The optimum level

Prev Next

There is an optimum volume level for every track of music in your library. It won't be the same for every system, but it will be the same when it reaches your ears. It's always risky to say there is but "one right" way to do something, but over the years I have never seen this observation to be anything but correct. Once you hear a track of music played at exactly the right level, you'll understand what I mean. But how do we get the loudness just right and when do we know it's right? Loudness has many variables: the system itself, the room, the number of people in the room etc. Within those constraints it's relatively easy to get the perfect level of any given track of music. Most of us have the innate ability to simply adjust the level until it's right and surprisingly enough, that correct level seems nearly identical amongst different people in the same room. After years of playing stereos for people and observing their reactions, the correct loudness level for any given piece of music seems rather obvious. I'll give you a few tips to use if you want to see what I mean. Image and elements within the image size. The size of a particular instrument, voice or entire presentation is coupled to loudness. If it's too loud the size of the instrument or soundstage is too big to be natural. What's interesting here is the opposite doesn't seem to hold. If the level is too low, the entire image shrinks in size as you would expect, but individual instruments seem to stay in proportion to the whole below a certain threshold. A threshold that starts to approach background levels for the music. Blaring. This is a good indication of too loud for an individual element or the entire piece. Presence. If the track isn't loud enough it tends to be caught up in the background of the room and won't have a lifelike presence. These are just a few of the indications of tracks being too low or too high in level. The actual level itself is system and room dependent, as I mentioned, so you need to figure out a baseline that works for you and adjust individual tracks from that point on a case by case basis depending on how many people are in the room at any one time (people act like absorbers). I find this element of presentation so critical that I mark each track I play with the appropriate volume level on the DAC or preamp. Looking at my library, you'd see numbers next to each of the tracks helping me get it right for a perfect listen or demonstration.
Back to blog
Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

Never miss a post


Related Posts

1 of 2