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What makes a system sound good at low volumes?

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SachinChavan

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Firstly, I couldn’t figure out which forum to post this under, so posted here. Kindly move to a more appropriate forum if there’s one.

I want to know what goes into making a system sound good (by that I mean clear, detailed and balanced, without losing certain frequencies) even at lower volumes? Which component (source, amplifier or speaker) contributes more to low volume listening pleasure? And what about that component (for example say power rating or class of the amp) causes this? Also, at what average dB level should a capable system still sound good? 60 dB? 55dB?

(My uneducated guess is it’s about balanced attenuation... but what helps achieve it?)
 
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prateekatasniya

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Loudness correction.
Nothing else in my knowledge.

I tried it and now I cannot listen music without it.
 
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RRR

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Can you please elaborate? What kind of correction? What are the common ways to achieve the same? And isn’t loudness a problem at higher volumes than lower?
Loudness correction is a feature button available on some integrated amplifiers.
Today its not so common. However some 10 to 15 years back, almost all integrated amplifiers in the budget to mid category had this feature.
 

RRR

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A way to achieve this is by adjusting the tone controls if your amp has them.
The loudness button is mainly for listening at low volume at night.
 

SachinChavan

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A way to achieve this is by adjusting the tone controls if your amp has them.
Thanks. No loudness control feature or tone controls on my amp. And I am looking to understand fundamental causes in a system/component that makes low volume listening enjoyable for the natural recorded sound. Not for adjustments/settings/equalisers/filters.
 

bornfi

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In my opinion, it is the resolution that is often marred by not so good preamplifier. One should always experience a good passive preamp even though chances are that you may not like but it doesn’t obscure the clarity/resolution.
 

prateekatasniya

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Can you please elaborate? What kind of correction? What are the common ways to achieve the same? And isn’t loudness a problem at higher volumes than lower?
Human hearing is different for different frequencies at different volume levels.
I am using equalizer APO from my laptop.
Giving very satisfactory result.
 

SachinChavan

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In my opinion, it is the resolution that is often marred by not so good preamplifier. One should always experience a good passive preamp even though chances are that you may not like but it doesn’t obscure the clarity/resolution.
In other words you are saying the active preamps obscure clarity/resolution at lower volumes. So that’s one factor. Thanks for that insight. But some of us use tube preamps because we like what they do to the sound. Are there any passive tube preamps too?
 
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superczar

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Firstly, I couldn’t figure out which forum to post this under, so posted here. Kindly move to a more appropriate forum if there’s one.

I want to know what goes into making a system sound good (by that I mean clear, detailed and balanced, without losing certain frequencies) even at lower volumes? Which component (source, amplifier or speaker) contributes more to low volume listening pleasure? And what about that component (for example say power rating or class of the amp) causes this? Also, at what average dB level should a capable system still sound good? 60 dB? 55dB?

(My uneducated guess is it’s about balanced attenuation... but what helps achieve it?)
I guess I am going to be flamed for this :)
But the trick to this is Dynamic range compression
Assume a track with a wide DR - It will sound excellent on a resolving system at reference levels (let;s say 78db).. Subtle passages e.g. a faint rustle in the background would still be clearly audible to the listener

Now switch to a real world scenario where you have the volume turned down to 50% of reference levels with the faint background noise of a aircon fan - while the loud passages sill sound good, even a little bit of ambient noise will drown the soft passages

Now imagine an algorithm that automatically compresses the DR depending on the vol level i.e. at low vol, attenuate the loud passages subtly while bumping up the low db sections to a level where they are more apparent to the listener

While this may not be an absolutely true reproduction as intended, it elevates the listening experience significantly at low volumes

Most AVRs have this algorithm termed as dynamic volume - simply enable this and most if not all will hear a clear elevation of clarity at low volume levels

What’s even better is that the level of DRC applied is reduced progressively as you raise the volume - so when you turn up the vol to 78db, there is no more DRC being applied

As for your 2nd question, in the absence of DRC, you would need 70db+ and a really quiet background for everything to sound just right
 
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bornfi

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In other words you are saying the active preamps obscure clarity/resolution at lower volumes. So that’s one factor. Thanks for that insight. But some of us use tube preamps because we like what they do to the sound. Are there any passive tube preamps too?
Tube passive, none that I have heard of. I don’t want to sound very convincing but after you have listened to a passive, it might change your perspective on your liking. In my case though my Callia has volume control, I don’t use it and instead run it through Silvercore Preamp 324.
 

Vivek Batra

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Firstly, I couldn’t figure out which forum to post this under, so posted here. Kindly move to a more appropriate forum if there’s one.

I want to know what goes into making a system sound good (by that I mean clear, detailed and balanced, without losing certain frequencies) even at lower volumes? Which component (source, amplifier or speaker) contributes more to low volume listening pleasure? And what about that component (for example say power rating or class of the amp) causes this? Also, at what average dB level should a capable system still sound good? 60 dB? 55dB?

(My uneducated guess is it’s about balanced attenuation... but what helps achieve it?)
I am looking for the same.
 

SachinChavan

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Low... Wait.. Super Low ambient noise and a fresh mind/mood.

MaSh
Interesting answer - we tend to forget that the system and its sound is itself part of a larger system - the listening room including the humans in it. I had written my experiences with air conditioning my living room and the consequent improvements to listening experience which got highly discussed, debated, appreciated and trolled as well! . Sure these things matter as is evident late in the night or early in the morning.

Here, I am also looking to understand the reasons inherent in the system/components that lead to good low volume sound.


I guess I am going to be flamed for this :)
But the trick to this is Dynamic range compression
Assume a track with a wide DR - It will sound excellent on a resolving system at reference levels (let;s say 78db).. Subtle passages e.g. a faint rustle in the background would still be clearly audible to the listener

Now switch to a real world scenario where you have the volume turned down to 50% of reference levels with the faint background noise of a aircon fan - while the loud passages sill sound good, even a little bit of ambient noise will drown the soft passages

Now imagine an algorithm that automatically compresses the DR depending on the vol level i.e. at low vol, attenuate the loud passages subtly while bumping up the low db sections to a level where they are more apparent to the listener

While this may not be an absolutely true reproduction as intended, it elevates the listening experience significantly at low volumes

Most AVRs have this algorithm termed as dynamic volume - simply enable this and most if not all will hear a clear elevation of clarity at low volume levels

What’s even better is that the level of DRC applied is reduced progressively as you raise the volume - so when you turn up the vol to 78db, there is no more DRC being applied

As for your 2nd question, in the absence of DRC, you would need 70db+ and a really quiet background for everything to sound just right
That’s an out of the box, innovative thinking! And you are rightly cautious about it - a lot of us (me included) would baulk at the thought of selective attenuation of sounds in a song based on it’s dynamic level. Guess most of the modern TVs have something similar - so it’s quite acceptible for movies/HT, but with pure audio? - I sense a resistance building up in me. But guess your idea of progressive modification with a smart algorithm might be a way out.

70 dB is fairly reasonable. Yesterday I was checking with my system and I was pretty happy with the clarity and details till 70 dB, just okay at around 65 dB and was seriously missing stuff in the music at 60 dB (all average values). I was checking with the dB meter app on my iPhone which is my usual reference to check if I am playing too loud for my neighbours (I dare go only upto 85 dB average during busy hours, with a cautious mind).
 

kapmish

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I would try to to answer it using basic electronics. The tone and nature of sound depends of frequencies present in analog wave (speaker always needs current in analog wave to reproduce sound) whereas loudness depends on amplitude (peak value) of wave. Ideally a transistor'gain (ratio of output to input) should be constant irrespactive of frequency and amplitude of signal but in real life, one can only try to reach closer to ideal. Also more the ampltiude of wave ( which means more current and hence more volume), distortions (i.e. Noise) are more, impacting diffent frequncies differntly. Almost linear gain can be achieved with better component, making high end systems retain their sound signature even at high volume. Hope this was accurate. Apologies if i missed some aspect here.
 

SachinChavan

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I would try to to answer it using basic electronics. The tone and nature of sound depends of frequencies present in analog wave (speaker always needs current in analog wave to reproduce sound) whereas loudness depends on amplitude (peak value) of wave. Ideally a transistor'gain (ratio of output to input) should be constant irrespactive of frequency and amplitude of signal but in real life, one can only try to reach closer to ideal. Also more the ampltiude of wave ( which means more current and hence more volume), distortions (i.e. Noise) are more, impacting diffent frequncies differntly. Almost linear gain can be achieved with better component, making high end systems retain their sound signature even at high volume. Hope this was accurate. Apologies if i missed some aspect here.
Thanks @kapmish . You have added to my knowledge that in real life not all frequencies get amplified by the same gain. So perhaps some amplifiers do it better than others? Are there any kind of amps or what technology in an amp is able to achieve that better?

While you have elaborated on the distortion at high volumes, here I am looking for sound clarity/detail/integrity at lower volumes. Any thoughts on that?
 

SachinChavan

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Sachin, you may find this interesting

Prem, that looks like a useful resource on the topic. But even before beginning to read it, I can’t but help appreciate this blogger’s penchant for objective methodology. The way he has written the preamble, setting the ground for the reader to know what to expect, even articulated his audio philosophy, so that the reader knows where he is coming from and can self-adjust for any biases that still remain - that’s stuff seasoned researchers and documenters are proud of!
 

prem

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Sachin, he has also recommended components. That list is fairly interesting. He has classified them as A, B, C and entry level. You will find recommendations for power amps, pre amps, phono, digital, turntable, speakers and accessories. He seems to have a bias for Coincident Technology products but if you can ignore that bias it’s worth a read
 
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