Everything I need to know about headphone volume levels?
Sep 17, 2012 at 9:25 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 19

MEETmyARSENAL

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So, I've got a pair of M-80s, and was wondering the following things:

1. Does playing on maximum volume harm the cans, long-term?

 
2. Are my ears safe if I use this pair on max, or should I probably reduce the volume?

3. What is the best volume for audio quality (for good sound / bass, etc.) ?

 
4. Anything else I should probably know? 
 
Sep 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM Post #2 of 19

JackeShan

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Maximum volume on what exactly? If you're using them with anything that can drive them efficiently you'll damage your ears before you damage the headphones, if you go too loud.
 
Sep 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM Post #3 of 19

streetdragon

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any portable device at 80% and above may damage hearing over extended listening periods
a good tip: if you take off your headphones and hold them about 2 feet infront of you, and you can hear every part of the music in a fairly quiet place, then it probably is too loud
 
Sep 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM Post #4 of 19

RPGWiZaRD

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I've never found any source that wouldn't play a headphone that's easy driven such as M80 at dangerously high volume levels at max. What's more is I keep wondering how people enjoy listening THAT loud. 
 
Even driving my 64 ohm Q40 which is quite a bit harder to drive than M80 from my cheap $120 android phone which is a pair of headphones which I think really needs at least some basic amping I think it's a bit too loud at max... 85~90% it's perfect tho, that's the weakest source I possess for comparision.
 
Sep 17, 2012 at 12:56 PM Post #5 of 19

streetdragon

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i normally listen to my 50ohm HD558 at about 50% of an android unamped,
does that make me a low level listener? o.o
 
Sep 17, 2012 at 1:33 PM Post #6 of 19

obobskivich

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a good tip: if you take off your headphones and hold them about 2 feet infront of you, and you can hear every part of the music in a fairly quiet place, then it probably is too loud


This tip isn't universal - I can hear my RS-1 playing at a VERY soft level from across the room, simply because they leak like crazy. But I can have my IEMs at ear-destroying levels and not hear them hanging around my neck. :xf_eek:

So, I've got a pair of M-80s, and was wondering the following things:


1. Does playing on maximum volume harm the cans, long-term?


Define "maximum volume" in a more concrete way. Maximum that the headphones can take? Or that you can take? etc.

The "output level" on any device is irrelevant for this discussion because gain/etc are unknowns and without measurements of the device output it's not actually possible to say that "80% output is 80% of the device's capability." It also depends on the sensitivity and impedance interaction of the headphone to the amplifier as to the overall acoustic output as well. It's a somewhat variable discussion.

See here:
http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=58829

2. Are my ears safe if I use this pair on max, or should I probably reduce the volume?


Per OSHA and CCOHS, 85 dB for 8 hours a day is the entry to NIHL - 85 dB is pretty loud though (then again, I've seen a lot of young people these days who aren't even phased by 85 dB, which is sad; pain exists for a reason). If you don't have headaches/pain/etc associated with listening that's a positive, if you DO though, that's too loud. Your ears are not safe with any production headphone at it's maximum output level (they are ALL capable of destroying your hearing in an afternoon).

3. What is the best volume for audio quality (for good sound / bass, etc.) ?


After a certain point the Acoustic Reflex will kick and decrease volume and DNR ability (ever heard a NASCAR or similar and then everything else sounds "dull" for a while?) - so yes playing too loud will reduce fidelity. I forget where the exact level for this is, it's either 90 or 100 dB.

Ultimately if you aren't experiencing any pain or fatigue or ear-ringing after listening, I doubt if you're causing damage, but don't take my word for it. If you're really worried, try measuring the output of the headphones with an SPL meter (which is the only instrument able to really do what you need here) - anything over 85 dB is bad for any sort of long-term use, the 60-70 dB range is very comfortable though.
 
Sep 17, 2012 at 11:34 PM Post #7 of 19

streetdragon

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Quote:
This tip isn't universal - I can hear my RS-1 playing at a VERY soft level from across the room, simply because they leak like crazy. But I can have my IEMs at ear-destroying levels and not hear them hanging around my neck.
redface.gif

 

well since this is a closed M80 i think this should be an ok baseline to test? 
rolleyes.gif

and yeah grados have the same if not more sound coming out of the headphones than sound going into your ears
 
Sep 18, 2012 at 5:00 PM Post #8 of 19

obobskivich

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well since this is a closed M80 i think this should be an ok baseline to test? :rolleyes:


Not really. My IEMs have more isolation than basically any closed headphone, and again, you can have them at ear-shattering levels and not even notice it. Leakage and so on is not a good indicator of the SPL the ear is "seeing."

and yeah grados have the same if not more sound coming out of the headphones than sound going into your ears


They're dipoles, of course they do. But not all dipoles behave in the same way. :xf_eek:
 
Sep 18, 2012 at 5:23 PM Post #9 of 19

Rocko1

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 Hearing damage is cumulative. You won't notice it for a few years down the road. Any ringing at all after a concert, headphones, job site is damage being done. Trust me. I am 39 years old and have ringing in my ears 100% of the time from being uninformed about the dangers of loud music or sounds. I was a car stereo enthusiast as a teenager-amps, subs, louder the better. If I had known then what I known now, I would not have tinnitus and slight hearing loss in both ears. Don't take the 'won't happen to me' attitude. It will if you don't respect your ears.
 
Sep 18, 2012 at 9:05 PM Post #10 of 19

talisman42

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If you enjoy the music and gear, please take care of your ears - and if you have children - also be proactive in keeping them protected and informed. Not too long ago, I had some questions about headphones for toddlers for hearing protection at church because they went overboard with the speaker systems and kids/teens cranking the volumes might be unsafe.
 
Here is a page that gives examples of different dB levels.. There may be similar lists out there that are more accurate/relevant:
 
http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm
 
Sep 18, 2012 at 9:15 PM Post #11 of 19

machoboy

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Even headphones with low sensitivity being driven by a weak source can damage your ears on maximum volume.
The point of a better source is to allow more volume without muddiness. Virtually all of them are capable of going loud enough to cause damage, even if it sounds bad/thin/weak/inaudible, it might still be "loud" from an SPL standpoint.
 
I'm in my 20s and already noticing my hearing is less accurate/reliable than it used to be. I also can't hear much over 16khz anymore, which thankfully doesn't affect the musical spectrum, but is something I've taken as a warning sign. I listen to music max 1/3 the volume I used to.
 
The funny thing is that once you get used to having self control and stopping at a certain volume, the music becomes more enjoyable as well. You're forced to actually "listen" to it and notice new things rather than just let it rape your ears for kicks. It;s like growing out of sour gummy candies and learning to appreciate seasoned veggies.
 
Sep 19, 2012 at 3:06 AM Post #12 of 19

obobskivich

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Even headphones with low sensitivity being driven by a weak source can damage your ears on maximum volume.
The point of a better source is to allow more volume without muddiness. Virtually all of them are capable of going loud enough to cause damage, even if it sounds bad/thin/weak/inaudible, it might still be "loud" from an SPL standpoint.


This may or may not be contestable depending on your perspective. I'm not trying to have an argument, but at the end of the day you're creating a very deep rabbit hole.

I'm in my 20s and already noticing my hearing is less accurate/reliable than it used to be. I also can't hear much over 16khz anymore, which thankfully doesn't affect the musical spectrum, but is something I've taken as a warning sign. I listen to music max 1/3 the volume I used to.


Sounds like normal age related hearing loss to be quite honest. But certainly listening at a lower level is never a bad thing.

The funny thing is that once you get used to having self control and stopping at a certain volume, the music becomes more enjoyable as well. You're forced to actually "listen" to it and notice new things rather than just let it rape your ears for kicks. It;s like growing out of sour gummy candies and learning to appreciate seasoned veggies.


But I *like* sour gummy candies. :p

But yes, this is a good point as well. I've never understood young people and the "oh I listen so loud I'm in pain - I'm awesome!" mantra. It's just silly.
 
Sep 19, 2012 at 9:46 AM Post #13 of 19

streetdragon

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i have no idea how people can listen to headphones with %100 volume and + 8db preamp
 
Sep 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM Post #14 of 19

Rocko1

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Quote:
i have no idea how people can listen to headphones with %100 volume and + 8db preamp


Same reason people wear huge gauge earrings that make 3" diameter holes in their ears, pierce themselves all over, get bad tattoos. They think it's cool and are too immature and think it will have no long term effect. Wrong.
 
Sep 19, 2012 at 12:23 PM Post #15 of 19

streetdragon

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Quote:
Same reason people wear huge gauge earrings that make 3" diameter holes in their ears, pierce themselves all over, get bad tattoos. They think it's cool and are too immature and think it will have no long term effect. Wrong.

does that apply to beats too by any chance?
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