Advisable maximum volume levels: for the sake of speakers

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by norliss, Feb 12, 2009.

  1. norliss

    norliss
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    Apologies if this is in the wrong forum: mods, by all means shift to the speakers forum if you think it more suitable there...

    After many, many years I'm soon to replace my trusty Mission speakers with a new set of XTZ 99.25s. I realise these are in a different class to my existing amplification (Onkyo 605) but I have ordered them with view to surviving an upgrade or two in the future.

    Anyhow, I wanted to try and get the definitive handle on what is the maximum (safe) volume level to prevent damaging speakers (and I suppose amps). I've heard it said that mid-way is this level, except that "50" on my Onkyo really isn't very loud at all. When watching films, I currently tend to listen at somewhere between 55-60 (depending on the film in question): and that is a good level but not really LOUD (the gf won't tolerate that!) as such.

    Given that from what I've read the XTZs are not the most sensitive beasts in the world - nor is the Onk 605 the most powerful AV amp - do I run the risk of damaging the new speakers before they are even given the chance to shine with better kit?! :eek:
     
  2. Andy98765

    Andy98765
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    A FAQ from the Mission site.

    Why is it necessary to match my speakers to my amplifier?
    When trying to match the output of your amplifier to the power handling capacity of particular loudspeakers, please try to match them as closely as possible. Remember that more damage can be caused to a pair of speakers using an under-powered amplifier than an over-powered one. Driving loudspeakers with an under-powered amplifier introduces elements of distortion resulting in clipping of the signal. This in turn can lead to damage of the electrical components within the speaker or even damage to the output transistors of your amplifier. If your amplifier is rated at 100w/c, consider speakers with a similar rating. By the same token, if you already have speakers that can operate with amplifiers rated between 25-100w/c, consider purchasing an amplifier towards the top end of the scale, namely 100w/c, rather than towards the lower end.

    Also note that the Onkyo along with many AV recievers quote something like 100watts per channel BUT that is not all channels driven. Only a few AV recievers quote all channels driven and they usually have a higher power comsumption than the total rated output. Cambridge Audio, Arcam and Nad are a few + the top flight models from the usual Japanese makers.
     
  3. BlueWizard

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    You've moved into very tricky territory here, because so many factors come into play.

    Now, I can only relate this to the old analog potentiometer volume controls, the ones that have definite stops at each end. In general half volume to 60% volume is about the limit.

    Some will say that an underpowered amp is more likely to damage a speaker than an overpower amp, to that I always respond -

    If is never overpowered or underpowered amps that damage speakers, it is always the person running the volume control.

    I've viewed the output signals on my amp with an oscilliscope, and even at half volume there is some clipping, just not a significant amount. Certainly at 60% there is more clipping, but you are still in the safe range, if you pause between albums or CD's.

    However, high power or low powered amp, if you go much above 60% you are moving into very dangerous territory. Keep in mind that power relative to volume is not linear. A slight change in perceived volume equal a DOUBLING of the average power. So, if you are up at 60% volume, you are probably only cruising along at 15 watts (remember that's average), one slight tweak upward, and ...boom.. 15 become 30, one more tweak and 30 becomes 60 watts, one more ever so slight tweak upward, and 60 watt become 120 watts, and likely your speakers become toast.

    Power ramps up extremely fast with slight changes in volume if you are on the high end of the dial.

    Unfortunately, it is difficult to give a similar standard for modern AV amps that have the 'infinite' volume controls (no end stops) that are measure in DB. There is also no certainty that the DB reading is calibrated and accurate.

    Also, to the last issue, the output levels from different devices are not necessarily the same. I'm measure the 50% to 60% standard by an analog volume control with my turntable as an input.

    I do notice that the signal level from my DVD player seems lower. That is, I have to turn the volume up higher.

    Also, the dynamic range of movies is very different than music. Music generally starts loud and stays loud. Whereas in a movie you might have a whisper one second and an explosion the next. When you have a good average volume for the average sound, that level might be too quite for a whisper and too loud for an explosion. So, the sound from movies is very complex.

    Don't know if that helps, but there it is.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  4. norliss

    norliss
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    Steve/Bluewizard,

    Thanks, that is helpful. As I thought, there's no hard & fast rules but it's good to hear that between 50-60 should be ok since I rarely go beyond this at the moment.

    I gather that the sensitivity rating of the XTZ speakers is slightly lower than my current Missions, so I will just have to hope I can get the same or similar sound levels with the same position on the volume control!
     
  5. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    You've got some pretty serious speakers, so you should be OK.

    But in general, the first rule is - apply common sense. The 50% rule won't hold up if you have 10 watt speakers on a 1,000 watt amp.

    Still it is not that uncommon for people to overrate their amps by 50% to 100% over the speaker power rating. For example, if you have 100watt speaker, you can put them on a 150watt or 200watt amp on the assumption that you are never going to use full power.

    And that works, AS LONG AS you apply common sense and a bit of restraint.

    In your case, you seem to have a handle on it, and don't sound like someone prone to ridiculous excess. However, you need to keep an eye on your friends and your kids. They have no monetary investment. What do they care how loud it is or whether the speakers blow?

    again, you seem to have a handle on it.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2009
  6. norliss

    norliss
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    Thanks again, Steve for taking the trouble to reply. :)
     

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