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  1. #1
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    Superb low volume listening

    Check my system out and tell me how to achieve this please.

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    You may wish to elaborate on that.

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    I don't have much experience with B&K but they are supposed to be pretty good, unless the PSB's are extremely difficult for the receiver to drive you should get decent low volume listening already. You must not though, or at least satisfactory or you wouldn't be here. A couple of things to try if you haven't already.

    1. Set the mains to "large" when listening at low volume. Or, if that is your current set up, try setting them to small to relieve work from the receiver and using the sub may easier fill in the low frequencies at lower volume. Plus you can boost the sub if needed at low volume.

    2. Obviously, utilize a "loudness" control if one is featured.

    3. You might try turning your "night time" or sometimes called "dynamic compression" on. This limits the dynamic range and makes things easier to hear at lower volume.

    4. Lastly, but not leastly, however, the most expensive, ad a more high current amplifier. If you are just talking music you can just add a stereo amp, if music and HT you'll need maybe a 5 channel.

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    Thank you for the tips, I'll give that a try.

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    Or maybe just listen through headphones.
    All we are saying, is give peas a chance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by emesbee
    Or maybe just listen through headphones.
    Nah, I just wish when I fired up my system it would wow me. Not sure what I need to do.

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    For music have you tried the analog output of the Arcam versus the digital output? The analog output the conversion is done by the Arcam DAC, when using digital output the conversion is done by the B&K. Although the Arcam is a DVD unit the internal DAC still could be better than the one in the B&K. Arcam usually puts music first in what ever product they have.

    I looked at the specs on your receiver and I was surprised B&K gave a power rating of 150 wpc at 1kHz, that's a cheezy way of giving power ratings and I thought B&K was above that. Most quality manufacturer's give a full bandwidth power rating of 20-20kHz which is a more realistic rating. As I stated before if the PSB's lean toward a difficult load you might want to experiment with adding a stereo amp for the mains.

    What exactly aren't you happy with in your system?

  8. #8
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Consider an external DAC for your music.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    For music have you tried the analog output of the Arcam versus the digital output? The analog output the conversion is done by the Arcam DAC, when using digital output the conversion is done by the B&K. Although the Arcam is a DVD unit the internal DAC still could be better than the one in the B&K. Arcam usually puts music first in what ever product they have.

    I looked at the specs on your receiver and I was surprised B&K gave a power rating of 150 wpc at 1kHz, that's a cheezy way of giving power ratings and I thought B&K was above that. Most quality manufacturer's give a full bandwidth power rating of 20-20kHz which is a more realistic rating. As I stated before if the PSB's lean toward a difficult load you might want to experiment with adding a stereo amp for the mains.

    What exactly aren't you happy with in your system?
    I'll try the analog out put as I'm running digital now. You may be on to something with the stereo amp. Not happy with the sound stage and the speakers don't come to life without volume.

  10. #10
    RGA
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    Without opening a can of worms your best bet is to look into an entirely different kind of stereo system - and that may not be the popular stance since it is the costliest but that is my opinion. With High powered SS they typically perform better pushed - and most lower efficient speakers (all the one's I've used over 20 years) need to be pushed. I am thus not a fan of either high powered amps nor low efficient speakers but the products themselves made me "not a fan."

    Unfortunately, most inexpensive High Efficiency speakers tended to bury themselves with irritating treble and insufficient box designs. Though that is getting better. However dealers continue to sell the numbers, as does the marketing, and until people get over the high numbers is better idea then things are not going to get much better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Without opening a can of worms your best bet is to look into an entirely different kind of stereo system - and that may not be the popular stance since it is the costliest but that is my opinion. With High powered SS they typically perform better pushed - and most lower efficient speakers (all the one's I've used over 20 years) need to be pushed. I am thus not a fan of either high powered amps nor low efficient speakers but the products themselves made me "not a fan."

    Unfortunately, most inexpensive High Efficiency speakers tended to bury themselves with irritating treble and insufficient box designs. Though that is getting better. However dealers continue to sell the numbers, as does the marketing, and until people get over the high numbers is better idea then things are not going to get much better.
    Would you recommend the AN speakers with my setup?
    Last edited by kordon; 11-30-2008 at 02:47 PM.

  12. #12
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    The speakers are fine.

    It's your ears that lack. Our ears are less sensitive to low and high frequencies than they are to midrange frequencies, particularly at low levels. When listening at low levels, many an otherwise fine sounding system tends to sound "washed out" when playing at low levels. That's why many stereos had a "loudness" button on them, to boost the bass when playing at a low volume level.

    Somehow, these have fallen out of favor in recent years but that doesn't mean our ears are any less impared. That's like taking spare tires out of cars and expecting that that we'll never have flat tires again. Just because the cure ain't there doesn't mean the problem is gone.

    Boost the bass when listening at low levels.

  13. #13
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by kordon
    Would you recommend the AN speakers with my setup?
    Not really. Audio Note amps are low powered and won't sufficiently drive your speakers and the Audio Note speakers are designed for their amplifiers.

    I disagree that speakers or ears are incapable of producing at low volumes - unfortunately the vast majority of gear is poor at low volumes. Quad electrostatic panels are quite excellent at low volumes and so quite often are HE speakers mated with single ended amplifiers. Sugden or Audio Note amps with Audio Note or the better tannoy speakers or if you like horns there are many out there.

    Usually the reason we want to turn the volume up is because the stereo lacks resolution and dynamics. So we turn the volume up hoping to hear more of what's on the disc and to get the dynamics back. However we simply mistake it for volume. Loudness papers over the cracks - well for awhile. Often this become a long term issue for the listener who eventually gets into upgrade mode - and rightly so.

    I would not suggest Audio Note - certainly listen if you can someplace but there are other Higher efficiency examples and tube or non tube SE amps. The Quad is terrific but the 2905 runs $14,000. So I'm thinking saner price levels.

    Omega loudspeakers is intriguing at around $1200.00 and mated to a nice SE amp might do the trick - but I have not heard it yet. I recently reviewed Grant Fidelity gear and this company is offerring some attractive prices on amplifiers but I have not as yet heard any of their speakers.

    I suggest this, albeit frustrating advice, because the alternative of buying new amplifiers with those speakers may not end up working. Try and view the entire system as a whole rather than a bunch of parts thrown together in the hopes it will work. When the chef is in charge of your entire meal it will more likely be good then having three chefs with three different levels of abilities putting things on your plate. One dish may ruin the other two.

    The best suggestion is to listen to stuff way out of your price range to get a reference what is possible - these truly great set-ups will be memorable - then seek out auditions in people's homes or the better dealers and listen to systems - find one that truly moves you, write down the components and get those.

    Of course I like Audio Note and would recommend an audition - but never buy without hearing it for yourself first.

    Most of us don't have the cash to do it all at once, I certainly don't, so we're forced to buy a speaker to match with the amp we have or vice versa. But if you have a clear objective you will be better off. I started with the AN J with full awareness that I would be purchasing a matching amp and CD player - I elected to forgo the CD upgrade for the turntable but it takes time - and money - as a teacher - well I have to wait longer than some professions - but I'm patient.
    Last edited by RGA; 12-01-2008 at 01:24 AM.

  14. #14
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    Half right.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    I disagree that speakers or ears are incapable of producing at low volumes - unfortunately the vast majority of gear is poor at low volumes.
    People can believe whatever they wish, wether it's true or not. Belief does not require facts.

    Yes, speakers are capable of producing at low volumes.

    But, science has proven, over and over again, that as volume is lowered our ears are non-linear in their ability to hear low and high tones as opposed to mid-range tones .

    So, this is a case of the pitcher doing a fine job of throwing the ball. It's the catcher's fault he can't catch it.

    Google "Fletcher-Munson" or, if you''re really feeling froggy, check with an audiologist for some facts.
    Last edited by markw; 12-01-2008 at 07:53 AM.

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    Follow markw advice rather than chasing your tale. Get preamplifier/receiver with a loudness switch such as one like the marantz featured here.
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

  16. #16
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by markw
    People can believe whatever they wish, wether it's true or not. Belief does not require facts.

    Yes, speakers are capable of producing at low volumes.

    But, science has proven, over and over again, that as volume is lowered our ears are non-linear in their ability to hear low and high tones as opposed to mid-range tones .

    So, this is a case of the pitcher doing a fine job of throwing the ball. It's the catcher's fault he can't catch it.

    Google "Fletcher-Munson" or, if you''re really feeling froggy, check with an audiologist for some facts.
    I am not sure what you are referring to here - are you talking about frequency response or volume level? If frequency response I agree.

    But if you have listened to a wealth of audio speakers or headphones you would very well know that some gear is clearer (resolute) and retains dynamics, timbre, etc when played at low volumes better than other products. While a lot of gear needs to be played a lot louder to "seemingly" sound as good. My dealer run a blind test and found subjects felt one speaker was as "louder" than the others despite being a full 3db louder because the speaker was clearer and balanced properly.

    This is especially useful for late night listening. This is why I suspect Quad is so popular because - well they can't play loud very well. And of course people's definitions of low volume levels may be different so we may be talking about the same thing 72db in the listening position is what I consider to be a medium+ volume level - while others would call 85db medium level. I did not go to a lot of rock concerts and I avoid loud levels so what I call low volume would be different than Mick Jagger - Low to him might be 100db.

  17. #17
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    There is none so blind as he who will not see.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    I am not sure what you are referring to here - are you talking about frequency response or volume level? If frequency response I agree.
    I didn't post here to educate you. That's a hopeless cause.

    Sometimes, it's hard to separate the dazzle that comes from brilliance and the baffle that comes from BS. I just jumped in here just to let the OP and the rest know that you're babbling on about stuff that has no bearing on the situation at hand.

    One more time and then I'll let you have the last few thousand words. I'm sure I've made my point to those who want to understand and followed some of the links that Google provided.

    It's simply that as volume levels go down, the human ear is less sensitive to low and high frequencies. A system that sounds good at a higher volume levels can and will sound "washed out" at low volumes. It's a simple, proven fact of human design that you seem to refuse to accept and, unless you're one of the X men, you're subject to the same physical foibles as the rest of us mortals.

    No amount of words is going to change that. So, enjoy your ego posts. I'm outta here.

    Q.E.D.

  18. #18
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    Many of us are familiar with "Fletcher-Munson" and the loudness controls very popular especially years ago in stereo receivers and integrated amps.

    There are some recent efforts in this area to improve on the effectiveness of such controls and to blend them into HT receivers and pre/pro's, etc (in addition to what we have already seen). The Emotiva new pre/pro soon to be out apparently will include some version of the Dolby "Dolby Volume" leveling technology in addition to some Arcam receivers, etc. There are other brands out there that do somewhat simliar functions such as Audyssey Dynamic Volume and THX Loudness Plus, etc.

    I think you might see a proliferation of these types of loudness compensation features to lower or increase the perceived flattness of the frequency response at less than ideal volume levels. Perhaps some of them would be applicable to 2 channel systems.

    http://www.dolby.com/consumer/techno...ume-works.html

    Some audiophiles might reject these attempts as heresy but time will tell if they are considered effective.

    RR6

  19. #19
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by markw
    I didn't post here to educate you. That's a hopeless cause.

    Sometimes, it's hard to separate the dazzle that comes from brilliance and the baffle that comes from BS. I just jumped in here just to let the OP and the rest know that you're babbling on about stuff that has no bearing on the situation at hand.

    One more time and then I'll let you have the last few thousand words. I'm sure I've made my point to those who want to understand and followed some of the links that Google provided.

    It's simply that as volume levels go down, the human ear is less sensitive to low and high frequencies. A system that sounds good at a higher volume levels can and will sound "washed out" at low volumes. It's a simple, proven fact of human design that you seem to refuse to accept and, unless you're one of the X men, you're subject to the same physical foibles as the rest of us mortals.

    No amount of words is going to change that. So, enjoy your ego posts. I'm outta here.

    Q.E.D.
    I'm not sure what your problem is with me but perhaps if you read what I wrote instead of jumping to conclusions you might figure out that I was agreeing with you. But let me spell it out for you.

    Our ear is less able to detect low and high frequencies at lower volume levels than medium and higher volume levels - that is what you wrote that is what I agree with - and BTW I have run Double blind Experiments in psychology at University at A levels so I know full well what these tests are capable of. And I AGREE with what you wrote.

    My contention was merely to note that some speakers (stereo systems) are better able to produce at low volume levels the same kind of balance. Of course human hearing is less acute at the frequency extremems at lower volumes but that does not mean you are completely deaf at low volumes and if one speaker is vastly better at low volume than another and you want a stereo for lower volume levels - YOU will still be able to tell which speaker is better than the other - at the very least in the midrange. The ear is not particularly sensitive above 6khz. To be able to hear low frequencies at very low volumes you could need a 20db or more boost to achieve the same level as a 1khz signal. Ie; the lower the volume the worse it gets at the frequency extremes. Having said that the midrange is still hwere 90% of music resides and our hearing is still pretty good - a speaker that perfroms well at low levels will produce that 90% quite well retaining dynamics etc. A speaker that can't arguably can't at any level because turning the speaker up isn't going to miraculously allow it to put back music that it lost at low levels.

    Who knows maybe I like my Audio Note's in corners because of their 18db gain and senstivity gain - which in a way is like a loudness level boost to the bottom octaves!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    I'm not sure what your problem is with me but perhaps if you read what I wrote instead of jumping to conclusions you might figure out that I was agreeing with you. But let me spell it out for you.
    the problem I have with you here is simply that you confuse opinion with facts. And, in an attempt to appear to be the know-it-all you resort to obfuscation. Berevity is welcomed.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Our ear is less able to detect low and high frequencies at lower volume levels than medium and higher volume levels - that is what you wrote that is what I agree with - and BTW I have run Double blind Experiments in psychology at University at A levels so I know full well what these tests are capable of. And I AGREE with what you wrote.
    Well. getting you to acknowledge it was like pulling teeth. Was it that hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    My contention was merely to note that some speakers (stereo systems) are better able to produce at low volume levels the same kind of balance.
    But at low levels it's gonna take some help, electronically but it should have less effect asthe volume increases. Otherwise it would be "off balance" over the rest of the range at higher levels. That'swhat a "loudness" control is supposed to do.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Of course human hearing is less acute at the frequency extremems at lower volumes but that does not mean you are completely deaf at low volumes and if one speaker is vastly better at low volume than another and you want a stereo for lower volume levels - YOU will still be able to tell which speaker is better than the other - at the very least in the midrange.
    And, your point is? So, what does this have to do with the tea in China? I never said that there wasn't a difference in the quality of the midrange, did I?

    That's called a "straw man" argument. I thought you were above that.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    The ear is not particularly sensitive above 6khz. To be able to hear low frequencies at very low volumes you could need a 20db or more boost to achieve the same level as a 1khz signal.
    You make that sound like a bad thing or that it's impossible to accomplish. They did this is the 70's. Actually, the ear's sensitivity peaks somewhere around 1 khz. There's that bass boost again. And, a properly designed one provides a bit of boost to the high end as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Ie; the lower the volume the worse it gets at the frequency extremes.
    Well, duh! Somehow, I think I said something like this several posts earlier, no?

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Having said that the midrange is still hwere 90% of music resides and our hearing is still pretty good - a speaker that perfroms well at low levels will produce that 90% quite well retaining dynamics etc.
    ...but that 10% that resides in the lower registers has quite an impact on one's enjoyment of the experience, no? If not, why even bother with it? Heck, who needs anything below 100hz? After all, in a 20 - 20khz world that's less than 1% of the spectrum! Who cares?

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    A speaker that can't arguably can't at any level because turning the speaker up isn't going to miraculously allow it to put back music that it lost at low levels.
    I really don't quite understand what point you're trying to make here but I'll give it a stab. No, but controlled application of a bit of boost at certain frequencies sure can help. Hey, let's call that a "loudness control"!

    The music isn't "lost", it's merely attenuated (as far as our hearing is concerned) and a bit of boost at certain frequencies and levels certainly goes a long way to restoring it.

    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    Who knows maybe I like my Audio Note's in corners because of their 18db gain and senstivity gain - which in a way is like a loudness level boost to the bottom octaves!
    Wonderful! A built-in loudness control! Tell me, how are they able to discern when to apply that bass boost and when to not?

    I knew that you would eventually bring up Audio Note as the perfect solution. So typical of a fanboy!
    Last edited by markw; 12-02-2008 at 08:30 AM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by markw
    It's simply that as volume levels go down, the human ear is less sensitive to low and high frequencies. A system that sounds good at a higher volume levels can and will sound "washed out" at low volumes.
    While no one disputes the Fletcher-Munson data, I think there is more to the puzzle than just that. Setting aside the ear's reduced sensitivity to bass (and to a lesser extent, the upper treble), transducers and amplification circuits do not necessary have the same linearity at very low levels. I first learned of that with an AR integrated amp back in the seventies. It sounded great at high level, but the resolution went out the window at very low levels. I found the same true later when I compared a Threshold Stasis to a Conrad-Johnson MV-75a. The Connie simply could not resolve as well as the Stasis at the lowest levels. I love Maggies, but the ones I've owned and others I've heard (such as the excellent 20.1s) do not resolve as well at the lowest levels to these ears as the best electrostats. Similarly, not all amplifiers do as well at the milliwatt level due to non-linearity and noise. RF noise injected into most modern homes add another dimension to the question - as in the system's ability to reject the added noise components.

    I find there is a hidden world of dynamics found at the bottom of scale that many systems simply do not plumb for various reasons.

    rw

  22. #22
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    Unless I am seriously missing the point, here, doesn't it seem remotely intuitively obvious that resolution, dynamics and all the "good stuff" that folks (usually) associate with kick-ass stereo sound go out the window at low volumes? Whether it's live performance at the stage or behind closed doors and in a building three blocks away makes a difference: you are going to experience accentuation and loss of information depending on your proximity to the source and other factors.

    Naturally, when listening to material at a low level, you will experience the same loss as anyone else would. So, the question is, what happens to sound when it attenuated? Three scenarios: (A) What happens as volume is turned down? (B) What happens when we move further away from it? (C) What happens when objects are put in between us and the source? Question A seems to pertain to the question. Answer: Dynamics drop off (disparities between peaks and troughs become ambiguous); Some frequencies become more noticeable, others die (ever heard a subwoofer booming in the middle of the night?); etc. (I know nothin' about physics, Miss Scarlet!). So when ya say that you wanna listen to "superb low volume music listening", maybe (and correct me if I'm wrong, Brothers and Sisters) there just ain't no such thing!
    "The great tragedy of science--the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."--T. Huxley

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    All things considered, this might be the best answer yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Auricauricle
    So when ya say that you wanna listen to "superb low volume music listening", maybe (and correct me if I'm wrong, Brothers and Sisters) there just ain't no such thing!
    But,unless our less-than-eloquent OP can come up with something a bit more descriptive besides "Not happy with the sound stage and the speakers don't come to life without volume.", I'll stick to boosting the bass, and perhaps a little goose to the treble, as a good starting point.

    It may not capture the dynamics of more volume, but it can make low-level listening a bit more satisfying.

  24. #24
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    That's why God invented headphones, son!

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    I wondered what those were on Moses ears in my picture Bible. Which brand was invented by God, I want to get some good ones? I bet it was Sennheiser, of course that sounds German and I think God was for the Jews........

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