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Why do music sound better when it's louder?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thought this should be a question being posed in the Sound Science section.
post #2 of 22
I think its a personal thing. I certain don't enjoy music when its really loud.
post #3 of 22
I'm sure there's some technical explanation for it, but I don't really know why. Maybe because it just has a more visceral and immersive feel to it? Maybe it even stims parts of the brain that aren't stimmed when it's not as loud, as we've evolved to pay attention more to loud sounds, etc.
post #4 of 22
Mostly because of the fact that details are easier heard when louder, and because of the Fletcher-Munson curve. Bass and highs are perceived as more boosted than midrange when you turn up the volume, so the overall frequency ballance actually changes.
In short: more bass, more highs & more details. A lot of people prefer that.
post #5 of 22
^ What 'Kees' say.
The music may contain lower volume sounds which can not or are hard to spot when you play on low volumes, but become easier to spot when you turn up the volume.
post #6 of 22
Since the volume level has an effect on what we hear, should we have something like the The THX 0 dB reference level on music playback?
The idea of the reference level is to ensure that the volume level that the movie was mixed at is the same as the playback volume. I am just wondering if that can apply to music as well?
post #7 of 22
Because when the music is loud, you can actually feel it, not just hear it.
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by krmathis View Post
^ What 'Kees' say.
The music may contain lower volume sounds which can not or are hard to spot when you play on low volumes, but become easier to spot when you turn up the volume.
Even more the case with higher impedance cans.
post #9 of 22
Seconding Kees' answer.

Also wanted to add that it isn't necessarily the case that louder sounds better. Its almost always that way because headphones tend to be tuned in that way. I've heard headphones that sound distinctly better at low volume than they do at high volume.
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by gevorg View Post
Because when the music is loud, you can actually feel it, not just hear it.
QFT

When you go to a concert do they play softly? No its loud. Instuments dont have volume knobs.
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by sahwnfras View Post
QFT

When you go to a concert do they play softly? No its loud. Instuments dont have volume knobs.
Yeah, but can they still go to 11?

Seriously though, just as a little meaningless anecdote, the "right" level for listening always depends on my mood. Sometimes you want visceral, and sometimes you just don't want to get fatigued. But overall, if the volume is too low, it sounds tinny to me, but when it's too loud certain things get drowned out or seem out of whack. The snare drum for instance can get so unbearable loud I can't focus on the rest of the music. I am not sure if there is an objective component in addition to the subjective at higher volume. It is almost 4 in the morning and I am not sure what I'm even doing up. But a quick scan of the wikipedia page Equal-loudness contour - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia shows some differences between loudspeakers and headphones, along with some unidentified flying citations. Red licorice is on the phone.

Having tinnitus, it can also benefit me to listen louder to the point where my tinnitus is masked by some of the music. I could turn it up unbearable loud like a rock concert, but I don't want to damage my hearing anymore than it already will be (and is).
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
There's something else as well. When I turn the music up loud on my speaker and subwoofer system, the soundstage seems to improve. It's kind of like a wall of sound, completely enveloping you and blocking out everything else. It just sounds and feels more immersive.

However, I am nearly never tempted to turn up my custom iems very loud. Make of that what you will.
post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by sahwnfras View Post
QFT

When you go to a concert do they play softly? No its loud. Instuments dont have volume knobs.
Guitars at concerts have volume knobs...
post #14 of 22
I recently handed an expensive set of cans to someone with unpolished tastes. He turned the music up so loud I had to warn him, not just for his hearing but for the prortection of the headphone.

Here's my common-sense answer to the question.

A lot of idiotic impulses go back to cheap equipment. When the five-and-dime stereo does a poor job of reproducing good bass and treble, the easiest way to wring it from a mid-heavy presentation is to crank up the volume. Midrange is the critical frequency region. It's the survival band. It's what we hear most of the time. It's what we, as a species, have needed to hear for our very survival. That's why you can hear and understand TV and radio from crappy little speakers that barely squawk. It's why you can hear music off the microspeaker in an iPod Touch.

We crave the bass and the HF extension, but not for the soul of the music. That's in the midrange. We crave it for the extra presence it provides. It's what tells us we're not listening to a clock radio. Sometimes, mids are recessed simply to allow more bass and treble to create a kind of EQ smile. People who can't pull this off just crank all of the music up louder and louder in an effort to get what they want from systems that are poorly adapted to do very much.

I'm not much of a builder, but when I built my system, using the best components I could find, I found that the signal separation of a good system makes it unnecessary to "crank it up." I went a little heavy on the woofers (a pair of 15" woofers and a pair of 15" subwoofers, with a pair of 500-watt subwoofer amps) only to discover I didn't need all that. When you have more than you need, you don't use half of it. The same holds true for tweeters (I once had 14 tweeters - 7 per channel - before it became obvious that I'd hit overkill and then kept going). With my L-Pads, I don't even use most of the power my tweeters are capable of, simply because it would interfere with the mix.

People who have few, if any choices, use quantity to substitute for quality.
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by etiolate View Post
Guitars at concerts have volume knobs...
But do you have control over them?

And to poster above, I feel safer cranking high end products because i know they should be able to handle it. Cheaper products im worried somethings gonna blow. But if you have a well built product it should be able to last, now cranking it full blast and just kinda leaving it on or something like thats not good, but thats just abuse. I just like it reasonably loud.
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