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Finding the base volume for listening headphones

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#1
This is kinda an odd question because many music files have different volumes, thus volume level can become different on each track.
However, as a base volume, how do you guys find the sweet spot on the amplifier?
Do you use a specific track when testing headphones to get them at the desired db?
 

Jimbob54

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#2
This is kinda an odd question because many music files have different volumes, thus volume level can become different on each track.
However, as a base volume, how do you guys find the sweet spot on the amplifier?
Do you use a specific track when testing headphones to get them at the desired db?
I find I tend to increase volume as listening session goes on. If you have a dac with volume control, turn it full, turn the amp until its just too loud then dial back the DAC volume to comfortable. Then you can use the DAC remote to slowly increase or knock a very loud track down a bit.

Also try volume leveling in yoir player software to even out the loud and quiet tracks
 

Hipper

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#3
I use JRiver to manage my music on a PC and this has a 'volume levelling' facility meaning in theory tracks are played to a similar volume when you listen.

JRiver makes the one off measurements as you put the music files to your PC. This levelling doesn't alter the original track (so if you move it somewhere else it will still be as originally intended). It works well for whole albums but less well for individual tracks from multiple albums, such as on a playlist.

https://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Volume_Leveling

I just listen at whatever volume it suits me at the time. The power amp is set about half way and the detailed adjustment is with the DAC's volume control.

However this volume relates to specific headphones and amp. If you are testing different headphones, and/or different amps, and wanting the same dB level, then the volume settings depend on the amp and headphone specifications. Setting the same dB coming out of different headphones can be done but it doesn't seem easy to me, involving microphones, perhaps a dummy head and I don't know what else.

For testing headphones or amps I just listen to familiar music. I note the comfort of the headphones for lengthy listening sessions and especially listen for high frequency details like percussion, but mainly overall 'feel' of the sound. I take my time over as long a period as I'm allowed - a week at least. But then I keep my set up for years. My current headphone arrangement was put together in 2014 and whilst I'm intrigued by the idea of electrostats, for example, it's not enough to do anything about it!
 

solderdude

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#4
This is kinda an odd question because many music files have different volumes, thus volume level can become different on each track.
However, as a base volume, how do you guys find the sweet spot on the amplifier?
Do you use a specific track when testing headphones to get them at the desired db?
Consider using replay gain (when possible).
I simply adjust the volume a lot when listening on 'random'.
 

Jimbob54

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#5
Consider using replay gain (when possible).
I simply adjust the volume a lot when listening on 'random'.
Ditto. Even when I used levelling I found myself nudging, so gave up on levelling. I only ever shuffle these days.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #6
Thanks for the responses.
I have been using Loudness Normalization in most of my players and it has been working well for me.
I guess the main concern for me is avoiding loud sound that may cause damage to my ears since sometimes i can't tell if it's too loud. :D
 

Jimbob54

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#7
Thanks for the responses.
I have been using Loudness Normalization in most of my players and it has been working well for me.
I guess the main concern for me is avoiding loud sound that may cause damage to my ears since sometimes i can't tell if it's too loud. :D
Wont be accurate but get a db measuring app for your phone (free one) and see how loud you have gotten during a listening session. Look up recommended levels and if you are near or above, note where you are on your amp and dont go there again, or at least not for long.
 

dc655321

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#8
This is kinda an odd question because many music files have different volumes, thus volume level can become different on each track.
However, as a base volume, how do you guys find the sweet spot on the amplifier?
Do you use a specific track when testing headphones to get them at the desired db?
I made a closely related thread on this a couple of years ago.
Hopefully some information in there is of use to you.
 

ernestcarl

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#9
*same as others have mentioned: use leveling, replay gain, loudness compensation etc.

Note: this somewhat crude technique ain't gonna work with IEMs or earbuds...

I usually just compare with what is the base max volume I already have for my speakers -- and copy the same for the HP by adjusting the HP amp and fixing it there (in the ff. case it's at 12 o'clock). If you've got a cheap hand-held SPL meter for speakers, and (preferrably) have EQ'd your HP close to flat and neutral, you could use that same meter and squeeze it in-between your HP. Your speakers and HP should sound close to the same loudness. With the open-back HPs I have tested, it gets very close to what I'm getting at with my real speakers:

KH120 + Sub at listening position max loudest SPL recorded for the track (yes, you can use pink noise just as well)
So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain by Father John Misty
1592389052561.png


DT990 Pro + JDS Labs OL-DAC at 12 o'clock
1592389207927.png


Playing in parallel (HP and speakers) and muting the speakers occasionally, the two sound very close to having the same loudness in my ears.

From my experience, this works best if you've actually EQ'd your HPs very close to flat/neutral -- or if your HP are already very close to neutral.

No, I very rarely listen at such high volumes, but it's tolerable enough if I really wanted to do so for an hour or two... but not any longer.
 
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ernestcarl

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#11
JRiver makes the one off measurements as you put the music files to your PC. This levelling doesn't alter the original track (so if you move it somewhere else it will still be as originally intended). It works well for whole albums but less well for individual tracks from multiple albums, such as on a playlist.
I think there's a bigger issue with leveling and replay gain when using it on much larger (more diverse) playlists:

1592484685241.png


This is somewaht ameliorated by JRiver with the use of its internal 'Adaptive Volume' plugin:

1592484794050.jpeg



Even though the actual SPL at my listening position with 100% volume should produce +90dB, I in turn get mid +70dB SPL on avg for individual tracks in the large playlist posted above -- which is totally fine with me as I often don't listen loud anyhows!

Note the actual True peak and Integrated loudness (normalized by JRiver to make both tracks sound perceptually as loud no matter the volume you've set in the program) figures between these two very different tracks.

So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain by Father John Misty
1592485162493.png


Get Away by Subdigitals
1592485183814.jpeg



The attenuation of the tracks above in this big playlist is quite substantial compared to having them played just on their own:

ff. imags I posted from another previous thread on intersample peaks

So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain by Father John Misty
1592485547683.png


Get Away by Subdigitals
1592485568716.png


In the end, I think the compromised changes made in software are worth-it. Wherein the risk of fatigue, and large volume jump changes in listening all-day, everyday is vastly reduced.
 

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