Why We Need Sound Above 120 Decibels

#1
Originally Posted by Mark (Basspig) Weiss

<snip>

I still have some problem with you insistance with >120 db output levels though .. Often you even speak of mortar shots! :) .. It is not safe to listen at these levels even if one system's is capable of such ...
Frantz
In life, we are not always presented with whisper-quiet worlds. There is thunder, earthquakes, tornadoes, and there are man-made noises--jet aircraft, fireworks, Saturn V rockets, car crushers, amplified rock music, and more.

The human ear has a range of different SPLs vs. frequency as pain threshold. We can tolerate a lot at 10Hz, ear-wise, whereas at 3KHz, we are prone to cringing. For some folks, fingernails dragged across a blackboard... you get the point.

Constant noise levels are fatiguing. Anything constant, whether loud or not so loud, can be unpleasant.

Let's consider music. The more dynamic it is, the better we tolerate brief transient periods of much greater loudness. Percussive music can enjoy a large dynamic aperture, as music goes, so often we tolerate some rather loud sounds because our ears are average-weighted--meaning that we don't perceive brief sounds as strongly as sustained sounds.

Music with deep, intense bass levels is another situation where more loudness is often tolerated. If the bulk of the energy is away from the ear's sensitive range in the upper midrange, people will tolerate more SPLs, until the point of bodily discomfort. A screaming lead guitar in a dense mix will be less tolerable than a heavy bass riff with little else filling up the 'white space' around it. This is the situation where levels above 120dB can still be enjoyable.

Another situation is reality hi-fi: event recordings, such as fireworks, a battlefield, a shuttle launch, etc. Here, SPLs can easily surpass 120dB on a regular basis. Yet we tolerate it, because we want to see the rare event. The noise is still part of the experience.

Part of realistic reproduction of sound is encompassing the upper range of SPLs without effort. Because even 1% distortion can change the sound of an explosion. Minor thermal compression, even minor clipping will change the impact of an explosion. Ever notice how a .38 S&W snubnose seems to crack your head open with it's ear-splitting report when fired? Most of the time when we hear a recording of a gunshot, the top 60 decibels are missing. It's obviously fake. But when you go to Broadway to see Miss Saigon and in the final act when Kim shoots herself, the report is startlingly loud in a theater, because it's a real gunshot, not one that was recorded, compressed and played through a sound system whose designers did not anticipate the need to repro a gunshot. A lot of movie audio seems to be designed to insulate us from the harsh reality of the real life scene, or maybe it's to accomodate the lower 99% of home theater systems and TV sets' audio capabilities.

Aside from the proper reproduction of any sound that doesn't kill you, the advent of modern music, like Reggae, Urban, Rock, Disco, Funk, etc., with the types of instruments that sound 'believable' at high levels of loudness, if one is diggin' the beat, body chemistry undergoes a change which results in increased endorphines and a euphoric state which not only increases the tolerance of loudness, but also increases the DESIRE for increased loudness.

For me, on a personal note, I find certain pop music from Japan and Korea to be stimulating, and the desire to turn it way up, very strong. This has also happened with some American music over the years. Dick Dale and the Deltones, later followed by Three Dog Night, Tommy James (when he moved to psychodelic rock), The Doors, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Bob Marley and others, have produced music that sounds better as it gets louder.

Then, there is a whole 'nother aspect.. I call it "Tactile Experience". It doesn't start to play a role until you get well over 120dB. In fact, it is best experienced over 140dB, because that's where you start to get the gut moving. The air turns to a solid mass around you. Your breathing is now controlled by the beat of the music. Air friction is rapidly warming the air in the room. You start to sweat in seconds. A sense of borderline out of control panic sets in. Your pulse quickens, but you can't feel it because of the pulse of the music. You're experiencing an adreneline rush. At this point, your ears feel like someone is running a pipe cleaner through your eardrums, but you don't care, because pain is pleasure is ecstacy because you're diggin' the beat. You can't perceive the melody much anymore, but you make an interesting mental note that the pitch of the music decreases when you plug your ears with your fingers, and goes up again about a semitone when you unplug your ears. Then you raise the volume another 8 dB or so for the orgasmic climax, as the room around you starts to self destruct and objects start falling from the ceiling. Glass is breaking, but everything seems to happen in slow motion and you can't hear anything but the music, so it is not real, so your brain says. You roll back the volume before blood shoots out of your ears, and a moment later the song ends. Your legs and arms have become jelly. You feel totally exhausted. But you feel SATIATED.

Great hi-fi is better than sex. It is the only orgasm that you can extend into minutes, or, longer. For music to be a whole body experience, it must shake the body, violently, existentially telling the body who's boss--who's in control.

This.. is why you need SPL in excess of 120dB sometimes.
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#2
I thnk you live in a different universe than people who love music vs. people who play recordings of fireworks and want to endure some pain and discomfort from their stereo systems.
 
Apr 3, 2010
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#3
Mark is in another dimension to be sure than the rest of us :).

That said, we recently powered up our new showroom which has two parallel system with each getting into scary spl category. We are talking multiple tapped horn subs, multiple JBL subs, etc.

Anyway, Mark is right about sensation of the experience changing. At -20db, or so, the system sounds impressively loud. At -10db, your pant legs and other items move in ways you have not felt before. So far, we have rarely dared to go up near 0 db. When we did try it for short period, you start to feel different yet again. It is hard to describe but when watching a movie with high dynamics, you start to worry that the whole world is getting torn up around you! We already had two people get sick watching some scenes. Me? I enjoyed it to death :D.

Note that I am not just talking "loud." I am talking "clean loud." Most people hear distorted loud music so build up a certain level of disdain for it. When you have a well designed room, with lots of power and clean subs, the sensation is different. To give you an example, our Wisdom center speaker alone has three 500 watt amps for a total of 1,500 watts dedicated to it! Each side channel has another 1000 watts so we are talking 3,500 watts on the front wall and not yet talked about the subs!!! :D
 
Apr 3, 2010
15,814
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#6
Here are the specs on Danley sub above:

Code:
Model	Max. SPL	 Sensitivity	 Magnitude Response	Power Rating	 Dimensions	Weight
TH-221   144 dB        109 dB             22 Hz – 180 Hz         6000 W          60 x 60 x 28   480 Lbs.
:D :D :D
 

fas42

Addicted To Best
Jan 8, 2011
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NSW Australia
#7
Danley JH-90:

* A true full range point source housing; six 18" drivers, six - 6” mid range drivers and three 1.4” coaxial high frequency drivers.
* 47 Hz - 22 kHz +/- 3 dB
37Hz – 24 kHz -10 dB
* Maximum Output .................. ..148dBSPL Cont., 151 dBSPL Program
* Input Power Ratings:
LOWS: Quantity of six 4 ohm loads – either 6 x 2-3K watts @ 4 ohm
or 3 x 4-6K watts @ 2 ohm amp channels
MIDS: Single 5 ohm load – 800-1500 watts @ 4 ohms
MID HI: Single 2.67 ohm load – 1000 watts @ 2 ohms
HIGH: Single 2.67 ohm load – 600 watts @ 2 ohms
* Dimensions: 60” x 45” x 28”
Weight: 720 lbs
 

Robh3606

Active Member
Aug 25, 2010
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#8
Sorry but SPL above or at 120db should be bandwith limited to maybe the last two octaves. I can hit 115db clean and it's more than enough especially through the midrange.

Rob:)
 
#9
I didn't want to give the (wrong) impression that I'm a bass junky (although I am) by posting this. This is just one aspect of listening that happens to matter to me. My other world is Classical and symphonic music, which excites a different temporal lobe, and rarely above 105dB crescendo (calibrated to the levels I measured during the Bridgeport Symphony's Beethoven concert in 2007, during rehearsal).

I believe that a well-rounded audio system should do everything well. A well-built and handsome boat is worth varnishing, and it would be a pity to “ spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar” as the British used to say. So why go half-arse with a system, if that's your passion?

I used to get a kick out of scaring the beezeesus out of people, but then I didn't have any friends after that, and nowadays I'm worried about lawsuits. A couple of my friends complained of chest pains when I was playing Save Your Last Dance For Me - a track entitled Geu Nyuh Ga Ah Ni Myun Ahn Dwae Neun Guh Jyo - sung by Ji Hye. Even a big man is reduced to quivering fear and runs out of the room. But those same people marvel at the 'you are there' experience when I play the Blu-ray disc of the Bridgeport Symphony's Christmas concert, recorded last year. I was complaining that the bass drum was facing perpendicular to my mics, so I wasn't getting any of the attack and punch from the drum that was 90° off-axis to the audience/mics location, but the 1st violinist from the orchestra seemed impressed with the bass drum's presense no less (even though I think the Telarc/Frederick Fennel/Holst CD has a much more direct punch in their bass drum--but they had the benefit that the orchestra was performing for recording, not an audience with recording as a secondary purpose.)

The vast gulf between power needed to reproduce an orchestra at full crescendo (about 0.5 watts in my case) and the power needed to properly reproduce a rocket launch are several orders of magnitude. It's rare these days to find a high end system that struggles with the former, but nearly impossible to find one (at least commercially) that can do justice to the latter.

Whatever the case, Thursday nights are still "Bass Pig" nights, and my time to engage in the more physical side of music. Put on some Bob James and get into the groove that bassist Gary King lays down.. yeah, there's so many ways to reach Sonic Nirvana. It's an "orgasm of the ears" to quote an old buddy of mine who coined it when listening to my earlier system revision in 1980.
 

MylesBAstor

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#11
I thnk you live in a different universe than people who love music vs. people who play recordings of fireworks and want to endure some pain and discomfort from their stereo systems.
+1

Thanks but I prefer to keep my hearing intact and not get tinnitus or a host of other hearing issues, thank you. Just look at what happened to many rock'n'rollers over the years like Pete Townshend who were exposed to extraordindarily loud music.

Just a cursory look at the medical literature on hearing will enlighten one on the dangers of listening at loud levels. And just because it happens in nature doesn't mean it's good for you. Plus it's not just the loudness but distortion levels.

Caveat emptor.
 

FrantzM

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Apr 20, 2010
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#12
Hi

I can understand the fact that a system capable of playing above 120 dB without distortion is interesting .. Less interesting is the permanent damage to one hearing that results from constant exposure to SPL > 110dB and that regardless of the frequency.. That last part is very problematic .. What you can't hear can deafen you! be it in the bass at frequencies where you feel but don'
t hear of over in the treble > 20 KHz where you likely won't feel or hear anything .. One can be pleased by the visceral effect that comes from clean bass at high SPL or the thrill of getting your system to play at deafening concert levels .. One's hearing will not stand such aggressions unharmed .. and undiminished
 

Johnny Vinyl

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#13
We all have our passions, and obviously Mark's passion is bass and plenty of it. I think it's great, so kudos to you for taking that passion to a level most of us have never experienced.

I, on the other hand, could care less about really deep bass. In fact, the only subwoofer I ever owned (PC system) was turned off because it annoyed me to no end. I added plinths and DIY absortion/isolation underneath my speakers to get rid of excessive bass, and my Totem Sttafs are only rated at 38hz. Maybe I'm an oddity in a world whereby everone is seeking deeper, lower, more powerful bass, but I personally don't get it.
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#14
John-You're right. If your main speaker's bass output drops like a rock below 38 Hz, then you don't get it. The bass I mean. Your missing almost the entire bottom ocatave which means there is lots of information that you simply aren't hearing. There is a big difference between playing music at absurd levels just because you can and making people sick and run screaming from your house vs. being able to hear all of the information that is encoded in your music collection. If you heard the latter correctly, you would "get it" and you would want it.
 
Apr 3, 2010
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#15
I have searched many times and have never found a report on impact of low frequencies on hearing loss. Traditional studies and recommendations are all based on broadband noise profiles.

Also consider this, you can make up for low frequency loss through tactical feel. So hearing loss there is not as damaging as a practical matter than it would be at higher frequencies.

Personally, I don't feel any stress on my hearing system with movie sound effects that are low frequencies.

So is there are studies that we can read on effects of < 50 Hz on hearing system?
 

MylesBAstor

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#16
I have searched many times and have never found a report on impact of low frequencies on hearing loss. Traditional studies and recommendations are all based on broadband noise profiles.

Also consider this, you can make up for low frequency loss through tactical feel. So hearing loss there is not as damaging as a practical matter than it would be at higher frequencies.

Personally, I don't feel any stress on my hearing system with movie sound effects that are low frequencies.

So is there are studies that we can read on effects of < 50 Hz on hearing system?
Actually loud sounds and vibrations will not only affect hearing but tactile sensations. There's an interesting study years ago where the investigators drew the wrong conclusion that men had less skin tactile receptors than women. Turned out that the story was really that men did things (like using jackhammers) that "killed" their sensory receptors.
 

MylesBAstor

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#17
I have searched many times and have never found a report on impact of low frequencies on hearing loss. Traditional studies and recommendations are all based on broadband noise profiles.

Also consider this, you can make up for low frequency loss through tactical feel. So hearing loss there is not as damaging as a practical matter than it would be at higher frequencies.

Personally, I don't feel any stress on my hearing system with movie sound effects that are low frequencies.

So is there are studies that we can read on effects of < 50 Hz on hearing system?
And remember that many effects are cumulative. Just as with muscular injuries, where there's traumatic, sprains and strains and repetitive injuries, one can see the same thing for sound.

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/noise.html#what

Or have we seen this quote already on the forum from Mark:

Fortunately, our ears often warn us when we have subjected them to potentially damaging sound levels. Temporary hearing loss is one indication; ringing in the ears is another. If you experience either of these symptoms after exposure to loud sounds, it's an almost sure indication of temporary damage that could become permanent with repeated exposure. from:
http://www.hearinglossweb.com/Medical/Causes/nihl/mus/loud.htm

Or use this calculator to determine max exposure time to different loudness levels.Note nothing above 115 dB is recommended and at 115 max exposure time is 15 mins.

http://www.entusa.com/noise_hearing_loss.htm




Do you think that Pete Townshend lost his hearing from one concert? No it was a lifetime of standing in front of speakers where the group was playing levels in excess of 120 dB.

Bottom line: don't be stupid because there's no going back once the damage is permanent.
 
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Johnny Vinyl

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#18
John-You're right. If your main speaker's bass output drops like a rock below 38 Hz, then you don't get it. The bass I mean. Your missing almost the entire bottom ocatave which means there is lots of information that you simply aren't hearing. There is a big difference between playing music at absurd levels just because you can and making people sick and run screaming from your house vs. being able to hear all of the information that is encoded in your music collection. If you heard the latter correctly, you would "get it" and you would want it.
Point taken.
 
Jul 8, 2010
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#19
The human ear has a range of different SPLs vs. frequency as pain threshold. We can tolerate a lot at 10Hz, ear-wise, whereas at 3KHz, we are prone to cringing.
This is the key part which some might be missing. Another key is whether we're talking about average or peak levels. Using my Radio Shack SPL meter with C weighting, which displays an average level, 100 dB at the listening position in my living room is extremely loud. But I've video'd classical orchestra concerts with Mark where he told me his own (pro quality) SPL meter measured much louder levels at the front of the balcony. When I asked about that, Mark explained that he's talking about peak levels. The disparity can easily be 20 dB or more! Especially for orchestra music that can be soft for five minutes, then have one hugely loud passage that's over in five seconds. So averaged over time that huge peak all but disappears.

Another factor, which most hi-fi folks understand, is the requirement to play loud transients without distorting. The large loudspeakers in my home studio are driven by more than a kilowatt (bi-amped). Not because I play sustained passages that loud, but so percussion instruments (for example) can be played at realistic levels cleanly.

--Ethan
 
Apr 3, 2010
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#20
Myles, as far as I know, all of those calculators are based on a-weighted broadband noise measurement which the government uses. So they don't apply here. Here is the response of a-weighted noise:



It is 20 db down at 100 Hz alone. And 50db by 20 Hz. Any guidelines there is not likely to represent pure bass frequencies < 50 Hz.

Again, I am interested in reading any studies that show hearing loss strictly due to bass frequencies. I have searched on multiple occasions and other than finding articles where people say there should be more studies, I have not found anything.

And yes, I know the effects are cumulative. But before we worry about that, we need to establish the effect of a single experience.
 

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