Loudness Compensation and Yamaha YPAO Volume

YPAO – The Lost Manual

Since this guide was written many years ago, I have spent 100s of hours learning about and testing all the Room Correction solutions as a way to create my perfect dedicated Home Cinema. While I have achieved that goal – and then some, I want you to be able to do the same. If you have a Yamaha receiver, you need this guide! 

Get YPAO – The Lost Manual.

What is Loudness Compensation?

Human hearing is not as sensitive in the higher and lower frequency ranges as it is in the mid-range. What this means in practice is that when not listening to a recorded program – let it be music, movies or TV shows – at the volume the program was recorded at or intended to be played at, the treble and base seem to drop off quicker than the midrange as volume is decreased. This actually upsets the tonal characteristic of the program material – even though you may have a completely flat frequency response for your speakers.

Here you were thinking you had it all sorted once you applied EQ to your system, hey? Not so fast… Now you actually know why a flat frequency response for a system is only actually perceived flat if it is playing at the right volume… unless of course we apply loudness compensation.

I won’t go into the biological reasons for this or the estimations of how human hearing responds to changes in sound pressure. If you want to know more about the technical ins and outs of Loudness Compensation, do a search for any of the following terms on the Internet:

  • Fletcher-Munson equal loudness contours
  • Robinson-Dadson curves
  • Normal Equal-Loudness Level Contours, ISO 226:1987 and ISO 226:2003

Loudness compensation is not something new, it has been around in stereo systems for the last 30+ years. In fact, I have a loudness control on my 12-year-old stereo system in my car. However, auto-loudness compensation is relatively new in the field of Home Cinema – first introduced by Denon and Marantz and other receiver manufacturers about 8 years ago through the inclusion of Audyssey’s Dynamic Equaliser, which is still the most sophisticated to date. Since then, THX, Dolby and more recently Yamaha have come up with their own version of it.

When it comes to movies, reference level for all channels – except the subwoofer channel – is calibrated by adjusting the playback system such that a pink noise signal is played back at 75dB creates 75dB sound pressure level as measured with a C weighted SPL meter at the seating locations. Volume levels are adjusted for each channel individually until they reach 75dB. However, the test tone in the receiver is offset so that the end result is speakers calibrated to 85dB internally.

The premise is valid: when listening to movies below the reference level (85dB), the tonal characteristic of the movie is changed. However, since loudness compensation is not an exact science – human hearing is difficult to measure precisely – the different systems implement it slightly differently.

Yamaha YPAO Volume

I took some measurements with regards to Yamaha’s YPAO Volume to see how much loudness compensation is applied to the high (above 6.5Kz) and low end (between 20Hz and 400Hz). Results are below:

  • volume at -40dB :4dB added both high and low end
  • volume at -35dB: 3dB added both high and low end
  • volume at -30dB: 2dB added both high and low end
  • volume at -25dB: 1dB added both high and low end
  • volume at -20dB: 0dB added both high and low end
Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 11.40.05 AM.png

Since I didn’t have a unit that had YPAO volume at the time – Yamaha sent me a unit (RX- A3060) to test for this – I wanted to know if I could re-create the effect using simply the base and treble controls on my the current unit. Below are the results:

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 11.43.58 AM

As you can see from the graph, applying 4dB to both treble and bass at -40dB, the results very closely match the low end, but the high end is not as closely aligned between 3KHz and 8Khz. Let’s have a look at higher volume levels:

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 11.47.39 AM

At -30dB, adding 2dB to both the high and low end, the effect is decreased, but also the errors. Since I actually listen between -30dB and -25dB normally, I have added -1.5dB to both bass and treble permanently on my older a3020 equivalent receiver.

How does it sound in practice? I have to be honest, Yamaha’s new RX-A3060 sounds noticeably clearer than my RX-A3020, even when matching the loudness curve using bass and treble controls as closely as possible and setting them up the same. (Please note that for the graphs above, the subwoofer EQ was turned off and the Yamaha was left to its own devices when it came to EQ.)

Now was it due to YPAO Volume, which works really well when listening to both movies and music at lower volumes, or was it the difference in DACs, the new 64bit YPAO or other component changes between the units? It is hard to know, but likely a combination of all the above. In the same room, with the same speakers, the difference in clarity was noticeable.

YPAO – The Lost Manual

If you need independent advice, or you just want to have a chat about your setup, please see my availability here.

Configuring YPAO – The Right Way

Yamaha YPAO Volume

Yamaha YPAO and YPAO R.S.C.

Recreating the Cinema Experience: Yamaha’s Cinema DSP

41 thoughts on “Loudness Compensation and Yamaha YPAO Volume

Add yours

  1. What’s your thoughts on Yamaha’s Adaptive DRC {the one in the submenu along YPAO volume}? For music {maybe dependant on volume} I found it took away too much of the detail and reduced the volume too much, and I wouldn’t advise using it, personally {for movies, I’m undecided so far}. I’d say it was {with music} comparible to playing a TrueHD movie and setting the AVR’s Dynamic Range to “Standard”, as opposed to Auto/ Minimum & Maximum.

    For the record, at the movie volume I listen to {between -30 to -20} I actually find the Dynamic Range set to Auto/ Minimum doesn’t actually lack anything compared to Maximum. Maybe the closer to 0dB you listen to it does, but for volumes below that is what I find. I’ve tested this with The Dark Knight, which has some great scenes demonstrating the difference {where Joker crashes Batt’s party J: “You’ve got a lil’ fight in you, I like that!”… B: “Then you’re gonna love me”… BAM!. This one scene demonstrates the difference perfectly.

    With it set to Standard the impact is heavily lessened, whereas both Auto/ Minimum and Maximum both hit full-on. Truly night and day!

    1. I like to have Adaptive DRC on because I normally listen to the system around -28dB, however, if I listen to a movie with other people, I raise it to reference level at -20dB and at that point Adaptive DRC is still active for some reason and can introduce harshness / distortion into some effects. In that case, I just turn it off.

      I wouldn’t have it on for music. You are right, it robs the music of dynamism. For movies for night listening, it is perfect.

  2. Is your system calibrated to play at reference 85db when master volume is zero? Did you have adaptive DRC on when you took the measurements? If you did do you have measurements so we can see what YPAO Volume by itself is doing?

    I am trying to understand your measurement and why YPAO volume is doing nothing at -20. I would think it would make changes all the way up to film reference level which should be at master volume zero if properly calibrated. I have verified in my room with my 3060 that film reference is at zero on volume dial.

      1. Hi Roland I have rxa3080.

        After running ypao, I like to manually level match my speaker levels with a radio shack analog meter on c-weighted (slow). And my Subs on (fast).

        Question: at what volume do I set the receiver to, -20 -19 -18 or 0. I’ve also applied manual EQ to my settings so do I turn that
        ON or leave it OFF for this step?

        Question 2: what should My SPL meter read, -75db or -85db as I’m playing back the steady pink noise?

      2. Hi Max,

        Congrats on your 3080!

        You need to be aware of the following:
        1. The internal pink noise is likely not running through YPAO so it could be somewhat off
        2. Volume control doesn’t matter. Pink noise will default to 75dB (but will calibrate to 85dB internally)
        3. There’s not really any external test tone I can point you to that can do all Atmos speakers so you are stuck with internal pink noise for now, but you will need to check balance between left/right channel pairs afterwards by ear with EQ on in case it’s slightly off!

        I hope this helps.

    1. Ok, that is interesting re the 3060 setting yours at 0! That wasn’t my experience. If I turned it up to 0, the glass on my windows would break! 😉

  3. By the way, I verified that reference level is zero master volume in my room by checking with Avia test disk. I measure 85db on my front left/right speaker at volume setting of zero,

  4. I don’t see how YPAO volume could possibly work correctly if YPAO doesn’t at least try to get a consistent setting on the master volume dial for reference level. How would it know how much to adjust and where to stop adjusting if there is no consistency in SPL along the volume dial? Did you verify that -20 was reference level in your room when you had the 3060?

    Sorry for the multiple posts.

  5. After doing some research, I think I understand what is going on. YPAO always sets FL speaker to 0.0 and levels the other speakers to it. With all my Audyssey AVR fFL was always 0.0. I am using an external amp so that explains why YPAO would match Audyssey and reference would be zero for me.

    This makes me even more confused about how YPAO Volume determine the amoutn of compensation to apply. If reference volume can literally be anywhere on the volume dial how does it work?

    1. See my previous comments. Can you please measure with the internal test tones? Thx! 🙂

      Also, I could never play movies on my yamahas at 0 on my THX speakers. That would blow my ear drums, let alone the speakers. Do you play movies at near 0?

      If what you are saying is correct, I’ll need to get some clarification from Yamaha.

      Using an external amp would likely result in a different behaviour. I’m using an external amp only for the back presence speakers.

  6. I have also checked with YPAO test tone. I use a C weighted SPL meter on slow. Reference is zero on the master volume dial in my setup.

  7. I am using an external amp for L/R/C/SL/SR. I use an emotive xpa 5 to be specific.

    From my research this afternoon, I don’ think YPAO normalizes a reference level master volume setting at all. It simply matches all other speaker levels to the front left speaker. The only way this changes from what I read on AVS is if there is more than a 10db discrepancy in level with any of the other speakers.

    It just happens that I am used to Audyssey set reference level at zero on master and I assumed that YPAO was doing the same because that happens to be where I reach reference with the front left speaker at 0.0 level setting. I think the reference level master volume on Yamaha will just be wherever the measurement is achieved with front left speaker level set to 0.0

    This does make me even more curious to how YPAO Volume works. I know it is still doing things at -10 in my setup. I don’t have measurements but can clearly her the difference when I switch it on and off. -10 is where I normally watch movies.

    1. Ok that makes sense then. If there is +/-10dB difference only, it should set it using the channel levels and not the master volume. However, it sounds like you have something like 20dB difference if you set your external amp up to 0dB. In any case, I am very sure YPAO Volume will know where the reference level is set after running YPAO so I wouldn’t worry. To interpret my measurements you just take them as -X from reference level. I can update the article when I get some time! Gotta run now, work is calling. 🙂

    1. I don’t know if I answered this.
      There’s not only one DRC setting. I would not use the Dolby one but the Yamaha Adaptive DRC as well as Adaptive DSP if you are using DSP,

  8. When I turn Adaptive DRC ‘on’ on my Yamaha there is some bbzzzzz noise coming from the speakers. When I turn it ‘off’ this sound disappears and they are completely silent. This happens when I don’t play any sound through it – only adjust the setting. Volume is around -40-35. Is this normal?

    1. Mmm. I have not heard that happen on any unit I’ve had with me. I would say it isn’t normal unless there’s already some hiss and it’s amplifying it. I would contact Yamaha if it’s a new unit!

      1. Hi, Roland. Thanks a lot!
        It is an old cheap one out of warranty already. I doubt Yamaha will answer me at all 🙂 Maybe because it is some low end product. I will try to isolate the receiver with no other devices around it and try again.
        Will definitely keep an eye/ear for similar issue on the new one as well when I replace this.

  9. Hi maybe I’m not explaining my thoughts correctly.

    Once ypao is done then I’ll turn off receiver and them turn ON.

    Then I go and turn on the steady test tone, go back into the menu and select “level”

    Then i select the left speaker which will then play steady noise .

    I think At that point the goal is to get the meter to read 75db correct?

    The thing is, in order for me to get that left speaker to play and read 75db on the meter I have to raise the volume on receiver let’s say, to -18 while adjusting the level on left channel to -2 db…

    On the other hand, if i do -21db then I have to adjust left speaker level to +1 db to get a 75db reading….

    If I do -25db on receiver then I have to adjust speaker Level to +6 to reach 75db.

    But if I start by raising the volume go the receiver to -9db in order to reach 75db, then I would have to adjust or trim that channel’s level to -10 to get 75db.

    After trying these different methods:

    What I’ve noticed is that let’s say, if I play a movie or music at -30db on the receiver, the loudness is different (lower or higher) depending on which method I initially
    used to get that left speaker to play 75db on the meter. Which would be the right way?

    1. Ok, quick question!
      Once you’ve run YPAO, which volume level measures 75dB on your receiver when playing the test tones? Also, how different are the speaker levels relative to each other?

      Please ensure that your sound level meter is in the position where you put your first microphone position as YPAO calibrated your speakers to that exact point!

Leave a Reply

Up ↑