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How loud can a bass be without causing ear damage?

How to do this, that and the other. Share, learn, teach. How did X do that? How can I sound like Y?

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[ZynAddSubFx]Johannes
KVRist
 
36 posts since 9 Nov, 2012

Postby [ZynAddSubFx]Johannes; Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:20 am How loud can a bass be without causing ear damage?

Heyas,

I try making electronic music, and I want to put bass into it. Let's not talk about distortion/RMS (root mean square). So assume that all waves played are sine waves.

Basically, my idea was: Lower frequencies are (at same volume) not more ear damaging than mid frequencies. So I made my bass approximately as loud as the mids. However, this does not really sound loud enough, the bass is allmost going under. I need to put the volume up (or distort...).

But here comes the issue: Is it okay (in sense of ear damaging) to give my bass more db than the mids? Also, how loud may a sub bass be?

Many thanks for answers :)

Kind regards,
Johannes
lfm
KVRAF
 
2816 posts since 22 Jan, 2005, from Sweden

Postby lfm; Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:55 am

Check out the Munson curves for ear sensitivity - and you see why you need to raise bass level.

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/hearing.html

And this also depends on the air pressure - high level means more equal sensitivity for ear over the full spectrum.

Air pressure on clubs etc are usually measured as dB-A - where low end is filtered a bit to reflect how ear works.
[ZynAddSubFx]Johannes
KVRist
 
36 posts since 9 Nov, 2012

Postby [ZynAddSubFx]Johannes; Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:26 am

lfm wrote:Check out the Munson curves for ear sensitivity - and you see why you need to raise bass level.


Thanks, I looked up the curves. They say how loud a sound must be at a given frequency to be heard. But "to be heard" is not the same as "to risk ear damage", is it? I mean, if I can hear a bass a 40 Hz as loud as a wave at 1kHz, is this really safe?
egbert
KVRAF
 
3518 posts since 20 Oct, 2001, from my bolthole in the south pacific

Postby egbert; Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:46 am

[ZynAddSubFx]Johannes wrote:
lfm wrote:Check out the Munson curves for ear sensitivity - and you see why you need to raise bass level.


Thanks, I looked up the curves. They say how loud a sound must be at a given frequency to be heard. But "to be heard" is not the same as "to risk ear damage", is it? I mean, if I can hear a bass a 40 Hz as loud as a wave at 1kHz, is this really safe?

The overall level (in dB) and the duration of exposure is what you want to consider as far as ear damage goes. Balance the frequencies by ear and don't let the overall level damage your hearing.

Exposure to SPLs of over 85 dB in the long term will affect your hearing adversely. 100 dB plus is progressively deafening you whatever the source - egs riding a motorcycle at speed (helmet wind shear noise) driving at speed with car windows open, industrial noise, loud music gigs, practicing or performing in front of cranked guitar amps, playing or rehearsing in close proximity to drumkits without ear protection and especially headphone use at high SPLs.
Harry_HH
KVRian
 
882 posts since 4 Aug, 2006, from Helsinki

Postby Harry_HH; Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:04 am

lfm wrote:Check out the Munson curves for ear sensitivity - and you see why you need to raise bass level.

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/hearing.html

And this also depends on the air pressure - high level means more equal sensitivity for ear over the full spectrum.

Air pressure on clubs etc are usually measured as dB-A - where low end is filtered a bit to reflect how ear works.



The Fletcher-Munson curve, i.e. the function how the human ear senses different frequencies and the question concerning the sound loudness - ear damages are two different things. Although the db-treshold for low frequencies is higher, you can get damages in the same db-level in different frequencies.
As egbert writes in this thread, the ear damages depend both on the loudness and the exposure time. E.g. constant relative low industrial "hum" can hurt you during the long period of time, as well as just few seconds exposure near a very loud db noise peak.
[ZynAddSubFx]Johannes
KVRist
 
36 posts since 9 Nov, 2012

Postby [ZynAddSubFx]Johannes; Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:24 am

Thanks again for the answers.

egbert wrote:The overall level (in dB) and the duration of exposure is what you want to consider as far as ear damage goes. Balance the frequencies by ear and don't let the overall level damage your hearing.


If I get you right, this means I should watch that when the bass comes in, the overall db should not increase too much. This would mean that kickin in with a sub bass that is way louder than the rest is definitely not good?

As an example: This track here (https://soundcloud.com/50carrot-dubstep/50-carrot-cupidit) seems to have a very loud sub bass. Should I avoid this?
lfm
KVRAF
 
2816 posts since 22 Jan, 2005, from Sweden

Postby lfm; Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:45 am

Harry_HH wrote:
lfm wrote:Check out the Munson curves for ear sensitivity - and you see why you need to raise bass level.

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/hearing.html

And this also depends on the air pressure - high level means more equal sensitivity for ear over the full spectrum.

Air pressure on clubs etc are usually measured as dB-A - where low end is filtered a bit to reflect how ear works.



The Fletcher-Munson curve, i.e. the function how the human ear senses different frequencies and the question concerning the sound loudness - ear damages are two different things. Although the db-treshold for low frequencies is higher, you can get damages in the same db-level in different frequencies.
As egbert writes in this thread, the ear damages depend both on the loudness and the exposure time. E.g. constant relative low industrial "hum" can hurt you during the long period of time, as well as just few seconds exposure near a very loud db noise peak.


Just look at the 85dB level in Munson - that I think is the usuall accepted level for long term listening. Exployees don't have to work in a club where there is higher average level than that etc.

And the curve used for messuring is dBA which is somehow corrected for ear sensitivity. dBA allow for a little more bass.

So it's related as far as I can see.
Metanol
KVRist
 
260 posts since 24 Sep, 2003, from Finland

Postby Metanol; Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:17 am

I dont see any reason for you to worry about ear damages caused by music you produce. If it sounds good to you, ok.
It is responsibility of people who play your music in clubs, open air concerts, etc to see that loudness is not too much.
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cron
KVRAF
 
2141 posts since 27 Dec, 2002, from London

Postby cron; Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:18 am

This isn't something you should be worrying about. You can't control how loud people/clubs play your track once it's out there. It's the listeners responsibility to protect his or her hearing, not yours. Just mix your track so it sounds good.

For what it's worth, I can think of plenty of tracks sidechained to allow the bass to slam in at full scale.
[ZynAddSubFx]Johannes
KVRist
 
36 posts since 9 Nov, 2012

Postby [ZynAddSubFx]Johannes; Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:35 am

Thanks again.

I just think that the 85 dB limit can easily be broken. Let's say you listen to a song with 60 dB, but the song has a sub bass with 85 dB. Maybe there's a lot of disturbtion in the bass, so we might end up at 95 "dB". And we don't even notice it.

This would be clearly too loud imo... Can no one agree? :o
ToonboyDigital
KVRer
 
11 posts since 22 Jan, 2013, from Exeter, Devon

Postby ToonboyDigital; Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:08 am

The sub can be as loud as you want this will not hurt any1??? The high end and certain frequency's higher up can on the other hand so if your playing stuff you've written be sure to cross reference with other professionally mastered tracks before you play it.! Regardless of who is playing it.! It is your responsibility to make sure the tracks will not hurt any one in a club if your going to give the tracks out to be played.! Despite whats been said in this thread so far I couldn't disagree more.!

Use spectrum analyses to make sure the levels are correct as that part needs to be tailored for club playing not for home or car playback.



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Last edited by ToonboyDigital on Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
Toonboy Digital is a music producer from the southwest of England. Starting his music career back in 2007 he is 6 years on and is producing and playing his exclusively diverse and innovative sound of electronic music.
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Sendy
KVRAF
 
4418 posts since 20 Jul, 2010

Postby Sendy; Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:12 am

I haven't been to that many venues especially recently, but I always found it was overbearing high-mid and treble that is problematic, not to mention painful!

I always assumed there was some kind of multiband limiting going on at large venues to ensure an anomalous track doesn't cause everyone's ears to bleed.
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ToonboyDigital
KVRer
 
11 posts since 22 Jan, 2013, from Exeter, Devon

Postby ToonboyDigital; Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:23 am

Well could be either a bad sound system or a bad mix? Like I said cross reference with another track in that genre! You can be sure that a professional track will sound good so mimic the freq'S using spectrum analyzer's....
Toonboy Digital is a music producer from the southwest of England. Starting his music career back in 2007 he is 6 years on and is producing and playing his exclusively diverse and innovative sound of electronic music.
cron
KVRAF
 
2141 posts since 27 Dec, 2002, from London

Postby cron; Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:51 pm

Much more abrasive music is regularly played at concerts/clubs and the issues are just the same as in any other venue.

Club mixers have EQs on board, so the DJ will EQ it any way he or she likes, regardless of how you balance the frequencies. A lot of DJs will be also pushing everything into the red so that everything is clipping.

People who regularly go clubbing without ear protection will eventually suffer some degree of hearing loss, regardless of how you make your track.
Last edited by cron on Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
BertKoor
KVRAF
 
8303 posts since 8 Mar, 2005, from Utrecht, Holland

Postby BertKoor; Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:29 pm

Some background info you obviously need:

White noise contains all frequencies at the same level. But you will perceive it as having lots of high content. Pink noise is different, for each octave the level decreases by some decibels. This is perceived as an even distribution. Regardless of the Fletcher-Muson curve, this also works in the region where that curve is pretty straight.

So lesson one is that you need higher levels for bass frequencies to make them being perceived at simular levels as midrange or high frequencies. Looking at a properly produced track in a spectrum analyser, it will resemble the pattern of pink noise: high level at the low freq end, lower level at the high freq end.

And because most music tracks have this simular curve, the question you asked is moot. Mix using your ears, never "by numbers".

But the bass track you want, is it only a pure sine? Surely not. If it contains some higher harmonics content, that will help your ear with identifiying it's frequency, make it "present" on lower levels. It is due to harmonics that you can identify sub-bass frequencies of e.g. 45 Hz on e.g. laptop speakers that can not reproduce anything under 200 Hz! You can start with a sine and add a bit of distortion, or start with a complex waveform (saw, square, triangle) and filter off the highs.

So lesson two is that your bass track is not just the freqs below 100Hz.

Now for the Fletcher-Muson curve: it spots the frequency range where your hearing is most sensitive. Coincidentally the midrange is also the range where the highest risk is of getting hearing damage. You can play 10 Hz notes or 30kHz notes at insane levels without risking your hearing, although I discourage you (for several reasons) to try it out.

So lesson three is that it's not the bass that damages hearing, but more likely the midrange.

Now the playback level also has influence. If you play back a track at very soft levels, it will reveal weather tonal balance is still in place. You should hear all the (important) elements, if one is too loud it will stick out when playing soft but go less noticed when played loud. So when producing it's important to use sane playback levels. Not only for your own hearing. A track that sounds good on low volume will still sound good when played loud. But the reverse is not always true. The loudness distorts your perception of it.

So lesson four is to produce at a sane level. 85dB SPL is adviced. If you can hear the hiss of your headphone amp, then it certainly is set too loud.
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