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Testing volumes for headphones, what is a safe listening volume?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

*Just noticed this specific forum - this post is more relevant here.



I apologise if this is a topic already being/recently discussed. I've had a search of the forums and any similar, cogent, discussion seems to have taken place a few years ago. I wonder what difference a newer crowd on the forums, and newer technology, will make. 


After some mild, temporary tinnitus lying in bed the other night, I've been thinking about safe volume levels. I've recently jumped into the audiophile world - I've never used a headphone amp and any decent cans properly before this week - and I want to be really sure that I won't be doing any harm to my hearing, in the long-term. I'm aware that volume levels are subjective, and all of the numbers thrown around don't seem consistent (although a benchmark figure seems to be anything over 80/85db is harmful).


I'm planning on doing some actual measuring, so I can see for myself. Then, I'm going to put a sticker on my amp's volume to remind me of the level that I should never exceed. I'll be making sure I keep the volume level of my laptop the same at all times obviously, to make this level consistent.


So, what should I use and how should I go about doing it? I've read a few old posts about using cardboard and a SPL meter, but I can't really make sense of how they went about doing it. I think I'd need to recreate the situation of my ears being within the headphones, taking a measurement from approximately where my ear canal would be, and creating a seal to mimic that of the headphone cushions, etc. Obviously, whichever way this is done will not be exact; I'll be taking the volume level down further after I come to any successful conclusions, to allow for the unreliability of the test.


In terms of the SPL meter, do you think something simple like this would be sufficient? I think it should definitely be digital.


I'll be using HD650's, a possibly also T1's, in case that's useful information for anyone.


I hope this is of some interest, and people may be able to help. If this post only serves to remind people to check how loud their volume levels are, I'll have achieved something. Being a bit of a hypochondriac and a worrier, I'm terrified of losing my hearing!

post #2 of 4





Originally Posted by jcx View Post




about halfway down, "Hearing Protection", 4 articles, some more at bottom, "Musicians"

although from some of the comments, a few of you will soon be reading the hearing aid articles!

you start with a finite # of sensitive hair cells that transduce vibration into nerve impulses, when they die they're gone forever, even OSHA levels are killing hair cells, it's just that modern industrial society has accepted that you'll loose hearing as you age


a good multimeter that has a accurate 1kHz AC range can meaure the V driving the headphone directly - knowing the headphone specs its only high school math to calculate the SPL - often accurate to a few dB when I've compared with calibrated sound meter - details of the coupler give can give most of the variation

post #3 of 4

nosraci, I have the very same spl meter you have linked to. High recommended. It have various options like fast/slow (peak/average), A/C weightings, and 2 very useful extras: max hold and a backlight.


You don't HAVE to have the bits of cardboard and rubber bands, but they will give a more accurate result - you usually get a slightly higher reading when properly enclosing the ear cup with cardboard or equivalent. There are pictures in one of the old threads, but no time to dig them out at the moment.


Just to be on the safe side, I don't venture any higher than 80db (peak) for most listening, and most of the time the mid 70s is plenty loud enough for me. In theory, one can handle much higher than this, but if you've already got the start of tinnitus, they why take the chance?


There is no single volume setting on your amp that will achieve your desired volume. Each source and recording will give a different result, but it doesn't take long to work out what is the range to use for say your quietest to loudest recordings.

post #4 of 4
The easiest method is to turn the volume all the way down, put on the headphones and a test track, and slowly turn them up until you are satisfied with what you hear down to the quiet details of the recording. I don't think I've ever broken 80db (avg) by following this method (at least I didn't the few times I've bothered to measure it).
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