Turn down the Volume!

One topic that seems rarely discussed is volume. If you listen to mixing engineers, it’s their most feared aspect of how their work is measured, since it’s out of their control. This leads to things like loudness wars (assume the worst). As my system has improved, my main takeaway is I can be engaged with 60db peaks, where when I hear other systems you often have to turn it up to 90db peaks for it to sound decent. I’m pretty sure it all has to do with bass and room energy, but wonder if others have a similar experience. Side note that reviews or any subjective ‘better’ statements about gear rarely indicate how loud they are listening. since all we can perceive if volume it is puzzling. I will say if it sounds good with 110 db peaks then that is impressive. 


@mijostyn --

an actual live acoustical reference certainly is the goal, at least as far as I am concerned. The problem for all of us is that a live acoustical reference is a moving target and ones that are not electrified into oblivion are hard to find.

Sure, I’m aware of that. My main objective here (and at the same time avoiding the reference to live, amplified concerts) was pointing to live acoustics concerts as events that weren’t confined to stale 60-70dB peak outputs, not that such volume levels can’t bring about worthwhile musical experiences in front of one’s home setup.

It’s the divide to the live concerts that not only in this respect is apparent, and where audiophilia, certain in some quarters has grown into a centered-around-itself snob cultivation that would almost want to have you bow at their faux achievements, while resembling anything but the live event in core parameters - at staggering prices, mind you. High-end audio in large part has become about soundstaging only, but what about the rest?

I am not quite sure which lover John is speaking for. The general public is routinely astounded when they hear a big system. As he explains, many of them never knew systems like these existed. When you tell them the price they think you are crazy, probably true. Do they enjoy it? Sure, like any amusement park ride.

Sorry, man, but that’s a borderline arrogant comment that ties nicely into Mr. DeVore’s main contention here: comparing the setup demoed by Mr. Turnbull (i.e.: vintage, large horn-loaded and very high efficiency speakers fed by low-powered tube amps) with an amusement park ride, and effectively robbing it of anything that aspires to High-End. Make it sound big and them novices will be easily impressed, right? Or, maybe it’s what is typically represented by high-end audio and what it lacks: size of representation, unrestrained dynamics, a sense of aliveness, presence, and something that just sounds real.

What you find to be a weakness with regard to assessing an audio setup’s capabilities from the "general public" I rather see as the un-schooled minds that haven’t been trained to beforementioned centered-around-itself sonic preference by audiophiles, and instead reacts genuinely to something reproduced. They haven’t been preconditioned to being wowed by small 2-way standmounted speakers costing a fortune, because it doesn’t sound real to them, so why bother - not least at a very high price?

They are certainly not making or even thinking about an analysis of the performance for accuracy. There is a scale of accuracy. Some systems (includes the room) are more accurate than others. Accurate and enjoyable are two separate issues. John is talking about enjoyable which more or less comes down to taste. Accurate is that string quartet sounding exactly as it did at the live performance. There are millions of almost accurates , but only one accurate. Some of us prefer a more surrealistic version of reality.

Accurate vs. enjoyable - well, to my mind that’s a severely shortchanging and reductive terminology to describe different setups, at least "the ones" that are being centered here. I would only add: "accurate" in relation to which range of aspects and references?

I will alter the sound somewhat to suit my own taste, to replicate my memory of the live performance at reasonable levels. It always is a matter of memory and we all hear music differently. I have yet to see anyone AB a live performance with a recording of it. We have no trouble remembering what we heard, but we have a real hard time remembering what we heard sounded like. There are so many confounding factors which is why there are so many opinions regarding the quality of music systems.

Absolutely, I fully agree on this.

John thinks if it sounds good, if it is "enjoyable" then it is valid. This approach is fine for most people. IMHO this is an avoidance tactic and certainly a lot less stressful than that search for the one accurate. This has nothing to do with validity. Any old which way you can enjoy music is valid. If you are looking for accurate you are in for a rough ride.

You’re certainly avoiding being more specific, and you cling to the term "enjoyable" (in conjunction with Mr. Turnbull setup, or at least that type of speaker-amp setup which it represents) as if it was the only way to describe and being any actual ’accurate’ and exhaustive correlative to its sound. That’s a wild presumption, I’d say, and one many won’t agree with. I would refer to your paragraph above (that I agree with), a paragraph that to my mind effectively undermines your adherence to accuracy here when the recollection of a reference can be quite obscure.

@phusis, thank you for the psychoanalysis. 

What about the rest? Every little detail is important, some more than others. It is attention to details that moves a system towards state of the art performance, even the minor ones. I stated exactly what accurate is and it is a target to shoot at, a reference point. Although our audio memory stinks those of us who frequent live events on a regular basis and are paying attention usually have a good idea what accurate is even though we can not define it. We know when we hear it. 

Specific about what? People's preferences? What "enjoyable" is varies from person to person and depends on that individual's experience and expectations. Wild presumption? No, fact of life and I could care less who agrees with me. Your paragraph makes no sense by the way. You might want to rephrase it. Let me do it for you. In my own little pathetic world I am an arrogant, HiFi snob and proud of it. I love every inch of the the ride and am more than happy to share and assist others as well a accept advice from those whose opinions I respect. Although accuracy in sound reproduction is a vague topic and difficult to describe, it does exist. The interesting observation I have made over the years is most people, even those who are not HiFi addicts know when they hear it.

My systems can sound articulate and engaging at extremely low levels and can also play at extremely high levels or anywhere in between without strain thermal compression and with very very low distortion because most are all front horn-based.

@johnk Many with horn systems have said that low volume is still satisfying. I have experienced a horn system that was actually much louder SPL than it 'seemed' - do you measure or go by ear?

I have experienced a horn system that was actually much louder SPL than it 'seemed' - do you measure or go by ear?


for spl’s always measure... the ear can be fooled by small differences

many an a-b comparison is plagued by being sloppy on this front... level matching is essential