Author Topic: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?  (Read 713 times)

Offline seeyou

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Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« on: January 06, 2018, 09:02:56 AM »
PC running Spotify / Tidal > NAD M51 (USB) > Audiolab 8200MB x 2 > KEF LS50

All running in a nearfield setup. Speakers are maybe 1.5m or so away from me, so volume is generally low. I've noticed for a while though, that I need to play music slightly above my preferred listening levels or there is a loss of micro detail in the music. Softer sounds generally - footsteps, a musician taking a breath, etc. The dynamics of the music also seem to suffer - it just doesn't seem as "full bodied" as I know I've heard it before.

I've learned to live with it, but recently I've been wondering - what causes this? Is it a matter of the LS50's lower sensitivity? Are the amps not efficient at lower volumes? Is it just a function of human hearing, where louder sounds better? I'm tending towards it being the equipment, since my hearing is pretty good and I'm pretty close to the speakers themselves. Is there a way to test?

Offline Rodney_gold

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2018, 09:25:15 AM »
Google fletcher munson curve ..its your hearing
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Offline seeyou

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2018, 09:57:12 AM »
Interesting - so it's just accepted that unless you're blasting the music, there will be some loss of detail?

Offline Bigboy529

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2018, 10:02:47 AM »
Yup Fletcher Munson. Most people should be able to hear a 30 Hz frequency at 120 dB SPL, same with say 18 KHz, difference comes in if you play that same frequencies at say 80 dB, then a lot less would be able to hear them.

Offline Rodney_gold

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2018, 10:49:36 AM »
Do yourself a favour....implement some sort of digital equalisation and you can fix this and fix a lot of other stuff beside
You could implement a curve that compensates .. used to be called a "loudness" button on old gear but a digital implementation is much more accurate and better than old analog tone type controls
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 10:52:24 AM by Rodney_gold »
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Offline AlleyCat

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2018, 11:20:21 AM »
In addition, there is some conventional wisdom that says an amplifier performs best at a certain volume and below that, there are losses. I would also look at this.
"Not everything meaningful is measurable, and not everything measurable is meaningful" - Floyd Toole

Offline seeyou

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2018, 11:30:27 AM »
Do yourself a favour....implement some sort of digital equalisation and you can fix this and fix a lot of other stuff beside
You could implement a curve that compensates .. used to be called a "loudness" button on old gear but a digital implementation is much more accurate and better than old analog tone type controls

What would you recommend?

Offline SeanS

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2018, 11:39:01 AM »
What would you recommend?

get younger :giggle:

Offline Rodney_gold

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2018, 11:42:15 AM »
Normally dsp is included in your music player software
What are you using?
Roon, jriver  and foobar all have parametric eq included
Roon = $110 a year
J river $59 once off
foobar = free
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Offline seeyou

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2018, 11:53:59 AM »
Hmm, I'm running Ubuntu, but using Spotify / Tidal not playing from a file library. Roon worked when I tested it, but I'm not fond of the interface and they don't support Spotify AFAIK. Also the price is pretty crazy, in my mind. I don't think Foobar supports Linux. JRiver seems to, but I'm not sure they have streaming service integration from what I can see. Will look into it more, thanks.

Offline chrisc

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2018, 12:18:36 PM »
The level should be as realistic as you imagine the original to be.  Obviously Michael Jackson is different from a string quartet.  If you have a string quartet on stage and you are sitting within the first five rows, the instruments are surprisingly loud

A solo singer with a band accompanying is a realistic test.  There are dozens of such recordings of this type of music

Offline naughty

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2018, 01:38:36 PM »
Normally dsp is included in your music player software
What are you using?
Roon, jriver  and foobar all have parametric eq included
Roon = $110 a year
J river $59 once off
foobar = free

Foobar has a graphic EQ and not a parametric though you can get parametric as a free third party add-on but it isnt the easiest thing to install or use .... nevertheless the normal graphic EQ that is provided with 20 bands of equalisation is good enough, and if it isnt there is also a 32 band 1/3rd octave graphic EQ available for download in the components section

Offline Drifter

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2018, 01:56:48 PM »
What quality files do you stream on Spotify and Tidal i.e. do you use the hi-res streaming service? Have you compared a streamed album over spotify/tidal to a hi-res (or at least red book cd quality) album played straight off the hard disk, if so how do they compare?

The 8200MB's are quite neutral and dry amps. From what I understand the NAD is also a neutral sounding DAC and the few times I have listened to the Kef's they also sounded quite neutral. You should therefore have a system that is quite detailed in nature and picking up details in recordings should not be an issue.

Remember that the sound engineering managing the recording can set the recording level for each recorded instrument, vocalist or sound that has its own microphone. Sometimes some sounds are recorded at a lower level than others.

Offline Rodney_gold

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2018, 02:08:32 PM »
The best option for you is to then implement DSP via hardware ,digital in and digital out for the least damage ..out to feed your dac via spdif

MiniDSP offer a unit thats suitable , the nanodigi 2x8b
https://www.minidsp.com/products/minidsp-in-a-box/nanodigi-2x8-b
$170
You will need one of their ministreamers to convert usb to spdif
https://www.minidsp.com/products/usb-audio-interface/ministreamer
$35
You run this plugin with it
https://www.minidsp.com/products/plugins/4x10-10x10-plug-ins/nanodigi-2x8-plug-in-detail
https://www.minidsp.com/images/documents/Product%20Brief-2x8%20nanoDIGI%20plug-in.pdf
$10

The only fly in the oinkment is the that plugin runs on either windows or mac .... not sure about ubuntu .. im a linux dufus
I have a 2x8, ministreamer and the plugin , you are welcome to try them
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Offline seeyou

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Re: Loss of detail at low volume - hardware or hearing?
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2018, 02:25:42 PM »
What quality files do you stream on Spotify and Tidal i.e. do you use the hi-res streaming service? Have you compared a streamed album over spotify/tidal to a hi-res (or at least red book cd quality) album played straight off the hard disk, if so how do they compare?

The 8200MB's are quite neutral and dry amps. From what I understand the NAD is also a neutral sounding DAC and the few times I have listened to the Kef's they also sounded quite neutral. You should therefore have a system that is quite detailed in nature and picking up details in recordings should not be an issue.

Remember that the sound engineering managing the recording can set the recording level for each recorded instrument, vocalist or sound that has its own microphone. Sometimes some sounds are recorded at a lower level than others.

I see what you're saying, but I've picked it up with most music, not just some tracks, and on both services on Spotify premium quality and Tidal Hifi. I haven't listened to red book as all of my music is from streaming services, as unorthodox as that may seem :) I have come across some similar posts online about the LS50's only really opening up at medium to high volume, though that's obviously subjective too. I'm going to try and drag the fronts of my HT setup (MA Bronze 5's) in here and do a comparison at the same volume levels, which should help eliminate that possibility.