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In Reply to: RE: speaker listening levels. posted by bjamz on June 15, 2017 at 16:01:36
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.
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