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Old 19th December 2005, 09:58 PM   #1
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Default Quality of sound at low volume

My wife is wanting a pair of speakers for her studio which gives me a perfect opportunity to get my feet wet with DIY speakers. Being new to all this I'm sure I'll be looking to follow someone else's footsteps, but it brings upa question I've wondered about (and fought with) for awhile.

What does it take to make a speaker sound good while at low volume? It seems that most I hear just loose soooo much. I've assumed it was simply a function of, uh, I don't know, aural bandwidth ie more perceptible information can be carried at higher volume vs lower. However, I have to wonder what part speakers, cabinets, amplification, etc have to play.

Is there a way to increase the quality of sound from a system played at low volume levels?

By the way, I've searched for this topic but son't see anything that really gives me the guidance I'm needing.

Pop
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Old 19th December 2005, 10:23 PM   #2
poobah is offline poobah  United States
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Hey dude,

Check this out. Most speakers probably are more accurate at low volumes levels because they are distorting less.

But, the reason you don't like the sound is because the bass disappears at low volume levels. More precisely, our perception of the bass falls off at low levels.

It's all about the Fletcher-Munson stuff. In other other words our ears are very non-linear.

http://www.allchurchsound.com/ACS/edart/fmelc.html

Remember when stereos had "loudness" buttons? They just seemed to boost the bass when turned on? Well that's just what they did. When you wanted to listen at low levels, flip it on to restore the "loudness".

Make sense???
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Old 20th December 2005, 08:17 AM   #3
soongsc is offline soongsc  Taiwan
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Properly designed metal cone drivers will provide the low level detail resolution you need. Other materials will eat up some of the detail. Jordan drivers have the most low level detail I have come across so far, TB also has some good drivers with slightly less detail. Either would be good for low level listening.
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Old 20th December 2005, 08:29 AM   #4
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That makes sense and you are of course correct, but that isn't quite what I mean.

preface: I have little hifi experience. The only hifi in town is rotel and B&W/Paradigm. I own a Yamaha receiver and Ascend Acoustic speakers (Paradigm bipolars before that). I'm not a bass freak either so the lack bass response, while important, doesn't turn me off all by itself.

When I listen at low volume, not just the bass is lacking but detail as well. I have a harder time making out the lyrics, the sound is just not involving and generally, the presenation is dull to flat. Give it a bit more juice and the sound seems more intelligible and articulated. I guess I'm wondering is this normal? Is it fixable by hardware?
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Old 20th December 2005, 08:32 AM   #5
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Maybe you need a class-a amp As you are only wanting low power, it would be an ideal partner for your speaker project.
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Old 20th December 2005, 10:00 AM   #6
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I don't know your current speakers, but rule of thumb states lousy drivers = lousy detail. You get subjective improvements at higher levels because they'll sound more dynamic -any speaker does. At low levels, things will vanish into the murk. It could also be down to your hearing too (no offence intended by the way!) The HF is the first to go in all of us, and the lower the level, the greater the struggle to pick up details. It might be worth getting your ears syringed if they are blocked up -it can make a heck of a difference. (It did for me!) Not the most pleasent of subjects I know, but worth thinking about. Your hearing can degrade slowly as the ears get blocked up over time, without your realising it because of the slow rate of the degridation. The doctor or nurse at your local health centre / surgerty can check to see if that's the case, and if so, should be able to sort them out a week later.
3% H2O2 from the local chemists for 10 minutes once or twice a day for a couple of days is also very cheap, safe and much more effective solution than ear-drops.

Cheers
Scott
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Old 20th December 2005, 10:21 AM   #7
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Fletcher/Musnon do not only strike at bass frequencies they do it at the upper end as well. Combined with ageing hearing this can also lead to loss of fine detail at low volumes.

Regards

Charles
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Old 20th December 2005, 10:36 AM   #8
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Most women care more about what the speakers are going to look like than what they will actually sound like. As one that has done the diy speaker thing before thinking about saving money and having accurate sound I can only point you toward your local speaker store to go buy a pair. This will be a heck of a lot cheaper in the long run because diy speakers always mean upgrades and redesigns because one is never quite satisfied with the outcome.

Go buy either a new set or a used pair of a proven design like JBL,
Klipsch, EV, or Altec Lansing. The Klipsch Heresy, or the Altec Lansing model 7 or 9 can be picked up for a song and a dance and won't let you down.
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Old 20th December 2005, 11:39 AM   #9
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Volume controls(potmeters) is a major bottleneck, espesially at low settings.
My current setup is a 7W(ish) mosfet follower with no gain, and a low gain tube linepreamp. I have to turn the knob all the way to the right to get loud. One other advantage is very very very low noise. Only if I listen very carefully I can hear some noise with my ear just 1cm from the speaker cone, and that is with my 97 db sensitive Fostex FE206!

Regards,
Peter
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Old 20th December 2005, 12:06 PM   #10
soongsc is offline soongsc  Taiwan
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Quote:
Originally posted by mrpopgun
That makes sense and you are of course correct, but that isn't quite what I mean.

preface: I have little hifi experience. The only hifi in town is rotel and B&W/Paradigm. I own a Yamaha receiver and Ascend Acoustic speakers (Paradigm bipolars before that). I'm not a bass freak either so the lack bass response, while important, doesn't turn me off all by itself.

When I listen at low volume, not just the bass is lacking but detail as well. I have a harder time making out the lyrics, the sound is just not involving and generally, the presenation is dull to flat. Give it a bit more juice and the sound seems more intelligible and articulated. I guess I'm wondering is this normal? Is it fixable by hardware?
Most passive volume control might have this problem. I normally turn the volume on the amp up so that the with the smallest CD player volume plays the lowest level that I listen to, then all my volume control is done on the CD player.

I just thought of speakers because this is a speaker forum.
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