Reference level playback

Hello to all, I have a theory to present that I feel is never fully addressed, it is in regard to the volume level that we listen at. This is in respect to vinyl only as I have no experience with CDs, I do not own a CD player and the one in my car is broken! That and the fact that I own about 10 CDs makes it impossible to have any regarded opinion in this matter.
I have seen in the past postings regarding listening levels, such as overall playback levels and playback levels for individual LPs. The two being distinguishable but not inseperatable. Recently someone said that it is a life time endeavor to find the correct playback levels as it changes from system to system, room to room and LP to LP. Also it has been posted that even crossover levels (and settings) should be used as freely as volume control settings. I disagree.
My experience has show that systems should be set at a reference level of 83db @ 1000hz and all LPs should be played back at this reference level. Set It and Forget It, is my motto.

I listen to all of my LPs at the same gain setting. I let the music and the engineer/producer/pressing dictate the playback level, and screw things up as they see fit! If you do not change the gain setting then you hear exactly what is on the record for evey record every time. I never change the volume control setting, it is set at 83db at 1000hz (plus or minus due to variations in my settings, room and references which does perhaps give you some leeway in any system, and may even be necessary). Some quiet non-bass heavy music plays at around mid 80s. Good rock plays at around the high 80s to low 90s. Music with big bass levels (orchestral and loud rock) plays around low to mid 90s with peaks to 100+. Emerson Lake and Palmers song Lucky Man hits 112db. Of course every record is completely different and that's the thrill and the reason. This is without changing the volume control setting. Want to listen to "quiet" music, put on some quiet music which was recorded appropriatly. Want some big bass Orb, well, it should play loudly. Want to hear the Monkees on Colegems, listen to it in your car.
I also do this for a number of other reasons:
1) All recordings now have the same vinyl recorded background noise, pops and clicks, noisy or quiet vinyl etc.. You hear each recording, pressing and condition of the LP for what it is. Turning down the volume on a noisy record does not make the record more quiet. Turning down the volume on a recording that was recorded too loudly does not help the sonics of this LP. Turning up the volume does not make a record more dynamic and it can only add more noise.
2) Bass levels are maintained through the Fletcher-Munson curve. Using the volume control has a huge effect on this. It makes it more difficult to balance bass levels when you are altering the Fletcher Munson curve. It is impossible to intergrate a sub when freq perception is changing due to overall gain settings for every recording or when listening at different levels according to your mood.
3) All recording engineers and producers have the same amount of dynamics available to themselves, did they make a dynamic, correct volume recording for the music that is recorded? I.e.: did they record an appropriately quiet section or style of music at an appropriate volume or did they compress the hell out of it and make a string quartet the same volume as a rock band? Its up to them to get this correct, not me. Lowering the volume does not help this LP. Is an Lp recorded too quietly and you want to hear it "rock out"? Increasing the volume does not help this if dynamics and overall gain is missing, plus "turning it up increases the noise levels in your system, and noises such as rumble and transient noise. This does not help this LP. How can you say record 1 is a good, quiet recording when played back at a lower gain setting comparing it to either itself or record 2 when played at a much higher setting? Did the pressing use good quiet vinyl? Is the pressing free of rumble and distortion? Changing gain setting dose not help any defiencies, they do not go away because you changed the volume level. Lets face it there are a lot of poor recordings, don't we really want to know which are good and which are bad? This is the way to find them.
4) If you "limit" yourself to one gain setting you will find that it is easier to set crossover settings, speaker placement and sub to main settings. You do this by getting the most out of your settings, not by pumping up or decreasing as is seen fit for that recording. again this shows the recording for what it is.
5) All records are played repeatadly at the same level so they always sound the same. From individual records played at different levels which would mess with the F-M curve and room interactions to all LPs which give some a more quiet background if played at a lower level to others where they become noisy cranked to 10!
6) Its an easily obtainable goal, who can't play at 83db at 1000hz? Therefore all of the other freq will be the same, you then only need your subs to be able to play 50hz and 20hz at 83db. Dont forget the required 20db dynamics! Why buy oversized amps and more gain than you need when all you are trying to do is get 83db at all freq?
7) We would all be listening at this level to make it easier to asses each others system at the same volume level.
8) This is the level that a good recording engineer should strive for. It gives him a natural level 83db with the ability to utilise 20db+ dynamics.
9) You only have to buy the size amp you need.
10) You only need things to be so quiet, is your system quiet at this level? Who cares if it is noisy turned up to 10, you are not listening there anyway.
11) If listening to an LP and the turntable has resonances or rumble or the amp has a low freq aberration changing the reference playback level will alter this underlying feel, sound, noise and this can not be correct-to evaluate at diff levels. This also pertains to number 1, regarding LP noise levels, whether condition or anomalies such as LP recorded hum or vinyl rumble.

In summary there are two main reasons for this and the others come along for the ride. For your system, you only have to obtain a "flat" freq response from 20-20K @ 83db plus the ability for dynamics, a not so easily obtainable goal as it may first appear but at least a direction to go. This does not mean there is there is no "fiddling to be done". If your system is not capable of this setting tune your system to a more easily obtainable level such as 80db or 77db or less and get as full range as possible within your systems capability.
Secondly no record has an advantage due to increased or decreased volume setting, you hear the record for what it is, which is one of my main goals in listening.
I am not the only one to address this issue as you can research this on the net. I feel that that this is an important issue which is rarely ever discussed.
First let me admit that I did not try to digest your entire post for pratical personal reasons. That said, I could be convinced you are right in selecting the 83db play back level for a reason that vinyl lovers never discuss, much at least. That is the effect of airborne vibrations on the interface of the stylus/cartridge/arm. You may have very sensitive ears, very revealing components, and discovered the magical level where distortion from feedback starts.

Other than that, I think I'd write a book disagreeing with many of your conclusions or suppositions supporting them. :-)
Setting the *correct* volume level is indeed an art; but set it and forget it? Forget it!! That ain't no art . . . . .

The trick, the *art* if you will, is finding the level that in your judgement (and hopefully based on your own real-life experiences of live music) most closely approximates live performance -- rock concerts notwithstanding, and neighbors willing ;--)

Whether LP or CD, there's really no standard for recording levels; just a *standard range*. It's up to you to discover the "live level point" in your room for each recording.

It sounds simpler than it is, and takes quite a bit of practice to nail it every time.
There is no way to set one volume for everything, especially on lp. Even if you ignore cutting levels, you have the matter of perspective. The obvious example would be orchestral recordings by Mercury and RCA from the so-called "Golden Age". Mercuries mostly have a perspective roughly like standing on the podium, where an orchestra is much louder than in row W or so like the average Living Stereo. This is why Mercs only sound their best at rather high volumes. An RCA played at that level will sound preposterously loud. A compromise between these two will make them both sound less than their best.
Hi Newbee, It is not anything to do with distortion or feedback or limitations of my system, wow, did I say that?. We are trying to "reproduce a recording". At a certain level you have dynamics and a natural level on an recording, whether the engineer etc got this correct is up to them and I feel that if they got it wrong well.. it is just another poor recording. I assume we can all agree there are good and bad recordings. What makes good or poor recordings? First thing is the engineer/producer, can we change any of this? No. The second is pressing, can we change any of this? No. Third is condition, the answer is a little, as we can clean it but groove damage and scratches are ancient history. I would like to read a few chapters of your book, as I suspect I may be the only one who will be agreeing with myself but I will give it my best shot.

Hi Nsgarch, It is not live music, it is a recording that we are reproducing, warts and all.

Hi Chite, So, of the Mercuries or RCAs which one have it correct or perhaps better or more to your liking? An RCA played at the reference level is not preposterously loud, perhaps the Mercurie is wrong? There must be a reason it sound best at loud volumes, what is the reason? Dont ever compromise.

If you are truly into 'set it and forget it', buy a CDP and a lot more CD's. The horse (LP recording industry) is long out of the barn. At least in digital recording you might, but I cannot suggest how, get the industry to agree to standards and then apply them to make the medium convenient for you. Good luck. :-)
Acoustat6, Having made a few recordings, I respectfully disagree. Usually an LP, and CDs as well, are recorded to take advantage of their dynamic range, resolution and noise characteristics. It turns out that in both cases it is advantageous to record both at the highest levels possible.

But what is the highest level for solo acoustic guitar and voice, closely miked is different than that for an orchestra or rock band going full tilt. The voice and guitar might be capable of 95-100 db; the orchestra and rock bands can easily do 115 or more. Yet the LPs are cut to the same level for both.

The reason for this is if you cut and LP at a higher level for something that is fairly quiet, you get a better noise floor- something that is readily audible in such simple material.

So if one were following your edict, the solo guitar would be way too loud and the rock band not nearly loud enough. Try your hand at recording sometime and you will see the problem- it really helps to hear how loud things are or are not in the original sessions.
Hey Bob, that's pretty interesting as I only drive my car at 28 miles per hour. That way, I don't miss reading any signs or adverts, I pretty much get the best mileage and when I run over a pedestrian I can see them clearly in the rear view mirror. Of course, I know that I should stop for red lights and stop signs, but it is so much easier to just set the cruise control and go for it, so I know how you feel.
I find your premise interesting, but I need a bit more education about the recording process. Is the recording volume supposed to be calibrated at 83db @ 1000hz before every recording session? Therefore when played back at 83db it is then perfect to what the engineer heard?

What happens if the calibration in off? The tape clipped or saturated at 83db so the engineer backed off to 80db? Would recordings then be too loud played back at 83db and not true to the source? Are you re-creating the illusion of a live performance or the master tape? A solo singer at 83db may be true to the source, but at a different volume closer to the what a real person would sound like.

It appears from your long post you have thought this out completely and it seems to work for you. For other people I found an article by a recording engineer that explains some of the compromises made during the recording process (and I always wondered why I had to get up during a record to turn it up):
"The history of the loudness wars can be traced back to the 1970s when vinyl mastering engineers started elevating the levels at the start of each side. This added to the initial impact of the sound as the record started to play. With vinyl, the amount of playback time available on one side of a record is directly related to how loud the record is cut. The louder the signal, the shorter the side. Since cutting the entire side at the elevated level would result in the available space running out before the music ended, the levels were cheated back down to "normal" after the first 30 seconds or so had elapsed.

The advent of the Compact Disc meant recording time was no longer related to recorded levels, so engineers could turn it up and leave it that way for the duration of the disc. Digital however brought its own limits to how loud the signal could be. Unlike analog tape and disks, which reached their overload (and hence distortion) point gradually as the level increased, digital has a maximum that can't be exceeded without resulting in gross distortion."
Hi Viridian, I like your analogy to a car. If you keep the throttle (volume control) steady you will actually go faster downhill (increase volume) and slower uphill (decreased volume-aka dynamics). Unless of course if you are using cruise contol to keep the speed steady at 28mph which applies and decreases the throttle (volume) like a schoolboy listening to Van Halen, turn it up Dude I like this part, at the start of the guitar solo or turn it down this is the quiet acoustic section. Please don't take offense to that, just, sort of, kidding. Seriously, do you turn the volume up and down during a recording?
Hi Atmasphere, we may disagree on this but at least we agree on Laverdas! We cant be too far out. I will have to answer your and WGH respones tomorrow as I am going out now to listen tonight, and need to contemplate for good responses. At least I have one response sort of on my side, thanks WGH for listening.
The thing that amazes me is that anyone takes the original poster seriously :-)
I grew up reading The Absolute Sound (small format)and HP always strove toward creating the semblance of a live performance in a real space. To me that makes a lot of sense, so when needed - I crank it up, but then maybe I need to...

The Indigo Girls concert last night at the small Rialto Theater was terrific, those gals sure can harmonize and play. It was just Amy and Emily on stage with acoustic guitars, I was thinking during the performance that a tube pre-amp somewhere would sweeten the sound, but it was still excellent sound and very clear. So the concert was amplified, they were acoustic. A recording of the concert could be played back at two different volumes and still be totally correct, an intimate acoustic performance or how the actual concert sounded in the theater (loud).

I don't have any idea how many Audiogon members there are.
I do know how many members never change their volume control setting.
Before this post it would have been none, now it's one.
OK, I'm not sure I understood what you're saying -- no reflection on you / I'm challenged.

Is it the following:
"set yr system gain to 83 dB spl (at listening position?) using a 1kHz reference tone -- and leave volume control at that. Play music."
Is that it??
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.
BTW the Audiophile 20db of dynamic range is not generally available for Monkees recordings.
I have been told by a recording engineer who worked with simpletons like David Hafler, that it has been 10db for over 25 yrs because the play back was indeed optimized for radio and cars.(The great unwashed)
Hi guys and gals, Dopogue and Timruh, trust me you can take my post very seriously.
This is something that occured to me after many years of listening. I have stated before that I never listen casually, you know doing the dishes, reading and talking etc, I take it very seious. I used to listen at different levels and turn it up and down as the cut/LP required and realised something was wrong with this. This did take me several years to figure this out but I am now convinced that this this is correct. I believe a system needs to be tuned at this level or one that fits the limitations of your system, this cannot be achieved overnight. By that I mean you have to work at this and set your system up with this in mind. Listen to all of your LPs at the same level at all times when listening critically. Who cares what it sounds like as you walk about the room?

I feel that this is a matter of dynamics and bass intergration. This took me quite some time to figure this out. If your system cannot handle the dynamics within a single cut, this is something most definatly you need to work on and then move up to all LPs

I feel like Darwin at the monkee trials or Galieo trying to convine the Catholic inquisition. The only difference is that I have not been proven correct yet.
Hi Gregm, Well thats just the start of it as I have said it is dependant on your systems limitations but regardless of that, start off listening at one setting. Is your system good at this level? OK, listen to another then another LP are they good at these levels? Adjust bass and overall volume keep doing this until you get the bass and overall levels correct. Some LPs will need more, some less, bass and overall levels, you will discover that many Lps are not mastered correctly. I believe you listen to them for what they are, but if they are wrong, then they are wrong. This does not make them unlistenable though there is still quite a bit of leeway for compression, noise etc.
Now we have to assume that many LPs are not correct, does anyone disagree with that? What are we looking/listening for? Should we adjust our systems to poorly recorded music, condition or pressing? I think not.

This will take some time, it did for me to work this out. It was not easy for Galieo either to convince that the world was not the center of the universe.
Hi Mechans, First off it was not a diatribe, obsessive compulsive? Perhaps. Certainly not tongue in cheek. But why would I spend so much time and energy on audiophile persuasion only to listen to my system like a cheap car radio?
As I said the Monkees on Colegems is not what you want to set your system to. It is just what it is and what you said it is. Do we try to get this LP correct? NO, it is impossible to get this LP correct. This and probably 80 percent of all LPs, classical included.
By the way I am a nurse I can diagnose myself.
"I feel like Darwin at the monkee trial"

Says it all :-)
Hi Dopogue, Yeah, as it turns out Darwin is correct.
Bob, If you want to compare yourself to some of the great mis-understood you might have more credibility if you spelled their names correctly. Its Galileo. :-)

BTW Re: "....start off listening at one setting. Is your system good at that level".

How do I know that my system is 'good' at that 'level'? Perhaps I've just listened to a collection of similarly 'wrong' recordings which sound good at one particular level. How many recordings do I have to use to establish a mean SPL. How do I establish which recordings are 'right' in the first place?

Could you provide a list of all of the LP's you have found to be properly recorded and produce a consistently excellent sound at 83db. That might be helpful for those inclined to check out your theory.
Hi Newbee, sorry for the comparisons, and the misspelling (I apologise to Galileo's daughter as I did just read "her" book several months ago) but really just in jest, OK. I dont take myself or you that seriously. Please I do not want to get into a pissing match so I will not go there. If you would like to hear my thoughts please be nice to me.
Bob, the last thing I wanted to do was start a pissing contest. But, you have a theory. You want folks to take it and yourself seriously. I asked, what I thought were pertinent questions. I think of these as threshold questions not as the foundation for winning a pissing contest. If what you were originally presenting was merely some speculation based on casual retrospection on your audio experience and you were looking for support I can understand your interpertation of my post.

FWIW, I'm glad you don't take me seriously - we think alike. I think my opinions are for the most part irrelevant! Feel free to ignore them. :-)
Hi Newbee, my thoughts are just that sometimes, mine. And here is the difficult part with music, that when one reveals themself as an artist, a participant, an enthusiast one opens their soul which can be revealing and perhaps a bit scarey. I most definatly do want to be taken seriously. This is not speculation or casual thought in a bored moment. I have thought about this and practiced this for sometime now. It may or may not work for you, as anything in life, including audio. What I will try to explain, and please give me some time and patience here, is that this works for me and I believe (disclamer, IMHO) should work for others. As tubes, SS, electrostats, cables etc work for some but not for everyone, why is this? I have some theories on this but... I will try to be more serious in my thoughts.
I will get back to you on your questions ASAP

Although your method wouldn't work for me because only 20% of my listening is serious, I'm watching this thread with interest. Maybe I'll learn something.
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.
In any event why do you deny it was a long winded aguement vetting a very clear statement repeatedly. I think it was an arguement for that method as such a diatribe.
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 . That is a diatribe.
Nothing wrong with having a point of view. However the degree and extent of a fixed pattern of behavior speaks volumes.
There is help-
Mechans, You made a mess of the spelling of "Narcisiscm", "aguement", and "ridgid" (sic). What would Freud say about that, I wonder?
Hello, Hi Newbee, Timrhu. What I think we are dealing with first off is energy, there is only so much energy available in the our LPs grooves. It is to our benifit to have that energy available to us as much as possible at all times. Now the idea is to transform that energy and control it. For all of our LPs equally.

"We" all seem to think that records are dynamically challanged. How can that be if we need to adjust our overall gain within even a single cut, no less different LPs? If I have gain enough to produce 110db from one Lp but others play at 80db at the same gain setting is that not alot of dynamics possible that is only limited by the LP we choose to put on? And by what the producer put on the LP?

When the gain level is set at a certain level the electrical energy is there to convert our mechanical energy into music with macro and micro dynamics. We need to have a certain amt of electrical energy available to us at any moment for every LP. Without distortion and whithout noise.

But it must be controlled. It must be controlled at the speakers, at the amp, at the preamp stage, the interface IE phono, cartridge, tonearm, table. And it must also be controlled in the room with its interactions.

Now we dont ever want to overdrive any of our equipment and want "perfect" equipment. This means there is a point where things fall apart from an electrical standpoint and also from a mechanical standpoint.

My "idea" is to get the most out of my system. Why did I have such a hard time in the past? Like most I would fiddle with the volume control. Up and down looking for that correct point for that LP. I always found it limiting. If I turned it up I may have used all of my dynamics, my room overloaded, my speakers distorted, If I turned it down micro detail dissapeared, and I lost the ability for upward dynamics because my electrical and mechanical power was no longer available.

Now this is the way that I tuned my system. I wanted enough dynamics available to me at all times for every LP since we "know" LPs are dynamically limited. I set my volume contol to a comfortable volume. Listen to LPs, what is "correct" what is "wrong" with this setting? Did I have a mid bass bloat? Perhaps, now this would limit me till I could find the problem, was it the crossoverpoint? Did moving the sub help? Or was it something else? I knew I could not go on till I got this correct because it affects every LP. Now assume this corrected, I said to myself now I can turn it up but now there was perhaps a high freq beaming, move the chair adjust the toe in of speakers, fix first reflection point whatever it takes. Perhaps it was a problem with rumble in the table we know that we dont want to listen to that so why go past my gain setting when now that rumble will be there and exacerbated by doing this? You have to fix this and on and on. Doing this gave me the greatest micro and macro dynamic range, not just upward but also to the noise floor. I will have to refine this thought as while even to me this seems simplistic and obvious, is it? The main thing is listen to all of your LPs at the same level and take time doing this. If you listen at lower levels do not make any adjustments while listening there.

But what I am really trying to do here is to never excede the sytem capabilities and room interaction while still maintaing maximum dynamics within your systems capabilities. The thing is there is no LP out there that should overload your system or room. No LP that is cut too low. If your system is not able to handle the dynamics of any Lp there must be something wrong somewhere. If the bass is correct on this LP but the high freq are not adj/tune the high freq. If the bass sounds bloated or slow correct it or realise that is the way the LP sounds.
If any LP is so far off, do we want to adjust our system for this? No. There is a certain correctness, if you will, and it has little to do with the overall volume. I would put certain records aside to reexamine later and have found that they were neither "too loud or too soft" but due to my system settings they appeared that way. Also we must understand that some records are to be played loud or soft, New Age Steppers (dub music) will play loudly, spoken word will play naturally. Of course some producers/artists got this more correct than others, but dont throw the baby out with the bath water. A LP is what it is, listen to it and find the limitations that are obscuring details or that are inherent in that recording. Noise is another factor pops clicks, inherent noise or rumble in a particular LP, this will not change now from LP to LP and with the volume set correctly should minimise this problem, though big pops will still be present and with the dynamics in my system be scarey. But I for one am most certainly not adjusting my system to a noisy LP.

Now when I did this with my system, I achieved a naturalness and correct overall volume with all LPs. NO one LP has an advantage due to "equalising" with the volume control. You hear each LP for what it really is. That is one of my audiophile goals.

Hey Mechams, should you really be diagnosing people over the internet? Are we not here as a discussion forum? Have I offended you? And please keep your wife out of this, if she has something to say to me let her do the "talking"
Like mechans, I am an MD and feel there are an awful lot of us who exhibit symptoms of OCD in replies to this forum. What starts as a love of music, becomes an obsession with your own interpretation of what a perfect system sounds like. Following the path of "reproducing a live performance" as some have suggested, would require changing volume levels I suspect. I also suspect that goal has as much to do with amps and speakers as the source. I like BandW speakers, but feel they need to be heard at highish volume, or the soundstage collapses.
As for me, I have neighbours and can't play music at high volumes. One of my priorities is a system which is enjoyable at late night volumes, but then I just want to enjoy the music and don't pretend to be an audiophile.
the gain is always tampered with at the plant...even on different runs of the same recording theory please.
Acoustat6 - Your method for adjusting the sound in your room for perfect playback is close, but by not adjusting the volume for every album, if not for every song, then your volume setting is just a random guess which may or may not be optimal.

When you write "Bass levels are maintained through the Fletcher-Munson curve", this would be at your chosen 83db loudness... but since every record has a different loudness, each record will effect the curve. Ideally a person would prepare a log of the decibels (C-weighted?), plus the loudest passage so you don't over drive your system, of every record and set the average volume accordingly (83db) to maintain the perfect equal-loudness contour.

A 1000 record collection would take about 6 months at 4 hours a day (with time off for good behavior). After purchasing a new cartridge you could then get back to serious listening with the secure knowledge you have done everything possible to optimize your system's sound.
Hi Jaybo, Exactly. But what makes an incorrect pressing as you mentioned better? Turning it up does not help if it was pressed too loud and turning it down does not help if pressed low. What helps this LP? Nothing, if it is wrong. Though as I said you can still listen to it as such to find out what they did to F it up. Dont be so quick to blow me off, you may indeed learn something. And again it is not totally about the pressing and volume. It is also about setting your system up, to be able to hear these differences for what they really are. And to learn to know what is correct.
Hi Wgh, Yes I thought about that, and I do have mixed feelings and thoughts on this. I believe, though, that I have achieved the correct approach on this also. Assuming that all LPs have a baseline noise and feel (that completeness that we listen for) to the vinyl sound, this is maintained. Also that, again the correctly balanced LPs are the ones that shine through. I think that the Fletcher Munson curve is maintained through your systems overall sound balance and its interface with the room that is of much more importance in the reproduction of vinyl playback, rather than the volume of the recording which is still maintaining the reference level even if it was not recorded at or pressed at the correct level. I think this is why LPs of different play back levels can still sound cohesive. So the systems gain levels and LPs underlying sound and its ability to reproduce the F-M curve is most important.
"correct" for what? By using that word, you seem to be assuming that the your priorities, which you have expounded on at length, are the "correct" ones. I use my system to recreate a musical experience. You seem to use yours to optimize technical parameters that, in the end, are only optimal for certain recordings which you then identify as "correct". As a recording engineer, I know for a fact that dynamic range is a choice that I typically exercise differently than the average pop engineer. I fully intend for the listener to adjust accordingly, as I do. Athough you have discussed some interesting points, your theory as intended doesn't apply to me or seemigly anyone else here. Your insistance on comparing yourself to Galileo, yet to proved "correct" is narrow minded and down right offensive. By all means discuss your findings, but if you want to be listened to, please drop the self righteous, circular logic. If you believe what you said above that this won't work for everyone then drop the "c" word and don't posture yourself as waiting to be proved right.
For the last 40 yrs I have marked my LPs with the optimum listening indications for my pre-amp to give 90db peaks (almost exclusively classical music) at my listening position. The settings on the pre-amp vary greatly in about a 10db range from disc to disc to get the same peak levels. When I exchange cartridge, I simply run a test record to calibrate it against the previous cartridge and adjust the pre-amp setting to compensate, i.e., if the gain is 5 db less, then I add 5db more gain at the pre-amp to again have 90db on the peaks of my LPs.
Salut, Bob P
But your records and your ears do not know where the volume knob is set. In an extreme example, if a record is recorded at 20dB, on your system it would play back very quietly and you might comment that this recording is bass shy when actually might not be true. Turning up the volume would prove you wrong and the resulting sound would then have the correct F-M curve, though you would have more surface noise, c'est la vie.

Another example are the Stereophile Test Records Intermezzo and Poem. I believe these were recorded at an low average volume to leave room for the dynamics. Intermezzo should reach, at the most, 96dB at your listening seat at the very loudest passages (from the liner notes). If the loudness is different with your system, then it is wrong... but it may be spot on, you should let us know. I have a feeling John Atkinson, Kavi Alexander, and Tim de Paravicini knew what they were doing.

Listening is more than measuring, if it was, we would all have Radio Shack receivers that measure perfectly and this discussion would be about dogs, women, and snow mobiles. Music is a language with excitement, joy and sadness. What you have done is strip all emotion from the language and turn it into a science project.
Wow, I have to say this is a very entertaining thread! Techie debates, internet-based psychiatrists, slow-car drivers (the 28 MPH analogy was great,) this thread is what them there INTERNETS is all about!

But I have to say "Whoa there, fella!" Have any of you guys actually tried Acoustat6's recommendation? I sat down tonight with my Cardas test record and SPL meter, just for giggles. Clocked the volume to 83dB (C-weighted) at 1khz. I didn't even have to put on a record to know that this is WAY too loud! Who listens to ALL music at this level? Sure, once in a while when there's a wild party or if you're in a rockin' mood, but all the time?

In general, I do keep my volume level in generally the same range (+- depending on the record and mood,) and that turns out to measure about 55-60 dB at 1Khz. 83 dB is a huge jump up from what I would call a pleasant level.

Or maybe I'm mis-reading Acoustat6's intentions, and am not calibrating things right...

In any event, I vote "no way" to a constant level setting, regardless of what it is.
Hi Piedpiper, Listen, I presented an idea or theory as I first called it for discussion. I said I was sorry for my reference to some famous people, and to make it more clear, let me say that I am in no way shape or form like great men of the past, except for the fact that I felt as I was being attacked as a fool as they were and that was my reference. That little faux pas got out of hand and I am sorry for it. Perhaps I should have said I felt as if I were at a murder trial and the jury had allready made its mind up that I was guilty before I entered the court room. I should not have said that I was was just waiting to be proved correct, I assure you it was in jest and as we know sometimes things are taken wrong or said in haste or whatever.
I am not a scientist, a journalist, nor am I mentally deranged. I am not asking anyone to wait for a comet with a glass of Cool Aid in hand. Nor was I asking you to spend money on my idea or theory as others do with at least as little validity for improvement of playback.I told you my ideas and I think some valid reasons for it. I also told you my "audiophile" goals in evaluating LPs. Wheather it is "correct" or not for you, is up to you. I do not feel that I am the one being narrow minded, as I am the one who presented the "idea". Perhaps those that gave it no second thought are the ones who are "narrow minded"?
I am sure you are a good recording engineer, and do what you can to make a good recording and I applaud you for that. But there is no denying that there are some pretty poor recordings, pressings and abused LPs out there and that this is "my way" of approaching that. I also mentioned my listening habits which most people take exception to. I also tried to explain, perhaps not very well, how this helps me set up my system. If I appeared to come off too strong and self righteous this is not my personality nor my intent.
Thank you for agreeing that some of my points are perhaps valid.
I think my next thread will be, what is the best cable for $5,000? He said with a hint of comic sarcasam LOL:)
Hi Inpepinnovations, I must say that I like your idea though I have a few problems with it for the way I listen. I dont believe this works for me, but I will keep it in mind.
Marking every record for the last 40 years.
Where is the good doctor when you need a diagnosis, and you thought I was obsessive compulsive? LOL:) etc
Nurse Bob
Just kidding, I am only a nurse and am not allowed to diagnose. I just follow doctors orders. Not kidding.
Hi Wgh, I dont feel I have stripped all emotion from my LPs and turned it into a science project, just the opposite. While I am on my search for "great" recordings, and apparently all recordings are great if you just twiddle the knobs enough, and my quest for some delusional ideal sound intergration, I will think of you for at least trying to understand and have an intelligent conversation. Perhaps, now, we know why "high end" is dying.
Thank you,
Acoustat6, I never thought that you were obsessive compulsive. It is not as difficult as you think to mark every LP on first listening. I simply put the record on and look for the loud passages (you can see them on the record) play them to show about 90db peak on the RS meter and note the position on the preamp volume control and then sit back and listen to the whole record for confirmation of the correct volume.
This method corrects for all the differences in the levels of the recordings and my playback system has been calibrated and set up to be 'flat' at 87db average volume at the listening position, effectively taking out the F-Munson effect. When lowering the overall volume level, I use the compensating control on my Nakamichi 630 Pre-amp, which effectively lowers the mid frequencies, thus preserving the lows and highs at volumes lower than the 87db calibration level.
I chose 87db as a calibration level because it allows the dynamics to be heard above background noise levels when the low volume (60db) parts of classical music are present.
I chose 90db when 'calibrating' my LPs, simply to have a 3db extra headroom, so to speak.
Salut, Bob P.
Acoustat6 - I will have to buy a test record so I can try out your method. My neighbor always plays his music too loud, if Scissorfighter is correct, then it's payback time!

Still curious if you have Stereophile Intermezzo album. Not many of my records have a recommended dB maximum, this may be the only one.

There are a few ways to listen to music, for enjoyment (party on dude!), seduction (Barry White anyone?), recreating the artists inspiration and intent with an illusion of the original performance, and system integration. I think it would be safe to say everyone here prefers one of the first three, and you prefer the latter.
Hi Inpepinnovations, I am sorry you "did not get it" (the inside joke) it was in reference to "Dr." Mechans remarks to me in several of his posting in this thread. I hope no offense was taken and I am in no way trying to diagnose you or insult you as "Dr." Mechan has insulted me.
That being said your idea has merit.
Acoustat6, of course my idea has merit, otherwise I wouldn't do it! All said with 'tongue firmly planted in cheek', of course.
Salut, Bob P.
Acoustat6, I partially agree with your premise, but I think you have taken the principle too far.

Certainly, the best way to get the flavor and texture of a musical piece or set of pieces on an album is to listen at a fixed volume. Many above have gone as far as taking the steps to fix starting volumes for each record to match their room and system synergies. BTW - evidently at much higher levels than I listen.

But, I think there is way too much variation in minimum, average, and peak recording levels from record to record to leave the volume at a reference setting. I think most listeners intuitively (and some mechanically) adjust to a baseline average level that meets their expectation for best playback results (acoustics, synergy, etc.) but, allows them to experience the dynamics on the individual recordings.

Jim S.
Just fall back on fundamental. Everything has got its own fundamental. The sad thing about sound reproduction is that it is never easy to be comprehened as what you can have for photography. But, to me, they always share a lot of similarities, I mean to the extent of reproduction of what have been captured beforehand. I do not challenge into the technicality of the gears as I am not a designer for any electrical or photographic equipment.

For photography, there is always the concept of format. There are different formats of negative that one uses for taking picture. The common ones is 35mm negative. But for most professional photographer, they will go for bigger formats such as 645 or 120. Why? The reason is they need to blow up the picture. For smaller format, it is well known for the fact that there is a limitation in the amount of light energy that can be captured with a smaller lens design together with a smaller and compact area available, the blown up picture (many times of the size of the negative)will not be perfect in reproducing the object which is captured under such condition. The technical terms concerning the reproduction are chromatical correction, aberration etc.. A set of well defined terminology has also been set up such as resolution, curvature of field, depth of field, tonal balance, colour saturation, contrast etc. All these words would allow one to discuss properly the subject we are aiming for. So it is also well known that though 35mm is not a perfect format but it is so widely used by all consumers in the world. The simple reason is that most of us will not need to magnify the photo and the development of the negative into 3R or 4R size of photo is good enough for our collection. With reputable company such as Leica, you can hardly spot any major flaw in the picture you have taken and you may even think that the picture quality is on par with those picture taken with larger format camera under a non-blown-up situation. Now for sound reproduction, there isn't clear to correlate the sound energy with the size and the type of accoustic of the room that sound reproduction is needed.

Another point to be taken note as in photo. The contrast and resolution and the lens design will cause different results in micro and macro details of the picture. It is apparent when you start to compare lenses produced by those Japanese and with that by Leica. The colour tone and the saturation of the photo and even the three dimensional effect from Leica will smoke it. So when one discuss sound reproduction on micro details, you have to becareful not just to focus in one subject but to remember all the sounds reproduced and heard are inter-related. This is what I call the energy distribution for each frequency throughout the whole sound spectrum of the reproduction must be able to reproduce those which was recorded and captured in the first place. If it is not the case, than I believe the reproduction will be so called dull or dark, yin or yang, terms which the reviewers have got the likes to use.

Overall it is still the acoustic and the size of the room versus the combination of the equipment you put together. And not to have the merry go round situation in looking and hunting for details as it is just part of the whole sound spectrum in the reproduction chain.
Hi Vincentkkho, nice analogy and it does work very well with our audio reproduction. If you do indeed think about it. If a film has a red or blue hue to it all of you pictures will be like that. If your lens is out of focus all of your pictures are out of focus. If all of your film is saturated all of your pictures will be.

You need to be able to reproduce the loudest and quietest LP in your collection at the same gain setting. If any LP is so loud or so quiet as not to be able to listen to it, then that LP must by its very nature must be so completely out of range of normalcy (for those of you with a psychology bent) that you should considered that LP unplayable or it is a system/room problem either frequency response based or lack of dynamics.
I have no such records in my collection. I have a lot of poorly recorded/pressed LPs. But there is not one that meets this criteria and yes I have a lot of dynamic recordings, so don't go there. But if a record is so far off from other LPs in terms of dynamics, noise levels, sonic qualities, frequency range etc.. Its a bad recording, why listen to it? If your system or room is colored/saturated every LP will be colored or saturated.

If your system is unable to play the reference level 83db, then there must be a system or room acoustics problem. If it is system based then it it either distortion or a frequency response problem within your system. If it is room based, it is a frequency response problem. This is ultimatly not a problem, you just have to realise this is the limitations of your system and work within these confines. Tune your system within its limitations as you cannot exced them.
You want to ideally get your system to be as full range (20 to 20K )as possible at that gain setting, with 83db reference level maximum. Find a gain setting that is appropriate for your system/room with 83db maximum. You cannot just set for 83db reference level you need to approach it. Your gain setting limit (not including the max 83db limit) is the loudest or quietest LP that you can play unless you want to disregard those Lps as anomalies. Do your own research on 83db reference levels, and you have to find your own test LP for this, I have several test LPs and just like all records some are more "correct" than others. For LP playback you must use an LP as using any computer or CD based test will not correlate when you then playback an LP.

The more you have to change gain settings, the more your system is lacking dynamics. This is an indication of system compression. This is a serious problem.

So don't be a school boy , figure this out. Your ears will love you for it.

Fortunately LPs are like women, there is usually something I can find that I like about them.

The ridiculous post of "what is the best $5000 cable" that I posted as a joke has better response than this thread. A pure indicator of the fact that most audiophiles don't care or don't want to be able to listen to great LPs or tune their system properly.

Listen to the music, the answer is right there in your hands.

Just another diatribe.
Stir pot add spice.

"""But if a record is so far off from other LPs in terms of dynamics, noise levels, sonic qualities, frequency range etc.. Its a bad recording, why listen to it? If your system or room is colored/saturated every LP will be colored or saturated."" ---

There are three sets of variables which you referred to. The recording, the system and the room.

""If your system is unable to play the reference level 83db, then there must be a system or room acoustics problem.""----

Here you intend to miss out something and lead to the confusion of your argument. It still falls back on the three elements. If the recording is poorly done, than there is not reason for you to play it to the so called reference level. Combination of the system will give rise to tonal balance or distortion or intensification or attenuation of energy level at specific frequency range within the whole sound spectrum reproduced. But it will not alter the inter-relationship of different sound frequency which is recorded and arranged in the first place. This same reason goes for room acoustic. And you miss out the combined effect of the system and the room.

""You want to ideally get your system to be as full range (20 to 20K )as possible at that gain setting, with 83db reference level maximum.""---

I disagree with this statement. Your system whether will be as full range is dependant on the limitations imposed on the designed specification in each of the components. Certainly, the reproduction of sound is also greatly affected by the room acoustic due to reinforcement or cancellation of sound. And the combinations of these two factors speak for another set of situation.
I had abandoned this post a few days ago. I see you have taken offense at my saying that your diatribe was obsessive compulsive.
Actually there is telepsychiatry and the diagnosis may be made with sparse data collected from other professionals such as yourself. I do not have the luxury of seeing every patient in time to make the decisions I am required to. I speak to people in the labs and others who may be free at the bedside. As you should know all diagnosis are differential and subject to change but one must formulate an opinion. I did not nor do I make any actual diagnosis in my field, on Audiogon. However I thought the post if it was not a joke was a very good example of a person with clear, blatant, obvious OCD you did a superb job imitating such a person. I said "there is help" if you were serious but clearly you are not experiencing fixed delusions yes I saw it.
I think you should avoid saying a preliminary or real diagnosis of any illness or a potential health problem is a slur. I would hope you of all people would be sensitive to that. People who suffer with mental illness do not chose it and there should not be any shame associated with it.
The fact that you do think it offensive do have OCD is more than unfortunate, it tells us that are you intolerant and worse.I wonder where you work? Do they permit this sort of disdane for certain illnesses? Or are you unable to realize that mental illness is very real, and not made up by the patient for secondary gain.
My wife has continued to keep me abreast of how Psychiatry is practiced. What did you think I was saying? She discusses many cases with me and I learn from what she says, she teaches me. Thus RN or LPN or LN Acoustat6, I will leave her where she always is. I could care less that you think her relationship with me has no place in a discussion of a particular disorder.
BTW the length of many of your posts tells me something else. Since you are so very clever and well informed, a comedian and a wordsmith and a medical professional. Please tell me what that is a sign of.
Mechams wrote, "BTW the length of many of your posts tells me something else. Since you are so very clever and well informed, a comedian and a wordsmith and a medical professional. Please tell me what that is a sign of."

Hi Mechams, it is a sign of, that even after all of your years of being a doctor you still have a hard time believing that nurses are as intelligent as you. :)

Now can we get back to the business at hand?
Your friend,