Why is music so much better LOUD?

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jimfisheye

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If folks haven’t read about the Fletcher-Munson curve (and the other varients), they should to understand how the human ear can be tricked.

It should be mandatory that when people pontificate on the sound quality of a particular release or version of any recording they need to include the volume at which they listen.

I know from personal experience, initially I almost always think the louder one is better - if even by only a dB or two - until I adjust volume to level match the versions (as best I can since differences in EQ, compression, limiting make it impossible to be perfect) at a moderately loud volume.

Once I do this, the lost visceral impact of over-compressed/limited versions and the missing middle (where the musical magic actually is) of overly smiley-faced EQ becomes readily apparent. And often what seemed the best version at first glance becomes the worst version.

What masquerades as “detail and hearing things I’ve never heard before” and “awesome bass” becomes “no energy, fatiguing, and where’s the natural sound” and “indistinct, boomy bass”.
My experience precisely.

You can often spot this when someone writes a review that sounds more like how they prefer their listening volume delivered to them as opposed to the fidelity of the audio they are supposed to be reviewing.

Heh. We recommend getting a listening space under control first (treatment, etc as needed) before spending money on more equipment. I think we're going to have to add a new first step: How to work a "volume control"! Some of the volume war mastered CDs out there (and a few formats that have even less business getting near this!) are so mutilated sounding you'd expect 100% returns as defective. But here we are.
 

Guy Robinson

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I agree. I seem to listen at about 60db, which is a comfortable spot for me. When I am feeling good, 70db seems to be a good loud zone. I also have 3 subs but one of them is connected High frequency cable only to back of my center speaker, no LFE. I was thinking of adding another, same foot print as the one used for center, and stack it under that sub for stereo subs, LFE.
When I treated my room with corner bass traps and side panels and rear diffusers, that made the biggest difference I have ever heard, not that expensive and super big bang for the buck.

I likely will never do this, but we all think of stuff, right?
I have my front two main speakers B&W, I like rock music and I thought it would be cool while listening to stereo rock music to have a pair of Kplisch Heresy IV speakers. I had a pair of those in the 90's and man, they really kicked ass with loud rock music.
But seems like a lot of hassle to change speakers for genre of music, I have never done that but I have heard of people that do.
80db is my usual.
 

M-D-Z

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As a drummer, I am used to repeated exposure to a wide range of SPLs, not only from my drums, but also the amplified instruments in close proximity. I believe that the two best ways to enjoy listening to music are either to be in a good seat at a live performance, or to be in the practice room or recording studio with the band.

I don’t know the science or psychology of it, but there’s got to be a big difference in any lasting physiological impact between prolonged exposure to loud chaotic industrial noise vs listening to ones’ favorite music, even if at the same SPLs. The brain pleasurably anticipates each next note in music as reassuringly as an unborn baby experiences it’s mother’s next heartbeat inches away in the womb.

For as long as I can remember, I've been immersed in dangerously loud shop environments, or at the race track, from air impact tools, compressed air blow-guns, 20Lb sledgehammers knocking pivot pins in or out of radius rod beams etc., so I must wear passive noise isolation cups or active noise canceling ear protection to save my hearing.

Since elevated music playback volume is the central topic here, let’s take a step back to the live performance, having been recorded and saved somehow to be enjoyed later, presumably and faithfully duplicating the artist/s intended musical product back to the listener, hopefully, in very close to its original form regarding sound quality and volume.
A HiFi system is just a “sound reproducer”, better ones do a more perfect job of it.
Acoustic guitar with a vocal accompaniment suggests an appropriate volume setting on your HiFi, whereas Led Zeppelin might be a LOT louder, but how much louder?

I went to see Lenny White (Chick Corea’s drummer) with Twennynine, who opened for Tower Of Power, LW was amazing in concert, but after a few minutes of T.O.P. with speakers stacked floor to ceiling and across the entire width of the stage, I had to walk out, it was far too brutally loud! I always love their music and it hurt my heart to leave, but I knew I might have permanent ear damage if I stayed. I was pressing those little fleshy flaps over my ear canal with my thumbs and still couldn’t bear the ludicrous SPLs.
My main system can accurately reproduce those same T.O.P. concert sound pressure levels, but I never ever crank it up that loud, all this ‘overkill’ is only here to provide ample headroom for the odd transient spike, so none of my expensive stuff gets hurt or produces painful distortion caused by low power amps, line level source delivery deficiencies or from inadequate speakers.

I’ve never been much of a ‘rocker’ more of a ‘jazzer’, but I also love Bossa, Latin, Fusion, World, Funk, Soul, NeoSoul, Acid Jazz, R&B, Blue Grass, Classical, Lounge/Chill/Electronica, Blues, etc., but any of it has to be played back at it’s full original performance SPLs for my to really and truly enjoy it. Listening at very quiet levels is a very different experience for me, and when quiet levels are required, I still enjoy the hell out of it, but still,,, it is a different experience than when listening at full original volume.
It is axiomatic that music played at much lower volume can not have the same dynamic range as when played louder.

In a playback setup I like a functionally silent noise floor, with an accurate and killer dynamic range which is faithful to the actual live performance much more so than listening to an audiophile’s polite vinyl / tube amp / playback rig in a perfect room, and carefully positioned in the magical sweet spot chair. If they are the same sonically, I am equally happy with both!!!

Note: the ONLY thing I’ve EVER experienced as loud as that T.O.P. concert was during my years at the race track working around top fuel dragsters, standing at the starting line just a few feet behind two top fuel race cars when they launch .... YIKES!!!!! That sound instantly and violently transforms your time space continuum, even if it only lasts 3 seconds! Wow!, I’m starting to think of all the damage I must’ve done to myself, because while these two T/F cars stage at the tree, the air becomes saturated with nitromethane to the point your eyes are burning and it’s hard to breath without coughing and choking.
 

The56Kid

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As a drummer, I am used to repeated exposure to a wide range of SPLs, not only from my drums, but also the amplified instruments in close proximity. I believe that the two best ways to enjoy listening to music are either to be in a good seat at a live performance, or to be in the practice room or recording studio with the band.

I don’t know the science or psychology of it, but there’s got to be a big difference in any lasting physiological impact between prolonged exposure to loud chaotic industrial noise vs listening to ones’ favorite music, even if at the same SPLs. The brain pleasurably anticipates each next note in music as reassuringly as an unborn baby experiences it’s mother’s next heartbeat inches away in the womb.

For as long as I can remember, I've been immersed in dangerously loud shop environments, or at the race track, from air impact tools, compressed air blow-guns, 20Lb sledgehammers knocking pivot pins in or out of radius rod beams etc., so I must wear passive noise isolation cups or active noise canceling ear protection to save my hearing.

Since elevated music playback volume is the central topic here, let’s take a step back to the live performance, having been recorded and saved somehow to be enjoyed later, presumably and faithfully duplicating the artist/s intended musical product back to the listener, hopefully, in very close to its original form regarding sound quality and volume.
A HiFi system is just a “sound reproducer”, better ones do a more perfect job of it.
Acoustic guitar with a vocal accompaniment suggests an appropriate volume setting on your HiFi, whereas Led Zeppelin might be a LOT louder, but how much louder?

I went to see Lenny White (Chick Corea’s drummer) with Twennynine, who opened for Tower Of Power, LW was amazing in concert, but after a few minutes of T.O.P. with speakers stacked floor to ceiling and across the entire width of the stage, I had to walk out, it was far too brutally loud! I always love their music and it hurt my heart to leave, but I knew I might have permanent ear damage if I stayed. I was pressing those little fleshy flaps over my ear canal with my thumbs and still couldn’t bear the ludicrous SPLs.
My main system can accurately reproduce those same T.O.P. concert sound pressure levels, but I never ever crank it up that loud, all this ‘overkill’ is only here to provide ample headroom for the odd transient spike, so none of my expensive stuff gets hurt or produces painful distortion caused by low power amps, line level source delivery deficiencies or from inadequate speakers.

I’ve never been much of a ‘rocker’ more of a ‘jazzer’, but I also love Bossa, Latin, Fusion, World, Funk, Soul, NeoSoul, Acid Jazz, R&B, Blue Grass, Classical, Lounge/Chill/Electronica, Blues, etc., but any of it has to be played back at it’s full original performance SPLs for my to really and truly enjoy it. Listening at very quiet levels is a very different experience for me, and when quiet levels are required, I still enjoy the hell out of it, but still,,, it is a different experience than when listening at full original volume.
It is axiomatic that music played at much lower volume can not have the same dynamic range as when played louder.

In a playback setup I like a functionally silent noise floor, with an accurate and killer dynamic range which is faithful to the actual live performance much more so than listening to an audiophile’s polite vinyl / tube amp / playback rig in a perfect room, and carefully positioned in the magical sweet spot chair. If they are the same sonically, I am equally happy with both!!!

Note: the ONLY thing I’ve EVER experienced as loud as that T.O.P. concert was during my years at the race track working around top fuel dragsters, standing at the starting line just a few feet behind two top fuel race cars when they launch .... YIKES!!!!! That sound instantly and violently transforms your time space continuum, even if it only lasts 3 seconds! Wow!, I’m starting to think of all the damage I must’ve done to myself, because while these two T/F cars stage at the tree, the air becomes saturated with nitromethane to the point your eyes are burning and it’s hard to breath without coughing and choking.
It’s a miracle you’re still alive much less not already deaf 🧏‍♂!
 

M-D-Z

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It’s a miracle you’re still alive much less not already deaf 🧏‍♂!
Thankfully I’m not suffering from hearing loss ... yet.

But I did just a have a serious brush with death from COVID, got sick Jan 01, spiraled down precipitously, 20 days at 105°, couldn’t eat or drink at all, dropped 45 Lbs, hospitalized for a few weeks, oxygen tank, pneumonia, yep, the works. Unknown to me, my work partner got sick the same day, but sadly he didn’t pull through, and he was 10+ yrs younger. I guess I’m recklessly burning through my nine lives. Hoping to have the strength to get back to work in the next week or two.
 
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M-D-Z

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Oh Lord, you and your friend got nailed with a serious mean strain. Glad your doing OK, sorry you lost your friend.
Take care, Sal
Thank you Sal.
This was my second go-round. Last February I was feeling terrible for about 10 days, but never badly enough to call out sick, so I figured it was just my successfully beating a mild cold. Saw my doctor the next week and he said I had COVID, that was a full year ago.

My other work partner (20+ yrs my jr.) who had been struggling with obesity, diabetes, plus he was a lifelong smoker, got it roughly the same time as me last February, he passed away in less than two weeks after he contracted it. So I’ve actually lost two working partners this year.
We are civil servants here in NYC Transit (essential worker’s status), but I have seen stats published that say we (transit) lost lives to covid at a rate about 10 times what police, fire & emt (& teachers) were. We are the most exposed to the masses of infected individuals.
 
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Sal1950

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We are civil servants here in NYC Transit (essential worker’s status), but I have seen stats published that say we (transit) lost lives to covid at a rate about 10 times what police, fire & emt (& teachers) were. We are the most exposed to the masses of infected individuals.
You deserve "hazardous duty" pay for sure.
 

Mark747

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Loud music is typically better sounding because loudspeakers typically sound better played that way. A really well designed loudspeaker can sound great over a wide range of listening levels. Certainly the Fletcher Munson study and curves are relevant but one has to understand what is the natural playback level for a given type of music and this varies quite a bit. Most speakers employ dynamic transducers that non uniformly produce sound across the cone surface with the highest frequencies progressively absorbed the further from the voice coil. Also there are various cone breakup modes that develop at different playback levels and there is typically greater absorption of the upper registers when the transducer is operated at lower playback levels. A flat, i.e. balanced frequency response is impossible to achieve with systems employing conventional transducers at more than one listening level resulting in heavily veiled rendering at lower listening levels.
 

M-D-Z

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You deserve "hazardous duty" pay for sure.
Thanks again Sal, that’s a nice thought!
We were working 112hr/weeks, mandatory disinfection of all buses, support vehicles, equipment and infrastructure every 24 hrs.
Yes, that’s 7 x 16 hr days per week. Persistent sleep deprivation and continuous high exposure risk to hazardous pathogens. At any given time all year we were missing 1/3 to 2/3 of our work force due to quarantine or actual cases.

But, I would say anyone attending to the needs of covid patients in hospitals should be first in line for that.

At the E.R., and after I regained some awareness of my surroundings, the treating Doctors informed me that I arrived with less than 24 hours from expiring, so they literally saved my life, and yes, there were extraordinary precautionary efforts followed, lots of PPE being used diligently, but still I had to be treated one way or another by several kind and patient health professionals with direct human administered interventions. I was also pleasantly surprised at the consistently superb food I was given (at any time of day) as I regained my ability to eat!

When I finally got home, it only took me another week before I had the energy to get up from bed and start listening to my system, and two more days before I could crank it up to concert level.
First CD I played CRANKED UP was Billy Cobham Drum n Voice Vol-4 !!!!
 

Arconada

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Loud music is typically better sounding because loudspeakers typically sound better played that way.
That is your impression, but it is not true. Speakers perform the same over a wide range of sound pressure. It's your hearing that does not perform well at low levels.
 

quicksrt

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That is your impression, but it is not true. Speakers perform the same over a wide range of sound pressure. It's your hearing that does not perform well at low levels.
I like to physically feel it when it's good. Speakers don't typically make one "feel it" at low levels no matter how great they are.
 

Arconada

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I like to physically feel it when it's good.
I agree, being there at a live performance is so much better, especially for acoustical instruments. I was once surprised by the sound of a violin in an electronic store, and I immediately thought I must have those speakers. Looking around I realized I was listening to a live violinist...
 

marpow

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There is a good movie, I forget, either on Netflix or Amazon Prime called The Sound Of Metal.
It is about a guy who loses his hearing, all of a sudden, like in one day.
I learned in the movie that this can happen, wow, super scary. Good movie and it's content.
 

hobie1dog

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Thankfully I’m not suffering from hearing loss ... yet.

But I did just a have a serious brush with death from COVID, got sick Jan 01, spiraled down precipitously, 20 days at 105°, couldn’t eat or drink at all, dropped 45 Lbs, hospitalized for a few weeks, oxygen tank, pneumonia, yep, the works. Unknown to me, my work partner got sick the same day, but sadly he didn’t pull through, and he was 10+ yrs younger. I guess I’m recklessly burning through my nine lives. Hoping to have the strength to get back to work in the next week or two.
WOW, thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear you're doing good now. Billy Cobham is a great one to crank up.
 

Soundfield

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A really well designed loudspeaker can sound great over a wide range of listening levels.

A flat, i.e. balanced frequency response is impossible to achieve with systems employing conventional transducers at more than one listening level.
How can both of those statements be true?
 

LetsRecapVintageHIFI

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I have 3 subs with my matched Polk 7.1 system (4 towers in the system, 2 front and 2 back). It sounds fantastic. I would wager that 99% of speakers cannot plumb the depths with authority like my system does.
I have QUAD Polk Audio PSW-300 125W subs.
Polk Audio front SDA-1C
Polk Audio rear Monitor 10
Mcintosh MC-2300 x 2, QUAD 300W
The SPL and HIFI plumb extremely deep down to the skeleton level.
It's skeleton vibration experience each and every day. Sweet music to my ears and rock arena experience. I can't say for sure I'm in the 1%, but could be close to it. Ken
 

Guy Robinson

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I had 2 PSW300's before. I blew one of them out and gave the other to my stepdad. Now I have 3 subs all with 12" drivers. They are all different. The linchpin is the SVS SB12-NSD which has an STA-400D Bash amp in it. This thing does all bass well and resides in the front left position. For movies this sub rattles everything in the house and really is the only thing necessary, but it is not quite as good for music. The other cheaper units are a BIC PL-200 and a Velodyne CHT12. These are both great for music, not so much for movies. They are side by side facing the back wall of the room on the left side about 3 feet out from the back wall. All 3 subs have different characteristics which I believe with bass is better than having all the same subs which would have all the same benefits and shortcomings amplified. They complement each other. Everything just seems to fill in with the 3 different subs. Bass is the same anywhere in my 17 x 12 foot room. And yes, if I want I can have skeleton shaking bass all the time but for music I adjust the volumes so that the bass sounds like a bass guitar or whatever is creating the bass. The volumes on the subs range from 1/4 on the volume knob to 1/2 depending on the sub. That's the other benefit, you don't have to overdrive the subs. Anyway, just what I have found.
 
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