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if a speaker has a sensitivity of 88 dB , is listening ( and using a dB app, so its probably not accurate as a radio shack meter ) around 90-93 and peaks maybe 97 dB to high / loud ?
The Fletcher-Munson curve suggests that our hearing is flattest at about 85 dB. Much below that, and we lose some bottom end; much above that an we hear bass that isn't there. Most studio listening is around 85, though there are exceptions. (Scott Hull's people at Masterdisc listen louder, as their Duntech's "open up" somewhat louder.) I generally listen somewhat below 85, as my Tannoy Stirling GR's do the quiet thing so well. A lot depends on how quiet your listening room is.
It was always fun to hear some "producers" shaking the walls in the studio, knowing their recordings would end up extremely bass-shy.
Listen at the level you enjoy.
"A man need merely light the filaments of his receiving set and the world's greatest artists will perform for him." Alfred N. Goldsmith, RCA, 1922
Recently added the excerpt below to another thread concerning the damping of the Kenwood KD500, but thought it might also be relevant here as it concerns db levels. I was listening to a pair of Klipsch Heresys series I speaks sitting on top of a pair of 12"subs at the time these measurements were taken.
Recently listening to the Doors, decided to take a couple of db readings to illustrate just how effective the damping is. No readings from "the before" improvements, but suffice it to say the 12:00 position on the volume knob could be quite problematic.
Now, there's actually no position on the volume control that results in acoustic feedback issues. I've taken readings on other occasions listening to heavier rock with higher results but this should suffice to make the point.
With peaks of 112db, and an average of 105db it's quite loud, but the improved Rock sails through without a hiccup.
My system has two, 10" 3-way speakers and a 250wpc amp (plus the subwoofer) and I have measured a sustained 105-106 dB at borderline-painful levels in my large living room. At the level I heard no significant distortion, but declined to turn it up further to find out.
Maybe the real measure of a system at the limit of it's SPL capability is whether it's seriously distorting. If not, it can play music with high dynamic contrast such that it sounds wonderful, exciting. I think occasional cymbal cashes at 110dB for milliseconds in a program with an average level of say 85dB (that's quite loud) are A-OK.
Everything leads to 'premature' hearing loss- it's YOUR hearing, use it up wisely.
On the other hand, highly compressed program material played back at 104dB with peaks to 110dB (live rock show levels), sustained, in your home, will sound almost painfully loud for an average person and will damage your hearing if exposed for long time. Once in a while crank up the Donna Summer discs and boogie around wildly, but keep it to one or 2 jams and you'll probably be OK.
There's a point at extreme SPLs where your ears start compressing, an interesting phenomenon if you've ever heard it. I had a car stereo long ago that was very clean up to 120dB measured SPL , down to 35-ish Hz. Wow, that baby could play! Past some level, it didn't get subjectively louder as the volume was increased due to the ear reaching a sort of excursion limit. Do not try this at home!
A couple of comments about your post:
Sound which has high peak-to-average levels, or, for a particular type of sound, a "high crest factor", are more damaging to your hearing than simple sustained loud sound. Do not mis-interpret what I wrote.
The phenomenon which you mention, which is basically "getting used to", is termed "temporary threshold shift". This is a natural hearing reaction to continuous loud sound. This topic has been described and discussed extensively.
The other issue is momentary peaks. When a peak comes along, our hearing system (in this case, the "middle ear") doesn't have enough time to "clamp down" like a limiter would, and the signal is passed right through to the inner ear. THAT is a problem.
It is probably useful to consider that due to the way our hearing works loud bass signals will cause hearing loss in the treble region just as much as loud treble sounds.
In my experience a particular piece of music sounds its best at or beyond a certain level. Few speakers produce what was recorded below a certain level. At a particular level in turning up the sound, the recording begins to be reproduced more completely and clearly.
It depends. Listening at 90 dB for a relatively short period is fun, like when I put on Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On". Listening at 90 dB for hours is not good for your hearing. Google "hearing damage sound level" and read all about it for the weekend. Monday morning, you'll be a smarter guy.
I used to be the sound guy for a little rock band, and wore earplugs. Not so much because we were "so loud", but because of the peaks and the fact that we did 3-5 gigs a week.
I definitely keep the listening levels in mind as I don't need to cause hearing damage. It might be only for a song or two that will maybe peak at the 97dB level, but most of the listening is done at low 90's......which is more than enough.
depends on whether you are listening to a girl with a guitar or Gurrelieder!
As 6bq5 points out there is no relation between the sensitivity rating of a speaker and the level you prefer to listen at.
You can have a speaker with a low sensitivity of 83 dB or a high sensitivity of 98dB and still listen at 93dB with peaks of 97dB. The difference would be that in one case the amplifier would need to provide over 1 watt and in the other less than 1 watt ( everything else being equal).
A mean listening level with peaks only 4dB higher would indicate that your musical tastes would be modern rock music where dynamic range has been sacrificed to make it all sound loud. Google " loudness wars". Other types of music may have a far wider dynamic range and lstening at an average level of 93dB may require peaks of up to 110dB or more - beyond the capability of some home equipment.
Is listening at 93db average with peaks of 97dB loud? Simply, yes. It can also cause hearing damage over a period that could be contained within an evening's listening session. Please read the linked article.
apples and oranges-
the 88dB of the speaker is a measure of it's efficiency - how much sound can it output with 1 watt of power input-
Your listening level is a function of what sounds good to you in your room-
For an average level 88dB is quite loud. But 2 other factors in.
1. The 88 dB is at one meter. Doubling that reduces the level by 1/4 on most speakers(planars drop half as fast at distance due to different dispersion) and even 6 feet is usually much closer than most listen.
2. If you listen to dynamic music rather than most commercial rock you need head room for peaks that can be over 20 dB for a well recorded classical piano record as an example. If you overload either the speaker or amp on extreme peaks you do lose fidelity, any sense of life will disappear.
I would be interested in knowing a mathematical formula one could plug in speaker efficiency (the 1 watt db rating..) and get the result in watts of power for the requested dB 'in room' (perhaps needing a standard distance from speaker..)
I KNOW such a formula would be very loose with an estimate..
But even a wide variation from reality would at least give an idea of the power required.
hahax said " Doubling that [distance] reduces the level by 1/4 on most speakers"
Yes, but only if they are in an anechoic chamber or outdoors.
If they are in a room then the SPL will remain constant with distance once the listener is far enough back to be in the reverberate field.
In a "typical" living room this happens at about one meter (how convenient).
A quote from Paul Jappa,
"The calculator you linked assumes you are listening outdoors, or at least in a concert-hall or larger space.
In the average living room using average speakers, the sound level does not reduce with distance once you are past about 1 meter. This is because the reverberant field in the room has statistically uniform loudness; only the direct field drops off with distance. At about 1 meter the direct field is the same loudness as the reverberant field; beyond that point the reverberant field dominates the perceived loudness.
This has of course some variation, depending on the room's size, sound absorbing contents, and speaker directivity index. The subject of room acoustics is fairly complex and challenging, but quite rewarding to study if you are a music enthusiast. But until you are ready to do a full study of your environment, the 1-meter rule is a good place to start. Just re-do the calculation with 1.0 meters distance instead of 4.5 meters. The difference will be startling, around 1/20th as much power is needed."
Have Fun and Enjoy the Music
"Still Working the Problem"
The factors are:
type of speaker-
-Planar - flat panel that is LARGE at lest 4 x 7 feet per radiator
-dynamic - the speaker that most of us have
> > the planar speaker will have ~0dB fall-off as the distance is doubled
> > the line-source will drop-off at ~3dB as the distance is doubled
> > Dynamic will drop-off (level/volume/Loudness) at ~6dB as the distance is doubled.
Listening distance from the speaker
Your measurement - Peak or Average
If it is peak - then you are going to calculate the max power that you are delivering to you speaker to get the dB reading (at a given distance)-
If, on the other hand, you are measuring average, then you may want to look at how much headroom you want/need....
Thus, if we walk down this path a bit-
let's assume Dynamic speaker - @ 88dB efficiency:
at one meter at 2 meters at 4 meters
88dB = 1 watt: @ dbl'd distance: 82dB=1watt Now 76dB=1 watt
96 = +8dB ~ 6.3Watts 96dB= +14dB ~ 25 watts 96dB = +20dB ~ 100W
so - where are you sitting?
and How Loud is it?
"Your measurement - Peak or Average"
I have dynamic speakers and what I do for measurements is walk around the room and listen.
The perceived SPL doesn't change except in a couple of spots where the bass stacks up.
If the SPL was falling at 6db for every doubling of distance don't you think I would notice?
If I move back as to double the distance twice that would be 12db.
I have a volume control with 2db steps. 12db would be 6 clicks on my volume control. 6 clicks is huge. Nothing like that happens when I move away as to double the distance twice.
"people listen to speaker in reverbrant rooms" and "above 500Hz or so the SPL at any point in the room was the same"
Have Fun and Enjoy the Music
"Still Working the Problem"
Point taken, but I think 1 meter is probably not the right number for most rooms and most speakers, especially larger rooms or if the speakers have controlled directivity.
In my smaller room downstairs the volume level continues to drop as you move back, up to maybe 2m or so, and the direct sound still seems to dominate at the listening position which is 8 ft away. I do have acoustic treatment though. In my open plan living room, it's further.
"especially larger rooms or if the speakers have controlled directivity.
Have Fun and Enjoy the Music
"Still Working the Problem"
There are a lot of SPL calculators around the web. Here's one:
You can 'back calculate' the power being used-
Need to know type of speaker - line source, planar, dynamic...
And listening distance from speaker-
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