Estimating Headphone Volume

Discussion in 'Audiophiles: Headphones, Earphones, etc.' started by tinyman392, Dec 17, 2011.

  1. tinyman392

    tinyman392 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It was quite strange when a self-proclaimed audiophile on iFans (who will remain unnamed) basically said he was listening to his headphones an approximated 113.39 dB! Now he didn't know it was this high, but doing some number crunching, I figured it was. He also claimed that that is the same as 99.78 dB.. Now, he of course didn't know this number, but again, I calculated it out. Not only was he wrong here, he's way off as 99.78 dB is about 1/4 the total perceived volume compared to 113.39 dB. This article goes deeper to show you why you should pay attention to your listening levels, but also allow you to calculate the number as well by hand, or if you scroll down, I've included some code that will calculate it for you :). Please at least read the next two paragraphs, I find them to be extremely important and something I can't stress enough! If you don't want to read the rest, you don't have to (it shows us step by step how the process works and how to do it by hand).

    I don't know how many of you actually pay attention to this. However, a large volume output can really damage your hearing, even further, anything over ~75-85 dB can cause your ears to tune out low and high frequencies. This in turn can actually decrease the quality of your music (Inner Fidelity). Anything over 90 dB can damage your hearing if exposed too long.

    OK, are you still not convinced to throw away your loud listening ways. Well, let's go a bit further and take a look at hearing damage. I can't stress this enough as hearing damage is a lot easier to get than you think. There are two types, permanent and temporary. They are just as they sound. Normally, the numbers you are given are for permanent hearing damage (For example 8 hours at 90 dB will start permanent damage). However, temporary damage is a lot easier to get. JHAudio (a custom headphone manufacturer gives some nice numbers in their blog post):
    • Less than 85 dB is not dangerous.
    • 30 minutes @ 90 dB can begin to cause temporary hearing loss.
    • 30 seconds @ 120 dB can begin to cause temporary hearing loss. This is where pain begins.
    • Anything about that should be avoided.
    They have a full chart available in their blog post (https://jhaudioblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/hearing-101-how-loud-is-loud/#comment-27) to give you ideas of things in those ranges as well. Concerns are rated at 110 dB (bring ear plugs, your ears will thank you later) for example.

    Ideal listening levels should be around 60-80 dB (for maximum quality). I generally listen myself around 70 dB (calculated). So how exactly do we calculate this (estimated) listening level? Well it's simple, first we need some information though:
    • Maximum voltage output of your device (search google for this), the iPod Touch 4G puts out a maximum of 1.110 v (60 mW max or 30 mW per channel).
    • Headphone specs (specifically the impedance and the sensitivity ratings) - Find it on the box of your headphones, or online through the manufacturer's website (or even the reseller's site sometimes)
    Disclaimer: this guide will not get you exact numbers. It will merely give you a ballpark estimate of how loud you are actually listening. To get actual numbers, obtain a mic, dummy head and test your own headphones.

    To measure your headphone's volume level for a given volume output, have the following information on hand: sensitivity, resistance, volume you are playing at, max voltage output of your device. Then use the equation below that corresponds to your sensitivity units. If units aren't given, most headphones (over-ear and on-ear) are measured using dB/V while most IEMs use dB/mW. If specs say otherwise, use otherwise. If your headphones don't use either, post below and I'll generate an equation to calculate it for you.

    If your sensitivity is measured in dB/V​

    dB SPL = S + 60*(vol) + 4.6*(Vmax)^.5 - 64​

    vol = percent of volume as a decimal (Examples below)​
    3 clicks up = 3 / 16 = .1875​
    33% = .3333... (1/3)​
    vMax = max volume your source and do​
    iPod Touch (no amp) = 1.11​
    You can obtain this number with a voltmeter and an aux cable​
    Connect ports 1 and 3 while playing music with vol at full​
    S = Sensitivity of your headphones (measured in dB/V)​

    If your sensitivity is measured in dB/mW​

    dB SPL = S + 60*(vol) + 9.2(Vmax)^.5 - 1.3(R)^.5-46.2​

    vol = percent of volume as a decimal (Examples below)​
    3 clicks up = 3 / 16 = .1875​
    33% = .3333... (1/3)​
    vMax = max volume your source and do​
    iPod Touch (no amp) = 1.11​
    You can obtain this number with a voltmeter and an aux cable​
    Connect ports 1 and 3 while playing music with vol at full​
    R = Impedance of your headphones​
    S = Sensitivity of your headphones (measured in dB/mW)​

    This will give you a ballpark estimate of what the output will actually be.

    Sources used:
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013
    bgizzle likes this.
  2. JailbreakHelp

    JailbreakHelp Well-Known Member

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    Wow.
    Well, ummm
    How about Skullcandy Lowrider?
    How many decibels with that plugged into my iPod Touch 4G max sound?
  3. tinyman392

    tinyman392 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Can't find it since the sensitivity rating is not given by Skullcandy. Email support to get the number. Plug them into the program and find out :) iPod Voltage output is 1.11.

    Isn't it fun when companies leave out information?
  4. JailbreakHelp

    JailbreakHelp Well-Known Member

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    OK. It is just that, that algorithm is just way too confusing for me.
  5. C0C0

    C0C0 Well-Known Member

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    Quite scary. 95-100 dB for me...
  6. tinyman392

    tinyman392 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    That's not good :p Turn down that volume a bit if you like listening for extended periods of time.
  7. C0C0

    C0C0 Well-Known Member

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    I will. It will be hard in loud environments though. :p
    I had no idea my music was that loud. Thanks for making me realize. :)
  8. JailbreakHelp

    JailbreakHelp Well-Known Member

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    See now not being able to find out what the thingies are that i need for this algorithm, makes me scared that i listen too loud.
  9. tinyman392

    tinyman392 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yup, that is one of my missions as an audiophile. To not only help people enjoy music, but protect their hearing so they can continue to do so.

    General rule of thumb is that half way is around 90dB (if you're past this, you've got some trouble). One quarter is 65. 5/16 is around 70-75. 3/5 is around 75-80.

    I'm going to take a wild guess at your sensitivity and say it's around 100. Using that calculation, the max your iPod can drive that is about 112dB. Now, I can probably assume the sensitivity will be higher than 100, so take that number with a grain of salt.
  10. JailbreakHelp

    JailbreakHelp Well-Known Member

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    I dont listen with my iPod turned up all the way though, well only sometimes if i can't hear.

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