Late Night Listening - Near Field, Cans, Low SPL?

If critical listening is 75dB average and up how do you handle late night listening?
My critical listening comfort zone is about 55dB average about 8’ from the speakers. Turning it down from there loses too much and it would have to be much lower to be tolerated by my wife who’d be sleeping in the room sharing a wall with the listening space. Of course I’m only thinking of this now that I’m only short initial room treatments from having the new space and basic system set up. :roll_eyes:
I’ve had it in mind to replace the desk top receiver with a headphone amp, eq, DAC, power amp, and passive speakers anyway so near field is an option. I already have the DAC and speakers. The rest of the gear won’t be terribly expensive so near field is a relatively inexpensive alternative. But my experience so far has been less than satisfying. My desk top set up is literally that, with all the crap that comes with a desk that interferes with good sound.
I have a pair of Grado SR325X that I like well enough but I wouldn’t consider them as an adequate alternative. I’d consider investing in good cans if they’d be the more satisfying listening experience.
What is late night listening for you? If you have to resort to near field or cans which do you prefer and why? If cans what do you look for in a pair of headphones that makes them a good alternative?
Thank you.

I keep my wife of 46+ years happy by turning the volume down in the late evening, when she is on a zoom session or in the same room as the system. When she’s gone—70dB+, here I come!!!


Pump up the volume!

What are you listening to at night? What are the sourcs?

And how about your power cables? How many tuning rings do you have on each?


I’m fortunate to have a semi-dedicated room at the opposite end of the house to the bedrooms. This morning I clocked 90dB peaks in a Mahler symphony. We have 3.5 acres so no neighbours to annoy.
In general I’m a mid-60dB to mid-70dB listener and very happy, but on occasion, when the Ardbeg is controlling the volume, I wig out a bit. My system seems to handle it well and maintains its tonal balance. The room gives out before the speakers.


The best distillery on Islay, in my opinion. I have visited most of them at least once. Reluctantly dragging oneself back to the topic, we are all victims of the Fletcher-Munson effect; the decreasing sensitivity of the ear to low and high frequencies as volume is reduced. The only way to preserve a satisfactory spectral balance is to use a loudness control, a feature not normally present on audiophile rigs, or to use headphones and a higher volume. I loathe headphones, so I just reconcile myself to less impact when listening at low volume.


A Bluesound Vault 2i is the primary source playing in the background through the main rig or desk top 99% of the day. As the system gets sorted out vinyl will find it’s way into the rotation. But the Vault will remain the primary source for critical listening until I can figure out an affordable and practical way to replay these Octave DSD discs I’m starting to collect. For now it’ll be these same discs and others ripped to the Vault. Last night it was my newest favorite TIERRO “Everlasting Dance”.

I’ve only recently become aware of this and believe it was you who put a name to it for me. This is the main reason I have a Schiit Lokius on the way. Its home will be in the desktop system but I’m going try it on the main rig. If I like what it does I’ll go the blasphemous route with a Loki Max.
The rest of the system is Spatial M4 fed by the Vault and infrequently used 80s Pioneer PL707 turntable through a GCD and M1200s.


75 dB average is too much for me at any time! That’s about as high as my peaks get.
Headphones: some Grados (all of them?) have a bit of the “loudness curve” built into them, rather than aiming at absolutely flat response. I love this, so I’m a Grado fan.

If you’re concerned about disturbing your wife, select closed back headphones.

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The Loki family (esp. the top one) look really good - nowt wrong with EQ if you can always tend to use it less rather than more.

As @chrisj1948 ,mentions - “Loudness” is the most flexible way to do this, and RME ADI2 DACs have a most excellent and transparent Loudness setting, with threshold configurable as required.
During the day when I turn up a bit I am above the Loudness threshold so it doesn’t do anything to the signal, at night when I turn it down, Loudness kicks in on a sliding scale. Recommended (but of course it requires one of their DACs ).
As an aside the ADI2 DACs also have very good headphone amplifiers in them :slight_smile:

My situation is somewhat different, but same basic problem. I live in a highrise, hence share walls, ceiling and floor with others. Low SPL for me, and not near field. I gave up on headphones years ago. It’s a perhaps uniquely personal thing. I dislike cans clamped on my head. I don’t like being constrained by a cord because I tend to do a great deal of my listening casually while standing, walking around, etc. Listening near field doesn’t do it for me. Fine for a studio environment for reasons many of us are aware of, but imaging and soundstaging are non-existent in near field listening in my experience. I’ve come to accept the low SPL alternative as perfectly acceptable, even enjoyable once I’ve divorced myself from the notion my system can only be enjoyable if I crank it. No so.

The RME ADI-2 DAC has interested me for a while. I suspect my next ‘upgrade’ on the desktop system will be to find a suitable pure streamer and then get one. I’ll keep the Aiyima A07 chip amp, since that has been performing exemplarily.

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It really has impressed me. The menu and button system is a little fiddly, but once set up it just works and sounds really good :slight_smile:

those Aiyima amps look like ideal power amp modules, i’ve always said power amps should have gain controls!

Having the music room in the basement (my own cavern, said the man handling a club) I have no particular conflicts with other people inside or outside the house.
BHK Pre (volume at 32) - M1200s - Sonus faber Olympica Nova III
8.x feet far from the sweet spot
room treatment from ceiling to side walls (and absorbers along the walls running upstairs to prevent bass and vibrations escaping outside the music room that has no doors running up the stairs)
night and day at 60-70dB never gone up over 80dB area

Typical evening family set up:
1st floor - 20 years old son playing electrical guitar with Marshal amp
Living room - wife watching TV from HT or phone/zoom calling
basement - the old man (me?) playing stereo
From lockdown on… except weekends and several friends visits for dinner

Which is conventionally considered the distance from speakers to enter the Near Field set up?


Thanks for the recommendation. It does look interesting. The EQ is one of the more interesting features but they barely give it a mention.

And those are the things I value the most. It’s probably just as well. The desk environment is hardly the place to listen and I’d have a tough time placing the bigger speakers. Right now it has a pair of Minimus 7 that are fine for daytime background.

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Okay. Now you’re just showing off. :grin: Nice set up! I’ll just sit in my little room with my headphones.
Near field is just a few feet from the speakers so you’re hearing more of the speakers than the room. I think I’d prefer the phones.

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For a headphone amp I suggest the Sony TA-ZH1ES.

It’s a DAC, Amp, and can be used as a Pre. Every type of headphone connections are available. The build quality is amazing.

Here’s a used example. I don’t have anything to do with this sale:

If you need to be quiet you might consider closed back headphones. I have a pair of Sony MDR-Z1R and Dan Clark Stealth.

For a less costly option there’s the Aeon 2 Noire.

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When my wife is asleep it is my normal time to listen to my main system. It is in the basement directly under the living room. When we built the house I knew I wanted to get loud down here. So there are a lot of layers in the walls and ceiling. But if she is watching television above me bass can be an issue. So I keep it down, when she is asleep she is two floors up. So I can hit 85dB peaks and not wake her. This is the main reason I stay up all night and sleep early mornings to early afternoon.

We also share an office down here which has been even more sound damped. I have a nearfield setup in the office with basically no upper limit… But due to it being a near field setup I doubt I ever see 75dB peaks. It delights and amuses me a great deal how satisfying my near field setup sounds. If it was all I had I would be fine.

Previously my main room system was an AV system with excellent gear and 5.1 sound capability. Before I started down the slippery slope with my interest in two channel I was very much into headphones and headgear. I have a fine collection of headphones, headphone DACs and amplifiers. It’s all still here but largely unused. I walk 6 to 10 miles a day and my collection of IEM’s get used daily. Typically 3 or more hours a day.

My plan for the future is to build a new home. A simple one level home, mostly for her. And a detached building, just for me. That building would be a combination AV setup and two channel setup. One on each end of the room. I would do high ceilings, low floors, mostly likely professionally designed for audio. It would have it own heat, AC, power, as well as a full bathroom and a place for my pinball machines. I hope to live long enough to achieve this goal. But along the way I think her and I are doing fine as things are now.

I heard from Gryphon yesterday. They are about to ship my Commander and Apex and related gear. This could change the current situation. I hope it doesn’t. Either way, 90dB and above isn’t something I reach for very often. And when I do go there it isn’t for very long.