Do loudspeakers require a certain volume level?

May 12, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

13 comments on “Do loudspeakers require a certain volume level?”

    1. We used to say the way to listen to Led Zeppelin, was to turn it up ’till your ears bleed, then back it off a half-a-notch. If you happened to have a Threshold amp, you might get to watch your woofer cones fly across he room, tho……



  1. I’ve always felt that especially given a good mastering engineer the level at the listeners ears that produces the best octave to octave balance and other cues is when that ear volume is the same as it was at the mastering engineer’s ears when he finalized the recording.

  2. It was a very good question from a fellow Melbournian wasn’t it? And thanks for a very thoughtful and instructive response from you Paul. As with most things audiophile, there seem to be many variables that affect the volume setting. Notwithstanding, that’s a very good tip about using the perceived ‘voice’ size to select the most enjoyment volume for any particular track.

  3. Yet another Melbourne audiophile here.
    At my room the β€œcorrect” level β€” where the size of the musician is credible β€” I find very commonly the SPL meter at mid/to high 80s.

    (That is at C-weighted fast response)

    1. I TOO have a sound level meter that i bought at Radio Shack in 1978! It still works but not as cool as the B and K
      i used – however the values from both were identical when compared! $39 for the Radio Shack and several thousands for the B and K!!! The B and K had 1:3 octave filter-

      The Fletcher Munson curves are interesting especially if you view the change in the curve as a function of altering the volume. Equal loudness contours change across frequencies with volume changes.

      what is most interesting is the growth in loudness at different frequencies.
      The final problem is the hearing sensitivity of the listener and their perception of loudness growth which differs, especially if there is sensory hearing loss!
      What a Hobby!

  4. I thought that the original question was interesting; does the optimum sound level vary between different loudspeakers?

    As an example, I suppose that a speaker with excessively bright treble might become overpowering at higher levels, while a speaker with recessed treble might need a bit of extra volume to sound at its best. Lumpy bass might go unnoticed at lower levels and become objectionable at higher levels.

    1. High Mark!
      You knelled it man!
      I have encountered that with various speakers over the years myself.
      Some speakers, you need a ton of power to get them to sound their best.
      Those to me, are power hungry speakers.
      Some other speakers, you don’t need that much power to get them to sound their best, and they sound grate at moderate volume settings.
      You’re also correct about how some speakers responds with the bass and treble.
      some speakers won’t give you the bass in less you turn the volume up to that point without turning it up too high.
      But with those speakers that have bright sounding tweeters, that sharp sound will damage your ear drums if you subject yourself to that for too long.
      I understand everything that Paul is talking about concerning loudness controls.
      But that won’t solve the problem of sharp and or bright sounding tweeters.
      You will need some kind of a tone control and or equalizer to work around that.

  5. Well explained Paul, Thanks!

    With good synergy in a balanced stereo setup (recording+equipment+speakers+room), I’ve always found acoustical music playback most fulfilling when I can closely match live reference volumes that are in my mind (from live experiences)! Solo vocals and instrumentalist are easiest (get Size right, rest of the accompaniment falls into place), but other music can be tricky depending on various venues, recording techniques, recording mastering and types of genre!

    IMO, amplified music volumes basically sound their best when…they simply sound their Best to You and I!! πŸ˜‰


  6. I didn’t have to wait too long for Rat to say Eleven! Maybe Octave could label it’s recordings as to what level they should come alive and save us all that up and down ; }

  7. IMO every piece of music has a “right” volume level. This is based on the room acoustics and type of music. When the sweet spot is found it is glorious.

  8. My speakers sound great at low levels. All the life and sparkle are there. Distortion levels are very low too. When I play my music loud I want it loud through effortless speakers in order to keep distortion levels low. They don’t necessarily have to be super efficient speakers but they need to be effortless. There are many high quality smaller speakers on the market that sound remarkable at low to medium levels and even are quite amazing for their size at higher volumes but still you can tell they are straining at higher volumes. The laws of physics at higher volumes do come into play even with the highest quality small speakers. Well designed full range speakers sound great at lower and higher levels. It’s the smaller speakers that really need to be juiced up to sound best but not too juiced or they sound strained.

Leave a Reply

Stop by for a tour:
Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm MST

4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

Stop by for a tour:
4865 Sterling Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

Join the hi-fi family

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram