you can hear the proper balance at lower volumes.  It's highly unlikely that it will damage your hearing to listen at reference for a couple of hours per day (i.e. during a movie).  You listen at reference every time you go to the movie theater.

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    Frank Romeo

    Thanks Chris

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    Ronald van Dijk

    Hi Chris,

    How is this done for dvd music concerts and dvd-a discs? Is the reference for any 5.1 or 7.1 material 0dB? Or is there no definite reference for concert footage like there isn't for music cd's? And if not should I apply the same rule of thumb you described above, having a rock concert set to -15dB?

    Regards,

    Ronald

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Hi Ronald,

    There is no known reference for music content.  We find that most music content is right with the Dynamic EQ reference offset set to –10 dB.

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    Ronald van Dijk

    Thanks Chris! After quite some experimentation I came to the same conclusion that most of my music dvd's sound best at an offset of -10dB.

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    C F

    I'm confused on one point.  I quote:

    0 dB (Film Ref): This is the default setting...

    15 dB: ... material that is mixed at very high listening levels ...

    10 dB: ... content ... that is usually mixed at 10 dB below film reference.

    So 10 dB is for content mixed at 10dB *below* film reference, while 15dB is for content that it is mixed at a "very high listening level", presumably *above* film reference.  If I'm reading this right, perhaps they should be labeled "-10dB" and "+15dB".  Is it possible something got reversed when that guide was typed up?  I think my question is the same as what "mario abb" was trying to ask.  I understand everything posted here except this one place where it seems the sign is inconsistent.

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Hi CF,

    No, it's not a typo.  It's more complicated than just reference level... It also has to do with how much dynamic range compression is used in creating the content.  So, I would just treat the numbers as just labels.  The 15 dB offset is for highly compressed (in dynamic range) content that is mixed at high overall levels (e.g. hip hop music).

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    C F

    Hmm, thanks Chris.  Are these labels at least in a logical order?  In particular, if I am listening at a very low volume level, can I assume that 0db will have the strongest effect, and increasing db settings will have weaker and weaker effects?

    It's obvious that a difference between mixing and listening volume levels would require frequency equalization given the quirk of human hearing that volume changes cause non-uniform changes in perceived volume at different frequencies, but I don't know how to explain the fact that the dynamic range in the material affects the desired equalization.  Does this also have a simple explanation?  (If the answer is "no", I will just take your word for it.)

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Yes, they are in logical order.  As you go from 0 (default) offset to 15 dB you are telling Dynamic EQ to compensate less.  In other words you have to turn the volume down much more before it starts to make the adjustments.  The other explanation is not simple...

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    Reilly J. Parker

    Hello Chris, I have a Denon AVR-590 w/ Dynamic EQ and Dynamic volume. I've been watching TV shows from a flash drive plugged into my TV, and then streaming the audio through an optical cable out from my TV to the AVR optical-in. The sound is always "flat" and never has the slightest hint of "impact." I know I'd never get the kind of sound through matrix (DTS neo: 6) supposed to DTS Master Audio; however, when I stream normally through my blu-ray player (netflix), connected to my AVR-590 via HDMI, I set the Dynamic EQ reference level to 10, and the Dynamic volume to Day. With these settings I still get a pretty good impact while maintaining volume when there's talking. But using the optical cable seems to "flatten" the sound. What settings for Dynamic EQ + Dynamic vol. would you recommend, + any other information you have would be great.

    Thanks

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    KVH

    Hello Chris,

    I have a denon 3311 with XT and wharfedale speakers.  I use a PS3 as source for movies.  I have adjusted the source level with +6db in order to match my cable box volume wich I adjusted with -3db.  I' m in the process of setting everything up and I ran Audyssey.  As I understand correctly, movies should be watched at 0db?  However when I turn up the receiver to 0db, it's way to loud!!  Do I have to adjust something? reference offset? Also audyssey corrected all the speaker levels with -3 up to -8db. Can this be correct? 

    Thank you in advance!

    Kind regards, 

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    @Reilly It's really hard to diagnose what is meant by "flat" and "no impact". That could very well be because of the data compression used in this flash drive.  Dynamic EQ is not meant to create enhancements to content that is not coming in properly.  The setting you have (Reference Level Offset of 10) is typical for TV content.  Dynamic Volume does something else: it is designed to reduce the difference between the loudest and softest parts of the content.  If you are not concerned about things getting too loud or too soft then you could try turning it off and just listening with Dynamic EQ on.

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    @KVH No, there is no rule that says that movies should be watched at 0 dB.  After you calibrate the speakers levels with MultEQ XT, if you set the volume control to 0 dB you will be listening at the same level as they did in the dubbing stage where the content was mixed.  That's the reason for the range of level settings you see: each speaker has to be turned down (or up) depending on the distance and the sensitivity of the speaker.  The purpose of level setting is to make them all play at the same level as each other.

    Now, since you have turned up the input source level to +6 dB, the actual reference level on the master volume will now be –6 dB when using your PS3 for movies.

    Reference level (0 dB on the volume control) is way too loud for most home listeners.  When you turn the volume down, Dynamic EQ will take over and make the needed adjustments so that you get the reference mix balance without having to listen so loud.

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    Frank Romeo

    Depends on how well the room is treated Chris.

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    Chris Kyriakakis

    Yes, good point.  I have seen many home theater rooms with way too much absorption... The thought that "more is better" doesn't apply here.  For a given room volume one can calculate the amount of absorption needed to bring it to the recommended standard.

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    Frank Romeo

    That is correct I have a friend who made his room completely dead.

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