• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Music: how loud is loud? (video)

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
40,003
Likes
185,861
Location
Seattle Area
Here is a much needed video on the topic of how loud we really listen to music. And issues related to hearing damage, etc. It is an argument that seems to come up twice a day since I started testing headphones. Here, I review the literature on true dynamic range of music and considerations regarding measurements, noise standards, etc.


AES E-LIBRARY
Dynamic-Range Issues in the Modern Digital Audio Environment
https://www.aes.org/e-lib/online/browse.cfm?elib=7948

Dynamic Range: How Quiet is Quiet?
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/dynamic-range-how-quiet-is-quiet.14/

power, efficiency, levels, balanced, impedance
https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/tutorials/power-impedance-etc/
 

MayaTlab

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
690
Likes
984
Thanks for the video.

I have one question related to distortion and peak levels. Is there information somewhere about the audibility of distortion depending on whether the signal is a short burst or longer (ie peak vs. constant signal) ? My intuition (often wrong) would be that distortion's threshold of audibility would be lower for constant signals rather than very short bursts.

Also, now Apple allows iOS users to have some degree of information about the volume they listen at. Apple mentions that it's likely to be inaccurate with other headphones than their own iDevices, and I have a feeling that only their headphones with a good seal and low positional variation can truly be accurate (AirPods Pro, Beats Solo Pro for example). Apple mentions that the values are measured in dBa, but I'm not sure that all values are displayed this way or just the "exposure" category.
Screenshot 2021-04-13 at 10.39.48.png
Screenshot 2021-04-13 at 10.39.56.png
It's difficult to know exactly what Apple means by "range", but I would assume that it's related to peaks somehow ?
If "range" is A-weighted, then it's likely that the peaks at lower frequencies are significantly louder than what is displayed if I understand A-weighting well enough.
 

faheem

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 10, 2019
Messages
137
Likes
264
I'm a turner machinist, completed my apprenticeship and spent over 20 years gaining experience and slogging away. I recently had apprentices come through my department. Teaching them what took me close to 30 years, that backdrop makes me get how frustrating it is when those who haven't done their time take potshots at you and or dismiss your efforts.

You've spent years honing your skill, gaining experience, pushing yourself and going through times that would've been the pits. Then start this site and openly share it with no expectation or ulterior motive. Thank you, Amir.

( As an aside, the apprentices are awesome, and hang on to my every word : D )
 

Bear123

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 27, 2019
Messages
796
Likes
1,355
Perhaps this explains why I've seen testimonials from folks who say that listening to JTR speakers(99+db sensitivity) with very high power amplification was the only time they've ever felt like they were approximating the reproduction of live music.
 

KiyPhi

Active Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2021
Messages
122
Likes
219
I watched the video and I have found some things that I found to be hard to reconcile with things I've read in your reviews or have heard either through my years in occupational medicine (I did many hearing tests for workers and an intimately familiar with hearing loss causes by occupations) or from research papers I've read. I was hoping you could help me clear it up.

First thing is that I would say, as a preface, a lot of us don't have the goal of recreating live music. I for one don't like to go to concerts because I do find them too loud. I also have gone and done the same tests solderdude has to find what levels I find loud and comfortable. I used a multimeter with both peak and RMS that was rated to be accurate across the spectrum of hearing. I measured at both 1kHz and 700Hz. Those are the frequencies I am referencing when I speak of volume levels. I measured both music and the peak my headphone could produce by making 0dB signals. I also support you measuring that loud for the information even if I think not all of the information is relevant for most listeners.

I found my "I can only listen for a short while" levels to be ~96dB. Beyond that I can only listen for a minute or so. My average listening level is ~75dB with peaks ~85dB. So for me, the 104dB measurements do seem irrelevant for anything other than bass. Distortion in the mids at that level won't occur for me in regular music. I know you did mention that you say it for the 1% who will complain that you didn't mention it, but I honestly can say that if they are listening that loud at the referenced frequencies, they are listening too loud.

Even if we assume that someone does want to listen to reproduce live music, there are lots of cases where people who visit concerts do get hearing damage and players of those instruments especially get hearing damage. The number of pianists and violinists with hearing damage I've measured rivals those who drive trains! I'm this case, it would seem to me that the argument that live music, even instruments only, are that loud therefore it is safe to listen that loud doesn't follow.

Hearing damage is also generally done over time and not noticable to the person until it is much too late. I've measured people with 20+dB hearing loss who think they have none. So while one or two peaks won't kill your ears am right away, listening at 100dB in the mid frequencies will over time cause damage. In this case, it would appear to me that solderdude's test only shows that people don't accurately guage their listening levels, not that the argument that you shouldn't listen that loud isn't accurate.

Edit: fixed swipe texting mistakes. Am on mobile.
 
Last edited:

MasterMech

Member
Joined
May 7, 2019
Messages
24
Likes
6
Many thanks for talking about this topic, I learn a lot from your video and its answered many questions I had.
 

RHO

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 20, 2020
Messages
1,175
Likes
1,066
Location
Belgium
I for one don't like to go to concerts because I do find them too loud.
Same here.
Also because I did attend quite a bit of concerts when I was younger and suffer from tinnitus since. I certainly do not want to make it worse.
So I do think listening to music at "concert level SPL" at home (through headphones, IEMs or loudspeakers) is not the smartest thing to do.
 

Pdxwayne

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
3,219
Likes
1,163
@amirm, enjoyed your video.

You mentioned that bass already being turned up louder in produced songs. So, do we still need "house curve" when setting up our stereo system at home? I think "house curve" is a curve where 20hz is about 8db louder than 80hz. Do you do that for your own home stereo system (not headphones)?

Thanks!
 

abdo123

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 15, 2020
Messages
6,889
Likes
7,100
Location
Brussels, Belgium
@amirm, enjoyed your video.

You mentioned that bass already being turned up louder in produced songs. So, do we still need "house curve" when setting up our stereo system at home? I think "house curve" is a curve where 20hz is about 8db louder than 80hz. Do you do that for your own home stereo system (not headphones)?

Thanks!

In the best case scenario, in the best acoustic conditions, the flat direct sound coming out of the speaker should produce sound in room that follows that target curve. EQ is not coloring the sound, but rather giving it a push in the correct direction.
 

Pdxwayne

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
3,219
Likes
1,163
In the best case scenario, in the best acoustic conditions, the flat direct sound coming out of the speaker should produce sound in room that follows that target curve. EQ is not coloring the sound, but rather giving it a push in the correct direction.
I see. So house curve it is. : )

I was playing with minidsp 2x4 hd and measuring with REW last few days. From my listening position, I have kind of that curve down to 20 Hz. I was trying to integrate my twin 15" sealed sub with my bookshelf speakers.

Playing Hans Zimmer's 2049 can be a bit frightening experience with such curve.

Edit:
Here the song freq spectrum analysis:
Spectrum_analysis_65536.PNG.png
 
Last edited:

B4ICU

Active Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
157
Likes
89
1. Equal loudness curve is known as fletcher munson curve https://williamssoundstudio.com/mixing/read-fletcher-munson-easy-steps.php
2. Loud is one end of the story. Noise floor is the other. The noise floor is pretty constant in urban environment. The how loud is up to yo or the neighbours.
3. I own a speaker with 99dB/w/m SPL and it's driven by a 250W/ch. Amp. it has 2.3dB dynamic headroom (445W/ch) It also has VU power meters, with x1 and x10 scale.
So loud is about 1-3W RMS at 3m, both ch. playing. However, if I wish to hear a drum session, live like, most of the power is required! Do the math...
 
Top Bottom