Finally an end to loud commercials


GefenTV Auto Volume Stabilizer
GefenTV Auto Volume Stabilizer

What’s more annoying than commercials? I’ll tell you. It’s commercials that jump on to your TV screen at what seems like twice the volume of the show you were just watching. Depending on the volume level of the program, the difference can be so abrupt that you instinctively reach for your remote’s mute button because dialing-down the volume can’t deal with the deafening roar fast enough.

I might actually watch more commercials were it not for the intrusiveness of this volume change. Well, maybe not – these days we tend to watch more PVR’d content than ever and that 30-second skip button is the most worn out on the whole remote… I just love it.

But if you don’t have a PVR (and if not, why the heck not?) or for those times when watching live TV is only way to go (sports events, award shows, news programs etc.) you’re just going to have to live with that annoying volume problem.

Or maybe not.

gtv-volcont-backIf you happen to have $179 USD burning a hole in your pocket and you are fed up with those obnoxiously loud ads, Gefen has the solution for you. Their GefenTV Auto Volume Stabilizer is a small device that sits with the rest of your TV gear and serves as a middle-man between your source (likely a cable or satellite box) and your audio receiver. It can handle 3 types of input – digital coax, optical, or good-ol-analog RCA. The same obviously, are available as outputs. You can select which of these inputs will be in use via a handy remote (yes, another remote), but only one at a time. When turned on, the Stabilizer does one thing and one thing only – manages all those highs and lows in volume level so that you aren’t constantly reaching for the remote.

If you use the device in conjunction with a Blu-ray player or other source and find that the auto-leveling isn’t required, you can easily disable it with the built-in “bypass” switch.
I haven’t tried the Stabilizer myself yet so I can’t speak to how effective it is, but at $179 it had better work exactly as advertised or Gefen will have some pretty grumpy customers on their hands.

But whether you like the idea of the Stabilizer or not, the real question is this: Why is there even a need for such a device?

My plea to the cable and satellite companies: Make this product redundant by implementing similar technology at your head-ends, so that the signal you’re sending to your subscribers is already pre-leveled. We’ve got HD, we’ve got 5.1 surround sound, even on-demand where it’s available, so why not good clean and leveled volume for all of TV you choose to watch? Gefen may not thank you, but we will.

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66 comments

  1. videoconnisseur

    — you know this was long time in coming — I don’t think loud commercials sell I think they just anger — and the boom makes a channel surfers thumb twitch — I think the tragedy of it all is that commercial boom must have killed lots and lots of people — I mean it killed them — think of the person who is hard of hearing — living in a rooming house with thin walls — surrounded by mentally disturbed people or drunks or drug addicts — him or her getting told to keep the sound down or ELSE — then the peace is destroyed by a Commercial Booming — some people will go crazy over the smallest things and some people just look for any imaginary excuse to lay a beating on someone — and the uncaring unfeeling advertisers must have on many occasions provided an excuse

    Like

    • Jean

      Obviously, loud commercials will not sell. They are highly annoying and can drive one crazy too. Generally, I do not pay attention to commercials. I have complained on more than one occasion to the Satellite Provider about its loud commercials and asked that they be toned down, one specifically when advertising for wrestling matches but nothing has been done. Can CRTC assist?

      Like

      • RAW IS WAR

        Don’t complain about ads for Wrestling Matches. Vince McMahon makes the world go round.

        You should bow down. You are not worthy.

        Like

      • Simone

        @Greg: Hey, it was good enough for Emily Dickinson.

        I was optimistic enough to think the article was going to be about the providers’ actions, or some new regulation from the government. Another device? They might well need to make auto volume levelling a standard feature on TVs, like pop-up ad blockers in browsers.

        Like

      • Jeff

        It’s called poetic license. Grow up, Greg. Comment on the article instead of picking on a person’s use of the English language.

        Like

  2. Ronnie

    I think the cable/satellite providers that are currently overcharging us all should be told by the CRTC to level the sound.They’ve had long enough to do it on their own and have not,so maybe it’s some for some gov’t intervention.

    Like

    • BW

      I complained to the cable company and they told me two things. Firstly is was my imagination (really) and secondly in any case there were considerable technical challenges (really again). I complained to the CRTC and they said it was outside of their jurisdiction.

      Like

  3. cheekyone

    Not the cable or satellite TV companies’ fault. They are typically required to pass through the signals they get from the TV stations as is, i.e., with little to no modification permitted. Got a beef, talk to the networks as they are the ones who do this. Cable and satellite companies can’t sell advertising so there is nothing in it for them to jack the sound up for commercials.

    Like

  4. TVGUY

    Cheekyone and folks –
    It’s even further upstream than that….it happens during commercial production.
    If you remember the days before we had 24 hr. programming and local TV stations signed on and off each broadcast day, maybe you remember seeing a screen full of muti-colored bars accompanied by a continuous monotone hum.
    This is what is known as “Color Bars and Tone” and is what is used to determine the industry standard for uniformity.
    Unfortunately, the commercial production company can set the tone at the start of the commercial master, but maintain higher levels thru the actual production, exceeding the standards through the message…..the design being to target the hearing of “ol wassername” as she stumbles half awake to the fridge for another can of “TAB”.
    In other words this device is long over due.
    With regard to the TV, Cable, or SAT stations installing this device for us?…..Not likely, as regardless of what consumers pay for service, when it comes right down to it “Advervisers” still rule in the brtoadcast world.
    My personal beef is the lack over uniformity on audio files that are downloaded off the internet….now there’s a case for nothing being consistently uniform.

    Like

  5. Zack

    Instead of creating a device that may not work with all commercials, it would be easy to create a remote (original or universal) with a “sound down” button right next to the mute button. Instead of pressing the mute button during commercials and start talking with your friends to realize that your program started again without anybody noticing, you could press a “sound down” button that would reduce the level of sound during commercials. This way, you could hear where the commercials are at before pressing the “sound down” button again to return to your previous level of sound. The “sound down” button could be set by the user through the program menu. This would be an easy and cheap solution to this anoying problem.

    Like

  6. Zack

    Instead of creating a device that may not work with all commercials, it would be easy to create a remote (original or universal) with a “sound down” button right next to the mute button. Instead of pressing the mute button during commercials and start talking with your friends to realize that your program started again without anybody noticing, you could press a “sound down” button that would reduce the level of sound during commercials. This way, you could hear where the commercials are at before pressing the “sound down” button again to return to your previous level of sound. The “sound down” button could be set by the user through the program menu. This would be an easy and cheap solution to this annoying problem.

    Like

  7. snowbird

    Maybe Simon Cohen should go back to his grade 5 teacher and learn a
    modicum of English grammar.

    It would be more inviting to read something well written.

    What is your are?

    Like

    • Darra-Lynn

      Whoa…Snowbird! You didn’t even capitalize your name. What is more significant…this great article or a spelling error? If this is your biggest problem in life, maybe you should get one. A life that is!

      Like

  8. Lyra

    The way it works…. There is a volume law. Stations are not aloud to exceed a certain volume output/level. So what do the stations do? They lower the volume of their station so you have to turn up your volume to hear them but then when a commercial comes on they automatically raise the volume to the maximum of the law and bust our ears. So they are not breaking the Law. It’s a loop hole in the volume law. It’s the stations you have to turn way up to be able to hear them that have the commercials blaring the worst.

    Like

    • Reality

      I agree, especially the stations that show the older movies.
      You have to crank the volume so high just to hear the movie at
      above a whisper, THEN come the commercials! I think they’re working
      with hearing aid manufacturers just to create business.
      Just like the car stereos with speakers in the trunk.

      Like

  9. Larry

    I think you would find that this a “clever” marketing tactic to force you (whether you realize it or not) to pay attention to the commercial. Even though we hate it, by having to reach for the remote we are acknowledging it.
    Anyway, someone has, deliberately or not, done something that helps. The mute button on the remote for my Toshiba LCD TV has three steps. Press it once, and the volume goes to half. Press it again, and it goes to full mute (and the closed captioning comes on automatically). Press it a third time and the volume comes back to normal. If all manufacturers did this, it would be at least a small step in the right direction.

    Like

    • Lorraine H

      I love the “Mute” button, it is a lifesaver when those “booming” commercials come on, so we just hit the mute button & done with it. Most commercials these days are loud & unrealistic, & so stupid!!! There are some really cute commercials though that I love & will watch.

      Like

      • Michel S

        LorraiNE:

        Guess what: when commercials pop on, “Mute” automatically goes on. Sometimes, I’ll hit the “revert to previous channel” button. In other words, I never hear commercials. I don’t even see them. Period. And if they interrupt the broadcast too often, I’ll switch off. Period. I hate commercials: all of them.

        Like

  10. Marc C.

    Actually the real reason commercials seem loud – and they are – is not because the volume peaks louder than whatever you were watching before the annoying intrusion. There is in fact a maximum volume and all productions – comedy, drama, news, sports and commercials must adhere to it. In order to get the commercial ads to stand out the production companies use compressor/limiters to allow the volume to be at the peak most of the time by bumping it up throughout and letting the limiters keep it from exceeding the allowed peak. So what you are hearing is a constantly loud commercial. Much like modern music which, for the most part, is constantly loud and thus has very little dynamic range.

    I don’t know what this Gefen product is supposed to do about that. Perhaps lowering the volume when the average is too high. If that’s the case it may do the same thing for parts of the movie or show you’re watching – i.e. gunshots, explosions, crashes and so on. Maybe that’s a good thing.

    Like

  11. S.B.

    Change the laws on commercial volumes. Channels all have regulated volume levels, however when it comes to commercials they don’t. They all boost them to grab attention. They pay for the air time therefore it’s their “right”. Something needs to change with that. We shouldn’t be the ones who have to spend more money on gadgets to rectify the problem.

    Like

  12. AudioPostProfessional

    There are some good points and not-quite-accurate technical explanations posted here. First of all, yes, commercials tend to sound louder than many TV programs. Here’s a brief explanation of why that is: TV shows tend to have a wider dynamic range than commercials. “Dynamic range” is the difference between the loudest and quietest sections of a piece of audio. In television broadcast, there is a regulated maximum volume level, but there’s not really a minimum level. Many TV shows have a wide dynamic range, which is a good thing! Commercials tend to have a narrow dynamic range with all of the audio close to the maximum level. This means the average perceived loudness of a TV show is lower than that of most commercials. To use a visual analogy, a TV show may incorporate many different shades of grey, whereas a commercial with very little dynamic range is all black all the time.

    An audio leveler is not necessarily a good idea, as these devices tend to reduce dynamic range even further. Reducing dynamic range comes at the detriment of good quality audio. If you listen to certain popular crime shows you may notice a similarity in the audio to that of commercials (i.e. very loud-sounding with little dynamic range), which is fatiguing to the ear. A better approach to the problem, in my opinion, would be to reduce the maximum-allowed volume of commercials by 2-3dBfs, or even better, to establish a standard of “average” volume to be maintained for both program material and advertising.

    As a point of interest, the majority of music on the market today (CDs and downloads) is mixed more like a commercial than a TV show, with very little dynamic range!

    Like

  13. lynty

    Simple solution to the problem – everyone, switch off your TVs for a week or a month and presto problem solved – no revenue for the tv stations and they’ll get the message! In that time you can read a book or two, take up a hobby or continue with the one you have and enjoy silence :) I don’t have a tv for many reasons and one of them is commercials. I hate that intrusion in my home.

    Like

  14. Gregg

    Interesting article….. don’t stop complaining to the CRTC – all broadcasters are regulated and eventually answer to it – if enough complaints are received the broadcaster will get a mild scolding.

    You need an editor. Your article is full of grammatical and/or spelling errors.

    Like

    • Darra-Lynn

      Simon…I hope you don’t take these nasty shots seriously! I found the “grammatical and/or spelling errors” in your article to be minimal and it’s not like it’s going to print in a published paper, right? Both ‘Snowbird’ and ‘Gregg’ should get a life!!

      Like

      • Simon Cohen

        Thanks Darra-Lynn,
        I have to say I’m a little taken aback by the grammar/spelling police… I’ve read and re-read the article several times now and only found two mistakes, both of which were typos. Gregg’s comment made me laugh though – “You need an editor” given that I *am* the editor ;-)
        I do take grammar and spelling seriously. If you find any mistakes, call them out as Snowbird did… at least then you can take credit for making the article better!

        Like

  15. Geoff

    Good response, APP. I had heard this explanation many years ago, but was never very good in explaining it to others. I’m not a big fan of changing or reducing the dynamic range of a recording. I was never a fan of Dolby noise reduction for this very reason. With Dolby “on” it tended to eliminate some of the high-end of the recording, in addition to the background tape hiss.
    Just as an aside, I don’t think advertising gurus would be very well accepting of a plan to reduce the maximum allowed commercial volume. With the industry already under attack from the PVR generation, they will not be willing to give any more ground than necessary. These are, after all, proven advertising techniques … grab and keep attention, regardless of the annoyance factor. When you are shopping, you will remember that product that so loudly annoyed you, but will most likely purchase it anyway.

    Like

  16. Sandy

    HIGH FIVE ON THE CABLE COMPANIES TAKING CARE OF THIS – long overdue. Why should we have to purchase yet another device to level out the volume! Maybe their pockets are going to be somewhat lined with the profits of this new device.

    I won’t pay for it – I turn the chanel when commercials come on or I mute them out, get up and get a glass of water!!

    :P

    Like

    • Lyle

      Fortunatly, internet TV will rule soon. With thousands of free TV sites and movies to download, cable and satalite will soon be a thing of the past along with commercials. Who is going to pay these fine actors? Who cares. There are enough adverts in movies and TV as is and to sit through 5 minutes of loud garbage, no thanks. I watch commercial free for free.

      Like

  17. TV Guru

    Ummm, lots of new televisions (LCD/Plasma, etc) have this as an option. If you don’t already have a newer TV, $179 will put a good dent in a new purchase.

    Like

  18. G. Strachen

    I deplore these loud commercials, they are beyond annoying. I recently bought a new Toshiba HD Flat Screen TV. The remote has a mute button, one tap and the sound level is cut in half, second tap and the sound is gone, one tap of the volume and the sound comes back to the set volume. My problem was solved and i don’t need a new divice to hook up.

    Like

  19. Phil

    Once the volume is set, by you, there is no way to turn up your volume. Because most people become engrossed in the TV program they zone out, pitch is used to get your attention. When the offending commercial is made producers purposely change the pitch of the sound, so volume is not the problem and is impossible for anyone but you to control.

    Like

  20. The Obvious

    There is a much simpler and free solution. It works flawlessly, I know as I use it…

    Turn off your TV and toss in the garbage.

    PS… go for walk in the park and meditate on all things lovely.

    Like

  21. cdt

    If one complains to the station They say they have no idea of what you are talking about. If they have no idea then they should be fired as they are not qualified to be a sound tech.
    It is plain and simple and explained to me by a sound tech. It’s the recording level of the commercial. Normal TV program might be 3-5 a commercial is 7-10. Also the output sound levels between the playback equipment are not balanced. So you program could be play on a machine that has the level set low and the commercial a machine that has it set high.
    What is needed is a standard signal on all media, programs and commercials that the sound levels will be automatically set at. ie the signal is at x db. They have equipment that they use to balance all the color and brightness levels but not the sound.
    I hate it especially at night when watching a program and it is so low and you have to crank up the volume to 27-30 to hear it and a commercial comes on and the normal level is at 20.

    Like

  22. Wayne

    Commercials have the same output as programs do, but they narrow thier bandwidth/freqency range to boost audio output. Televisions have for the last 20 years had A.G.C.(Automatic gain control) but commercials used the narrow bandwidth to get around this! “We are being targeted!” :O)

    Like

  23. Mike

    could someone with tech knowledge set me straight I am being led to believe that most 2010 plasma or lcd Tv has a volume control in one form or another, does this not include all commercials also if not why is it listed on their spec.

    Like

  24. Capitalist

    Another highly annoying issue besides the obtrusive volume level of commercials are these animated advertisements now appearing at the bottom of your television screens (tv networks, programming) much like a flash object walking all over your computer screen. These desperate gimmicks please no one and turn most people off.

    The cost of cable/satellite television is not worth most of the garbage and repeat programming being dumped on the public.

    Like

  25. Leigh

    Just one of the many reasons I’ve stopped watching television altogether. My television is just something to watch DVD’s on these days

    Like

  26. MissLola

    Figures we would have to buy something to take care of the problem. I’d rather have my finger on the volume control – it’s cheaper. Thanks but no thanks.

    Like

  27. netizen

    fricken great! Not only do I not want to be marketed to, that is why I change the channel on the quarter hour, now it is going to cost me more to avoid these scumbag lowlife waste of skin marketers.
    Even the internet is rife with advertising.

    What do you say to a marketing student after graduation?
    I’ll have fries with that.
    or
    (pointing firearm), Get off my property!

    Like

  28. Phil

    Once the volume is set, by you, there is no way to turn up your volume. Because most people become engrossed in the TV program or movie they zone out, pitch is used to get your attention. When the offending commercial is made producers purposely change the pitch of the sound, so volume is not the problem and is impossible for anyone but you to control.

    Like

  29. Tyler Holm

    About time… Where was this tech when Billy Mays was still doing ads? That man nearly cost me my freakin’ ear drums on more than one occasion

    Like

  30. Brooke

    It’s really hard to understand how loud commercials on TV could generate so many comments. Who pays attention to them any ways? It’s not like the commercials on TV entertain as the ones in Europe do so use your remote button like you’re suppose to and mute the dam thing. Big deal!! As if I’d spend money to do that for me. Some people have too much time and money on their hands it seems.

    Like

  31. Merilyn

    I actually complained to the CRTC. The womens channel seemed to be the biggest offender. They told me to track the commercial times and stations. Apparently they had other complaints and could not chase the stations without documented proof. Too time consuming, have not done it yet. Volume change can be up to 9 clicks on my volume scroll button. What if we all complained a lot to the CRTC?

    Like

  32. Chriss

    It should be the broadcasters responsibility to have correct audio levels; they are the gate keepers of their own quality. If Cable and Satilite providers start adjusting audio levels it will cause all sorts of problems (background noise will be kranked during pauses in speech). There is a reason why in producion industry proffesoinals don’t use auto features on equipment for the same reason.

    It’s not the Cable comanies that need to address this – rather the individual broadcasters! Get quality control sorted!

    Like

  33. ELAINE

    Finally – some improvement. I no longer have to walk away from the TV or mute it during commercials. They are the losers, we don’t listen to it when it is too loud.

    Like

  34. dtrain

    It’s common knowledge that the lowest level of the commercial is equal to the highest level of the program. The reason is to get the attention of the person that gets up and walks away during the commercial.

    Like

  35. Peaches

    Everyone just needs to FART a little bit LOUDER…there’s an idea – a FARTING commercial…then you’d have poeple complaining about something lol

    Like

  36. Pingback: CRTC to look at volume levels for TV ads | Sync™ Blog
  37. jimmy bedale

    you will notice in the near future that the american channals will improve their volumes, they were ordered by congress to stop the practise , as for canadian tv channals , it does not matter what the volume is , nobody is watching that crap anyway !

    Like

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