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  • A Bar Owner's Perspective on Volume Levels

    I own a bar/restaurant. I'm in the gumbo trade. Is there a program or piece of hardware that squashes or amplifies sound to the same volume level? I am sick of jumping up and down to raise and lower the volume so customers can hear it. A solution is streamed radio. But customers like to choose their own playlists. I let 'em do that from wherever. Because of that, levels jump all over the decibel map.

    Live music - on the rare occasions we have it - is not a problem.
    He has escaped! Youtube , ​Murika , France

  • #2
    What medium? What playback device? What type of amplification? There probably is a simple solution, but it's impossible to say without knowing the setup.
    Last edited by gubu; 12-05-2014, 05:36 PM.
    flip the phase

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    • #3
      Same as above. But if I'm going to shoot out a cheap but decent hardware solution, if you can somehow hook up a FMR RNP compressor, that'd probably work wonders.
      Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Etienne Rambert View Post
        I own a bar/restaurant. I'm in the gumbo trade. Is there a program or piece of hardware that squashes or amplifies sound to the same volume level? I am sick of jumping up and down to raise and lower the volume so customers can hear it. A solution is streamed radio. But customers like to choose their own playlists. I let 'em do that from wherever. Because of that, levels jump all over the decibel map.

        Live music - on the rare occasions we have it - is not a problem.
        Stereo limiter before your power amp.

        One of my old bands used to play the Texas Hall of Fame in Bryan, TX. It was a huge hall, very popular with a crow's nest for sound that was so far from the stage you had a huge delay between the headphones and the ambient sound. You also had a huge problem with the owner's idea of how loud was appropriate. He attempted to deal with that by having a stereo limiter in a rack with a locked plexiglass plate over the front panel of the limiter.

        About the second or third time we played there we discovered that there was no locked plate across the back of the rack, and that the limiter had insert points in the back (for a de-essser, for instance). There were little U shaped jumper plugs to connect across them when not in use.

        We simply pulled the jumpers out (defeating all limiting) and when the owner came up to complain about the volume we just shrugged while he checked to see if the locked cover plate was still in place.

        Terry D.
        Telling Stories releases 2nd CD, see our WEBSITE! Please check out my GROUPIE STORY and Tales from the Road.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by MrKnobs View Post

          Stereo limiter before your power amp.
          +1
          Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

          Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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          • #6
            Here's a suggestion, as I run a bar and always look for dual purpose in purchasing something. You could look at the new behringer x-air rack mixers. For $300 you could get x-12 and use its internal effect processors. It has a limiter, eq. If you ever need it for entertainment purposes, you'd have it. It takes up little space and looks very portable. I plan on getting one for exactly the same purpose. Dj's really get out of control sometimes.

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            • #7


              Make available at door; make employees use.
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              • #8
                Since this is streaming music, I'd like to know the details on how its streamed. There may be a software solution we're not looking at. My buddy does a streaming radio show in Chicago and he uses a program used in the industry which does an excellent job matching up the volume on the music play lists. In the old days they'd do it all with hardware, compressors and limiters. Today its usually done with software. There are benefits here too. Digital music may have a number of issues besides the db level. The program does and excellent job fixing frequency response and loudness and doesn't crush peaks like a limiter can (though there may be a limiter in that programs chain as well)

                Digital music can be all over the map on how much is crushed in the studio when mastering but all streaming medias seem to have this issue. Even my cable TV is all over the place on its volume levels. I may be watching one show and have to turn the volume up to 100%. At other times (especially at night) I wind up having to crank the volume all the way down to 1 or 2% and its still pretty loud. I'm not sure weather network traffic is a cause.

                I suspect its because the broadcast satellite relay stations are unmanned and the hardware/software does a poor job maintaining volume levels. I'm beginning to think some old timer with poor hearing comes to work on the midnight shift and cranks up the volume. Most modern movies have a huge dynamic range between the dialogue and action scenes designed to impact a live audience in a movie theater where you have a good sound system. Streaming music must be allot worse gives that the standards used by studios is all over the map on how loud the final product may be. So I'd suggest you'd look into what most radio stations use to even up their db levels today which is likely a combination of hardware and software depending on what kind of sound system you have.

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                • #9
                  Depends on the OP's playback medium. If it's a digital player, it likely has some sort of volume matching setting.
                  Last edited by gubu; 12-07-2014, 07:36 AM.
                  flip the phase

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                  • #10
                    Hi. Thanks everybody.

                    Actually, I own an FMR RNLA. That would work?

                    The set-up is like this:

                    1, Desktop computer - accessible to customers - w/on-board sound card.

                    2. Music played on computer goes to amplifier. Amplified signal goes to speakers.

                    3. The music source can be streamed internet radio. It can be mp3's onboard via WMP. OR it can be Youtube.

                    4. The most noticeable volume problems occur when customers play Youtube. The levels are all over the map.

                    Someone here suggested a compressor after the amp. Actually, I own an FMR RNLA I could use for that purpose. I am skeptical it can solve the Youtube problem though. (I also own a JoeMeek C2 I could use for that.)

                    The power amp is behind the bar. The cook keeps a hawk eye on the volume levels. She's great. The computer is on the bar, accessible to customers. But they can't affect the volume beyond the on-board stuff. The amp is out of reach.

                    Would the RNLA raise the level of the Youtube videos when needed, as well as lower them without my intervention?

                    Right now, I'm running behind the bar all
                    the time. I have a little mixer I could put on
                    the bar. But then it would be in reach of
                    customers. I don't want that.

                    I want something - if it exists - that will keep volume levels within a range acceptable to people hearing each other speaking and still hearing the music.
                    Last edited by Etienne Rambert; 12-08-2014, 05:49 AM.
                    He has escaped! Youtube , ​Murika , France

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                    • #11
                      I'd try and set the default volume in youtube to match that of the other players on the computer first - or reduce the defaults of the other players to match youtube. Failing that, it's worth trying the RNLA in front of your amp. But if the volume discrepancy is too great between the loud players and the quiet ones, you may end up with some pretty crummy sounding audio in your speakers (possibly even audible distortion) as the limiter crunches down on the loud tunes, and brings up your soundcard's noise floor during the quiet ones. I'm not saying it won't work, and I'm happy to stand corrected if it does work - but I'd use a comp/limiter in that situation as a very last resort - not least because of the unbalanced output of the onboard soundcard.
                      Last edited by gubu; 12-08-2014, 06:42 AM.
                      flip the phase

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                      • #12
                        I'd also check the preferences menu for the soundcard, to see if it has an automatic volume match setting.
                        flip the phase

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Etienne Rambert View Post
                          Someone here suggested a compressor after the amp. Actually, I own an FMR RNLA I could use for that purpose. I am skeptical it can solve the Youtube problem though. (I also own a JoeMeek C2 I could use for that.)
                          That someone was probably thinking that you had powered speakers (or not thinking at all). Put the RNLA or compressor in line between the computer and the power amplifier. Try each one and see which works the best and/or butchers the sound the least.

                          Compressors don't increase the level of quiet things, they reduce the level of loud things. Find the quietest songs, set the threshold so that it doesn't affect them, then, with the amplifier volume set where you usually run it, set the compressor output ("make-up" gain) control to give normal volume. Then adjust the compression ratio so that the louder songs are louder, but an acceptable amount louder.

                          With the compressor ahead of the amplifier, the relative volume of songs will stay the same, and the amplifier's volume control (set by a human) will adjust the overall music level in the room. That way you can turn it up when the place gets crowded, turn it down during slow or quiet times, and all of the music will still be able to be heard.

                          Heavily compressing a loud song that's already heavily compressed and being passed through a streaming codec will definitely make it sound different, most would say worse, than what an individual will hear listening in his home or car, but, geez, if they want high fidelity, they shouldn't be listening to YouTube in a bar.
                          --
                          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post
                            That someone was probably thinking that you had powered speakers (or not thinking at all). Put the RNLA or compressor in line between the computer and the power amplifier. Try each one and see which works the best and/or butchers the sound the least. Compressors don't increase the level of quiet things, they reduce the level of loud things. Find the quietest songs, set the threshold so that it doesn't affect them, then, with the amplifier volume set where you usually run it, set the compressor output ("make-up" gain) control to give normal volume. Then adjust the compression ratio so that the louder songs are louder, but an acceptable amount louder. With the compressor ahead of the amplifier, the relative volume of songs will stay the same, and the amplifier's volume control (set by a human) will adjust the overall music level in the room. That way you can turn it up when the place gets crowded, turn it down during slow or quiet times, and all of the music will still be able to be heard. Heavily compressing a loud song that's already heavily compressed and being passed through a streaming codec will definitely make it sound different, most would say worse, than what an individual will hear listening in his home or car, but, geez, if they want high fidelity, they shouldn't be listening to YouTube in a bar.
                            OP says his youtube volume is super-low. I'd look for an onboard solution before putting a limiting amplifier in the analogue part of the chain. The weak link here is that the various digital players are playing at different volumes. Without fixing that, analogue gain, and unbalanced soundcard noise, will have to be turned up somewhere in the chain. It's Weakest Link Theory 101. Like when you're getting a bump at 500hz because of a poorly positioned mic. Do you a) reposition the mic, or b) reach for an eq unit?
                            flip the phase

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                            • #15
                              I believe in Win 7 you can go into the win mixer and adjust the volumes for different feeds. You'll have to be running those different apps at the time you open the win mixer then adjust them so they all have about the same volume levels. IE, explorer doesn't show up in the win mixer until you access the internet.

                              There may also be some simple normalizers built into the sound settings you may have missed. http://www.howtogeek.com/115656/3-wa...me-on-your-pc/ Or this, http://mp3.about.com/od/windowsmedia...ween-Songs.htm

                              Upgrading from a $2 built in card to a better card that has these enhancements might be the first thing I'd try. Cards like a Sound Blaster has additional software within the drives which includes Normalization that fixes the issues you're having with different feeds.

                              I was looking at something like this which would take any feed and enhance it. http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/produc...stream-magic-6

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