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What happens when you turn it up? (1 Viewer)

Michael R Price

Screenwriter
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Jul 22, 2001
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Alright, I know many of us will confess to loving loud music. I sure do. To me, rock music and dynamic classical music are just so much more fun and exciting when the volume knob is past halfway and the house is rocking with me. Of course, I'm not talking about anything dangerous like concert level. (Normal volume for me is around 80dB max continuous. This is an "out of curiosity" post.)

But what happens to the sound of your system when the volume knob moves clockwise? Does the speaker start to compress, distort, lose bass, become harsh? Does your amplifier clip? Do your ears tell you it's too loud? During movies do you notice such problems less than music?

More importantly, do you put up with these problems and still listen to the music? I don't. I enjoy the music much more if I sacrifice a little bit of that euphoric impact to get a cleaner, smoother sound. Unfortunately that is not the case with most PA systems.

I personally have found the point at which my system starts to degrade. That's at a somewhat "disappointing" level of 90~95db continuous, 102dB peak. And to be honest, I think this is the limit of my amplifier and not my speakers given that they are 86.7dB efficient, 4 ohm loads and I now sit in the far field. I've got an Audiosource Amp One (80w/8ohm, 100w/4ohm) and Kit281s.

So what happens when the volume goes up? The lights on my amplifier dim with each bass beat (and sometimes dim continuously). The sound becomes a little bit fatiguing, sibilant... the bass loses its clean impact. Especially during loud continuous passages. It's actually quite subtle usually. I don't notice it until some loud part of a song blasts me out of my chair, or my ears start to complain. It's not like "owww!" but rather "hmm, that's a lot of treble."

So what happens to your sound when you want it loud? Do you mind any changes that might ensue? Or do you keep turning it up and up and it just sounds better and better? I'm curious. And thanks in advance for your opinions.
 

Chris Tsutsui

Screenwriter
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Feb 1, 2002
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When I turn up the volume on my JBL S38s I don't notice much of a difference in sound, but mostly volume. That is until I turn up the volume to levels of 90-100db average. Then I notice a lot of "hiss" background noise from the tweeter.

As the volume goes up, I find it's easier to decipher sounds than it is at lower volumes. I suppose a lot of loudspeakers have an "ideal" volume in which they start to really open up.

Oh, and when a singer sings a song at a low volume, It doesn't seem to have an impact than if I had it at reference level. The vocals seem proportional and all, just at an unrealistic level. I think it's cause it is hard for humans to recreate their voice at low volumes unless they whisper.

When the volume goes up on my car, I notice my headlights and dash dim with each bass beat. I suppose my 10 speaker setup with a single tempest adire alignment is too much for my single battery and no capacitor.
 

jeff peterson

Supporting Actor
Joined
Nov 29, 1998
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675
As a side note, tell me where your volume control is when you notice distortion. I remember looooong ago reading that amps inherently begin to distort once the volume is past the halfway (straight up, 12 0'clock) point.

Of course, it is dependent on your speakers capabilities as well. Let's assume your speakers can handle anything the amp/receiver can put out. Do you distort past halfway?

I do on my Yammy 2092.
 

Michael R Price

Screenwriter
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Jul 22, 2001
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With my amp and speakers the speakers will outlast the amp. They're Kit281s, can handle supposedly 150W RMS long term. I'm sure it's possible to blow a tweeter, but the woofers (2 Adire AV8) are pretty heavy-duty. My amp is wimpy, it cost $200. I didn't have the money for a real amp... but I'm thinking it's better than
 

Tom Brennan

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Nov 1, 2000
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(see above)
Michael---With my horn loaded Altec VOTs compression is no problem at all, my ears give out before the speakers give up the ghost. The rig will cruise all day at 120db and hit peaks over 125db, horns being capable of much higher undistorted output (and just plain old output) than direct-radiators unless the DRs are in huge arrays. Compression and distortion down in the practical listening range of 80-100 db is nonexistant. And amp compression is no problem either given their efficiency of over 105db 1w1m, they make little demand on amplifiers and the peak meters on my bass amp (the rig is bi-amped, real bi-amping with an active crossover) never go over 6 watts, which is over 111db. These "small" format Altecs would do a 420 seat theater, no sweat in the basement. :) Note that the quality of "PA" speakers varies greatly with the best stuff being that designed for motion picture theater use, like the Altec VOTs and certain JBL setups. The stuff you see in Guitar Center is not the "good stuff", JBL for instance makes several qualities of pro compression drivers and woofers, and even good music reinforcement speakers make compromises in search of power handling that hurt fidelity. The theater speakers, especially the Altecs and older JBLs, didn't need such compromises and have less power handling but better sound.
 

Mark Seaton

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 10, 1999
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599
Real Name
Mark Seaton
So what happens to your sound when you want it loud? Do you mind any changes that might ensue? Or do you keep turning it up and up and it just sounds better and better? I'm curious. And thanks in advance for your opinions.
Hehehe...
What's that? Huh? Speak up, my system's on. ;)
As for what happens, generally I have to run up from the basement quickly to make sure there is nothing that will rattle off the shelves and that the windows and doors are closed if it's later in the evening. Oh, and basically, it just gets louder and a lot "bigger" sounding.
Changes? Mine just gets louder and better.:rolleyes:Then again I'm spoiled with a system that can do more than 112dB from each speaker with less than 1% distortion from 95-96dB sensitivity speakers. The bottom end is filled out to about 14-15Hz in room.
As for actual levels, my RS SPL meter on C weighting will occasionally see sustained levels of 110dB with peaks above 115dB observed on the meter. FYI, if you see these levels of peaks, you are probably peaking near 120dB due to the meter's response time at this level. I typically only see these levels when I am playing play back a live concert type recording and I'm reminiscing, but it sure is fun to know you can do it! :cool:
Regards,
 

Jason Bell

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Apr 3, 2002
Messages
175
When I use to turn my stereo up I would notice the treble getting harsh and sizzly. Then I would turn it down thinking my amp was aproaching clipping. The real cause was echoing in my listening room. As I turned it up the echoing would get worse and the treble would start to smear together and I was mistakenly thinking this was distortion from the system. I jury rigged a blanket over my back wall and some behind my front speakers and the difference was amazing it allowed me to go up another 10 on my volume knob and still no distortion. This gets me around 85 sustained 90+ peaks. I dont want to go any higher. It totally cleaned up the sound especially on complicated sections. No more sizzling sounding cymbals and vocals. I wonder how many others are mistaking increased sibilance as there amps or speakers reaching there limits, when it is really their listening room. I know I was. Now I just need to find a more permanent solution for absorbing some of these highs. Setting this stuff up before each listening session is a total hassle:) but worth it. BTW, see how much some of these commercial companies are charging for premade acoustic panels like $250 for one, ouch. I definitely need to research some DIY.
 

JerryW

Supporting Actor
Joined
Feb 7, 2001
Messages
640
I give out long before my speakers or amp (Infinity Prelude MTS attached to an Aragon 4004 MKII).
Prelude MTS
Sensitivity (2.83V @ 1m): 90dB
Impedance: 4 (+/-1) Ohms
Power Rating: 25 - 500 watts
Aragon 4004 MKII
200X2 @ 8 Ohms Amp 400X2 @ 4 Ohms (this is pretty conservative as I've had it bench tested and it pumped out almost 450W 20-20K @ 4ohms). What's also cool is that the 4004 produces a full 25W Class A... which equates to about 104dB with the Preludes. Very sweet. :emoji_thumbsup:
Anyway, I've only really pushed it once but everything sounded incredible up until I started worrying that I'd permanantly damage my hearing. They had an emence soundstage and depth without any loss of clarity and 0 distortion. I probably had the volume up to about 115dB, which isn't "hardcore", but was close to concert levels.
 

Jeffrey Forner

Screenwriter
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Jun 19, 1999
Messages
1,117
Just for the sake of reference, I currently have a set of Diva by Swans speakers (a pair of 4.1s in the front, a pair of 2.1s in the surrounds, and a C3 center channel), coupled with an SVS 16-46PC (includes the ISD upgrade) and an Onkyo TX-DS575X receiver (cablable of 70 watts X 5 channels) in my system.

I never listen to anything at reference level. If I push my system as far as I'm comfortable with, I may get upwards to 95 dBs during movies and 90 dBs when listening to music.

That said, I honestly think that my system just sounds better the louder it gets. With music, my system comes closer to recreating that ideal of reproducing a live performance in your room. With movies, the sounds become far more life-like and draw me closer into the movie. I don't get any distortion, my amp doesn't clip, the highs don't become harsh, and the bass only grows stronger and more defined. My only regret is that I can't turn up my system more often!
 

Henry_W

Stunt Coordinator
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May 7, 2002
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137
I believe that our ears work better at higher volumes in discerning the sounds and differences. That said, My older Klipsch (heritage stuff) match very well to my ears, and have never needed much power to reach a very clear sound that stays constant form mid low volume through the outrageous higher volumes. Pumping much more that 25 watts to these speakers is almost wasted energy. Amp runs smoother and cleaner with a detail that is amazing on rapid changes taking place in some music (Jean Luc Ponty is an excellent test as he wanders his electric fiddle across some very dynamic ranges of sound and emotion).

No real problems on this front with a Denon 3802...
 

Steve_Ma

Second Unit
Joined
May 7, 2001
Messages
420
Wow, my ears hurt just reading this thread. Once I get to -5 and beyond, I can pick up some distortion from my mains and I lose detail on the upper end. It becomes fatiguing. I'm with Jeff. I never listen to anything at reference. I'm usually in the 75-85 db range...I believe. The volume knob is typically around -8 to -15 for music and about -17 or so for movies. I suspect that more power would make listening at higher volumes more enjoyable, but it's not in the budget. I think the only benefit of having a small and awkward shaped room, is that it doesn't take much to fill the space with a good deal of sound. It's especially helpful for my bass response.

I have B&W 603's being powered by a straight up AVR (Marantz SR7000). Oh yeah, I have a powered sub as well.

Kewl Thread,
--Steve
 

Juan Castillo

Second Unit
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Messages
434
Jeff stated:
"As a side note, tell me where your volume control is when you notice distortion. I remember looooong ago reading that amps inherently begin to distort once the volume is past the halfway (straight up, 12 0'clock) point. "

I have an old stereo receiver that puts out 100 x 2.. Generally speaking, I would listen to music at around 1/4 turn of the rotary dial volume control. Although I do not know what decibel level it was at, I can assure you in my smallish room, it was quite loud. I just got a new Pioneer VSX-D711, and when listening now, I had to turn it up to
-35 on a scale that runs from -94 to -0.. Now, in relation to the old receiver, this would be equivalent to around 2/3 the way around.. which if I would do, I would probably be deaf now, and my speakers would have probably fried. I asked a friend of mine if there was something wrong with my new receiver to require such a high setting for the same loudness, and he stated that lately(whatever that time reference is) most manufacturers of audio equipment have made changes to the volume, or what he called "gain control".
His point was, if it will start distorting after a certain point, why allow you to go there? So in other words, the current range of my amplifier will get me where I want and keep me their without giving me too much room to screw something up..
My main concern was that something was wrong with my new reciever and that having it that high would cause problems for it, and my speakers, and his theory made sense, so now I can enjoy my movies and music without worry..
 

Mark Tranchant

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
May 9, 2002
Messages
126
So what happens when the volume goes up? The lights on my amplifier dim with each bass beat (and sometimes dim continuously). The sound becomes a little bit fatiguing, sibilant... the bass loses its clean impact.
If the lights are dimming, that means the power rail voltage is "sagging" under the high current load being asked of it. This is bound to distort the output waveform, which will give rise to the fatiguing effect you describe. It may not sound like "distortion" (the fuzzy sound that everyone knows) but it is still a distorted waveform. It will sound similar to the effect of a compressor, which is tiring to listen to if overused.

To answer the question, I'll have to wait for the neighbours to be out, and my wife to have gone somewhere with our daughter...
 

Bob McElfresh

Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
5,182
With some respect to Mark T: :)
I remember looooong ago reading that amps inherently begin to distort once the volume is past the halfway (straight up, 12 0'clock) point.
True, but for specific cases.
A receiver has a power rating that reads something like this:
85 wpc, 0.07% THD
That same receiver can put out 90/95/100 watts of power for a short while, but the distortion (THD) starts to jump up in a geometric fashion.
And Yamaha receivers used to be calibrated so that with the volume control at the 12 o'clock position, the receiver was set to produce it's rated output AT it's rated distortion. I dont know if the current gen Yamaha's follow this convention.
So the "distortion goes up past 12 o'clock" is true for previous-generation Yamaha receivers.
Many other receivers have a display that says something like "-10db" and adjusting the volume control to "00 db" sets it's amp to produce it's max rated output for it's rated distortion levels. (This may not be 12 o'clock).
Hope this helps.
 
Joined
Feb 8, 1999
Messages
22
What happens when I turn it up?
My grin increases :D
I'm using Klipsch La Scala's as mains. 104 DB/w efficient.
I use an onkyo integra DTR-7 as a pre-amp, and a Denon POA 2800 power amp. (Over 200W/ch into 8 ohms). My speakers do not distort audibly or compress at any listening level I can tolerate...
The main reason for using the Denon is that as an older design it uses class A amplification for the first several watts of power before switching to class b operation. The Class A sound is nice and clean.
My normal listening level for TV is -20 to -35 db, It gets very loud as you approach referenc level -10 to -5 db.
Enjoy your system, but remember, push it to distortion, or clipping your amp can quickly fry the tweeters in your speakers so keep it reasonable...
Lyle.
 

Mike Strassburg

Second Unit
Joined
Nov 4, 2001
Messages
421
I've had the same experience with my horns; Klipsch Legends. Watched the entire AC/DC "Stiff Upper Lip" DVD at
-4 on my 3802. Sound was VERY loud & clear. My ears rang for 3 hours after that :D
 

Michael R Price

Screenwriter
Joined
Jul 22, 2001
Messages
1,591
Hmm, interesting opinions. Yes, I think that one of the things I want to try in the future will be horn speakers. I don't listen loud often enough to warrant that uncompressed dynamic advantage horns have. To be honest, my system now at its 'paltry' 100db peak clean output is plenty enough to rock the house when I want to. Surely in a few years I will try horn speakers.

As for the amp lights dimming, I know it's not up to the job but I still think I made the right move. This amp sounds great at more common volumes and I just didn't have (still don't) the money to buy a real amp. I doubt any
 

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