How Loud Do You Listen - Or Should You Listen?

I must do the same. I SAID I MUST DO THE SAME!!! :crazy_face:


I agree, and ok, I feel that depending on the design and materials, there is a certain driver size point where the speakers inherently become slower (the vast majority).
Small speakers are generally able to be faster. I use my Spendor D1s in a small room almost near field, and I don’t even want the sub bass territory but indeed they would be limited below about the lower end of the bass range. As a trade off, they can articulate with amazing speed, connection and palpable realism. They also seem to have none (or may be very little) of that mid bass hump.
One of the key reasons the Naim NC are growing more and more on me, is exactly the improved speed, soundstage and transparency without losing any “PRaT” (rather gaining). I wouldn’t like my speakers in that smaller room any larger. With this combination everything comes to life and at low volume. I am also saying this as I preferred them to my Martens when I recently tried the latter instead in the same room. And while my Martens easily go into sub bass territory, they seem to be of the design and quality that retains the smaller speaker articulation in a larger cabinet, and again, a joy with the NC signature. They fit perfectly my living room space.
Anything bigger (or floorstanders) I’ve tried in a similar space (5 -10k) has been struggling in this respect, becoming either slower, muddy, lower in output (although sensitive on paper) or getting me into room issues - to my ears, of course.

I recognize a lot of the characteristics you describe and find myself in broad agreement about displacement and bass quality. Amp power is not a factor as even my NAIT2 drives my 97db speakers into the 80db range without breaking a sweat. Typically I listen in the low to mid 70db range, unless I have the house to myself at which point I indulge higher SPLs.

Apart from the additional dynamics and visceral slam of bass at higher volume levels, I notice improved detail in the sound reaching my listening position throughout the frequency range. This is the kind of detail more typically obtained at a near-field listening position and may be contributing to the effect you notice.

Matching speakers to the room space is critical of course. More so with some designs than others. Certainly putting larger speakers with prostigious and extended bass in too small a space can tend to run into problems. But not always. I’ve heard of people using DBL’s in very small rooms and getting excellent results! So it depends - on things. As usual in hi-fi there are few absolutes.

Generally speaking I’ve found that small speakers tend to sound faster than large speakers. But again, think of something like LS3/5a’s. They have a ‘bass’ that lags several beats behind the mid and treble!

Not having much bass as a rule though makes speakers sound inherently faster. That’s because it’s difficult to reproduce extended bass properly with regard to speed, pitch and timing. So take it away and things get a lot easier.

Conversely, large speakers with extended and full bass can easily end up sounding leaden and slow if things aren’t done properly. Doing things properly equals expensive.

It’s a curious thing. My Klipsch floor standers look rather old-fashioned with their large traditional wooden cabinets (though very attractive in the flesh I think). Seeing this and their 12 inch bass units may easily give the impression that they will sound rather woolley and slow. Nothing could be less true! They are incredibly fast and responsive. This is probably predictable in the mid and treble - being horn-loaded, but the bass as well is very fast and articulate, with absolutely no sense at all that it is slowing things down. This despite it being full and well-extended. Not easy to pull off.

So, as I say, there are really no hard and fast rules - no absolutes.


This certainly increases the sense of reality. And it is something simply not available at quieter listening levels, no matter how capable the system. You only get these effects by moving a lot of air.

Of course to pull it off the system needs to be able to play very loudly without getting into trouble. This means sensitive speakers, which is usually the best way, or very powerful amplification.

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Domestically, less than highly efficient speakers aren’t really an impediment unless either very low sensitivity or a huge room with a distant listening position. Whilst clearly not able to generate as high a level as more sensitive speakers with the same amplifier, typical 89dB/W speakers, listening at, say, 4m, with an 80W amp would be capable of a generating a very loud average level of 99dB at the listening position, and in the case of a Naim amp with peak capability typically 5x max rms, peaks of up to 106dB. What makes more difference is how extended is the frequency response, many rolling off by about 40Hz, many more higher…,

I try to limit volume levels to preserve hearing, not to antagonize my spouse and to be a good neighbor as we live in an apartment building. I am concerned about young people and hearing loss. For those who use headphones, volume level is very important.

I typically listen between 70 to 80 decibels.
Sometimes louder as warned to me by my Apple Watch.

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The point is that highly efficient speakers will be very much less demanding of the amplifier. Many speakers these days seem to be around 86dB/W. It’s possible to reach high levels with a typical Naim amp, but do this for any length of time and the amp is working hard and will get very hot. I noticed this when I had my olive 250/IBL’s.

Yesterday I played a few albums very loud indeed. I put my hand on my Moon amp and it was barely luke-warm! This kind of headroom gives an ease and lack of strain to the sound - it’s not just about the ability to hit the mark volume-wise. This is often the case when one reads reviews of very powerful amps.

Back in the 70’s it was fairly common-place to have speakers around 90dB/W - especially bugdet designs. These days very much less so. And 99dB/W, as with my Klipsch’s, is virtually unheard of. Only horns I believe.

Conversely very powerful amplifiers were few and far between back then. And very expensive. These days they are more common-place although anything more than around 100 - 200W/ch is still fairly unusual. Musical Fidelity have always specialised in so-called ‘muscle-amps’, as well as brands like Krell.

Reading your opening post and you could be describing my DBL’s. They seem to exhibit exactly the same traits as your speakers do. When people see the size of the bass driver they expect huge bass but DBL’s will only do huge bass if it’s present in the recording otherwise it’s surprisingly dry. I would describe DBL’s as being as fast as Kans but with proper bass notes. Not many big speakers I know of can perform that trick! At low volumes the depth of detail always surprises me but when you get the volume at the correct dynamic level it’s like the music suddenly morphs into the real thing. The back of my room opens up and I’m now sitting at the venue. They do seem to excel with live music, which can be a strength and sometimes a weakness. A friend of mine dislikes the DBL presentation and sites the ‘liveness’ as being partly the reason. He prefers a more even-handed sort of studio sound with lots of deep impressive bass. I, on the other hand, find this great for about five minutes of listening and then it all gets a bit boring! Give me the ‘live’ venue sound any day of the week!


Exactly what I am experiencing.

Me too! It’s been said of my Klipsch speakers that they are the speakers to get if you want to hear what your favourite band sounds like live!

I’ve never heard speakers create bass not in the recording… (Other than rumble or warp on vinyl). But I’ve heard plenty of speakers not play bass that is in the recording, or play it as some sort of feeble echo of what should be!

When one is used to listening to small speakers, as I previously have been all my life, one can become conditioned to their sound. One comes to accept the common-place lower-mid, upper-bass emphasis as being real bass.

When one then lives with large speakers that do create real bass and that lack the false upper-bass/lower mid emphasis, because there is no need for this in full-range speakers, it can come as quite a shock. Suddenly all the bass, or rather what you thought of as being bass has disappeared completely! It can take a bit of getting used to.

So yes, whilst no speaker can ever create bass not in the recording, many speakers, including some less capable large ones, create that effect through false emphasis of upper bass/lower mid.

I’ve seen it written more than once that the best big speakers don’t actually sound like big speakers. I never quite understood that, until now.


i once found an interesting site somewhere on the web that discussed whether people judge bass notes by the fundamental frequency or the harmonics it seems people are one or the other -( i vaguely remember it depended on which side of the brain was involved) there was a little sequence of tones to test yourself - i judged by fundamental so i guess i need to look for full range speakers.

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… and they had (have?) a theory behind why all the power in needed. This Stereophile review gives a good overview of Anthony Michaelson’s (MF Founder) reasoning.

How loud do I listen ? I played the Rolling Stones " Love You Live" double album the other day with one side being recorded at a famous small Toronto club that I have been to many times. For a disc such as that I play the volume to create the " I am there" feeling. Loud ?? oh yeah, but I feel for such a recording, recreating the venue/live performance atmosphere is the whole point of a good system.
Would I listen to this volume all the time ? No, I liken a good system to a fast car, when you wish to go fast (loud) do it and when you are feeling sedate listen at a more moderate volume. My philosophy YMMV

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On the 272, I set the volume as follows:

  • background music while working: 20-25
  • active listening: 30-35
  • concerts or occasional spirited sessions: 40-45

The max volume is set to 50.
However, my hearing degradation can most likely be attributed to my other addiction: wind therapy :motorcycle:

How loud do i listen to my system?
Since the nap 500 introduction it’s been a little loud i must admit. I just cant get enough to tell you the truth, an addiction even.
Great live recordings on Vinyl wow! I seem to be a Florence + the machine live in Madison Square Garden fan atm, been spinning it for a couple of months now seems to coincide with the arrival of the 500 :innocent:
Ive said in the past you’re not going to the concert like most other audio brands do, With Naim audio it brings the concert to you.
Blows me away continuously.

Unfortunately volume control setting gives no idea whatsoever of how loud, other than to other people with exactly the same source, power amp with same gain, speakers with same sensitivity, room with same reflectivity, and same listening distance from speakers!

To be meaningful you need to use a sound level meter at the listening position - fortunately there are apps available for smartphones that give a reasonable indication. Following a comparison of several a couple of years ago I adopted Decibel X and dB Volume on my iPhone, both free. These gave similar readings, and used with common sounds they were consistent with publshed reference values and seemed similar to my memory of using proper meters some years previously. Others I treied read up to about 3dB different. Do make sure the “weighting” is set to dB(A) - some apps default to other weightings, such as dB(C) which with music can give up to about 6dB difference from the A weighting normally used for this sort of purpose.

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Doesn’t the answer to the OP’s question depend on the kind of music that you play?
I listen to classical music, piano, chamber; there is a natural leval, you obviously don’t want to be sitting right inside the piano.
The answer also depends on the nature of the recording: whether it’s close-miked or not, for instance. Some recordings make you think that the violin is as powerful as the whole of the orchestra - which sounds totally unnatural.