Low level listening

I am interested in everybody's thoughts on speakers on low level listening. Currently I have Tekton Lore's. They are the upgraded model and I like them, but they open to most of the time at a higher volume then I'm comfortable with. Smart me had to much fun listening to live music. " tinnitus".  I have ordered Magnapan LRS+ which I auditioned at my home which seemed more articulate at lower volumes. Any other ideas would be appreciated. Speakers or cures ? Just kidding about cures. 


For me, completely understanding the issue has been illusive. But different systems I have owned have definitely varied. In general, the better the system the less dependent on volume.


I have heard a lot of Maggie’s over the years. Those are, at least in my mind not speaker you want. To get dynamic presentation they need a lot of power… and often volume.

My favorite speakers for low volume are Totem. My Sonus Faber sound great at low volumes. But it is not just the speakers… it is also the electronics. 

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@erik_squires , I just listened to a set of little Dynaudio Heritage speakers and was very impressed. They reminded me of LS3 5As with a little more bass. Beautiful image. $7K was a little steep so we wound up getting Harbeth P3ESR XDs, a better value at $3200.00. Subwoofers will be mandatory. This is my son in law's first system. 

In my pursuit of low level listening I found Omega Speaker Systems to be a gem. Single driver, no crossover, perhaps paired with a SET.

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The Dali's are good. Currently my Labrador is looking to see where the hound in Pink Floyd's Seamus is at. I have the Opticon 8's.  A couple of strikes; They are not high efficiency so you have to have good watts. Strike two is there is not a lot of support. You are dealing with Denmark and very few distributors in U.S..

I would look for a pair of efficient speakers.  Something like 94db or higher.  Higher sensitivity speakers will sound more articulate at lower volume than lower sensitivity speakers.  

@stereo5 What is the correct answer on this? If you have good watts and enough of them, I think enough watts to drive lower efficiency speakers would sound better at lower volume or at least possible tie with low watts - high efficiency, right? I think I will start a thread called Variables.


I have the same issue and also have the LRS+ on order.

Elusive as the solution may be I think you are on the right track.

Higher efficiency speakers are a common suggestion. I had some

Altec Horn speakers which were probably the best low volume

speaker I have owned. 

Let's hope the LRS+ is an even better solution!!



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very easy to assume that electrostats cannot sound loud at all -- not designed for that.

The ’Loudness’ filter on all old vintage receivers solved the problem of listening at low volumes.

Note: ’Loudness’ is a stupid name, it should have been called Low Volume Boost, or something more descriptive.


Modern equipment skips the feature, a darn shame.


This Chase Remote Line Control RLC-1 automatically engages the Fletcher Munson curve. 6 available on hifishark


Proper way to use it:

1. You set it’s volume at it’s default volume setting (no loudness engaged). Unplug/Plug it in). Leave it alone while you do step 2.

2. you use your preamp, integrated amp to set your default ’normal volume’ leave it alone.

3. Now use only the RLC-1 to boost or cut volume.

4. Lowering volume via RLC-1 will begin implementing the ’Loudness’ Curve. As you lower volume further with RLC-1, it progressively engages the Fletcher Munson curve.



here’s one New In Box.



NOTE: you must have the remote control. No active controls on the unit.

Other features:

a. 4 line level inputs

b. remote volume control, and mute

c. remote balance control

d. remote tone controls ’treble’ and ’bass’.

Also: two identical line level outputs.

On/off via RLC-1 retains your last adjustments.


NOTE: Signal to Noise is 120db

No one can hear any difference in my system with it ’in’ or ’out’.

Note: 5 of the 6 available have the remote

this one has no remote, like a door stop without the remote


It isn't just the speakers that sound good at low volume, it is the entire system.  The better the system, the less you need to turn it up.  you would benefit greatly by upgrading to one of what Tekton calls their "Flagship"--probably Moab, Encore, or Symphony would suit your needs.  

I find a great DAC and a Great tube amp with these high sensitivity speakers make listening at low levels even more enjoyable that high levels.


My KEF’s don’t start to blossom until 60-65 dbs and above, then they’re great! Not that they sound bad at lower levels.

My old Epi 100 speakers sound great at low volumes, as does my Heresy IV.  Both also sound great at moderate and high volumes.  There doesn't need to be a tradeoff.


Yes the Great MBL Omni directional Loudspeakers Everywhere is the sweet spot and pick up information on the recording that’s lost with the vast majority of Loudspeakers being the most critical midrange,and tweeter are outside of the cabinet enclosure,yes even at low volumes ,starting with their smallest speaker the 126 monitors , 

I have long used Quad stats and a few years ago, had my '57s restored by Electrostatic Solutions. You don't have to play them loud (in fact, they will not play at jet take off levels) to get the musical information. I use them in an all vintage tube system that has been brought to spec with fresh old stock glass.

By comparison, my main system, horns and SETs, can also deliver the musical information at low db levels. That system can play loud but I often listen at modest levels. (To get the woofers to energize the room, you have to give it some power). 

In comparison, I think the Quads act as a filter- they aren't as efficient and seem to give a warm sheen to most music- the horns are extremely revealing, more of a microscope on the music. I think, on balance, despite the '57s legendary transparency, I'm actually hearing more musical information with the horns than the Quads, but the latter sure are nice. Maybe it is the tube complement on the Quad system too compared to what drives the horns. (More "old fashioned" v. modern). For me, it was a bit of an epiphany, given that I've always considered the Quad "transparent." 

If I can't listen to my system at a fairly robust volume, I put on my headphones.  I like to hear music presented in such a way that it's hard to distinguish from being there.  When was the last time you were at a live show and said "I can't hear it?"

Curious why you are asking for recommendations if you have already ordered new speakers?

assuming they are returnable, what SPL levels are you aiming for?

I ask because I also have hearing damage from exposure (too much clubbing in the 90’s) and I use the “dB meter” app routinely. 

A max of 85dB should not cause any further damage and I find 70-85 very enjoyable with my Harbeths. 85dB “sounds loud”. The design criteria for them included sounding satisfying at the 70dB range.

the rest of the system helps of course, which includes 2 subs. All listed in my virtual system.

Low levels will never sound right as explained by someone earlier our ear frequency response varies with level and bass and treble are softer than middle frequencies until about 100dB, certainly loud. I suspect this affect is magnified by speakers that compress dynamic level changes more than other speakers whether by the speaker design itself or perhaps how well the speaker follows the voltage changes dictated by the amplifier. It's well known speakers vary in their reaction to inputs due to how reactive a load they are for amps.

What amp or integrated are you using - I think this makes a big difference to clarity/information at lower volumes.

additionally would recommend the Schitt Loki EQ to make your own boosted curve for lower level listening - works amazingly well.

Also a subwoofer will make your speakers easier to drive and fill in the bottom - the effect is more impact at lower volumes. 

Fwiw, your amp is equally important as speakers for low level listening. LLL is all I do! 

+1 @elliottbnewcombjr, you can fight biology, but it is probably better to work with it. Anything else is going to be a band-aid.

To those in the camp that Magnepans won’t play well at low volumes, I’m willing to bet with a high current amp this wouldn’t be the case. My fully restored/upgraded Apogee Acoustics Duetta II Signature are pretty inefficient, but still sound incredible  at low volumes. I’m also driving them with a beast BAT VK-600 with bat pack (dual mono in the same chassis) solid state amp that produces a huge amount of current.


Low levels will never sound right as explained by someone earlier our ear frequency response varies with level and bass and treble are softer than middle frequencies until about 100dB

The correlation between sounding right and 100dB is utter nonsense. My "listening room" is 60ft w x 25ft d open plan (minus a 17x17 ft bedroom with doors on 2 sides) and you can hear the music clearly throughout the house/in the bedroom at 85dB, never mind 8-10ft from the speakers which is where the sweet spot is.  

This is biology, not nonsense. Our hearing sensitivity at different frequencies changes with volume. It is why music sounds different with changes with volume. A speaker with exaggerated bass or recessed mids may sound better at lower volume than one that does not, but you solve an issue at low volume and create a new one at high volume. There are easier ways to fix this.

I to thank everyone for their feedback. My system consists of a Audiolab 6000 CDT into a Schiit Bifrost 2 into a Schiit Freya+ into Schiit Lokius to Class D Cherry STM amplifier with 60 volt seperate power supply. It output of 200 into 8ohms, or 400 watts into 4 ohms with Tekton Be Lores. I also have Rythmik  F12SE sub. In seeking idea's I am by no means stopping my order for the LRSs, i'm just seeking knowledge which I certainly appreciate. The Maggies when I auditioned at home over a weekend for lack of a better word had more presence. The image was more defined, and that was with there stands not the Magna Risers

@bobdavid , you have the Lokius so you are set up for playing with equalization for better low volume listening no matter the speakers.

@thespeakerdude Actually it is physiology not biology. Either way, I'm not disputing your chart. 

I'm disputing the claim that low levels will "never sound right" (good/enjoyable?) until you get to 100dB. 

Sounding "right" is subjective and I spent a lot of money getting my system to sound "right" to me, with documented hearing loss, at 85dB or less, in a relatively large room.

OP your audiogram may provide some insight - for me the loss was 750-4KHz 40-60dB.

Basically vowels and made worse by the generally softer female voice. So I flash the report to my wife every once in a while.

Macg19. Sorry I wasn't clear. What I meant is our ear's balance changes with level. The louder we listen the closer lows and highs are to the mid levels. But this doesn't imply we should listen at 100dB. But the nearest to correct balance(assuming good recording engineering) will occur when the level at one's ears is the level the recording was balanced at. But complicating that is how linear level changes are in a system(due to speaker dynamic linearity and the relationship of amp/speaker and to some degree the rest of the system. If it's right at one level and the system compresses above that it will be wrong at higher levels.

Anyway listening at the ear at low levels makes the bass and treble sound lower than they were recorded at relative to the mids.



How did the LRS+ sound in your home at low volume?



Which amp(s) do you find best for LLL?

@dynamiclinearity No worries and thank you.  I agree with you. 

Hearing loss and tinnitus is a serious and sometimes debilitating problem. I do think it is helpful for those of us with hearing loss and an interest in hifi to protect our hearing from further (preventable) damage and that with some understanding of our diminished frequencies, and maybe some trial and error , a great sounding, safe system is obtainable.

I have had success low listening with 2 setups. One my tannoy ardens with luxman class A (the loudness button boosts bass at low volumes really well) they shift a lot of air so effortless low.


Others were Falcon Ls3/5a driven by leben cs300xs... Small 18w el84 push pull..... Even more amazing with headphones.... 

For any speaker to sound good at low levels it has to be designed with a giant suckout in the midrange to exaggerate the highs and lows lost to the dreaded Fletcher Munson curve. There is no free lunch.

Lots of good input here. I’d rather be lucky than good…Heritage Lintons, a REL T5i and a recapped and serviced PS-200 Crown with plenty of overhead reach a nice full sound a very comfy Db level. My unsophisticated logic follows most of the posts here, the trick at low levels is filling in a little bass, however you get there. 

ANY good speaker, ANY great system: when played at low volume, YOUR EARS, anybody’s ears, do not have a flat curve. Low volumes, you hear less volume of lows and highs, relative to everything in between. Science!

The ’Loudness’ circuits (filters, equalizers) were developed to compensate for EVERYBODY’s ears hearing less bass and less highs AT LOW VOLUMES. EVERYBODYS (any age, not tinnitus, simply facts).

Play Jazz at a decent volume, the bass player, and the imaging of where the players are you get terrific imaging from your awesome system, specifically the bass enhances the enjoyment of Jazz..

Now, lower the volume: the bass player is kind of gone relative to the other players.

Engage the Loudness feature, bass player is back.

Raise the volume: remember to disable the Loudness feature, or you will have a bass bloated sound.

That is why I like the Chase’s AUTOMATIC and PROGRESSIVE engagement of the Loudness circuit. Raise the volume, the Loudness eq is automatically disengaged.

Like I said, vintage equipment ALL had Loudness feature. Implementation varied.

My Yamaha Receiver has two volume controls. 1st you set ’normal’ volume with one volume control, then leave it alone. You use the other volume control which raises the volume with zero loudness added, you lower the volume, and the Fletcher Munson curve: low bass and high treble are boosted, progressively as you lower the volume with that control.

My Fisher Tube Preamp has a loudness switch. As you lower the main volume, you notice the bass is getting weak. You engage the loudness circuit, and it ’adds’ the bass back.

REPEAT: every speaker remains unchanged, everyone’s ears hear less bass, ’loudness’ electronically boosts the bass SENT TO to your wonderfully flat speakers.

I think it's got to be panels, they have better detail and soundstage than cones at low volume.  May be because the moving membranes are lighter than cones, being much thinner and not requiring to be rigid.

But why not try headphones for low level listening.  The intimate interface with the ear at very low levels gives palpable reality better than any speaker.

Magnepan 1.7i coupled with PS audio M700 monos is a match made in heaven for low level listening. I never feel the need to “crank it up”. I get plenty of detail and impact even at low level. I also have 2 subs in the system that contribute. Some recordings beg to be played loud and I do sometimes “crank it up” but always go back to LLL. BTW, it’s never fatiguing.

I think it's got to be panels, they have better detail and soundstage than cones at low volume.  May be because the moving membranes are lighter than cones, being much thinner and not requiring to be rigid.

There is no evidence of this I am aware of. That would show up in improved distortion at lower volume which I do not think that is the case.

I expect primarily this is a factor of a higher ratio of direct sound versus indirect sound with panels.

@thespeakerdude Actually it is physiology not biology. Either way, I'm not disputing your chart. 



  1. the branch of biology that deals with the normal functions of living organisms and their parts.

I am rather shocked that anybodys regular listening level is 100db. That itself looks like a road to hearing loss in the future.  An occasional peak, yeah.

My Andra eggleston they sound good on low volume.Ive tried Mark Levinson,Krell,BAT.Distortions and brightness show up if I turn the volume up. With my apollon Tsakadiris Tube mono blocks 150 w per channel I can play louder without distortion.