I use my "loudness" switch and I'm proud of it

The "loudness" switch on my 30 yr old Kenwood Basic C2 preamp prolly works like everybody elses. After some experimenting, I routinely use it.

It adds quite a bit of low bass at low "volume control" settings but not much at high settings. I have my six power amp channels all turned down quite a bit so I am able to crank up the pre-amp volume control in order to achieve the right balance of sound level and bass boost that tracks my taste in bass music about right.

One puzzling thing is that male announcer voices do seem pretty tubby with the bass compensation while I never get 'nough bass with music (and the bass compensation seems about right for music).

Ever see the mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap" about a nutty rock group? There's a hilarious scene where a band member says he ordered a guitar amp that has a volume control that goes to "11" because that is louder than the other amps that only go to "10."

I don't introduce this new thread to be chatty about the knobs on my kit but to open a discussion of the practical implications of the equal loudness curves ("Fletcher-Munson" and successors (real and engineer-arbitrary) and their approximation in vintage pre-amps) for proper sound reproduction.
 
Last edited:
Most loudness buttons are either a graphic EQ type boost centered at around 100 Hz or a reverse shelving style boosting from 100 on down. Whatever sounds good to you is good. It only really has to please your doesn't it?

This disregards anything it does to the treble which is often the same but at 10K, some less dB's than the bass, some not at all.
 
"Whatever sounds good to you is good. It only really has to please your doesn't it?"

Cal - thanks for data on controls.

But about the "no debating taste...." point. First, sure, can't (ever) argue about that. Second, kind of nips the discussion of issues and improvements in the bud, eh.

Third, there is a traditional response that goes something like this: sure, it may sound tickety-pooh to your ears today, but in the long run, the system with the qualities many careful people rate highly will be the one you endorse in the future too.

I'm sure you know all that already!
 
Last edited:
Ok, we can discuss what ones were better or worse then. Some were volume dependent and others were straight boost independent of the volume knob.

Personally I liked what Fisher did in the early 80's. Theirs was volume dependent so you didn't have to turn it off as the volume went up and boosted the highs a lot less than the lows.
 
Wait a minute!!!

In discussions of loudness controls and shaping bass response in other threads, there seemed to be quite general agreement that acoustically flat bass is not satisfying at any domestic volume level. And that is the opinion of many people keen on measurements in their music rooms and who would die for plus-or-minus 3 dB.

That seems to be the general consensus above in this thread.

The question for me is not how many more people agree with that notion. But why isn't "flat" (which technically speaking, matches the original source) as satisfying at Fletcher-Munson correction? Shouldn't playing the Vienna Philharmonic at a low level be just like looking at the Mona Lisa from 100 feet away (the typical distance due to crowds at the Louve)? Nobody says, "bring up the highlights (using PhotoShop-like controls) on the Leonardo when the picture is small. Or do they?

At the moment, I am following the very informative link (and subsequent links) provided by pheonix358 above. Maybe I'll find some good answers there. As for Fletcher-Munson matching, Don Hills suggests matching your music loudness to typical studio loudness (83 dBC) and using loudness contour compensation for levels below.
 
Last edited:
The essential problem - and one which nobody has recognized except maybe 454Casull - is that the loudness contours raise more questions than they answer, if you'll pardon that cliche. The Leonardo puzzle above is just one issue. And a variant of the El Greco Fallacy is another.

Let me approach what I believe is the core riddle sideways.

Everybody knows about coming out of the matinee at the movies and being blinded by the sunlight. The eye adjusts for light level and that is apparent as you slowly adjust entering a dark room. If you read psychology textbooks, you might also have seen that "at night, all cats are black" or at least gray. If you haven't read psychology textbooks, then you've seen that color vanishes in low light levels your whole life but maybe never really noticed it.

Is that how the loudness levels work? You get adjusted to say, a softly playing piece and you wonder why the bass is absent.

But what if the piece gets loud? What if there is a few seconds of silence before the bass part plays?

The equal loudness contours are perfectly true and you can replicate them. But how does that relate to sitting in your quiet music room and then turning on a quiet piece or a loud piece?


Footnote: you know, at heart, the problem arises from, once again, using visuals (like charts) to address auditory issues. It is easy to draw an equal loudness curve. But when you ask, "That last drum strike, which loudness curve are we talking about?" things are quite different.
 
Last edited:
This may be a hijack side issue, but a lot of misunderstanding of real-life loudness levels. Anybody have trouble hearing talk during a concert of a regular sized symphony orchestra? Should you want to pass a clever comment to your spouse, you have to whisper really softly so as not to be heard by others.

The big difference is dynamic range but even crescendos are only ear-splitting to the musicians. Classical concerts aren't too loud. Truly low bass excepted, also true of organ concerts generally... easy to chat in the church during a concert, if you are so inclined, but not when I play organ music at home.

Or maybe it is where I sit.

So what does it mean to "match" the bass compensation of a typical concert level of a string quartet to the level louder level you might play them at home?

When we talk about loudness compensation, are we talking about average level (also known in the trade as "adaptation level", akin to light level adaptation) or are we talking about the level of that particular double-bass part played softly in the background? Or should the recording engineer known enough to have boosted (loudness compensated???) those double-basses a whole lot because the rest of the orchestra are playing loud and they are soft?
 
Last edited:

FrankWW

Member
2004-07-29 7:59 am
n/a
I think the subjective effect of perceived loudness has something to do with the number of "point sources" and how decorrelated the sound becomes.

An easy experiment is to start with one speaker then the stereo pair, then keep adding surrounds - give them delays and hf rolloffs. I've found when I do this that I turn down the overall level but the music sounds louder.

Also, the "down the hall and around the corner" effect sounds more realistic.

It's a puzzle.

I listen to classical music mostly. I don't know what effect it might have with pop music which seems to be recorded and processed a bit differently.

This may be a hijack side issue, but a lot of misunderstanding of real-life loudness levels. Anybody have trouble hearing talk during a concert of a regular sized symphony orchestra? Should you want to pass a clever comment to your spouse, you have to whisper really softly so as not to be heard by others.

The big difference is dynamic range but even crescendos are only ear-splitting to the musicians. Classical concerts aren't too loud. Truly low bass excepted, also true of organ concerts generally... easy to chat in the church during a concert, if you are so inclined, but not when I play organ music at home.

Or maybe it is where I sit.

So what does it mean to "match" the bass compensation of a typical concert level of a string quartet to the level louder level you might play them at home?

When we talk about loudness compensation, are we talking about average level (also known in the trade as "adaptation level", akin to light level adaptation) or are we talking about the level of that particular double-bass part played softly in the background? Or should the recording engineer known enough to have boosted (loudness compensated???) those double-basses a whole lot because the rest of the orchestra are playing loud and they are soft?
 
I'm with Cal (Weldon) !:D
He knows anything about it ,certainly ! I Own a Fisher preamp of the '80s .
I prefer to keep all the Tone controls out of the path . Once you (me !) start messing with loudness ,contour :rolleyes: ...then you can also fell to reduce some bass ,then you try it louder ...and you set to zero ;then it's time to fine trim the treble.NO wait !! Maybe I ,you !!!:shy: are too off-axis from the speakers when you do the manouvrement on the stereo console and the EQ change didn't take that in consideration . When returning to "only" loudness button switch pressed...I feel and hear the bad job the two capacitors and resistors are doing to the sound . It may just be an "How would it sound if..." button ,better using speakers more "full-bass" focused. ANd wires ,and amps...
but no Contour buttons..or Special Effects (worse ).
 
He knows anything about it
:D Not really but back then it was something they wanted us to promote in the sales pitch.

I prefer to keep all the Tone controls out of the path .
Especially those Fishers. I had to bypass the balance control 6 months after acquiring the amp (CA-550) as it ended up being not as manly as it needed to be. Others came back for the same reason (both CA 550 and 350). All they seemed to do was out the same model back in so I just bypassed mine. Who needs a balance control where your seated between the speakers?
 

Pallas

Member
2004-08-23 5:59 am
Audyssey's DynamicEQ is a DSP-based loudness circuit that's not perfect for music (it's really designed for movie sound, where there are reference standards) but generally works well.

It first uses measurements to calibrate one's volume knob such that "0" is movie theater reference volume, and applies EQ (mostly a bass shelf, but a little bit of other stuff too) at lower volumes. Audyssey also arrived at the curves in the right manner, too, by doing experiments with sound engineers, seeing how they moved the sliders to get a subjectively "right" tonal balance at lower-than-reference volume, aggregating those data and creating curves based on those data. It adjusts the curve in real time (adding some time delay, but not an issue if one runs everything through the box w/ DynamicEQ in it).

At any rate, it work better for me than any other such thing that I've tried, and I've never felt a need to turn it off.
 

Pano

Administrator
Paid Member
2004-10-07 6:05 am
Panama
But what if the piece gets loud? What if there is a few seconds of silence before the bass part plays?
Interesting, but the loudness controls shouldn't be used that way. They are an overall adjustment, not meant for dynamic peaks.

A recording was mixed and mastered at a certain SPL. Tonal balance sounded "right" to the mastering engineer at that level. If you play back the recording at a lower level the subjective tonal balance will shift - even on the same system. That's what the loudness control should do, correct tonal balance when playing at low levels.

Of course there is no standard level for music mastering, so results will be mixed.
 

graham-r

Member
2008-11-26 8:13 pm
I also use my loudness switch, and am also proud of it !

I have 2 Armstrong amps, they both have a loudness switch but it seems to be different to most others I have come across. The bass is boosted but the volume is drastically cut back to allow for a finer adjustment from the vol control. In this mode it works well.

Graham