What DB level is best for judging audio equipment?

Just wondering what everyone sees as the best level overall. I need to crank it up to at least 90 DBs to hear a discernable difference. I'm 57 and have some HF hearing loss. How loud do you turn it up??
I highest I listen is somewhere in the mid 80 db range and I can hear all the details and differentiation present in the music, done in a realistic fashion. At lower levels, it's all still there but just not in so convincing a manner.

Anything higher and the sound, though enjoyable, can break the lease on my apartment. 😄

I'm 65 and have some dips in my hearing acuity as well, but overall, I can hear things in certain ranges where the dips are, quite easily. It could be from a long time listening and knowing what to listen for. All of our senses improve, to some degree, from just practice and repetition. 

All the best,
I think you bring up a point I have tried to make before. You really need to be self-aware about your listening habits.

How do you listen? Is it background? Do you sit for hours? Is it at full range?

Do you need to keep it down so the rest of the household is not troubled?

That’s how you should listen. I mean, in terms of absolute performance, sure we can turn speakers up and see if they distort or compress, but do we actually listen like that? It’s like evaluating the family van at 120 MPH.

Also, honestly, some speakers perform better at different volumes. Dali and Dynaudio IMHO are much better low volume speakers. They often have built in curves which accentuate the treble and bass, making them ideal for quiet listening or those with loss. IMO B&W and Golden Ear are in this category too.

Lastly, evaluating how you actually listen can save you money. Why pay more to drive a car at 190 MPH when you never get to 70 MPH?

And to those of you who DO like a live concert experience, please don't come at me feeling butt hurt. I'm not attacking your listening style. If you like that, then evaluate that way, and make yourself happy. That's all I'm saying.


One of the very best listeners I ever knew, Stewart Marcantoni, never did play anything louder than about 80-85 dB. But that was Stewart. Me, I like to play at a level where its satisfyingly loud but below the level that starts to hurt or bring on listener fatigue. In other words it varies. But that was me. We're talking about you.

I need to crank it up to at least 90 DBs to hear a discernable difference.
Well there you go then. When you're trying to hear a discernable difference, crank it up to where you can hear a discernable difference.
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+1 @elizabeth  The listen in the range of 65dB to 77dB according to my preamp volume control, which appears very accurate. My smart phone meter generally shows the transients to go as high as 82dB. I intentionally do not listen louder than 80db on the preamp (ever). I simply want my hearing to last as long as possible.
I also play music at lower levels.
Those stupid headphones of the 70's were my undoing...
Listening at lower levels was one of my auditioning tests, since I live in an apartment.  In fact, it was a major distinguishing element between the various loudspeakers I listened to in my most recent round.  Some needed to be played at high levels to really shine, others did not. 

I didn't audition enough speakers to tell, but it seemed like the ones with the more exotic materials were the ones that needed to be pushed.
It might also depend on room acoustic.  I have a bit of slap echo in my living room, that is difficult to get rid of.  Playing too loud makes sound worse, less clean - most likely from increased number of still audible reflections.
Smartphone meters are rubbish. Most cannot register SPLs above 90db and they tend to display a level that is 5 -10db lower than actual c-weighted SPL. The problem is you cannot judge the accuracy of your smartphone mic and app without referencing a professional, calibrated SPL meter.

As for what level is best, it all depends on your listening habits. Better to ask what sort of gear works better at lower or higher levels. All else being equal, higher sensitivity speakers will sound more dynamic at lower levels than will low- sensitivity speakers. 

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Most of my enjoyment (by myslf) comes at a level of 70 to 80db per Radio Shack SPL meter. Some (friends over) comes at 90 to 100 depending on the amount of liquid encouragement and we just love rock concert videos. Try it.........you'll like it. Lol.
You're 57 with hearing loss?

I hope you you don't have extended listening sessions at that level.

I'm the same age with hearing loss AND tinnitus.

It's tough to NOT crank up great music, but your ears will thank you for not doing so.
It varies from recording to recording , No magic number.
Ever since I swapped the Joseph’s for the Maggie’s I have found myself playing music a good 5db or more less than previous.
The Maggie’s just seem to reveal so much more detail without having to push them.
Now that is not saying they do not play loud,more that I do not really feel the need to play loud much lately.

So mid 70 to 80 dB is about it right now.
Peaks of low-to-mid 80s most of the time. Anything above that would be for a single song only that needs to be cranked ;).