What do you consider "loud" for your system?


Just curious about this. I recently listened to the SACD version of Dark Side of the Moon. My volume level was at approximately 65% of full throttle. On my handy little Radio Shack Sound Level meter, I registered and average 90db with peaks of 96db. That was using the "C" weighted setting. Basic info - I sit 10' feet from the front of the speakers. The room is 15' X 23' with 8' 6"ceiling height. It was enjoyably loud, but not ear shattering. What do others consider "loud" and at what volume level?
richmos
I mostly listen to classical music, with a small percentage of my listening being to pop and rock and miscellaneous genres. My average listening level at the listening position is around 75 db. However, more than a few classical recordings in my collection which have been well engineered with minimal or no dynamic compression can reach brief dynamic peaks that are 25 to 30 db greater than the average level of those recordings, and consequently reach 100 to 105 db at the listening position.

The 6 db peak to average ratio of the DSOTM recording you mentioned will result in it subjectively seeming to be **much** louder, when played at a 90 db average level, than the recordings I referred to which have much louder peaks.

So perceived loudness is very much a function of the dynamic range of the particular recording.

My room, btw, is 13 x 22 x 8, with the speakers on the short wall and with the central third of the rear wall being open to another room.  And my listening distance is 12 feet.

Regards,
-- Al

95dBC peaks is pretty loud for music in my book.
Fifteen minutes at 100dB is said to cause potential permanent hearing loss. I suspect 45 minutes at 90 would too. Certainly not an expert in the matter but as one who has whacked his hearing with loud music, guns and tractors....I don't listen at 90 dB for very long anymore........ just trying to protect what I have left.

For me 'loud' is usually around 80 dB and about as loud as I want it anyway. For most typical well recorded music that is a little past halfway on my volume dial. For over compressed stuff (everything new) that is about 1/3 on the dial. Usually listen at around 60-70 according to a smart phone dB meter (probably not very accurate but close enough).

Was recently at a small venue concert. Around 115 dB the whole hour-and-a-half show. I wore ear plugs. I saw a few others with plugs too...but not many. When I was kid I saw Foreigner. Ears rang for nearly two weeks after the show. Ironic that a wannabe audiophile (me) ruins his ears listening to music.
What do you mean, "loud"? The same volume that is never loud enough when playing Nilsson Jump Into The Fire is way too loud when playing Jennifer Warnes Song of Bernadette. Loud is like the garishly made up lady Doug MacLeod talks about who asks him, "Are you loud?" to which he replies, "Ma'am, compared to your makeup, we're mute."
@millercarbon

I think I was very clear about asking what I meant by loud. Volume levels measured in decibels.
When Jump into the Fire is playing I want the whole house to rattle:-) But loud for me is 85 decibels usually.
When it blows the needle off the record.
I listen at 70db measured my with Radio Shack Sound Level meter for Blues music.  For Classical, it may be 3-4db higher to hear the bottom end of the dynamic range at a reasonable listening level.

My listening room has a lot of acoustical treatments so I get a nice clean, balanced sound.
Richmos, I listen to rock at 95 dB as measured (not guessing) all the time. That is a comfortably loud level and safe as long as you warm your ears up to it. With warmed up ears I will occasionally go louder. When I watch the Nine Inch Nails videos I'll push it to 100-105. If one can't listen at 95 dB comfortably it is most likely because something is distorting. Above 100 will disturb some people regardless of limited distortion like my wife.
n80 there are only basic rules. Like any other human trait there is a large range of sensitivity  to sound and ear durability. It is not just volume but also the type of sound. Impulse noise like a gun shot is more likely to damage hearing than a steady noise at the same volume. In terms of music, if you warm your ears up 95 dB will never cause damage unless you have really bad ears. Some people will go deaf even living in a monastery. Everybody's ears will accommodate to volume given a brief warm up. As the volume increases the smallest striated muscle in your body, the stapedius  tightens down on the stapes, the smallest bone in your body, dampening the volume your inner ear is exposed to.  Some people think that people who repetitively listen to loud music develop a stronger stapedius with a better damping effect so they can tolerate loud volumes better without damage. These studies have never been done because they would be very expensive and nobodies interested enough.
I have been to plenty of loud concerts and have had systems capable of at least 90 dB all of my adult life. As a teenager I could easily hear 20 kHz. I tested my hearing just last month and could just make out 18 kHz which is better than most 65 year old. Now that is anecdotal and everyone can not expect to do that. There is no accounting for luck. But, just because you like loud music does not mean you are surely destroying your ears. You can download test tones and check your own hearing. Plug one ear and run up the tones then plug the other ear and do it again. Our high frequency hearing always declines with age. I do not know the data for sure but I think most 65 year olds can't hear much above 12 kHz 
A person shouldn't present their personal anecdotal experience as a recommendation for the rest of the population. A few people have smoked a couple of packs of cigarettes a day and lived into their 90s, but that is hardly a foundation for telling others that smoking doesn't have a risk of lung cancer and other cardiopulmonary diseases. Most people suffer serious problems after years of smoking. You can substitute a number of other exposures in which the average person suffers damage while a few lucky ones don't.

The medical community and OSHA have good studies on the issue of how loud is too loud. NIOSH recommends that the average continuous exposure not exceed 85 dB and OHSA's PEL (permissible exposure limit) is 90 dB. As volume increases, the exposure time decreases -- OSHA says 100 dB exposure should not exceed 15 minutes. Most employers with loud work environments require employees to use hearing protection.

For my home listening these days, 80 to 85 dB is plenty loud for me. In fact, I rarely go to live rock concerts these days and use hearing plugs if I do attend one. I've even walked out of a few simply because the levels were so loud they were uncomfortable.
@mlsstl Thanks for that post. And yes, anecdotal experience is hardly a basis for personal choices. I can't tell you how many people I advise to quit smoking who have to tell me how Aunt Sophie smoked 6 packs a day, lived to be a 110 and was never sick a day in her life. The funny thing is that they often tell me this as they sit there wheezing from emphysema. The point being, folks often latch onto anecdotes that support what they want to believe and hold onto them even after the evidence (wheezing) has proven them wrong.

And while I think our perceptive tolerance to loud sounds can be attenuated to a degree, I doubt that 'warming up' our ears has any effect on attenuating the potential for damage.

I also disagree with this statement:

"If one can't listen at 95 dB comfortably it is most likely because something is distorting."

A pure tone at sufficient volume can become unpleasant and damage your hearing as well. Certainly distortion will make things worse, but I've got a pretty nice system and listening to even well recorded and well performed music above 95 dB gets old real quick. That's just me.

But, my apologies to the OP. He wasn't asking us for a lecture on hearing damage. I should not have brought it up.
A good system usually will not sound loud....until it starts to distort...and then hopefully it will sound loud and you can turn it down while it is still running. 
A "good" system can sound annoyingly loud well before distortion sets in, to think otherwise is foolish. My main listening rig is a 12wpc amp with 99 db speakers that will play loud and clean using a few watts 9 feet from my ears...In the pro live stuff I do I never push the systems to distortion and they can be VERY loud for large room coverage...that's why the speakers are mounted well above the heads of people in the seats nearer the systems.
Well I can't speak to every system. I think there are many people who blog imagine that they have a good system.... PA systems are in fact loaded with distortion...
The PA systems I've designed and operated have huge amounts of headroom using a fraction of the power available, and are extremely clean. I can only assume souindsrealaudio has no experience with these things.
I assume wolf_garcia is "hi fi god" able to design the very best PA systems that will blow your troupe off with no and I do mean no distortion. ZERO....
75-85db range most of the time...  110 db peaks when I’m drinking and wearing nothing but 1 sock
Given the dynamics of most of our systems, in the average in room, at the listing position, loudness is very hard to measure. I believe if listening at an average loudness of 80dB, most of us are likely experiencing peak levels above 100dB on many recordings. These peaks are often so short in duration that many of our home measuring devices don't respond quick enough to capture. 

Just my thoughts. Feedback would be appreciated. 
mesch -- I don't think the dynamics of most modern digital recordings -- particularly pop & rock -- support a 20 dB peak in the recording format. And, it its not available on the recording, it can't be heard in your system.

I've used Adobe Audition for many years and looked at thousands of recordings and I can tell you that that 90+ dB dynamic range on a CD is largely unused. Most modern recordings (especially victims of the "loudness wars") are heavily compressed and allow only a few dB for peaks, and sometimes not even that.

Classical and some jazz does make better use of the available dynamic range. Back in the 90s it was common to see the average volume on a classical CD much lower with lots left for headroom. I've noticed the modern classical recordings don't do that as much as they used to.
I agree with everything in Mlsstl’s post just above, except that I would add an important clarification to the following statement:

I can tell you that that 90+ dB dynamic range on a CD is largely unused.

It’s important to distinguish between the dynamic range of the medium and the dynamic range of the music. The dynamic range of the music refers, of course, to the difference in volume between the loudest notes and the softest notes. However the dynamic range of the medium needs to be vastly greater than that, to capture the detail in each of the notes. And therefore much of the 90+ db dynamic range of the CD medium is still necessary even if the music has been compressed to a dynamic range of less than say 10 db.

I also agree, btw, with Mesch’s statement that many home measuring devices are unlikely to be fast enough to fully capture the amplitude of very brief dynamic peaks. Although my Radio Shack **digital** SPL meter, model 33-2055, set for fast response and for "C" weighting, seems to do a pretty good job. I say that based on comparisons between measurements I’ve made with it of some classical recordings having particularly wide dynamic range, and waveform observations I’ve made of those same recordings on a computer, using a professional audio editing program.

BTW, as a point of interest there are at least two classical recordings in my collection that I’ve found to have a dynamic range that by means of those waveform observations I’ve determined to have a dynamic range of approximately 55 db, which is simply amazing! Those are the Telarc recording of Stravinsky’s "Firebird Suite," Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony, and the Sheffield Lab recording of Prokofiev’s "Romeo and Juliet," Erich Leinsdorf conducting the LA Philharmonic. Both were apparently recorded in 1978.

Correspondingly, when I listen to those recordings at an average level just in the mid-70s at my listening position, with the softest notes in the vicinity of 50 db, brief dynamic peaks reach approximately 105 db at my listening position!

Best regards,
-- Al

Loud for me is 85db. Normal listening levels for me are around 60db. Not exactly a head banger anymore!  That ship has sailed.
Just to clarify, dynamic range can be looked at in more than one way.

My comments above were directed toward the original post -- the perception of how loud the music seems when listening -- richmos said he is listening at 90 dB with 96 dB peaks, using a classic rock album.

I looked at the song "Money." The Audition statistics showed a 59 dB dynamic range, with periodic peaks 10 dB above the average level. That's pretty good for a rock record (but it is an "old school" recording.) So, you can see that there is nowhere close to 20 dB in peaks above the average listening level.

The other thing good dynamic range can do is let you hear instruments and sounds that are much softer and in the background while the overall volume level is loud. A poor dynamic range will leave these softer sounds buried in the background noise.
richmos. You have it right. I generally listen to rock at 95 dB. Louder does not add much and risks your ears. Always warm up your ears. Never go immediately to full tilt boogey. Start at a lower volume and slowly turn it up over 5 minutes. Give your ears a chance to accommodate.   
@mijostyn...That's the way i usually approach it. Start at around 75-80 db and then get cookin'. It's rock n' roll...right?