How Much Is Too Much?

i was musing over the recent review by m.fremer of the SF Guarneri Memento speakers as he described their wonderful sound; naturally for a small monitor, they "almost" reproduce the full impact of large scale classical music. they "almost" do justice to hard rock. and of course, they're ideal for smaller jazz groups and chamber music- so much so, that even with the $14k price tag, they would still be perfect for certain people. as i get older (i just turned 55), i am on the fence when i listen to music- i don't like it at realistic volumes as much as i used to. recently i auditioned Wilson Alexandria's, which really put the music right up in your face (i mean this in a positive way of course), whether it's Beethoven #9 or Bill Evans, AC/DC or Segovia. they are astonishingly resolving so you're not missing ANYTHING. you simply dial in the appropriate volume level for the type of music and sit back (you may want to grip the chair firmly for extra support). my impressions of those speakers spilled over in my head for days. ever since high school, i had a desire for a system that could reproduce music on a realistic scale. but NOW otoh, do i really want to listen to music hour after hour as if i was in lincoln center, or a jazz club, or a black sabbath concert? or would i rather listen to the guarneri's- maybe even turn DOWN the volume control on the amp every so often? or am i just getting too old and cranky? in addition to these other blasphemies, i can listen to my tivoli radio at my bedside for hours and not feel i'm missing that much, especially on jazz. so i humbly ask again- are there others here as well that, after you've heard alot of what a great (big) systems are capable of, you still want (alot) of music in your life, but increasingly you don't care as much about "slam" or IMPACT as you used to? come to think of it, if i go all the way back to when i was 9 or 10, my "system" consisted of a transistor radio with a 2 inch speaker; as i remember it sounded "good enough"- but then i started to want FM too...
Excellent subject. We are about the same age. I agree, I no longer want to listen at concert levels. It's never going to be ths same as live anyway. I find it too much and much prefer to listen at lower levels. It draws me into the music.
I listen at between 75db-85db, 99.9% of the time....plenty loud for me! Live music is like watching a good movie...the thrill is not always in the sound. My system sounds better than most live events....minus 80% of the thrill factor.

Loud....thats usually the only part "I don't enjoy" about live music.

I am 53 and like to listen at low to moderate levels.
Too loud gets irrating very quickly.
I live in a small town (pop. 3500). Every year at this time the Chamber of Commerce holds a blues festival, which doubles the population. The acts that play are generally very good, and the event last from 10 in the morning to midnight. My house sits two blocks from the stage. There's a large Masonic Temple between us along with several large oaks, elms, pines, other houses, etc. The music is LOUD. It is very LOUD. I can feel the walls vibrate.

My system is modest, Thiels and McIntosh gear. I don't play loudly. The music doesn't sound live. It does sound real, however, and extremely enjoyable, and there's no one to cut across my lawn to get to their car when I listen. Am I cranky? Yes.
I am likewise over 50 but have a different opinion. I do like my music loud and dynamic at times. It's an essential component of what makes it sound real. The key words being "at times". Other times I enjoy putting on more mellodic and less dynamic recordings and just relaxing.

I have one system that is great at providing dynamics and slam, and a couple of other systems that I use more for relaxing background type of listening. In other words, you CAN have it both ways. And I don't even feel guilty. I don't think I could tolerate a steady diet of either extreme.
Now, at age 53, 65-80dB (verified w/spl meter) is my volume "sweet spot".
I too have found myself not playing music quite as loud as I used to. Also, my tastes in music is changing. I am 54.

Some of this is attributed to having better equipment now that can pull me into the music rather than the music blasting at me.

However,... I still like to crank it up with Led Zepplin, ACDC, BTO, CCR and others from my teenage days from time to time. You know "Kick out the Jams" ! That music just doesnt sound right played softly.
I am 52. I cannot listen to music on a car radio not even those expensive car stereos or a reciever system. Radios are for talk shows or ball games for me. About 3 years ago I bought a SPL meter. I listen to music at peak levels about 88 to 92 decibles. I listen to mostly classical that has wide dynamics.I do attend live classical events and have not found them to be any louder than when I listen at home but I'm sitting about 25 to 30 rows back. Louder than 92 decibles I think would be excessive what is important to me is demensionality, tonality and detail. I find the older I get the pickier I get on the quality of the sound. One note bass is like listening to finger nails on a chalk board.When I was in my teens early 20s I thought my car stereo and JVC receiver was really something. I changed a lot at age 26 when I heard a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and have been refining my system ever since.
I am under 50 but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.....I like a steady 85db wich will get louder on quick dynamic peaks but isnt too loud, loud just gets old.
I think all of us have learned a bit of patience, moderation and selection.
I find myself being more aware of when and where
I spend my energy or invest and involve myself.
I prefer quality rather than quantity.
I think it is a maturity of process, understanding, happiness.
I do sit and listen to music quite often.
I do wonder what it would be like to have another VK60 and enjoy the power and finesse of paired monoblocks once in a while.
I listen to Cremona Auditors.
I grew up watching radio and reading good books.
I think there is a difference between being smart and wise.
I think we should celebrate the simple fact that we all have gear that will portray music no matter what the volume and put a smile on our faces.
I think we should all drink more red wine and enjoy life the best we can.
I will be fifty next April.
I think I am ready for a nap.
I think I wiil go and turn down the music a little bit more.
Life is good, kick ass and take names.
Enjoy the music.
When I was 14 I was playing a very complex Bach organ piece in church and did a fair job with it. Afterward the head priest came to me and said "Don't play that again, it has too many notes." I thought that was one of the most stupid and obscence things anyone had ever said.
Now at 57 I am finding myself enjoying musical pieces that are tending toward the simpler side: solo instrument, simpler accompaniment, less backround sounds in both classical and pop/rock. I am noticing and enjoying more the details of each note, its timbre, attack and decay. As we get older do we prefer less notes?
I find that the better the speaker and amplficiation the more natural and effortless a good recording will sound; the end result is that the music inevitably gets turned up. I agree that most systems distort on transients and begin to sound awful (dull or compressed or harsh) at higher volumes.
So, now that there seems to be a trend toward listening at low to moderate levels...this affords an opportunity to make a qualitative audio upgrade...single ended amplification. And if you have any concern about bass response, get hooked up with a PX25 based amplifier. Both Audion and Art Audio make an excellent single ended integrated amplifier...
The size of the speakers must be matched to the volume of the room. The Alexandrias are not going to sound very good in a typical European lounge or urban apartment and I doubt that the Sonus will sound right in one of those capacious 5000 cubic foot media rooms found in the McMansions in the suburbs. It's horses for courses, no matter what volume you listen at.
"Har Mozart, and then it seemed, a bit... how do you say, it seemed to have too many notes! There are in fact only so many notes the ear can hear in the course of an evening."

Happy Listening!
It really depends on your listening style. if you read a dense tome with intens concentration , the music clearly is not best loud it must be very soft and dream like that would be about 70-75 Db barely audible. I know my wife plays her music at that level. When I listen I like it with gusto despite my joining the rank of old farts. Pal Joe and I listen with peaks to 105 db at the seating position. I found a soundtrak from "2001 a Space Oddedsy" in a second that I found store that was hard to type, In any event hand store. the peaks were intense and almost to loud. I would answer you question that the best musuc in the world is this simple . The music you like to ply you and many hours is clearly Thw music exant . I have telling prople that for about 25 years.
SO F*** um if they don' tlikit.
i forgot to mention one other thing- in addition to enjoying full sized systems AND compact-monitor systems (both in equal measure- i hope it's understood that my main system speakers weigh over 500lbs each), it may be purely psychological in my case, but i am fascinated by small speakers/systems as they disperse sound into a fair-sized room. i was laid up after surgery a few years ago, and sat up in bed listening to a JVC "Kaboom" box mounted on my dresser. my old rock and roll cassettes and many of my cd's sounded really great- the box threw a suprisingly wide stereo image as well. i wisely left the classical material in the living room, but it made a big impression on me. and THIS after all my years of upgrading to levinson, b&w, vpi,...
Well. I think that most of the rock we loved in our youth, and I still love a lot of it today, sounds pretty good on the smaller speakers of a car stereo.

Now that I've found and am able to afford better equipment that is more resolving I find it possible/desirable to listen to music at lower levels. I have found that the more resolving and efficient my system gets, the easier it is to listen at low volume and not feel like I'm missing those background details. Prog rock, jazz, classical, country. It all works on a great system.

Much like Plato I do still find the urge from time to time to crank it up a bit. I've also learned to listen for the point where I'm overdriving the room.
When did everybody turn 50? Sheesh! :-)

I like watching concert videos at "live" levels. And, like others, I occassionally like to let it crank. Mostly, I listen at levels that make the music sound good and are appropriate for the time of day, etc.

I always worry when the review talks about the constraints of a $14K monitor, especially when it starts limiting the types of music that the speakers would be "suitable" for. I listen to music "full blast" much less regularly than I did in days of yore, but I still listen to a wide range of music, at all different volumes, and I still want a speaker system that sounds "complete" on all of them.
We all go thru seasons in life. In my early years that little portable radio was the best I could afford and I loved it. Played loud it sounded distorted, but I was jammin. Now much better system, and at times it is nice to play it loudly without the distortion, and I am still jammin. It is still about the music, and in part the pride and joy of having a system you can afford and enjoy. {Protect your ears, you will want to listen for a lifetime.}
For me, the best comparison I can produce is that it's like when I owned a rather fast car. More than 99% of the time I drove it in a courteous, "don't notice me" manner. Every now and then I did like to let slip the dogs and hear'em howl. Highway on-ramps were favorite spots to serve notice upon the raccoons homesteading in the mufflers. But it was the car's effortless, accomplished driving style at ordinary, relaxed in-traffic driving that really made the sale.
I currently own audio components that can play inherently amplified music (rock) at ear-bleed levels. More importantly to me, they can, without objectionable levels of playback artifacts, reproduce a symphony orchestra running Wide Fully Open. (That's what WFO stands for, uh, right?) But a component didn't survive the audition if it didn't put me into the music at levels that don't require the kids to turn up the volume on Spongebob. I reserve the occasional sonic slamdance for times when spouse and kids are off shopping or something.
cheers apo