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Listening Loud Distroys Fidelity - Page 2

post #16 of 44
I posted this on another thread for how I measure SPL for my IEM. I'm not sure how accurate it is. Any comments are welcome
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showpo...&postcount=102

In the same thread, Skylab posted his method of measuring full sized cans.
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showpo...5&postcount=42

You can't tell if a position on the amp's volume dial is too loud unless you have measured the amp/headphone combination.
post #17 of 44
Just tried a few times so as to figure out a way to to describe as best as possible how to make at will that inner ear "flutter" sound, those mild low frequencies.

The best way to describe how to make it is to somehow replicate what you start to do when you yawn. You don't need to yawn or move anything in your head or jaw actually, but the way I make that sound is to think as if I was right about to start yawning. I just don't start yawning, yet that flutter can be perfectly heard after that minor tension somewhere inside my head, similar to something involved at the beginning of yawning. Once you catch it, it's pretty easy to replicate. The sound is just a minor flutter, as if there was a very soft wind blowing right in front of your ear drums. A kind of brrrrrr... from a low level subwoofer, but coming from right inside your ears.

One interesting thing, I can restart the flutter at any time, but I can't sustain it for too long, just a few seconds.

PS. That is a description of how to achieve a perceptual experience, and a description of that experience. Kind of describing how to snatch those 3D images from a stereogram. Somehow describing how to achieve a particular perceptual experience makes me think I'm writing like Patrick (no offense Patrick )

PS2. Truly after a few times, I'm realizing the "tension" causing the flutter can be felt precisely inside your ears, not in the muscles on your head around your earlobes. Well, not sure whether bone conduction would cause a similar result misplacing the apparent location of the tension.
post #18 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by rumatt View Post
No, because it's not that simple.

You can't use the position of the dial to determine what's safe. It depends on the output of your player, the sensitivity of your headphones, etc..
oh crap im totally sorry, yeah i have a zune and i listen to 32ohm headphones mainly my grados.

i listen to my AKG K240s at very low volumes because its a semi closed design and i dont need to turn it up.
post #19 of 44
How quiet is quiet listening? That was more rhetorical because I know we could go ahead and try measuring. But on a slightly different note on the topic...if you were listening to live music, which most certainly is fairly loud (and depending on the genre damaging for sure), do you guys wear ear protection? It might not be weeks worth of earphone hammering, but I certainly can feel the SPL at live shows, musicals, etc. I sometimes stuff napkins in my ears (though that kills some of the listening experience, but sometimes it hurts).

Thanks for the discussion.
post #20 of 44
Well said Tyll. I struggle constantly with my listening volume. I think one of the things that actually does bother me most is that a lot of the music I like has a lot of dynamic range. I can set something to a comfortable volume and in a few minutes I'll have a full on blast of music. Turning it down at that point results in a very unsatisfying listening session. It takes some knowledge of a recording to know when quiet needs to be *really* quiet, so you can enjoy the dynamics all the way through without hurting yourself.

That said, some recordings just don't work at low volume. I find that screaming guitars need to actually scream to work. Reserve those sessions for once in a while and enjoy that inner ear hum as simply a part of the live rock out experience. If you can catch a live show with equally great screaming guitars, leave that recording for another month and go experience the real thing. A few weeks ago I got hungry for some hendrix, and listened to Are You Experienced at full blast. Since then I've listened to nothing but jazz and light pop. I'll feel the need to rock out again soon, but everything must come in moderation.
post #21 of 44
This thread was a great read, thanks for starting it, Tyll.

I'm concerned about my hearing, and I generally listen at 9 o'clock on my GS-X, at low gain, with all of my tracks being ReplayGained to 89dB, and system volume at 65%.

Once I have my DT770s I should hopefully be able to further decrease the volume by a notch or two, as my listening room isn't the quietest, and thus I need decent volume on my 650s to not hear background noise.

I've found myself with very mild tinnitus following listening to 0dB peak CDs.
post #22 of 44
I shudder when I think of how loud I used to listen to my headphones 20 or so years ago, and am *most* thankful I can hear the level of detail that I currently can. Balancing the desire to experience a given selection's visceral impact with the need for safety can be a tricky thing, but as I've been moving up the h/p line, I've been noticing that I'm definitely favoring low-volume listening where the details have some breathing room. And, in fact, HeadRoom's assertion that the Grado GS1k's are their fave cans for low-level listening was a very big sales point for me in finally placing an order for 'em.

Oh, and now when I go to a dance club, I'm amazed at how utterly crude the music sounds when it's blasted the way that clubs do. Something I never noticed, before.
post #23 of 44
For what it's worth, I was amazed when I found a preference level for volume at work. It's very quiet (I can't even hear it when I go outside, for example), and it sounds so much better. I may try to measure the output later (along with my home listening level, which is a bit louder).
post #24 of 44

Safe Sound Levels - Calibrated

This is how I calibrated one of my listening setups ( SB3->Cordia Aria->HD 650) for safe max volume levels.

Take 1 Rat Shack Sound Level Meter


Add the Top from a case of Blank CD media - modded without the aid of a dremel.


Put Them together

Now pick a test track from - from the Alan Parsons Sound Check Test CD -
With its quaint warning from before the volume wars.
Reference tones are at the reference level of -14dB.
Warning - This track is at the theoretical maximum recording level, 0dB FS.
THIS IS A VERY LOUD TONE - USE WITH CAUTION



Indeed it is at the theoretical maximum signal level -as if anyone would record at that level in anger - What little they knew what was to come.


Put Them all together and you can set the Max Volume to a Safe 85dB - as seen here.


Result safe, satisfying listening.

Replaygain Tags give you an idea about the signal levels of given tracks and albums so you can compare them to the test signals levels.

Hope you find this useful.
post #25 of 44
Tyll,

It must be difficult for an amplifier manufacturer to find a responsible approach to this problem. Anyone buying a headphone amplifier is pretty much going to expect it to drive loud, so from a certain perspective I can see that you would want to supply a lot of volume. I used to regularly listen to my iPod at maximum volume with earbuds in noisy environments; only once I moved to IEMs in a noisy environment was the iPod capable of producing a sufficient music level on a train, for example. The step-up in gain needed for high-impedence headphones mean that in most cases HR is supplying a product that is capable of damaging the hearing of the purchaser ... just to cover all bases.

I'm wondering whether there's more that you can do at your end, even if it's just supplying an A4 sheet printed with typical volume levels for different types of headphone at different gain levels. Personally, I listen with the volume dial just shy of 12 o' clock on medium gain with the K 701s, which "feels" right, but I'm not dedicated enough to go to the trouble that Grahame did.

You wouldn't have to drop down into model numbers for this exercise: just give guidance and explain what one is trying to achieve with headphone listening levels. Also, of course, remember to add that you don't guarantee that hearing can't be damaged at lower sound levels ... you don't want to get sued for trying to do the right thing!
post #26 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grahame View Post
Put Them all together and you can set the Max Volume to a Safe 85dB - as seen here.
I think setting the absolute maximum to be 85 is too conservative.

Want to wear the hat of the Devil's advocate for a second:

1) Actually listening to levels above 85dB during short periods of time (peaks and bursts) is not dangerous; the problem occurs when listening to such high levels in a sustained manner, for long enough periods.

2) Setting the absolute maximum volume to 85dB means that the average volume of the recording might end up too low for proper appreciation and enjoyment.

3) Volume levels vary from recording to recording. At the extreme setting of 85dB for absolute maximum played back by your system, some recordings will be barely listenable.


With my speakers I have played specific songs and have measured volume at the listening position using the Rat.Shack meter. If the music sends the needle quite too frequently above 85dB then it's too loud for me. Actually I have noticed that I rarely need the meter, since when it goes too many times above 85 it rapidly becomes uncomfortably loud for me. When only a few times it gets past the 85dB, or doesn't even pass it but gets there close enough just a few times, then the volume is loud but comfortable and acceptable (yet it's almost concert leavel reallistically loud at the listening spot.)

The perceived volume I set for my headphone rig is similar. Have also measured it with the Rat.Shack near the headphones, as limited as such a measurement can be, and it's consistent with my speaker setting: loud enough but rarely goes above 85dB.

So my rule of thumb is to be around 85dB for the loud passages of a song; can go slightly higher than that, but just very few times.
post #27 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rsaavedra View Post
I think setting the absolute maximum to be 85 is too conservative.
I quite agree. In general, I think your statement, "to be around 85dB for the loud passages of a song; can go slightly higher than that, but just very few times", is a pretty good rule, but because of widely disparate nature of compressed pop music and the very high dynamic range of some classical and chamber music, it's pretty hard to come up with anything much better. But, I do agree with your comments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel
Anyone buying a headphone amplifier is pretty much going to expect it to drive loud, so from a certain perspective I can see that you would want to supply a lot of volume.
Yeah, that's a problem, and another important message we should have up our "Head-Fi Culture" sleeve: amps aren't about getting loud, but about being clear and clean. As you point out, for our (and anyones) headphone amp to be universally usable, we have to be able to accomodate any headphone regardless of impedance and efficiency. That means we can play some cans blazingly loud.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel
I'm wondering whether there's more that you can do at your end, even if it's just supplying an A4 sheet printed with typical volume levels for different types of headphone at different gain levels. .... You wouldn't have to drop down into model numbers for this exercise: just give guidance and explain what one is trying to achieve with headphone listening levels. Also, of course, remember to add that you don't guarantee that hearing can't be damaged at lower sound levels ... you don't want to get sued for trying to do the right thing!
And, of course, there's the rub. If we offer specific proceedures and someone follows (or believes they are following) our instructions and still gets hearing damage, then they might sue us (please no, knock on wood, cross fingers, wave a dead cat around my head). It's true that there's a "damned if we do and damned if we don't" kind of situation here. The truth is, though, that it's pretty much impossible to do what you suggest; to do it at all effectively you do have to get down to the specific model number and it's performance coupled with the specific amp and what the gain settings are. It would be a massive undertaking that would have to be monitored and maintained over time for new cans, and you'd have to measure all the cans out there. No, just no do-able.

Maybe the best advice on this subject that I've heard (barring the Rat Shack meter thing, which is very good) is what Todd (TTVJ) started
saying to folks when he used to work at HeadRoom: "Turn it down till it's too quiet, and then tick it up a small notch and leave it there." One of the insidious usage modes is to keep touching the volume up as you listen over time. "Just a little louder, and a little more, and a little more," and pretty soon you're in trouble. The worst situation is when you are in a position to listen for long periods of time, and you let your volume creep up. It's nice to have a job where you can listen while you work, but it's also the time when you can get a little lost in the music and not take care of monitoring your volume.

Maybe the best thing I can tell you is tell you what I said in the beginning: What I've found is that fidelity is at it's best at a "normal" listening level. Your ears are really dialed in for normal speach levels and below. Loud noises are rejected from our auditory system to the best of our body's ability. I can tell when it's too loud because my listening is not at it's best, so I try to keep it down---not because it save my ears (though it does) but because I want to listen with the best that my body and hearing has to offer ... and for a long time to come.

Bottom line: Loud just doesn't sound as good.

Oh, and Graham, nice work, dude. Great post. I highly encourage folks to get a SPL Meter. Not only to get an internal calibration on what good listening levels sound like, but because that meter comes in real handy setting up your stereo gear.
post #28 of 44
Here's a set of very useful references for everyone interested in this thread. I think if there was a test to become a Headfier, this would be one of the questions in it: how many hours of exposure per day do you require to get hearing damage if listening at 90dB, 95dB, 100dB, 110dB:

http://www.headwize.com/articles/hearing_art.htm

http://www.abelard.org/hear/hear.htm


90dB is dangerous indeed, but only if exposed to such volume levels 8 or more hours a day. Getting a burst of 90dB for fractions of a second or seconds a day while listening to music isn't harmful. Our ears are prepared to handle those occasional bursts without discomfort or danger.

Problem is, many young people play their iPod buds on average at 95dB - 100dB or more for hours a day thinking that's "cool". And same as the ibuds, any high-end rig, whether headphones or speakers, can certainly cause hearing damage as well if you listen to it loud frequently enough.

And let's not talk about night clubs, this reminds me of the measurements I took at La Vela in Panama City a few years ago:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showth...ub+panama+city


To think that many people stay in those dancing floors exposed to such blasting volumes several hours per night, several nights a week. It's certainly a public health issue.

PS. Health on the one side, but also higher distortion on the other side, as Tyll pointed out in his original post. Any system, even high-end ones, in general will play music with more distortion at 90+dB than at 80-85dB. The louder you play the more Low-Fi you get.
post #29 of 44
The part people often miss is that you never know when it will be 'your turn'. You could listen at above 90dB and suffer little or no hearing loss for an extended period of years (i.e. life), just as one could potentially chain smoke and never suffer any ill effects for it.

However in the case of hearing loss, it only takes one occasion to permanently lower the standard of hearing, particularly in the most sensitive hearing ranges (upper midrange in hi-fi speak). You could listen at the same level to the same song for years, and nothing, and then one listening could drop one of your ears sensitivity by 6dB - once that happens, that's it.

You also cannot compensate for that loss by upping the volume, because with decreased sensitivity also comes decreased pain threshold, therefore not only do you hear less, but suffer pain and discomfort at a lower absolute volume level.

So remember, hearing loss can come without the slightest warning - just because you don't feel any warning pain or discomfort doesn't make you 'safe'.
post #30 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grahame View Post
This is how I calibrated one of my listening setups ( SB3->Cordia Aria->HD 650) for safe max volume levels.

Take 1 Rat Shack Sound Level Meter


Add the Top from a case of Blank CD media - modded without the aid of a dremel.


Put Them together

Now pick a test track from - from the Alan Parsons Sound Check Test CD -
With its quaint warning from before the volume wars.
Reference tones are at the reference level of -14dB.
Warning - This track is at the theoretical maximum recording level, 0dB FS.
THIS IS A VERY LOUD TONE - USE WITH CAUTION



Indeed it is at the theoretical maximum signal level -as if anyone would record at that level in anger - What little they knew what was to come.


Put Them all together and you can set the Max Volume to a Safe 85dB - as seen here.


Result safe, satisfying listening.

Replaygain Tags give you an idea about the signal levels of given tracks and albums so you can compare them to the test signals levels.

Hope you find this useful.
Great idea! I have been using the paper bag method, but I think this is clearly an upgrade

Thanks!

I usually try to stay within 83dB. I think if you are listening to something with lots of dynamics, you better find a quite place to listen. I remember times when I went to symphony performances, there are parts of passage that's so quiet I have to try really hard to listen, but when the climax comes, it feels just right
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