# How loud do you listen to your stereo?

#### jmhannam

##### Member
Forum Donor
In my post yesterday, I clumsily attempted to apply a few concepts I learned from Amir and other experts. I apologize for any errors or misunderstanding on my part. One error which I must correct is the analogy I offered in comparing measurements in dB SPL versus dB(A) with comparing prices expressed in dollars versus units from a different currency. This is incorrect, as they are not convertible. The "A-weighting" method weights the levels of sounds with different frequencies in relation to how sensitive the human ear is to them. It is a method of converting sound pressure levels to perceived loudness. By the way, I am considering continuous or RMS signals here, not peak levels. A 100 dB SPL sound in the low bass may be perceived as equally loud as a 60 dB SPL sound at 1400 Hz, and either might measure at about 60 dB(A). Thus, if listening to music which simultaneously includes low bass "L Max" ( highest RMS) of 100 dB SPL and midrange L Max of 60 dB SPL, my sound meter will display the highest level it detected which is 100 dB SPL. But if it is set to measure dB(A), it may display 60 dB(A). I assume that playing the same piece of music, but without a woofer, might now measure at 60 dB SPL and 60 dB(A). So it is not possible to reconstruct the original spectrum of a music signal, nor convert the dB(A) measurements to dB SPL. The upshot is that if I simply say that I measured "100 dB SPL at my listening position", that does not tell you much about how "loud" it sounded. For that, you'd need to have some idea of the spectrum of the music I was listening to and the SPL of the numerous signals of each frequency. On this website you can view graphic displays of music with the SPL on the y-axis, and frequency on the x-axis, revealing at a glance without needing any math that most of the energy of a music signal is found in the lower frequencies, gradually sloping down in the midrange and lower yet in the higher frequencies. Amir commented that this should not surprise us, given the relative size differences between woofers, mid-range drivers and tweeters, and the correspondingly smaller amounts of air moved by those smaller drivers. Notice that there is typically a 40-50 db SPL discrepancy between the lower bass and the midrange region. Again I know I am not using calibrated precision equipment, but it is entertaining for me to attempt to reproduce a similarly loud and hopefully similarly pleasant sounding illusion in my home, compared with the real thing.

#### wrat

##### Member
Neil & Crazy Horse right now peaking @ 87db, I have been known to listen at sustained 95db with peaks over 100db for far to long and I definitely damaged my ears and have constant tinnitus, running high speed power boats did not help either, my ears give out before my system

#### coonmanx

##### Active Member
60 dB or less. I am a respectful apartment dweller. I also have all of my systems dialed in to sound good at that level.

#### Qbd

##### Member
Up to about 90 dBA (slow) if I really want to rock out to a good song, but a bit lower if listening for extended periods.

I also like to crank it to >110 dBA on occasion for that «live» experience of really feeling the music, but I wear concert plugs that attenuate the sound by about 17 dB for that.

#### digitalfrost

##### Major Contributor
Forum Donor
I bought an SPL meter because I wanted to be able to calibrate my levels. So most of the time, for like music listening without having it super loud I prefer 75-78dBC. When I listen "loud" it's 83-86dB, not louder than that.

That said, I measured some explosions while playing movies and it topped out at 107dBC.

##### Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
It totally depends if anyone is home (not too loud) or not (crank it up!). Now "crank" used to mean put on shooting earmuffs and FEEL the bass - my college dorm setup I measured at 117 dB from speakers I built (15" + horns) with just an NAD 3020 amp. I don't do that any more, probably at most 100 dB at home if nobody is there. Part of that is because in AirPlay mode the volume just won't go all the way up for reasons I have not discerned yet.

#### Shimei

##### Member
I use a +10db Harman Research house curve which leans towards room overload. Normal listening levels are around 90/100db. During cinema I prefer near THX/DTS reference levels of 105/115db but depends on whether viewing with others that may or many not enjoy such levels. Note, the human ear can listen to higher spl at lower frequencies than higher frequencies before damage occurs.

Below graph 2.2 channel summation. Note, the dip above 22,000 khz has been remedied by adjusting toe. I haven't kept an updated measurement.

Now and then I listen to a track or two at 130db+ bass peaks. Again, this is a +10db house curve which I prefer over flat frequency response and purpose of adding dual 4-10s to flat playing Ulfberhts.

Video below was taken some time ago and since then time alignment / phase has been corrected so the system exceeds the db meter's maximum with volume in reserve. On the topic of gain matching the subwoofers both are matched at 100%
Taking advantage of room interaction on one sub in contrast to another IMO doesn't work one sub more harder than the other.

Greens are 4-10s and reds are mains in the above graph.

The display on the meter appears to lag probably because of sampling time intervals which can't be adjusted. Distance from the db meter about 9ft from the front soundstage. The phone microphone seriously distorts at 9ft in 130+ spl though the system's maximum volume has no audible distortion. Mains are rated to handle 1000 watts each but haven't the amp power to approach that maximum power handling which probably is a good thing.

System mains powered by Parasound Halo A31 2 channels into 4 ohm per channel minimum of 400watts rms.
Pair of 4-10s w/ built in amps 300 watts rms each.

Latest update on arrangement.

For interested parties though the soundstage is symmetrical the room interaction was corrected by adding 15ms delays to mains and 3ms delay to left sub. Very tight as well as higher spl bass results from time alignment.

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#### Jimbob54

##### Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Anyone got a view on the best way to measure over ear headphone SPL with a phone and SPL app (also, any recommendations for Android)?

Aware it will likely be massively inaccurate but I truly have no idea if I usually sit at 70 or 90 dB so only need a vague guide.

Im thinking phone on a table, headphone cup as flat as you can get it over the bottom of the phone? Or is just holding the phone mic into the cup going to be good enough

#### Shimei

##### Member
Anyone got a view on the best way to measure over ear headphone SPL with a phone and SPL app (also, any recommendations for Android)?

Aware it will likely be massively inaccurate but I truly have no idea if I usually sit at 70 or 90 dB so only need a vague guide.

Im thinking phone on a table, headphone cup as flat as you can get it over the bottom of the phone? Or is just holding the phone mic into the cup going to be good enough

The reflective surface on the phone might vary the max spl better or worse in contrast to the fleshy absorption of your skin.

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#### Shimei

##### Member
average 75dB but sometimes I crank it up a bit for a short while. Depends on the music.

background level is 30dB unless a car goes past. I'm on the edge of a small town but the street is quiet and my neighbour makes no noise at all. If I sit here in silence the loudest sound I can hear is the whirring of the hard drive in the cable TV box.

Noise floor makes a dramatic difference especially observable in car audio.

#### MattHooper

##### Major Contributor
I use a +10db Harman Research house curve which leans towards room overload. Normal listening levels are around 90/100db. During cinema I prefer near THX/DTS reference levels of 105/115db but depends on whether viewing with others that may or many not enjoy such levels. Note, the human ear can listen to higher spl at lower frequencies than higher frequencies before damage occurs.

Below graph 2.2 channel summation. Note, the dip above 22,000 khz has been remedied by adjusting toe. I haven't kept an updated measurement.

Now and then I listen to a track or two at 130db+ bass peaks. Again, this is a +10db house curve which I prefer over flat frequency response and purpose of adding dual 4-10s to flat playing Ulfberhts.

Video below was taken some time ago and since then time alignment / phase has been corrected so the system exceeds the db meter's maximum with volume in reserve. On the topic of gain matching the subwoofers both are matched at 100%
Taking advantage of room interaction on one sub in contrast to another IMO doesn't work one sub more harder than the other.

Greens are 4-10s and reds are mains in the above graph.

The display on the meter appears to lag probably because of sampling time intervals which can't be adjusted. Distance from the db meter about 9ft from the front soundstage. The phone microphone seriously distorts at 9ft in 130+ spl though the system's maximum volume has no audible distortion. Mains are rated to handle 1000 watts each but haven't the amp power to approach that maximum power handling which probably is a good thing.

System mains powered by Parasound Halo A31 2 channels into 4 ohm per channel minimum of 400watts rms.
Pair of 4-10s w/ built in amps 300 watts rms each.

Latest update on arrangement.

For interested parties though the soundstage is symmetrical the room interaction was corrected by adding 15ms delays to mains and 3 ms delay to left sub. Very tight as well as higher spl bass results from time alignment.

Nice set up and congrats on reaching your goals.

But, yikes, I'm glad we aren't room mates!

I'd be running out of the room. (Having experienced how miserable hearing damage can be I long ago decided to be more careful with noise exposure).

#### Shimei

##### Member
Nice set up and congrats on reaching your goals.

But, yikes, I'm glad we aren't room mates!

I'd be running out of the room. (Having experienced how miserable hearing damage can be I long ago decided to be more careful with noise exposure).

Indeed and thanks for the caution.
I kinda have built in ear plugs having lost 20% of my hearing by time discharge from the military.
Prolonged exposure to 130db does rapidly causes hearing damage.
130db is the same spl as military aircraft being thrown off an aircraft carrier by catapult while in afterburn measured from 50ft.
Military safety requirements double ear protection at that spl on the flight deck.

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#### LarsF

##### Active Member
When I measure with the mobile phone, not over 75db, normaly under 70db, if its very compressed then the volume is lower

#### Chrispy

##### Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Not as loud as I did when I was younger . These days I'd say my average levels are more in the 60-70dB range. With the right material and a desire to play loud I can get in the 120s, tho.

#### Beershaun

##### Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Our host has a great video on this to help frame the discussion better.

#### coonmanx

##### Active Member
Indeed and thanks for the caution.
I kinda have built in ear plugs having lost 20% of my hearing by time discharge from the military.
Prolonged exposure to 130db does rapidly causes hearing damage.
130db is the same spl as military aircraft being thrown off an aircraft carrier by catapult while in afterburn measured from 50ft.
Military safety requirements double ear protection at that spl on the flight deck.
I'm not sure how continued exposure to loud music is going to solve your issues of hearing dmage that you have already incurred.

Good luck...

#### Jimbob54

##### Master Contributor
Forum Donor

The reflective surface on the phone might vary the max spl better or worse in contrast to the fleshy absorption of your skin.

Most popular SPL app on the android Play store suggests when I cup the bottom of the phone into the pad hole on some pretty heavy music I go up to about 85 SPL, on something a little more restrained it stays around 75. I'm sure thats wholly imprecise but good enough to tell me I am not at dangerous levels and can afford to turn it up when I want a bit more.

#### Shimei

##### Member
I'm not sure how continued exposure to loud music is going to solve your issues of hearing dmage that you have already incurred.

Good luck...
It won't but even deaf men dance

#### Galliardist

##### Senior Member
I'm an apartment dweller and I don't like bothering the neighbors. 75dbs is pretty much my standard volume. If I really want to crank it up a bit I grab the headphones.
Same here, mostly. I can turn it up some Friday evenings and Saturdays when most of the neighbours are out, but have to watch for that.

There seems to be a convention in this area that you can turn it up for one short song from time to time. I find that annoying because I'm working from home, but at least I know the volume will go down in a few short minutes.

#### jmhannam

##### Member
Forum Donor
Our host has a great video on this to help frame the discussion better.
In Amir's video discussing "how loud is loud", as an amateur I found the distinction between noise and music helpful. The purpose of a weighted scale such as dBA is to quantitate potentially harmful levels of noise which are frequency dependent, but it is not useful for measuring music. He explains why dBA and dB SPL cannot be directly compared. The "loudness" of a sound is a subjective perceived quality, related to its SPL, duration and frequency. To compare our preferred loudness levels for listening to music, we would ideally be able to generate a graphical display like he shows. My NIOSH i-phone app does not begin to compare with this. The frequency response of its internal microphone of 100 Hz-8,000 Hz will not allow accurate detection of low bass where most of the music power is found. Its dynamic range of 45-100 dB SPL is inadequate for measuring performances with 120-plus dB SPL. The only unweighted dB SPL I measure is "instantaneous", and the number displayed is the highest level detected but without indicating its frequency. The peaks, or "LC peaks" are "C" weighted and are understated both due to the microphone limitations, as well as its inability to respond fast enough to 1-3 millisecond duration impulses. To state the obvious, my smartphone app was developed to measure noise, not for audiophiles to measure music, either live or reproduced. An app developed specifically for audiophiles might be more fun, but again limited by my phone's built in microphone. At a minimum, for those of us without access to professional grade measurement devices who love listening to music and are curious how loud we and others prefer to listen at, it might be interesting to compare those levels in dB SPL.

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