Jump to content
Sonicularity

What is Your Signal to Room Noise?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I have taken great care to ensure that my listening environment is quiet.  The walls have a high STC rating, thick carpet with a premium underlay is used, and dense sound-absorbing blackout curtains are hung in a room far away from mechanical sounds of any appliances.  The computers used to play/stream the music were all chosen for their ability to operate in near silence.

 

I use a type II certified sound level meter (Reed R8060) that I keep calibrated with a tool (Reed R8090) that costs nearly as much as the meter.  I don't need a scientific class 1 rated SPL meter for my purposes since I am just using it for general reference and before/after comparisons, but it is reasonably accurate.

 

On a quiet morning, the room will measures below 35dBA (fast)  unless my chair creaks, a wall settles, or a bird chirps.  I'll read 32dBA, then a bird starts singing outside and I get a spike at 39dBA.  I'll sigh in disappointment and cause the meter to jump up to 53dBA, and then I'll mutter "crap", and see the reading indicate over 70dBA.  It's not a perfect environment, and it is susceptible to outside interference beyond my control.  The lawn service and garbage truck will create added noise, but generally, I enjoy a quiet room to enjoy my music.

 

As an example, listening to music as a background distraction, using Qobuz FLAC 96kHz 24bit song, ZZ Top's  "Tush" from The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990; the maximum dBA recorded on the meter was 55.3dBA.  When I cranked up the volume level to where I felt was jamming to my ears, and not a level I would keep for more than a song or even part of a song, I only read 70.6 dBA on the meter.  Yes, I do go louder at times, but when the room is significantly quiet, I rarely feel the need to play the music any louder.

 

I was curious to know if others have taken any similar measurement and were willing to share this data.  The way I listen to music plays a major part in why I prefer to EQ in a "V"-shape or why I don't particularly give much consideration to any format above Red Book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Classical music is particularly difficult to enjoy at my normal listening levels.  With any high dynamic range music, listening levels typically have to be increased significantly.  If I know the music well, there are no surprises with the changes in volume level, and I can get into the piece.  However, I don't have a great deal of experience with classical music, and not knowing when or how loud some of the sections might be, I can find myself playing with the volume knob too frequently.  I call it fortissimOMG!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Try downloading compressed versions from the iTunes store.  I find that really helps with excessive dynamic range.

 

My ambient noise level is about double yours.  It includes things like a ceiling fan (the motor is silent but the air makes a wooshing sound), snoring golden retrievers, crickets and birds outside, occasional noises like a well pump, water heater, refrigerator compressor, (very quiet) dishwasher, etc. from other rooms in the house.  I can also occasionally hear the neighbors' chickens.  Mercifully, no dogs outside are barking (seems like the first time this decade).


--

Do facts matter?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find that sensory adaptations can swing both ways.  I start with a low volume and let my hearing "adjust".   Since our hearing adapts to the volume level over time, I feel like I'm just wasting decibels and possibly damaging my hearing if I start out listening with the volume level too high.  You can't start loud and then go quieter with much success, but you can always start quietly and increase the volume later if necessary.  

 

As an ex-Navy Sonar Technician, we were always trained to listen first at very low levels for a bit to give your ears some time to adapt,   and then only increase the volume level if the sound was still too quiet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is worth remembering noise is heavily weighted to the low end where we don't have sensitive hearing.  In rooms it usually has a profile somewhere between pink and brown noise. So in rooms I've measured in relatively though not unusually quiet conditions, the noise level around where our ears are most sensitive (3-5 khz) in a band similar to what our ear parses things up you'll get 10 or 15 dbSPL.  As we can hear into noise at least 10 db (maybe even 15 db) that means you in some portion of your hearing have a dynamic range with the lower end near 0 dbSPL.  So with 70 db SPL listening, you might have near 60 to 70 db effective dynamic range you'll hear.  Your hearing is most resolving around 70-75 db SPL.  

 

I once put up some test files with music and noise mixed in at different levels asking how much noise had to go down to become inaudible.  The general answers I received were around that -65-75 db range.  I'd think most people were comfortably listening at 70-to no more than 80 db SPL. So that all fits and makes sense.  

 

The broadband SNR might measure at only 35 to 40 db, but effectively it is more than that.  


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I normally go for volume levels which match live levels; at one stage I casually compared a upright piano we have in the living area to the system being used at the time - the volume in the room roughly matched 4 clicks down from maximum, for a typical classical piano recording - and I quite often used maximum gain for that setup. Which means noise in the room matches realistic acoustic listening environments; background noise just "gets out of the way".

 

Of course the rig has to be thoroughly comfortable to listen to at these levels, :).


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Ahhh, Mankind ... Porsche intellect, Trabant emotions ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Sonicularity said:

Live levels from which perspective?  The piano player?  The listener?  In what environment?  

 

Pretty straightforward. You ask someone to play the piano, and listen in the room; and compare that to a similar piece on a recording - you're aiming for roughly similar subjective impact.

 

I'm not the slightest bit precious about volumes - a sorted rig can be played at everything from a barely audible whisper, to the maximum it's capable of; and the subjective impact doesn't change. It's exactly equivalent to hearing a live musician at 2 ft away from you, 4 ft, 8 ft, 16, 32, etc - what he "sounds like" doesn't dramatically change as you do this ...


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Ahhh, Mankind ... Porsche intellect, Trabant emotions ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Sonicularity said:

Live levels from which perspective?  The piano player?  The listener?

 

The piano player. At least that is what I'd like to do but this is too loud. A piano (open wing - just measured at 1m) is 90dBSPL. This is doable as a piano does not come across as too loud in a random home's room. But now put a trumpet player next to it.

No.

A drumkit is 110dBSL on the splash cymbals when used in rock fashion.

No.

 

My average listening level is ~85dBSPL (these are the regular peaks). When I'm in the mood or the music is - 90dBSPL. Maybe a tad more some times.

This with the notice that this goes on each evening for ~3 hours in a row, the family just in the room. The family being able to be there is almost an explicit measure because this can only be so (the year through) when SQ is unsurpassed and zero tiring. The surprise could be that the highs are so loud that these (like from a cymbal) imply sheer (measurable) sound pressure already. Like with the real drum kit. Try this at home, see what the needle in your SPL meter does (probably nothing much) and try to envision it moves on the highs foremost and that that does not hurt ...

My "luck" is that the highs/cymbals are still not rendered like reality because music playback would become impossible, I'd say.

 

Summarized, playing at real levels is impossible (like it could be done tuned on a piano) because other instruments become too loud in the (too small) room (which is even quite large is my case).

 

Ambient noise from computers and such is not present these days. Living in a rural area (actually "nature" as such - in the middle of a lake) implies a lot of outside noises from (water) birds. But this just belongs.

I once measured the ambient noise when all was quiet and still was 4dB or so higher as that can be in real desolated area. I forgot the absolute reading. Somewhere at the end of 30's, I'd say.

 

PS: I use the SPL meter about daily. For me it is a constant check whether what I/we can bear without the slightest pain, is indeed as loud as it feels (the sound pressure). This can also go the other way around, like "ouch - but this is only 80dBSPL ? ... something devastating wrong).


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A proviso to the above is listening to modern, heavily compressed pop material - the cumulative loudness overloads the ear quite rapidly, and I need to reduce the level quite a lot; to prevent ringing happening.


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Ahhh, Mankind ... Porsche intellect, Trabant emotions ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not in the position like Peter where the rig can easily go to any level I choose :D - frequently I would like more gain, but the electronics chain is not set up to deliver this; or the amplifier is momentarily clipping, or overheating ... I can live with compromises ... :).


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Ahhh, Mankind ... Porsche intellect, Trabant emotions ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Sonicularity said:

When I cranked up the volume level to where I felt was jamming to my ears, and not a level I would keep for more than a song or even part of a song, I only read 70.6 dBA on the meter.

 

This is actually what made me respond the way I did (which was not in a bragging fashion at all). This seems so far from reality that I can't comprehend.

Of course - I can envision people listen to music like this on Sunday mornings in a nice sunny corner of a room with a newspaper, some very faint background little music. But to say that if it would be louder than 70dB (which would be dish washer level) it would be jamming to the ears ... ?

Maybe your SPL meter is kaput ? or mine. Haha.

 

Now I'm not really sure what the message is or should be. I suppose the subject is something like: the lower the ambient noise level, the lower the music volume can be, because all is relative to the base noise and we must (try to) be well above that. This is also what I see a bit in esldude's/Dennis his post. But will it really work like that ? Thus, supposed my ambient noise would be a constant 50dBSPL for some reason, could I suddenly bear 100dBSPL easily ? seems hard to imagine. Still, all would be related to our - or the dynamic range we perceive. This makes it an interesting subject.

 

For me too the dynamic range "we" can perceive is something like 70dB maximum. This does not mean that we can utilize it, never mind we can also hear into the noise. Thus, it is hard for me to imagine that we can utilize that 70dB of range when music plays at 70dBSPL and we would be able to hear right into the noise up to 0dBSPL. Or ?

The other way around ... if my ambient noise would be 38dBSPL, would I be able to bear 108 dBSPL ? well, "bear" maybe yes, but would it be required to perceive everything which is in there ?

Or would 90dBSPL be OK because I can hear 18dB into my 38dB ambient noise ?

 

Yes, interesting.

 

I guess this is besides the hobby in a hobby of some (like me) who are only satisfied with something like concert levels. I mean, if I listen to Smoke on The Water from Made in Japan, I want to see that stage from the cover. This does not work on dish washer levels. At least not for me. Never mind I could hear all what's in there (say the full 70dB of dynamic range).


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

 

This is actually what made me respond the way I did (which was not in a bragging fashion at all). This seems so far from reality that I can't comprehend.

Of course - I can envision people listen to music like this on Sunday mornings in a nice sunny corner of a room with a newspaper, some very faint background little music. But to say that if it would be louder than 70dB (which would be dish washer level) it would be jamming to the ears ... ?

Maybe your SPL meter is kaput ? or mine. Haha.

 

Now I'm not really sure what the message is or should be. I suppose the subject is something like: the lower the ambient noise level, the lower the music volume can be, because all is relative to the base noise and we must (try to) be well above that. This is also what I see a bit in esldude's/Dennis his post. But will it really work like that ? Thus, supposed my ambient noise would be a constant 50dBSPL for some reason, could I suddenly bear 100dBSPL easily ? seems hard to imagine. Still, all would be related to our - or the dynamic range we perceive. This makes it an interesting subject.

 

For me too the dynamic range "we" can perceive is something like 70dB maximum. This does not mean that we can utilize it, never mind we can also hear into the noise. Thus, it is hard for me to imagine that we can utilize that 70dB of range when music plays at 70dBSPL and we would be able to hear right into the noise up to 0dBSPL. Or ?

The other way around ... if my ambient noise would be 38dBSPL, would I be able to bear 108 dBSPL ? well, "bear" maybe yes, but would it be required to perceive everything which is in there ?

Or would 90dBSPL be OK because I can hear 18dB into my 38dB ambient noise ?

 

Yes, interesting.

 

I guess this is besides the hobby in a hobby of some (like me) who are only satisfied with something like concert levels. I mean, if I listen to Smoke on The Water from Made in Japan, I want to see that stage from the cover. This does not work on dish washer levels. At least not for me. Never mind I could hear all what's in there (say the full 70dB of dynamic range).

Well that mid-70 db range is average level, and you'd expect music if well recorded to have 20-25 db peaks above that at times.  Smoke on the Water from Made in Japan.  Yeah, good stuff, and I'd turn it up myself.  You can't listen like that for hours if you are going to keep hearing well. 

 

And yes, your ear filters to roughly a 1/5 octave wide area in the most sensitive region.  Looked at that way or with an SPL meter having an ERB setting you will get noise levels over that range of 10-15 db SPL.  You can try it yourself.  Play a quiet 3 khz tone and see where it disappears.  It won't have to be 40 db SPL for you to clearly hear it.  

 

 


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, wgscott said:

Birds singing?  Much better those sounds of nature than say chainsaws.

 

When I play classical music, the neighbors invariably play with their two-stroke engines.

 

I equalize according to my room response.  Why use a "V"?

 

Sounds like you need active noise cancellation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, esldude said:

Play a quiet 3 khz tone and see where it disappears.  It won't have to be 40 db SPL for you to clearly hear it.  

 

That is entirely true of course. I didn't even think of that.


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, PeterSt said:

Over there the ambient noise was 4dB less than over here. This is how my mentioned 4dB came about in my first post.

So because the ambient noise was 4dB less there, the hum which surely was there, deep down, became audible (became profound) . The hum was now measurable just because the base level was 4dB less. I couldn't believe it.

 

I also couldn’t believe it. :)  Let’s say the hum is 33dB at 1meter away and the noise floor is 30dB. So let’s say, you hear 3dB over the NF at 1 meter. This is a very generous value given that you said it is only heard by a few at ear in speaker distance. 

 

In your customer’s room the NF is lower by 4dB. So let’s say it was 26dB. 

 

The noise must be above 26dB at the listeners position to be audible by him. The conservative value of 2 meter would have attenuated the noise by 6dB so at LP it is barely 1dB above the NF.  

 

In reality, the noise level is much lower and only audible at ear in speaker. Could there be other factors that you might have had overlooked?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, STC said:

Could there be other factors that you might have had overlooked?

 

I don't think so. But you seem to make a few stacked mistakes. ;)

 

First off at my place it is 39dB (( can look it up if needed). This is just audible as distinct sound *if* there were to be a sound. But think like a computer fan. IIRC they start to be audible at 28-29BSPL (this is a bit of a long shot because they are measured differently for their audibility level). Anyway, 39dB and not 30dB.

 

Next is that the noise floor over there is 4dB lower and thus is at 35dBSPL (you are already at 26 there). Thus now it needs a hum with the relative level of 4dB to make it clearly jump out of 35dB. Of course it does not really work like this because the noise won't be on top of the environmental noise. It is just a hum and btw in this case mechanical (transformer) hum. On a side note, one of the tricks to capture it the most easily is to let make the SPL meter (or microphone for that matter) contact with the speaker surface (and that in a special angle which allows for "bounding" on the surface (so we'd measure a derivate of the the real noise which still is acoustical)). Anyway ...

 

What I considered mentioning in my first post, is that the SPL I measure in my room and from this speaker does not decay (decrease) with 6dB per meter of extra distance. Also not 3. Instead it is almost nothing; it is between 4 and 5dB at 8 meters distance (7 meters more than the standard 1 meter measure). These are horns ... Thus, there is a very high degree of beaming and therefore not the normal decay of a 180 degree spreading speaker. Add to this that there is extra reflections on the side walls, because again there's beaming on to them (towards the listener).

Beyond mentioned 7 meters there is no decrease because the back wall starts to weigh in with reflections.

 

Maybe it is unimportant, but  let me add that any acoustical noise like the transformer hum, is amplified by the horn (woofer section in this case). Thus there's just as well "efficiency" in that, sadly. Plus it is as directional (bass really is that too).


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Radio Shack meter won’t read that low but an app on my phone says 42 dB. That surprises me because my listening room seems really quiet and yet others here are reporting much quieter rooms. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...