Adjusting the Volume to Match the Size of Your Room and Screen

We hear a lot about integrating subwoofers with our main speakers, or integrating a home theater into your living space, but an often-overlooked audio integration subject is integrating the size of your sound to match what you see on your screen. On reason why information regarding matching the size of your sound to your picture is so obscure is that it’s mostly subjective: You can’t objectively measure if the sound of the jet on your screen for example matches the size of the jet on your screen. Our brains are the only instrument that can do that for us.

In the real world, our senses and brains are wired to work together to translate what we see and hear. That doesn’t cease when we’re watching a movie. If the size of the sound is disconnected from the size or intensity of the picture on the screen, our brains are not going to allow us to suspend disbelief and get fully immersed in what we are experiencing – we know what we are seeing is not real, simply because the sensual inputs don’t match. That’s why epic action-adventure movies are kind of dull on a small screen with small speakers but come alive on a larger screen with sound that matches.

The same thing applies when listening to music without any video. There is an art to getting the musicians you are listening to at the “right size.” Imagine the size of the instrument making the sound you are hearing. Playing back at a cracking volume is fun, but are the sounds overwhelming the room? Imagine yourself in the room with the musicians as they play – are the sounds the same as they would be if the musicians were in the room with you? We often overlook that type of spatiality when we talk about volume. Dialing in the size of the sound to fit your room can really take the listening experience to another level.

The same thing applies when matching audio volume to what we are seeing on screen. A 65” television with a soundbar (or the built-in speakers!!!) is not going to give you the same experience as even a much smaller television with a properly integrated sound system. It’s all about getting the sound, the visuals, and the room to work together to allow us to dive into the experience. We need to lift the volume (and the way the room gets filled with sound) to match what our eyes are seeing. The goal is to give your eyes and ears a matched sensual experience.

The first step is to make sure your audio gear is robust enough to match your screen. It’s also critical to get the audio and video to match the size of the room you are in. Too small and the experience is dull, too big and the experience is overwhelming, although most people would rather have the audio and video too big rather than too small.

After all of that is taken care of, the actual matching of sight and sound is as easy as fiddling with the volume control on the remote. There is no deep arcane secret to any of this. In fact, 99% of us already do this without knowing exactly what we are doing. We adjust the volume to get the sound right without realizing what we are really doing is integrating the volume with the on-screen action. Once you start thinking of it in those terms your whole perception of home theater changes. If the sound is too loud it overwhelms the visuals, and if your audio system can’t produce enough Sound Pressure Level (SPL – just basically think ‘volume’) to match what are brains are pre-wired to expect, the experience is also dull.

The power of perfect audio video integration is right there on the remote control (Assuming all the pieces have been properly put in place!)

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