How loud can I 'safely' play my Dynaudio Focus 140

Hello folks,

A random question from a total newbie. Did a quick search here but, still had some lingering questions so here goes.

Just recently traded in a pair of Dynaudio Audience 42s for a pair of Focus 140s and was wondering how loud I can crank these guys up without stressing them out. I don't have a fancy powerful amp but, I tend to listen to music at a fairly loud level and was curious as to if that listening style hurts the speakers at all. To clarify, when I mean loud, it isn't to the point where the sound gets distorted and I can't hear myself think so I'm assuming everything is cool but, I wanted to see what others think.

What are the rules of thumb when it comes to taking care of speakers? Are there any tell tale signs to look out for in order to avoid frying a tweeter or blowing a woofer out aside from obvious sonic distortions?

On a random side note, if anybody has any suggestions on a great amp to match the Focus 140s with please let me know!

Just started working on putting together a stereo system and so far loving every minute of it!

A lot depends on what you mean by "loud". These days, playing in the mid 80 dB range sounds pretty loud to me. However, some people would be in the 100 dB range before they think the music is loud.

Consider buying an inexpensive sound level meter from Radio Shack (about $50 or so) and see just how loud your preferred level really is.

Dynaudio says the Focus 140 is a 4 ohm speaker with a sensitivity of 86 dB. They are not a speaker a head-banger would normally choose. The 4 ohm impedance can be challenging for some amps, and sensitivity is a bit on the low side.

The best advice is to simply watch for any distortion that is a sign of clipping as clipping is the real speaker killer. Back off the volume the second you hear any signs of distress.
Kind of tough to tell, but as a rule of thumb, as long as your not to the point of hearing any distortion, you should be okay.

In regards to an amp, what are you currently using... do you want an integrated to seperates... what is your budget?
When playing loud, you can cause an underpowered amp to send a clipped signal, and that is much worse for the speakers. All Dyn's like good clean power and lots of it. I would look for an amp that puts out at least 150W into 4 ohms.
I would say as long as the speakers aren't sounding compressed or distored, then you're probably OK playing them as loud as you do, for as long as you like. The only other advice I would give, is to make sure you have a powerful enought amp for your speakers, as to avoid the amp clipping the signal which WILL destroy a tweeter.
When speakers break from loudness, it usually is the amp's fault. Asking excessive power from the amp makes it clip which destroys...usually the tweeter goes first.
Are there any tell tale signs to look out for in order to avoid frying a tweeter or blowing a woofer out aside from obvious sonic distortions?

You can also see if the woofers are bottoming out against the surround on some models.

Loudness sounds just like distortion - so it is sometimes difficult to tell unless you are familiar with it - most people think their stereo is extremely loud because ultimately at some point it is so badly distorting that it simply sounds perceptively extremely loud - 99% of the time it is not actually anywhere near as loud as you would typically hear music played in a nightclub or concert (where pro gear pumps out clean undistorted sound at massive SPL's).

A very small speaker like this is not going to play loud (concert level) cleanly no matter what you do - unless you sit only 0.5 meter from them.

The Dynaudios have a bass/mid that has an unusually large 75 MM diameter voice coil (for a 5.5 inch cone)!! This is rare in home speakers - it is very large compared to what you normally get in consumer hi-fi - I would call this a "pro-driver". Most people with 8 inch cones and some with huge subwoofers will be using voice coils no bigger than 2 inch and some will be using voice coils of a mere inch in diameter - yes - you heard me correctly - a woofer with a voice coil no bigger than a tweeter!!!

What does this mean?

Chances are your little Dynaudios will outperform most bigger floorstanders in terms of clean loud sound and clear undistorted transients - this is an expensive driver! A large voice coil will be both extremely powerful (big motor) and it will dissipate heat much more effectively than a tiny 1 inch voice coil (due to much larger surface area). This means transients are not squashed by thermal compression. (Thermal compression is of huge importance as you go louder - 97% to 99% of what you throw at a woofer is converted to heat - so you have a little toaster in there - small thin wires getting really hot - this plays havoc with reponse as coil resitsance rises and will affect the effectiveness of a passive crosover to boot )

You can probably get about 100 db SPL continuous cleanly at 1 meter with transients around 110. This is impressive for a small speaker. You'll need 200 Watts - something like a Bryston 4B-SST or a Krell or something that fits your tastes. This speaker is not an easy load.
As long as you have the amp the support them (for LOUD, I would recommend at least 200WPC high current SS), then you'll be able to take them as loud as you could stand.
thank you all for such great input!

Upgrading my amp is my number one priority right now. If I really stretch it I think I can swing around 3k for a used amp. I was told Mcintosh, Bryston and Parasound make great amps in this price range so I think I'm going to see what comes up in the pre owned market.

It feels a little strange that I would be spending more on my amp than on my speakers but, it looks like I really shouldn't be skimping on the power source.

PS: that was a nice response Shadorne thanks
Mr. Shadorne should love this. Active pro monitors are spec'd for loudness, unlike your garden variety audiophile stuff.
Dynaudio BM-5 = 116 dB peak
Should be able to play at 100-105dB all day long.
One very important factor in my opinion is the room size where the speakers are placed and the distance to listening position. If you have a small/ish room than both the speakers and the amp have to do less to pressurise it specially in terms of bass. However the same speaker and amp will run out of steam in a big/ger room.
Keep in mind that there are limits to all speakers, even for undistorted signals. If you hook up kilowatt monoblocks to those speakers and crank it up you will cook the speakers irrespective of distortion.

Yes that it pretty impressive for a small two way. It us a testament to the driver build quality from Dynaudio that it can play so loud.

I am not sure 100-105 db SPL all day long is a good idea, however, for the peaks that occur in good dynamic recordings it would likely be more exhilarating/realistic/lively with a speaker that is less stressed/compressed or dull sounding.

You are right that pro speakers are spec'd for loudness. At modest volumes there are all kinds of choices that play well with low distortion. The choices only become limited at quite high volumes (overkill for many audiophiles no doubt).
Any thoughts on Classe products? thought I'd throw one more name out there to see if anybody has had any experience with them. Their CAP 2100 looks interesting.