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I am unfortunately slowly losing my hearing due to a hereditary problem. My love music is undiminished as I get older (I am now 52) but it seems that I need to listen to it at much lower levels than I have in the past in order to keep from accelerating my hearing loss.
I seem to need to go to the 72-78 Db levels to keep my ears from ringing badly.
What is the optimum setup to get the most detail out of the lowest Decible levels? Would it be something like highly eficient speakers with a SET tube amplifier like a 2A3 or 45?
First- A very sincere thank you to all who have taken the time to so thoughtfully advise me on alternatives. I really appreciate it.
I have a quiet place to listen, and I guess dynamic range at low levels and detail is my big problem.
I am probably going to go with a tube SET amp- and I am going to try to listen to some very efficient full range speakers.
I thought of Quad ESL's, but thought they were very inefficient- I now am wondernig if I bridged two, stereo 2 watt SET amps, I could drive even inefficient speakers to levels that would be fine for me. The Quad 57's are still legendary, and I seem to see tham for sale all the time- many with some good upgrades.
I had a chance to get some very pristine Quad 63's with the custom powered subwoofers for $3,500, and passed it up- maybe that was a mistake. I could have driven to pick them in in only two days round trip too-
I will browse the Turntable and Cartridge series and look into moving up to a good moving coil too- right now I have a Goldring 1042 on a Music Hall TT that I like, but not as much as a Nachamichi MM cartrige I had back in the 1980's.
Were superb a low levels - nothing touched them that I've heard. Good with small tube amps (VTL Tiny Triodes et al.)
Later Quad ESLs probably good for this too... anybody with experience?
A class A single ended amplifier will always sound better at low volume levels compared to its push pull cousin. In fact, it is perfect for low to medium listening levels with a lot of speakers to choose from. I would start by learning about directly heated class A single ended amplifiers and simple 2 way speakers. There's alot to cover (and you didn't mention your budget) so head on over to the SET forum for starters.
The speakers do not have to be crazy efficient as your goal is low sound pressure levels with excellent definition. Mine are only 94dB/1W/1m and I have 8 watts per side. They play louder than I care to hear and sound very good at all volume levels. There's so much to choose from, take your time and enjoy the learning process.
I would also like to reccommend something else. Start wearing ear plugs during the day when its possible. For example; If you have a noisy car (any car) and a long commute, put the plugs in. You can still hear everything that's going on around you. You will climatize after a few minutes. Going to vaccuum the floor? Put the plugs in. Mow the lawn? You get the idea. This is good advice for all of us and maybe it will deter any further hearing loss you are experiencing.
If your room is exposed to any extraneous noise (street/traffic noise ... internal noise, e.g. refrigerator, etc.) relocating the system to a quieter room would be a big plus.
You'd want a pretty smooth, glare free, electronics. Go to the various forumns ... Amp/Pre, Digital ... and ask for specific recommendations. Personally I'd suggest a tube output stage CDP and can recommend the Jolida JD100 which I'll vouch for it being free of digititis yet still with good definition.
The small details would be important in your case, line conditioners, virbation control (the inexpensive VibraPods 'squishies' from Parts Connection under electronics, especially under the CDP, can have a suprisingly positive effect), better cables (again ask for specific recommendation in Cable ... I'd suggest used Cardas Cross, or even better, the earlier Hexlink 5C).
> What is the optimum setup to get the most detail out of the lowest
> Decible levels?
Maximising the direct sound and reducing the indirect will increase clarity. Sit close to the speakers.
Significant levels of distortion will also muddy detail especially for complex orchestral music. Both SET amps and horn loudspeakers tend to have high levels of distortion and should probably be avoided. For positive recommendations look to the type of systems used by professional recording engineerings of classical music.
> Any specific recommendations will be greatly appreciated!!
Hearing loss is almost never a uniform raising of the audibility threshold but a preferential loss of performance. If you want to restore a more natural sound then go see a specialist and find out exactly what has happened to your hearing. The electronics to compensate are readily available and reasonably priced.
Weird as it sound the Wilson Watt/Puppy is the best speaker i've ever heard as to detail you get at very low listening levels. Give them a listen even after reading all the flames that will follow.
If you don't need the deepest of bass the JTM's will
play music as low as 70db's.
If your a bass nut like myself then a pair of JSM's,
if Ronnie can still make them a pair of transmission line subs
will provide that low end.
No speaker system I have ever heard reproduces bass and music
like these at normal to very low levels.
Not Fried's, Magapan's, Apogee's, I have never heard so much bass
detail before these. And at low levels.
My old Dynaudio 1.8MKII's sounded like they were in a closed box
at that volume level.
I have a pair of JTMs and I'm amp shopping. I'm using a Panasonic digital amp in the interim (OK but hardly a giant killer)
Carver LightStar 2.0
passive pre Air Tight ATL-10A
I've looked and looked for something smaller in size to replace
the Carver, but have given up.
Find yourself a used LightStar 2.0
I listen at an average SPL in the 75-80db range and consider SPL averaging 80dB to be loud.
At lower levels our ears have a harder time hearing bass, and treble.
Adjust the frequency response with tone controls, or a loudness control, or an equalizer.
Definition improves for all speakers if you sit closer to them and keep them (and your ears) far from any walls/corners (you get to hear a higher percentage of direct speaker sound, and a lower percentage of room reflections).
If you are listening that low the bass may be a bit anemic in low passages. If you have an adjustable control you can adjust to taste and help couteract FM Effect. With those levels you could use just about anything you want. The first watt is what you are going to be using most unless you are in a big room. You look into headphones at all???
I've had a lot of speakers through my place and there was one design that I repeatedly noticed had basically equal response top to botton at lower levels (ie you didn't have to crank it up to hear the bass). Those speakers were rear horn-loaded single driver designs (Lamhorn, Rethm, Loth-X, Fostex-Madisound designs, "The Horn" by www.thehorneshop.com to name a few.
The horn loading of the bass helps in that minimal cone excursion is needed to get the bass going. On the minus side, these hi-efficiency speakers lack bass extension below 60 Hz, but do well at low volume level and through the critical midrange.
I too have alot of ringing after developing my MTM monitors with a 15"sub powered by a 500 watt plate. My system is under JoeE. This weeekend I turned off the sub, things are better. Unfortunately the MTM's come to life at about 75 to 80 Db and then my ears ring for a while and I am also concerned about further hearing loss. I Love Music, it is my primary escape form this thing we call life.
A high quality high efficiency system will often give very good to excellent clarity and articulation at low volume levels, as garth noted.
Another contender is a high quality electrostatic, in my opinion preferably fullrange.
I'm friends with a dealer who wears hearing aids. Like you, his passion for music is undiminished, and his ability to enjoy it is apparently barely diminished. I'd rather not post his name here in case he's sensitive about the issue, so shoot me an e-mail if you'd like to get in touch with him.
speakers have in common.
'Stats and horns are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as amplifier requirements, though powerful OTLs or beefy SETs can work well on 'stats (the latter with somewhat limited SPL capability). But that's definitely the exception to the rule.
I've gravitated toward these two types as generally capturing more of the magic of a live performance than conventional cones & domes typically do, though each of the three types excels in capturing different aspects of that magic.
I think the holy grail may be an electrostat with the dynamics and impact of a horn, or a horn with the openness and low coloration of a 'stat.
my system with 100dB three-way horns and 2A3 or 45 tube amp would be an answer to your problem, yes.
This particular system is not located in a dedicated listening room so it often runs 10-12 hours a day albeit at relatively low levels. In spite of that (very low volume) the clarity and "understandability" is very high. It is often at or just above normal conversation levels which is around 50dB and it is quite easy to understand text, follow musical lines etc.
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