Nov 12, 2018

What's the name or terminology for "optimal volume"?

Is there a technical term or tribal name for "optimal volume"? By that I mean the theoretical volume at which you can take your stack to its best without being overly loud or depriving it of power?
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Upon first thought, the only thing that comes to mind is audio normalization but I don't think it wholly applies to your question. Otherwise, everything else will apply to a mixing environment so I don't think it would carry-over to consumer listening (I could be wrong). This was a nice, concise explanation that gives some additional context: https://www.behindthemixer.com/find-perfect-volume/. Personally, I think we just take a page out of the loudspeaker book and call it "the sweet spot." It's ambiguous and sounds cooler than anything else that probably exists.
For the electronics chain, this would correspond to the output level above the noise floor but below saturation (clipping) where it is operating as linearly as possible. Sound volume is a result of air pressure, the magnitude of which will depend on transducer sensitvity and its own limits to clipping and dynamic range. For the perception, the ear contracts and expands, much like your iris with light, based on the amplitude of sound. Your brain is exceptionally capable of adjusting your perceived dynamic range and giving you useful sound details whether that is from an accoustic chamber or a battlefield. Relatively speaking we generally prefer louder sound when given the choice (below a hard pain threshold). With age, the responsiveness of this mechanism reduces and you'll get differences in opinion on ideal volume, with the older folks telling the young kids to turn down that darn racket... Despite not hearing as well, older ears can't auto attenuate the sound like youth can. Does that answer your question? Hope it was atleast entertaining :)
GiantHeadphoneSquid
Heh, yeah, thanks. I was thinking more along the lines of: take your 2-3 favorite cans. Perceptually you'll find that the volume at which you have to listen to them in order to get that meaty sound is different. For instance I have to put more juice in the AQ NightOwl to get them to that point when "sounds amazing" whereas the Focal Elegia will reach that same point at much modest volume settings (with same stack). I imagine it's a qualitative and different for each person, but was wondering if there was a term for it.
rdodev
That makes sense... For headphone comparison (or speakers) just try to make sure the volume is equal (and pleasant/safe for you to listen). There are some apps that let you measure approx SPL on your phone, this is a nice objective way (or a proper SPL meter), just hold up to the headphone speaker... Alternatively, you can try to match by ear, just try to have seperate chains so you can listen to them back to back (or even one per ear at once if possible). Just do it to a test tone rather than music to match. They key is just to make sure one isn't louder than the other... Even very minor shifts in volume are generally perceived as relatively preferable.