How loud do you like to play your music?


Instead of guessing from random comments. I thought a census of listening levels from members would be useful. feel free to mention a range.
My lowest listenable level is 80 db my favorite is 90 to 95 the loudest is 100 or just give your single preferred volume. The numbers above are my actual preferences.
If you do not have or used an SPL meter, just say Hi, Medium or low but try give us a reference point of some kind if possible.
Extraneous info is welcome. For example in my book shelf system it's... but in my main rig it's... Thanks
mechans
I try to keep it between 70 and 75 db. An important device to use is a Sound Level Meter. Radio Shack sells a pretty good one. The meter sits next to my remote control. I helps being married to Health & Safety professional.
A lot depends on the recording quality but I generally listen like you around 90 db average most of the time, however, I will crank it from time to time to around 95 - 100 db SPL.

Without you defining a reference track it is hard to say.

Examples of what can be cranked:
Sheffield Labs Drum Track CD (sounds like a real drum set largely because it probably isn't compressed like most all drums that you hear on music that you pruchase)
Dave Grusin Hommage to Duke
Maceo Parker most of his stuff
Tom Petty most of his stuff
Grace Jones Hot Blooded Mix Slave to The Rhythm
George Benson Weekend in LA Live
Mahler and a lot of classical stuff

Examples of what cannot be cranked (too much distortion already on the hyper compressed CD):
Green Day
Arctic Monkeys
Fratellis
Metallica
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
and many many others...

FWIW: A good undistorted clean track with a large level of dynamics can be played MUCH MUCH louder often because the AVERAGE level is low even if the odd peaks hit 105 to 110 db SPL
General listening is between 75 and 82 DB, measured at 13 feet from the speakers. Some music gets played loud, like horn jazz trio that would be experienced loud in a club. Those get 95 DB+ but not for long as I don't want hearing damage.

I measure my system, live music and even restaurants, thanks to a reasonably accurate sound pressure meter in my iPhone.
This is a difficult question to answer, because it is highly dependent on the dynamic range of the music, and because it is (as Shadorne points out) also highly dependent on the quality of the recording.

It's pretty well recognized that music which is accurately recorded and reproduced will tend to be played louder than inaccurate, unrealistically reproduced, distorted music.

But even more significantly, music with wide dynamic range, such as well-recorded classical symphony orchestra, will tend to be played with the volume control set MUCH higher than for highly compressed material, such as most major popular releases. That will mean that the average volume level of the wide dynamic range material will be less than the average volume of the highly compressed material, but the peak volume of the wide dynamic range material will be MUCH higher.

A notable case in point would be the early Sheffield Labs direct-to-disk recording of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," conducted by Erich Leinsdorf (which is presently available remastered onto cd). I've never used an spl meter, but I would estimate that I listen to that recording with the average level in the low 70's, but with peak levels reaching around 105db (estimated based on speaker efficiency, amplifier power, and attenuation due to listening distance).

And btw, I can tell you that the 105db is not anywhere close to being as loud as the peak levels in a live performance of the same work, as listened to in the very front row at Tanglewood!

Regards,
-- Al
I like it on the louder side -- ~90db, no matter what I'm playing. More of that 'live' experience. Wondering if I had higher sensitivity speakers if volume could drop and still get the same effect.
65 to 75 is pleasant over the long run if you are just listening. I agree with Shadorne on modern recordings and their use of compression.

Good uncompressed tracks that I use are Paul Kelly "May 1992" at 75 dbs and Midnight Oil's "Earth and Sun and Moon" and 90 dbs when I am tuning down my recording studio here in So Cal. Always sound incredible. Also love Willie Nelson's Teatro at 65 dbs. Love the drums on Joni Mitchell's Dreamland.
Albertporter: What is the app for the iPhone?
Calbrs03,
I recently got an I-phone myself and I think the app Albert's speaking of is called Decibel. I intend to add this to my phone as soon as I figure out how. My Radio Shack meter stopped working. I usually try to keep it at 85 or lower of I can help it by the way. Levels above 85 for prolonged periods are what studies seem to indicate are dangerous. How long is prolonged? I don't know.
Most of my music is acoustical jazz small combo ie quintets and sextets which usally includes a piano. My range is 65 to 80db with 85db plenty loud. I still want to hear fine music 20 years from now.
I should have said peak on dynamic recordings with the average RMS being lower.
I always set the volume too high for well recorded classical symphonic pieces. With rock and roll the bands seem to play it at one level only which is very loud and purposefully distorted. Those can have relatively constant/compressed sound levels.
Oddly its those rock or blue/rock which I will crank and even change the rig for. Nothing like Janis Joplin played at 70 db or the Delaware Destroyers played at Stardust volume. Never played Stardust intentionally louder 80-85 db.
Its funny, when I was younger I think I played that system pretty loud.
But it was mostly midrange and with the louder sound I was always trying to pull out (feel) more bass.

Now, as my current system is significantly better with better natural bass and soundstage, I dont need to play it as loud to get the same satisfying feeling.
Even with playing Led Zepplin !

Of course my wife will still say I play it too loud...

P.S. I still will crank it up from time to time though.
When I had a bigger system, I liked playing it over 100dB continuous at times because it sounded great but like a few folks have mentioned, it depended on the recording. I suppose the average was mid to upper 90's.

With the monitor/sub system I now have, I stay in the mid 80's to low 90's (continuous) range, which is also determined by the quality of the recording. This system simply lacks the impact the bigger system had & is not as much fun to listen to at higher SPL's.
With rock and roll the bands seem to play it at one level only which is very loud and purposefully distorted.

Yeah - it is all noise today...no Stairway to Heaven or Bohemian Rhapsody anymore...since Oasis and U2 proved that hyper-compression sells there has been little else but constant monotonous noise for the last decade.
Albertporter: What is the app for the iPhone?

It's not decibel Sonofjim, below is an active link to it. It's more expensive than the fun ones but according to posts I've read from engineers it's pretty darned accurate. It's also capable of being calibrated if you want it to be like a studio tool.

http://www.faberacoustical.com/products/iphone/
Are you people measuring in dB(A) or dB(C)?

For me anything between 75-92 dB(A)depends on music, time of day and wether or not my girlfriend is home.
Rat-Shack meter at 70dB to 82dB at listening position.
"A" weighted 'fast' response. I live in an 'Senior Citizen' apt building and would probably get evicted if I played at over 80Db for more than a few seconds. And NO BASS!! I have to turn off the sub for all but old Rock and Jazz. So earphones after 10 pm anyway. I DO love the fact that my neighbors are very quiet!!
When I was young I would crank it up so the entire neighborhood could hear (hah hah ha.. open all the windows and get earplugs..) but I do not anymore. I can get off on the reduced sound levels, even for a Band like AC/DC on earphones at 75dB.
With the monitor/sub system I now have, I stay in the mid 80's to low 90's (continuous) range, which is also determined by the quality of the recording. This system simply lacks the impact the bigger system had & is not as much fun to listen to at higher SPL's.

This is the OTHER big factor in how loud one can go and enjoy it. It is NOT just the need to find a good clean dynamic recording that lacks distortion and compression...but ALSO the need to have a system that can play that loud effortlessly (i.e. with no more distortion than you get at 80 db).

For example the hardest to reproduce are drums: a drum set playing at around 90 db average SPL is likely to have accented peaks of around 100 db SPL, ghost notes at as little as 70 db, perhaps a squeaky foot pedal or the tail end of a crash at an even lower 30 or 40 db SPL, and on the flip side the max crescendos at the finale/end of a section/big rock fill should be around 110 to 115 db SPL. When you calculate this requirement at the typical 8 to 10 feet back listening position then you *ideally* need a speaker that can play at 120 db SPL comfortably and cleanly and without compression in order to get that relaxed "live" dynamic sound effect. It is a tall order and not many speakers can do that - so most music that you purchase has been heavily compressed - especially drums.
For comfortable extended listening
Vinyl 75-85 db
Digital 65-75db
I like o listen at around 75 db-but louder if its a good recording-it feels more like a live event when its loud
Thanks for the correction Albert. It looks like the app is called Soundmeter and costs $19.99 as opposed to $.99 for Decibel or Db but should be more flexible and accurate. Worth a try.
I do not have a didital meter but music that has a sustained loud passage I measure 92db. Most of the music I listen is well under that.
I depends on the music for me. I turn up the volume till the song comes to life, every soung is different. Between 70 - 85 most of the time though
99% of the time 75-85db....drinking heavy fuel and listening to rock and the blues, who knows? (oh thats right!....my wife knows.....very loud).

Dave
For me, the ideal is to hear playback at the same level I would experience hearing the same performance live, except for some rock. Anyone hearing very much live music should be able to adjust levels by ear, without need for a meter. For symphonic music, I prefer row M, not row B, so my levels would be lower than some others might like. For jazz, folk, etc., I prefer 20 to 30 feet from the stage. This provides better integration of sound when there is more than just a solo artist. Rock will be played back at lower than live levels since I don't want my ears ringing for days afterwards.

But reality means many recordings will be listened to at lower than ideal levels. As others commented, recording/pressing quality becomes very important here. For example, choral music can seldom be listened to at live levels without distortion.

But a real mystery to me is why so many audio friends tend to listen to all their music at the same level (individually, not necessarily the same as each other)? They find one volume setting and listen to everything at that level. The advantage of a remote volume control is not pure laziness, it is the ability to fine tune volume from the listening seat, even changing from one track to the next when necessary.
Thank you, Albert and Sonofjim.
I listen on average about 80-85 db, with peaks close to 90.

I thought this was rather low, but it seems people lower than that.
Using my iPhone SPL meter (greetings Albert) I occasionally get 90-98 DB peaks. The rest is in the high seventies to mid eighties.
I personally compare SPL meters akin to the utterly useless
buzzes and beeps I have in my car, I do not need a beep
to tell me my seat belt is undone, nor do I feel the need for a gadget to tell I am listening at 86.3692963db, my listening levels is all done with my shell likes, either side of my head, if it is too loud, I just hit the remote and decrease the quality, if it is too quiet I hit the opposite button and just make it louder. I do like to fill my room with sound (13'x27') during the day as I am not going to annoy anyone (other than the dogs) I use my Oris 150's, but not at a level that gives me any ear ringing or causes my ears to bleed. In the evening (late) I use my single cone speakers and sit perhaps 12' from them, as opposed to my 25' listening positioning during the day.
More power to you if you feel the need to use a SPL meter, I just don't see the need. Music where instruments are plugged in should be played Medium to loud.
Rage Against The Machine played quietly? Nah.
More power to you if you feel the need to use a SPL meter, I just don't see the need. Music where instruments are plugged in should be played Medium to loud.

I lived very well without my SPL too, but going WAY back I've always had the Radio Shack meter around to verify home theater voicing, checking individual drivers for equal output, reporting to others about how loud a hum or buzz is from a transformer that's supposed to be quiet and even measuring the SPL from various record cleaning machines to see if "quietness" claims are accurate.

I even use it occasionally to prove to my wife that a favorite restaurant is probably in violation of OSHA on Saturday evening :^), for amusement if nothing else.

SPL meters are like speedometers on cars, we all know when we're driving way too fast, but it's nice to know how much over.
Gawdbless,
I could not agree more.
For heavens sake, SPL meters are for AR types. It is a nice toy, if one feels so inclined, but hardly for a serious system set up. Used nothing but my ears. Those, though imperfect maybe, are the judges after all. What sounds right to them is fine and to hell with all measurements.
I am all for an Epicurean lifestyle.
But then, I am also all with Albert, as a toy they are way nice, those SPL meters.
Happy measuring, happy listening,
Detlof
Dear Mechans: In the day by day hearing I 'm on the 83db with peaks at 90-92db at seat position ( around 3m. )

Unfortunately not all recordings comes at the same " output level " and in some cases I have to reduce or to increase that normal volume by 1.5-3.0db

It is not only the output recording level and recording distortions and how we like it more but how low or high are each one audio system intrinsic distortions .

Regards and enjoy the music,
Raul.
I find I need a minimum of 80db but prefer between 85 and 90.

I always use a SPL meter as I don't want to damage my ears more than they already have been and find it too easy for the volume to creep upwards (as I adjust for different music selections). Every once in a while I re-adjust to just over 80db (which can sound quiet if the volume has crept up).
Hey wait a minute Gawdbless. Utterly useless buzzes & beeps in your car? What, no more chauffeur?

BTW, dB meters don't measure to the ten millionth.
My volume is set at specific level, i never ( except in few cases where recordings are low volume) touch it and is tuned for both CD and analog playbacks.

With this set up my volume/peaks varies between 75-85 db. You could say average is around 78 db!

for occasional high spirit listening sessions i crank it up a bit to may be around average of 85 dbs, peaks to 90 db- Solo Piano's and dance/rock music sounds much more believable at this level
BTW, I listen near field- about 6-7 ft from my big speakers!

Detlof, gotta get the new IPhone as my vintage iPhone does not have a built in SPL meter. Or did you buy an ap for that?
Nilthepill said

"09-11-09: Nilthepill
My volume is set at specific level, i never ( except in few cases where recordings are low volume) touch it and is tuned for both CD and analog playbacks."

I think the good Dr. Mechans will have a new prescription for you. Thankfully your name is NilthePILL.

Dr Mechans has diagnosed me as obsessive compulsive for doing exactly as you say. There is help.

05-22-07: Mechans
"Acoustat- If that diatribe wasn't toungue in cheek. I recommend you get the DSM IV out and look up obsessive compulsive disorder. Easier do a search on line . Help is available."

05-22-07: Mechans
"If you are a nurse then you have what is known as poor insight technically. The behavior you describe is absolutely obssesive and if you can only listen that way it is a compulsion. I say this with some degree of confidence My wife and I are seasoned MDs and she just so happens to be the Chair of a Psych Dept. I can say only this -after 14 years of her describing various cases every night no names all HIPPA o.K. and that I myself was good in Psychiatry got Honors etc blew the boards through the roof etc. - typical MD narcisiscm.
Please don't impose more insanity of ridgid inflexible behavior as the single and only correct way. Anyone who deviates from this single correct manner is not a person who appreciates music as audiophile ."

Crank it up! Its good for your mental health

Bob
well ad/dc foos and stuff like that, loud 110 db at least blue nile 80. it can be quite earth shakin in my 10 x 12 room w/ 2 dna 500's monoed? with a pr of zu's so how loud depends on the amount of power i can get out wall outlet w/ a 20 amp breaker so far 141 db
well ad/dc foos and stuff like that, loud 110 db at least blue nile 80. it can be quite earth shakin in my 10 x 12 room w/ 2 dna 500's monoed? with a pr of zu's so how loud depends on the amount of power i can get out wall outlet w/ a 20 amp breaker so far 141 db

What?

:)

Regards,
-- Al
with a pr of zu's so how loud depends on the amount of power i can get out wall outlet w/ a 20 amp breaker so far 141 db

Is that what they call a "Brown note"? (So loud that you S&*t yourself?)
Yep, the chauffeur is still in employ, although the offer
of 'you can park your car in my garage' is proving to be a tough refusal as I like to keep a professional distance between employer and employee.
In fact I am going to insist on the stereo (can it be stereo if the vehicle has 4 or 6 speakers)? being on and playing loudly so I do not hear the idiot beeps.

One could take ones SPL meter to the local pick up bar and
thwap it out when chatting up somebody and one could say with a big smile, 'wanna see If I can get you up to 110db with some serious bed thrashing'?
Her retort could be 'if you can't find my button you'll be lucky to hear me reach 60db! '......................
One could take ones SPL meter to the local pick up bar and
thwap it out when chatting up somebody and one could say with a big smile, 'wanna see If I can get you up to 110db with some serious bed thrashing'?

With the right personal "equipment" and the iPhone SoundMeter download you could do your personal best while reaching the threshold of pain in two ways.

At least one can dream.
"09-11-09: Acoustat6
I think the good Dr. Mechans will have a new prescription for you. Thankfully your name is NilthePILL."

Acoustat5, you are not kidding! If I change volume and then I need to get back to my specific level, i would use magnifying glass to rotate my preamp's volume knob back to its precise location (my preamp has old fashioned analog volume control)
I guess I am anal in this not because i have this crazy theory (like yours ;-)) but in my average size room, at my listening position, which is very close, everything sounds 'right' at this 'specific level'

Like I said, I do occasionally 'turn it up'. But may Dr Mechans can prescribe me a pill to do that more often or get rid of this OCD of mine ;-)
I recently used a pro calibrated SPL meter to see what level I listen at. I was surprised. My average level was 75 to 80dB with peaks around 85dB. 90dB was getting uncomfortable for me. I thought I was listening at least 10dB higher before I used the SPL meter. My hearing hasn't gone down the drain after all these years of abuse after all.
Nil,
It is an ad-on.
and what is all this meshugas since I've been away?
You just can't leave the boys alone.....(;
A few weeks ago I sold my Usher BE 718’s and replaced them with Focal JM Labs BE Micro Utopia’s… forcing me to mess around with speaker placement. I was perfectly happy with the Usher’s, but the temptation was too great so I took the plunge. I don’t know exactly what db level I was playing the Usher’s at, but I always set the volume level at the same mark. When I played the Focal’s at the same mark, the sound was “uncomfortable”. That confused me because the Usher’s are more efficient than the Focal’s.

I finally figured out that I must have been playing the Usher’s at a db level that gave me the fidelity I was happy with. At the same time, I realized that the Focal’s would give me the fidelity I was looking for… but at a lower db level... and that has made my wife very happy.
I listen a lot based on the volume that one would expect if the music was live. So with Wagner- peaks around 110, but ELP's first LP I'll have dialed back a bit to peaks at 100-105. Solo guitar is then at 75.

In order to play these volumes comfortably (the way real music can do- 110 db is easy for a live orchestra), the system has to be free of resonances and odd-ordered harmonic generation (odd ordered harmonics are the cues that the ear/brain system uses to determine how loud a sound is). With no artificially enhanced volume cues then the cues come from the sources rather than the playback.
Raks, you said "When I played the Focal’s at the same mark, the sound was “uncomfortable”. That confused me because the Usher’s are more efficient than the Focal’s."

Actually, it's the other way around. The Ushers are much less efficent than the Focals. I made the switch in the opposite direction from you (from Micro Utopia BE's to the Ushers and there is definitely a difference in the efficiency with the Ushers needing considerably more power to hit the same volume level). So, if you set the same volume level on the Focals that you listened to with the Ushers, that explains why the sound was "uncomfortable". At the same volume position it would have been louder with the Micro Utopia BE's. So, it's most likely not a matter of the Focals giving you the fidelity you were looking for at a lower level.

Disclosure: I am an Usher dealer and a former Focal dealer.
Seconding Everest_Audio's comment, John Atkinson's measurements of the Usher indicate a measured sensitivity of 85db/2.83V/1m, less than their claimed 87db specification, while the Focal's are specified at 89db.

The usual confusion factor of 2.83 volts vs. 1 watt is present, but since both speakers are specified as nominally 8 ohms, and have a minimum impedance in the vicinity of 5 ohms, that is probably not significant in this comparison.

Regards,
-- Al
When I played the Focal’s at the same mark, the sound was “uncomfortable”.

As Ralph pointed out - distortion and particularly of higher harmonics is usually what makes the sound uncomfortably loud or just plain "uncomfortable" in small stereo systems.

Distortion can come on the source (a compressed Green Day or Red Hot Chilli Peppers CD), from your amplifier or from your speakers. Small speakers are most often the consistent culprit if you are using decent CD's. There is an article on Siegfried Linkwitz website about common midrange distortion and how it rises dramatically at higher SPL's.

It is surprising how loud music from real instruments can be without sounding uncomfortable but, for sure, consistent average energy above 100 db SPL is going to qucikly become uncomfortable. You can even cause IMD distortion in your ears at these high levels with midrange frequencies...although ultra LF bass frequencies do not become loud until you reach 100 db SPL...

Confusing...yes it can be.
FWIW - the Ushers show signs of compression at a mere 90 db SPL - so you can forget about clean 110 peaks that Ralph mentioned.

And the as for the Focals, well ouch the distortion from what might be the tweeter resonance is scary. I have always considered that tweeter to sound splashy or in your face - and perhaps that plot says it all...who knows.