Disarming Big Audio Dynamite Page 2

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It's Not Always Tarantino's Fault

Many THX Certified AVRs also allow you to make channel adjustments without knocking your system out of calibration, incorporating "Temporary Trim" rules for making on-the-fly tweaks to channel levels - meaning you can adjust the surround and subwoofer levels up and down using your remote. Here too, when the system is powered down, it resets to the original settings.

Blu-ray players themselves can help you out: Sony's, for instance, offer Dynamic Range Compression in the audio menu. You can go anywhere from minimal to maximum compression.

Pohlmann, meanwhile, points out that booming movie sound isn't always Quentin Tarantino's fault. "Intelligibility is greatly affected by ambient noise," says Pohlmann. "If you're watching a movie, and the dishwasher is on, and there's a fan blowing, and the kids are playing video games, you'll crank up the movie sound level to compensate. By lowering ambient room noise, you can more easily listen to softer playback levels."

This is a much easier solution than ham-fisted attempts at soundproofing. When it comes to apartment or condo setups, Pohlmann warns, "Treating a room with absorption materials like rugs, drapes, etc., will not significantly acoustically isolate a room. That's not a good solution." Instead, Pohlmann urges consumers to examine the layout of their pad and figure where they're least likely to have direct audio contact with their neighbors.

"Speakers attached to a common wall, or placed hard against them will more easily transmit sound to your neighbor," says Pohlmann. "Detaching or moving speakers away helps. To isolate a room from other rooms, the room ideally should have solid walls and doors and windows with airtight seals. Common air-paths such as AC ducts easily convey air, and hence sound, to other rooms, so distance is your friend. The farther away a source room, such as the home theater, is from a receiving room, like a bedroom, the better. Finally, isolating the subwoofer from the floor helps. Use rubber feet, a carpet or a pad as buffers."

According to Graham McKenna, a senior manager with THX, one challenge in reducing volume levels for neighbor-friendly viewing is that movie soundtracks are mixed specifically for playback in really large movie theaters with perfect acoustics. But THX is compensating for this problem.

"When you play 5.1 or 6.1 movies in your living room, at a more comfortable level, they just don't sound the same. What usually happens is the ambient effects drop below the hearing threshold, causing the sound image to collapse forward to the front and center of the room. To correct this, THX has created its Loudness Plus technology to help improve low-level listening. It automatically adjusts the front-to-back speaker level, frequency balance, and subwoofer intensity as the volume is lowered. This lets you experience the details of a movie and game soundtrack without driving your neighbors or wife crazy." (THX Loudness Plus is currently available on the new THX flagship Yamaha RX-Z11 AVR and the Pioneer SC-09TX AVR, and will, later this year, be incorporated into all THX Certified Onkyo AVRs and Pioneer AVRs.)

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