Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › Safe Headphone Volume
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Safe Headphone Volume

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
From what I’ve read, using an SPL meter to determine the db level coming out of headphones isn’t something you can accurately do outside of a lab. I’ve read on more than one site about something I’ve seen referred to as the “talking test.”

As the theory goes, if you can carry on a regular conversation at a distance of a meter while listening to music through open-air headphones, your volume is under 85db and safe. By regular conversation they mean you should be able to talk at a normal speaking volume (without unintentionally shouting). And you should also be able to understand someone speaking to you at their normal conversational volume.

Here’s my question. I’ve read numerous times that normal conversation is 60db. If someone were speaking directly into your open-air headphone cup while you were listening, it would seem to me that the decibel level of the headphone volume would have to be less than 60db (conversation level) in order for you to understand them. A level over or at 60db from your headphones should be too loud to make out their words. And to understand them at “a meter” away, the level in your headphones would have to be even less than that (maybe around 55db).

Is my logic correct? The claim is that this test assures you that you’re listening under 85db. But doesn’t it actually assure you that you’re listening somewhere in the 50dbs range?

I’m extremely non-technical, so please keep as simple as you can.

Thanks.
post #2 of 23
Thats really interesting, I hadn't heard that. I've been wondering about the safe volume thing, and realize that, often..at the volume constraints projected here (85ish db) I lose a great amount of sound quality. Ideally, you should say that reference grade phones should need no real volume increase to achieve their best sound, but I'm a purveyor of the belief that this really isn't true.

So then, is it better to listen at lower volumes and save your ears..or is it better to enjoy your rig alot more with just a tiny volume increase?
post #3 of 23
I've never put much faith in the "talking test" method, too many variables I guess. I've only used the SPL meter trick with cardboard to couple it to one of the cups. I think it works fine and gets me close enough for a rough idea.
post #4 of 23
You are capable of hearing and understanding a person talking while hearing and ignoring a louder noise at the same time, up to a certain extent (just like you can make out a counter melody that is quite a bit softer than the main melody or bass line in a song). It is also safe to assume that nobody talks at normal conversational levels to someone wearing giant headphones that are leaking music. So less than 60db would not be a safe assumption using this "talking test".
post #5 of 23
For what type of phones? IEM, closed or open?

Quote:
should be able to talk at a normal speaking volume
What is normal speaking volume? Your test is not scientific, as it has too many variables with no set parameters.
post #6 of 23
The talking test makes no sense primarily because 1. everyone has a different ability in filtering out noise to hold a conversation at 3 meters (and at different times/situations/songs that ability will fluctuate) and 2. someone with limited hearing won't be able to fit the talking test because his bad hearing would require him to play the music at way below the threshold of ear damage in order to hold a conversation. Likewise, someone with great hearing or ability to hold conversations could be damaging his ear just because he can hold a conversation at 3 meters while blasting music.
post #7 of 23
Does your ears not get "trained" at the level you usually listen at?
post #8 of 23
Sounds like some stupid safety thing you would get on Best Buy's website along with their "Headphone buying guide"
post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatDane View Post
I've never put much faith in the "talking test" method, too many variables I guess. I've only used the SPL meter trick with cardboard to couple it to one of the cups. I think it works fine and gets me close enough for a rough idea.
I use the spl meter and a piece of cardboard to test the cups volume. I listen at very low volumes, below 70 dB's.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by iriverdude View Post
For what type of phones? IEM, closed or open?



What is normal speaking volume? Your test is not scientific, as it has too many variables with no set parameters.
I think you're underestimating how large a gap there is in perceived volume for 5 dB
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by BSong View Post
As the theory goes, if you can carry on a regular conversation at a distance of a meter while listening to music through open-air headphones, your volume is under 85db and safe.
Well definitely for you to hear someone speaking at 1 meter and not need to shout, the volume was certainly under 85 db. How much I'm not sure, but I can measure 85 db at my listening spot using my speaker setup and a Radio Shack volume meter, and at that volume on your ears it's definitely not easy at all to talk to someone that is 1 meter away and not elevate your voice.

85 dbs are 85 db. If it's hard to talk with that volume hitting your ears from speakers, same would happen with headphones. So if you can understand and talk to someone without raising your voice while listening to music using headphones, it's technically correct to say that the volume from your headphones is below 85 db; but most likely it is well below 85 db.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by salannelson View Post
Sounds like some stupid safety thing you would get on Best Buy's website along with their "Headphone buying guide"
Headphone buying guide: Make sure you're buying headphones and not a brick in a box marked as containing headphones.
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by BSong View Post
From what I’ve read, using an SPL meter to determine the db level coming out of headphones isn’t something you can accurately do outside of a lab.
For the purpose of measuring the frequency response of a headphone, that is true, but for measuring SPL for the purpose of establishing a safe listening level, an SPL meter works more than adequately for anything except earbuds or IEMs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreatDane View Post
I've never put much faith in the "talking test" method, too many variables I guess. I've only used the SPL meter trick with cardboard to couple it to one of the cups. I think it works fine and gets me close enough for a rough idea.
Indeed, and thanks to you, I have a nice picture of how you and I have both done this:





Quote:
Originally Posted by Suicide_Sound View Post
Does your ears not get "trained" at the level you usually listen at?
If by this do you mean that they will get used to loud levels and that makes the loud levels safe, no, it doesn't work that way. Your exposure to sound over a certain level, over time, will cause hearing damage.

Bottom line - if you want to listen to headphones safely for hours and hours a day, keep the levels well below 80dbA.
post #14 of 23
If my wife is talking to me and I am ignoring her...what db is that?
post #15 of 23
I think you measure that in Hz (pronounced "hurts") :-)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sound Science
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › Safe Headphone Volume