It depends on a number of factors. Including but not limited to the following:
1. Your audio equipment's sound type. Does it produce a golden or light, warm or analytical, yin or yang (yuck) type sound?
2. Your amplifier specifically. Does it strain or congest with loud and/or complex music as most amplifiers do?
3. Your room's acoustics. Is it too live, too dead, or just right?
4. Your room's size. Is it too big, too small, or just right?
5. Your speakers. Are they too big, too small, or just right for the size room you have?
6. Your electrical configuration for your equipment. At a minimum, have you installed a dedicated 20 amp circuit/line for your amplifier to ensure your amp is getting all the juice it may need? This makes a big difference in dynamic headroom where a loud recorded bit of information is allowed to jump out at you like the real thing. Or is your dynamic headroom pretty flat where soft passages have pretty much the same impact as loud passages?
7. Your listening comfort level.
I listen to 90% of all music (and the ocassional movie) at about 13% of full volume. It's a very comfortable yet impacting volume level for me with my equipment, my amp, my room acoustics, my room size, my speakers, my electrical configuration, and my comfort level. See that was easy. :)
Would you listen to a recording of violin's at the same level that you would a "jammin" rock band ? I think not. Each recording works best as an individual piece and at an individual level. My experience is that it would be impossible to "pigeon-hole" an entire genre of music to one volume let alone all recordings of various types. Sean
Sean, if one happened to like violin and perhaps not care for a 'jammin' rock band or vice versa, then yes.
But Sean just because it's a 'jammin' rock band doesn't mean one instantly needs to crank it up to 100+db. If you're talking Guns N Roses or Metallica, or def cheatah, perhaps, but there are just as many variations of what one considers to be a 'jammin' rock concert as there are people.
However, I would like to see a 'jammin' live pipe organ concert.
Get yourself a SPL meter. It's the essential audiophile accessory. First use it to balance your HT system. Then use it to spot check your typical listening levels. Your personal preferences will come heavily into play. Personally, I find 85dB at the listening position to be quite loud for all types of music. A good system, properly setup should sound good at both loud and soft levels.
It depends a lot on your system. One of the greatest shortcomings of almost all systems is an inability to produce the "dynamic swings" from low - moderate levels to high. A SPL meter might be handy, but use your ears. You may want to hear "Jurasic Park" at higher levels than say "Howards End".
Stehno, my post was not meant as a challenge to your statements in the least. My comments were based on what one would hear at a live event. Since i've never heard violins roaring at 110 dB's, it would normally come across as "un-natural" to say the least. Then again, i know of very few "jammin" rock bands that play at 80 dB's, so that too would be "un-natural". This is not to say that either would not be enjoyable at those volumes, only that listening levels are TYPICALLY dictated by the style of music and your mood.
I also agree that dynamic range and dynamic compression play a great deal as to what sounds "right". If a system goes into dynamic compression relatively quickly, you would have to listen with the gain advanced higher to achieve the same peak levels. This would obviously increase the average listening level at the same time. Sean
Hi, Sean. I didn't take your comments personally. But I don't know anybody (nor do I think I want to know anybody) that plays anything at 110db sound levels.
One thing I forgot to mention about volume and listener fatigue. Most amplifiers begin to strain or congest at louder volumes and/or when playing complex music passages. Therefore, this is certainly a critical component when attempting to establish pleasureable listening levels.
In a good/proper balance system(with proper room treatment) using high listening level will not cause any listening fatigue.
Listening fatigue are caused by the following:
1. Poorly design audio equipments
2. Use of transistor equipments
3. Poorly design speakers, also speakers are too small and
4. Poor room treatment
5. Mismatched equipment
6. Owner's ability
The phrase "You are what you eat" also apply in here.
In other word, the listening fatigue that you heard from you system are the sum of all the distortion in the audio chain..............
Hi Jw; when watching movies (and listening) I set the volume so that spoken dialogue sounds natural-- let "special effects" and music SPLS "fall where they may". And with music I adjust the volume so that the music just sounds live/natural. Another approach is to turn the source up a bit during during favorite passages, then turn it down. IMO, special effects in movies are recorded to damn loud.
I agree w/ '61. 85 dB is pretty loud and long term exposure to SPLs above 82 to 85 (depending on who you read, and believe) can cause hearing loss. Save your hearing.
Right now I'm listening to the Fab. T-Birds in the 75-80 dB range, and it sounds just right at 12-15 ft. in a medium sized room-- w/my HT system, and this is music that ROCKS. Cheers. Craig
If the level you have to play your system at is proving too loud you might also consider having your DVD player modded. While it seems a bit strange, I just had my 38A modded by Dan Wright of ModWright and I found that the increase in transparency from the mods let me enjoy the music at much lower levels. It got rid of all that electronic distortion background noise and now there are just the sounds of musical instruments. I found that whereas previously about 70 dB was the mimimum SPL for listenable music after the mods it has dropped to the 50-55 dB range.
I guess that we should take note of this and remember it. Obviously, some of us have VERY different ideas of what is "loud" and what isn't. When i want to rock, things get cranked. It looks like most of you would be holding your ears and shuddering in the corners at some of the levels that i "jam" at.
Then again, i must admit that i've had similar "shuddering in the corner" experiences. If you have speakers that can't take high power and tend to compress when pushed being driven by amplifiers that get "nasty", "gritty" and lack "cohesiveness" when driven hard, it does sound like crap. In most cases, this is about 90% of all high end systems that i've heard. One might not believe how "smooth" and "unfatiguing" yet roaringly loud you can listen to music when the system is really dialed in.
Most of what most people consider "loud" is actually "distortion". That's why it hurts your ears and doesn't sound good. Remove the grain, glare and dynamic constriction and you're home free. High listening levels still sound as airy and effortless, only difference is that you are now experiencing chest compression on deep bass notes.
One of the biggest keys to cleaning up the "muck" coming out of the speakers and the power sucking that causes the amps to be pushed hard is to get rid of the passive crossover networks. Actively bi or tri-amping makes a PHENOMENAL difference. Not only are the drivers exposed to MUCH less signal out of their operating range ( allowing them to play louder within their usable frequency range ), the amplifier efficiency is DRASTICALLY improved also. This means less strain or congestion on the amps and less power being WASTED at the speaker. Both efficiency ( spl ) and sound quality is greatly increased.
Unless one had the desire to play loudly ( evidently VERY loudly ) on a regular basis and took the time to research such things, one would never find this out. Luckily, i've had a lot of gear to play around ( all at one time ) and past professional experience to find this out first hand. Vance Dickason also makes mention of these findings in his "Loudspeaker Design Cookbook".
While simply having "BIG watts" and "big speakers" doesn't make for "clean high volume listening", it is at least a partial step in the right direction. EVERYTHING in the system must have "dynamic headroom" as compression starts sounding VERY nasty VERY rapidly. This is why you are always best off with speakers that are high efficiency ( 93+ db's ) to start off with. That is, if you can find models that offer that type of sensitivity that sound good and do what you want them to do at a price that you can afford. Otherwise, you'll have to build your own. This is NOT as difficult as it may seem, especially when you consider that you don't have to worry about fine tuning the passive crossover. Sean
Sean, as always a most illuminating post. I listen to a wide variety of music and in a 33 by 14 room the typical listening levels are in the 70-80dB range. The music is loud enough to impede normal conversation. Even when cranking up the volume I rarely go above 90dB, but it's not because of any nastiness or distortion creeping into the sound at higher volumes. I suspect I am like many who simply don't have the need to listen any louder. It's a personal preference. For myself - via airplanes, motorcycles, small engines and trains - I have more than enough exposure to high decibel levels. Listening to music is refuge from that loud world and as a result I only like my music a little loud.
One point in closing. A tough test for any system is whether it can convey the impact and intent of music at very low volumes.
I'm not sure we don't agree on what loud is, just the necessity for listening to music that way on a regular basis. I was a rock musician for a number of years (played bass) and when I quit my bass rig had 10,000 watts and lots of speakers to soak it up. You add in the PA system and other musicians and yeah, it could get loud... OTOH, I still have my hearing and intend to keep it! :-)
The following link will take you to part of Galen Carol Audio's website and will display three sound pressure level charts.
Pain begins at approximately 120-125dB, but hearing damage can result from constant exposure at 90-95dB. Specifically, the OSHA regulations prescribe that sound levels above 105dB are limited to less than 1 hour per day. If you have pets, remember that cats and dogs have more sensitive hearing than humans and their hearing can be damaged too.
Loud music can be most pleasurable, but it is not without its downsides. Common sense is advised.
What ??? Could you please repeat that... : )
I don't listen to "roaring" music near as often as i used to. Both my perspective on life and musical tastes have somewhat changed since my "yout" ( courtesy of "My cousin Vinny" ). None the less, i do exercise the volume control once in a while and "unleash the beast" ( courtesy of metal band "Saxon" ). Needless to say, the cats disappear and so does my girlfriend. Being all alone, i typically break out the air guitar and practice my stage antics and stunt moves at that point in time. It's good to pretend to be young once in a while and loud rock can usually help do that : ) Sean