Front row SPLs; do you listen too loud?

Saturday evening I attended a wonderful concert by the Jacksonville [Florida] Symphony Orchestra which featured the marvelous Kyoko Takezawa as soloist for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35. Also included was Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino and Strauss’ Aus Italien, Symphonic Fantasy in G major, Op. 16.

Here, if interested, is a peek at the stage:

I lucked in to center front row seats, even with the Principal celloist, (I could have conducted!)

I used a digital Radio Shack sound meter and took a few glances. The concert hall has an elevated stage of about 30 inches above the floor where I was sitting, which put the floor about chest level.

Here is what I read:

Warm up in low 80 dB
Highest peak of 98 dB
Most music fell in low to mid 80 dB
Soloist, (when she banked her “Hammer” Stradivari toward me from about 12 feet away,) upper 70 dB peaks.

This project was difficult. I was a bit self conscious, and found it distracting from my enjoyment of the performance, but I “took one for the team.” What a concert it was! I wish you all could have been there.

This begs the question, why do so many of us over crank up the volume? (I try not to.)


Ever listen to the Dead?
OK. Obviously rock concerts are much louder, and you may want to recreate that on occaision. Have you ever measured your typical in house volume levels when listening?

Do you want to still hear the Dead in 10 years?

My eardrums were a bit stimulated after the levels I reported above.

I think part of the reason is that many systems do not resolve detail well at lower volumes. Thus many turn up the volume to "make it come alive".
That was one reason I always liked my Quads as they were phenominal late night speakers. Don't have them anymore but still one of this things I really loved about them
Now that's dedication to the cause!
I guess people crank their systems for a number of reasons, some of which may be to:
1. Raise low level details to audible levels.
2. Bring the bass level up to a point where they can ‘feel’ it.
3. Sometimes the PRaT of the music & system is so great, we just can’t get enough of it -so we crank it up!

Of course there are other reasons such as:
1. To be “Cool”, “Phat”, “Groovy”, or “Dope” to friends.
2. To show neighbors, siblings, or parents how much “power” we have (show-off!).
3. To annoy the living hell out of the above people.
4. To relieve stress by temporarily distracting current worries, anxieties, and problems from our minds.

Interesting SPL findings!
Thanks for sharing that w/us!
I have used the analog Radio Shack meter for the last five years or so. As pointed out elsewhere, it is not very linear at bass frequencies and it understates peak SPLs somewhat. That said, my preferred listening levels have always hovered around 88-92db peak levels. Not that I do not listen somewhat louder on occasion. I have, as far as I can tell, listened at these levels for the last thirty or so years and guess what? I can still hear the Dead. I do not think that this is even close to the peak levels that I encounter in aircraft and at professional basketball games, not to mention indoor rock concerts. Venues where I typically wear ear plugs. Don't forget, with recordings that are lightly compressed, and of varied musical dynamics, I might encounter these peak levels once every few minutes, however with heavily compressed rock, pop or dance music the continuous SPLs may hover precipitously close to the peak levels, which will be much more damaging. My take is a bit different on the reason for listening at high levels. I think that compressed recordings cause us to increase the volume in a vain attempt to add perceived dynamics to the programme.

There was a post a few months back asking about listening levels and if I remember correctly most people said they listen between 75-90dB which correlates well with your data.
Start with a flute playing as softly as a human can hear it,that's pp. An orchestra with everybody playing as loud as they can play is ff.

Starting with pp,each doubling of volume(amplitude) is represented by a dynamic marking.(pp,p,mp,mf,f,ff). pp is 50 decibels,p is 60 db,etc untill you get to ff as 100db.(Many rock bands go to 110.)

Here is something you can do someday when you have time,if you haven't done so already: Get a score and play something that is marked mf and set your volume to a reading of 80db. Then you can check the dynamic range of your speakers. Wait untill you get ff and pp passages and take readings. If a ff is 100,and a pp is 50,their dynamic range is correct.
I was just reading a related article this morning ...

Your measurements are "right" -- seems like most post-18th century orchestral pieces are "too loud" (Beethoven and Smetana readily comes to mind).
I think you all have spoken well. As we all search for the best representation we can get of the original performance, proper listening levels are important, and at least now I know those values when it comes to orchestral music. For me, loud is probably a feeble psychological attempt to regain the lost visual cues that make a live performance so special.

As an aside, I think I prefer the third or fourth row in this particular venue. Front row is a little too close.

Enjoy your music,