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How loud to listen


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I have the new Image headphones (my review will come shortly)

Previously, wiht my old sony headphones, I would listen to my mp3 player with volume at the max (20)

Now with the image, the same volume and intensity can be hadt at 14 or 15. (3/4 max)

The manual states to not listen above 10 (half).

Am I listening too loud?

What are others listening at?

Perhaps my seal isn't good enough?

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There's no precise way I know of to measure the SPL levels of IEMs, so all I can offer are some general guidelines.

First of all, don't use pain as a signal to let you know when to turn down the volume. More often then not, damage could have already occured by that point. Keeping the volume adjuster on your mp3 player at half the maximum setting is a start, but is in no way a safe bet since SPL changes with different headphones and different songs. The only way to be sure is to keep volumes as low as you possibly can. Train your ears to appreciate the music at a lower volume. What I do is listen to a song I know I want louder first (at a moderate level), then gradually lower the volume during the time that I listen for while at the same time moving towards "softer sounding" genres of music. By the time I'm done listening for the day, I barely notice that the volume is considerably lower than I started with. After some time, you won't need to do this gradual volume adjustment because you'll have found the lowest bearable volume you can listen to and still enjoy the music.

Don't take this to mean that the first song I listen to makes my ears bleed, I do keep the volume below the threshold that damages your ears immediately. Strangely enough though, I seem to pick up ambient noise cues better than human voice these days (time to visit the audiologist maybe?).

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The thing was, with my old sony's, since they weren't as far in my ear as my klipsch, i had to up the level to get to what i can get now with the Image at 3/4 volume.

This max volume would cause a lot of distoriton too, which is another reason the image sound better, because I can get the same volume at a lower output.

But there's a certain volume level, whether in my home theater or through headphones, where the drums, bass, treble, and everything has that perfect sound and impact.

And i've noticed that at 14-15 of 20 on my mp3 player (3/4 volume), that's where it is (this moves slightly depending on if the source is 128 mp3, 320 mp3, or another bitrate, plus dependent on albm level.

But generally, 14-15 is the level (when outside or on the train with lots of ambient noise), that the perfect sound level comes.

If i'm home in a quiet room listening, yes, 10-11 (of 20, half) sounds fine.

I never go above 3/4, as this volume level is loud enough for me and sound sperfect.

When I lower it, i feel that some of the impact and live feel and energy of the song is lost.

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That's the problem with something so small, it's very difficult to measure when exactly we are damaging our ears. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution. I don't remember exactly where I read it, but IIRC there is a volume threshold that you need to reach in order to have the highs and lows accurately reproduced. You should trust your ears I guess, but keep in mind that hearing loss is usually progresive and you may just be turning up the volume to compensate for hearing loss that has already happened. Maybe you should just make an appointment with an audiologist to see if your hearing is still in good shape.

The reason your Image sounds as if it is at the same volume as the sony canalphones is partially because it's much closer to your eardrum, and the overall sound quality is likely better as well. Because it is closer to your eardrum, you should be more careful about damaging your hearing. The image probably does not distort as easily, so you may actually be playing your music even louder than you realize since most people use distortion as a cue to turn the volume down.

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Guest IVstringer

Fud is correct, it is extremely difficult to know what sound level is at your ears. There is one positive to consider:

Because the Image headphones provide more noise isolation that your previous headphones, let's say (just a guess) that you get 6 dB more noise reduction before you turn the music on. What this does is allow you to find that "optimal" music level at a lower level than before. You don't have to "overcome" the ambient noise as much. When they talk about noise levels, there is a level (I forget the name of it) where you can only be heard by shouting into someone's ear, and then even a level where the human voice cannot "overcome" the noise level to be heard/understood. Granted, I think you're nowhere near that level.

So, you have at least done yourself a big favor by buying Image, meaning that your overall SPL has decreased. When you said you had a train in the background, it definitely made more sense. If you're at half in a quiet place, you're fine. I have done a few plane trips with the Image, and I have come to the conclusion that it is fruitless to seek out the "optimal" level because the noise of the plane is so high. You also have to remember that the headphones will have less isolation for lower frequencies. So, if I tried to get the bass level to my "preferred" setting, I would be WAY too heavy on treble. So, I have to accept this fact in order to not be listening too loud. Anything is better than the drone of the engines at their loudest (w/ no headphones that is). On a train, I was able to acheive pretty good isolation and was able to get better balance. Now when I was using my E2s, I had no bass because they couldn't compete with the plane, so the Image has definitely helped.

I can't comment directly on the manual, but just because a manual says to always wear eye protection when using a saw doesn't mean that you always follow it. If we didn't put something conservative, I'm sure some sort of lawsuit might occur.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Simply perceiving the sound as too loud isn't assurance enough for me and shouldn't be used as a gauge for anyone worried about noise induced hearing loss. In fact, those that have already lost hearing may continue to damage their hearing because what they may have peceived as loud in the past may be quite different from what they consider loud after the hearing loss.

In addition, although volume and Sound Presure Level are related, they aren't the same thing. SPL is the force created by a sound wave and can be quantified in a lab situation, while volume is influenced to some degree by the physiology of each person.

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Dear SCH,

I think you may be on to something. Lack of a proper seal.

I had a pair of Sony "really in your ear" earbuds which I used with radios. Then I ruined them by accident.

When the seal is perfected, ambient noise is very low, bass is robust, and everything else is clear. This is true at low volumes. So if you need high levels to make them sound good, something is wrong.

A lack of these results could cause you to turn up the volume to compensate. There are reports on how you have to play with the Klipsch (or any of the same "really in your ear" types) to get the good seal. These include choice of the best fitting earpiece and placement in the ear canal.

In any event, I do suggest caution with exposure to high levels. It is pretty much legend that rockers love loud music, only to find that it destroys the instruments (our ears) which are needed to listen to it.


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