Why do we 'turn it up'?


#1

Okay, so I am sitting here reading the forums and listening to music… Christmas music (surprise! :D). My normal listening level is quite modest, about conversational level or non amplified solo acoustic guitar and voice in a home setting. Then I fired up some Trans-Siberian Orchestra and just a moment into the music I reach for the volume knob and dial it up. Why did I do that? What is it about us and certain music that we prefer it significantly louder (or softer) than our normal listening level? I find that it is not genre, but specific albums or tracks that get this treatment from me. Most of my listening is about the same level regardless of genre, but certain groups and particularly some tracks get the loud knob turned. A couple of examples would be Trans-Siberian Orchestra, REO Speedwagon or the first few tracks of Don Dorsey / Beethoven or Bust. Even some conventional classical works get the louder treatment… Go figure!



What do you turn up? More importantly, why do we??



J.P.


#2


What do you turn up? More importantly, why do we??

J.P.


Daft Punk!!! Because it feels good!!!


#3

I was paying a little attention to what I was doing while listening and noticed a couple of things. I tend to crank it up on high energy tracks or even passages - almost gain riding at times. This has an effect of increasing the dynamic range. Also, when a track that had acoustic guitar playing started I automatically dialed the volume down to no more than an acoustic guitar would produce - it just sounded WRONG when louder. The action was purely automatic and I analyzed it after the fact, wondering what I had just done and why. I bet that Elk gets that one. :slight_smile:



J.P.


#4

Yup, I do.



I think it is a combination of the right volume for the type of music; full orchestra is bigger and louder than an acoustic guitar. We also likely seek certain details (ambient information, etc.) we cannot hear without added volume. Finally, a lot of speakers do not come into their own, especially bass, until they get a bit of power.



When in high school/college many enjoy loud. It may because there is some visceral enjoyment - like a roller coaster - in pure volume.



On the whole, audiophiles like louder than normal people, even when normal people are actively listening.


#5

I do prefer that live performance volume experience… :))


#6
Elk said: When in high school/college many enjoy loud. It may because there is some visceral enjoyment - like a roller coaster - in pure volume.

I surely must be stuck in a developmental stage!!! =))
I rarely turn up my main system to CRANK levels. Perhaps it is because I don't listen to too much rock on it. On the other hand, I love to listen to music with guitar solos at huge volumes in the car, with headphones on or in the music room with the old PA. And then there is playing. Electric guitar is very visceral and I will be the first to admit that I have never outgrown that megalomaniac feeling of pushing a big amp into clipping. A 100 watt amp with efficient speakers is ridiculously loud. I wear earplugs to avoid being hurt but this does not spoil the experience because you feel the energy as you play. Total teen hedonism.
This occurs, of course, when the wife is out. ;)

#7

This makes perfect sense. It is the same visceral experience of a large pipe organ.


#8

Yes, but you can make faces when it’s a guitar. m/

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#9

The volume of my listening is directly related to my mood . If I am in the office working it’s low back ground level. But if I am having lunch and in a good mood it’s cranked so I cannot hear the phone ring. Good mood louder than bad mood . And if really agitated off . It’s a definite pattern for me. On the trains low and I try not to start bopping or playing the air drums .


#10

Of late I think of the volume control more like a Dynamic Range Control.



When the DRC goes up, all the low level detail comes up accordingly.



It is these small signal dynamics and all of their associated harmonically related information that allows me to hear into the music as well as all of the different ‘voices’, all the more. Of course the Fletcher-Munson curve of our hearing also plays a part which tends to increase our bass resolving ability as well…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher–Munson_curves



Another perspective/aspect I notice is, when the system is working well, the volume control doesn’t make the music louder, it does however present more of the music to hear.



JJ


#11

It may bring up low level details, but turning up the volume DOES make it louder too. It raises the level of all of the music, not just the low level stuff.



J.P.


#12

Yes indeed I agree, the level does go up.



And perhaps I should have clarified my use of “louder” so the distinction would be more pronounced.



When we listen, what our sense of hearing often tags as louder is more distortion, a greater deviation away from the ‘natural’ sound of an instrument or a voice. When these added/induced distortion byproducts start to rise faster than the volume level, we hear that, and interpret it as being loud(er).



And if these distortion byproducts were reduced, at the same playback volume level (dB), we would also tend to perceive that the volume had been reduced (if such a thing were possible).



So if the distortion were lowered, at any specific playback level, this would ‘allow’ us to raise the volume level to a greater (dB) amount for a given perceived loudness level. As these added distortion byproducts are further reduced this enables our ability to listen, comfortably, at a greater volume (dB).



This effectively raises the low level signals out of the background and into a better perceptible range of hearing. This is why I refer to it as a dynamic range control.



For example, if say certain related over and undertones (harmonics) which were created by a particular instrument were say ≈ -45dB lower than its primary ‘source’, and we were playing the source at say 80dB, then these related harmonics are playing at ≈ 35dB, which is close to being buried in the noise floor and is at such a low level, as to be difficult to clearly hear.



Now raise the DRC (volume control) up to 95dB and those harmonics are now playing at ≈50dB. In effect we have raised the low level music above the noise floor to where we can hear them much more clearly.



This is what I mean when I say there is more to hear.



JJ


#13

@JJ: I know what you mean. B-) I get a kick out of this, too. I first noticed this when I went from a receiver to a PSA 4.5 into an D70. I kept rolling the knob up and down because it “seemed” like it was just increasing the dynamic range. I’m certain that you are talking about listening to music that actually has a decent dynamic range to start with. That trick doesn’t work with the Chili Peppers. :wink:


#14

Wow it is amazing how different I am from most here. Dynamics is just what I go away from.

I mean I like a certain amount of it but as in some classical there is just way to much. I know I must sound crazy but it’s the way I like it. If I have on a classical cd and the low is so low that if I want to here it I have to increase the volume. Now when the passage changes and gets loud the room is shaking. I cannot consive of some one wanting this lol.



Al d


#15

Red hot chilly peppers UNDER THE BRIDGE

That has about the kind of dynamics I like. Lol. Great cd too.


#16

I love TRHCP but, true, their music lacks dynamics. Maybe you need different speakers, ones that don’t “move air” as well.


#17

I was joking with them as an example. Lol. But I do love there music too



I am a old head banger man. !!!



here is one for you robin trower. Bridge of sighs



How about Stevie Ray Von Bless his soul. His cd are very dynamic well enough for me.



Check out this group.

Pink martini. Hang on little tomato.



Great cd. But not all tracks are good try 7891011



Very good both male and female vocals

Great for testing the speakers for tonal balance. My only problem is I do not know it should sound

I use headphones to set it.


#18
@JJ: I know what you mean. B-) I get a kick out of this, too. I first noticed this when I went from a receiver to a PSA 4.5 into an D70. I kept rolling the knob up and down because it "seemed" like it was just increasing the dynamic range. I'm certain that you are talking about listening to music that actually has a decent dynamic range to start with. That trick doesn't work with the Chili Peppers. ;)

What I've noticed is even with heavily compressed music the related harmonic cues we use to hear 'louder' or at a 'higher volume', are still heard. These cues can still 'trick us' into experiencing a greater dynamic range than is actually present. Audio engineers can and have actively used this 'function' to their advantage.

But yes I do have quite a bit of dynamic range in much of my music. One of my favorites is an album by Gustavo Dudamel entitled Discoveries. I don't remember which track it is (the whole album is amazing) but the final note is one of those big huge drums being hit, hard.

The entire acoustic space lights up and as this boom drops off in intensity AND as it recedes away into the rest of the room, the very character of the boom morphs as the acoustics of the room adds it character to the initial boom. This is where wide dynamic range can present impressive results.

And lastly, when the DRC is raised and lowered and it never gets 'loud', this tells me the overall system distortion is very low. With the best of the DACs as a source, the analog input signal to the rest of the audio chain is usually quite 'clean', so that half of the signal chain is in fine shape. :thumb

JJ

#19

I agree with what I recently read in a Stereophile review - I don’t recall the reviewer - in that there is a right volume for almost every recording; I recall he used, among other examples, Patricia Barber’s album, “Modern Cool.” The reviewer noted that there is an absolute correct volume that does the record the most justice; too low, or too high just doesn’t suffice… I find this true with most of what I listen to… There is a “sweet spot” for most recordings, and my volume level is constantly fluctuating accordingly.



#20
timequest said: There is a "sweet spot" for most recordings, and my volume level is constantly fluctuating accordingly.

This is my experience also. I may keep things low for background listening, but when I'm focused on the music I have a definite sense of the right volume. Too low and you don't hear the background details and don't get some of the energy of the performance; too high and it sounds unrealistic (solo performance or small ensemble) or just plain hurts my ears.