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Low Volume Listening?
#1
Hope this hasn’t been covered in depth before, but I am currently looking to do a speaker upgrade and hope to find a SAM-ready set of speakers that perform exceptionally well at low volumes.  I am currently running B&W 707s2 and run them at -30dB or lower quite often.  While I’d like the best of both worlds, my condo association hasn’t been happy with me recently, and my neighbor is convinced I’m using a sub. The Expert 140 Pro combo is pleasant, but I am open to suggestions.  Thanks!
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#2
In my 29 years of having B&W speakers, these guys wake up when pushed .. and once you reach that point there's no going back ... At low volume level, I haven't found 'em alive & kickin' ...
(in my case, upon bi-amping I thot it would help in low volume levels but it didn't. On the contrary, they want to be driven even harder now & pretty much loves it)
Roon Nucleus w/ LPSU & AQ Z3 + Roon Air & iPad  >  AQ Diamond ETH | CEC TL0X CD Transport + AQ Z3 + 3 x Orea Indigo > AQ Diamond AES/EBU 
2 X Devialet 440-PRO CI >  3 x AQ Wild  RCA-XLR | 12 x Orea Bronze, 4 x SR Atmosphere PC | B&W 802 D3 {Bi-Amped}  >  AQ Redwood - HF & AQ Oak - LF
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#3
(08-Feb-2019, 16:30)audio_engr Wrote: In my 29 years of having B&W speakers, these guys wake up when pushed .. and once you reach that point there's no going back ... At low volume level, I haven't found 'em alive & kickin' ...
(in my case, upon bi-amping I thot it would help in low volume levels but it didn't. On the contrary, they want to be driven even harder now & pretty much loves it)

Oh yes, they wake up!  Extraordinary what the Devialet makes them do.
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#4
You're dealing with 2 problems. One is your listening satisfaction at low levels, the other is sound transmission at bass frequencies to your neighbours' apartments. They're different problems.

Our ears are less sensitive at low frequencies and they become more insensitive as you lower the volume. To get satisfying results at low listening levels you need to raise the level of the bass relative to the mids. Bass frequencies are more easily transmitted to neighbouring apartments and raising the bass level increases the amount of bass transmitted to neighbouring apartments.

Pick a low listening level you like for the mids. In order to get satisfying sound at that level you need to raise the level of the bass frequencies. You can do this by getting a speaker with more extension so it has less rolloff in the bass, you can use SAM to increase your speaker's extension, you can boost the bass with tone controls, you can add a sub. All of them increase the level at bass frequencies and that increases the transmission to neighbouring apartments.

As audio–engr said, some speakers need a higher volume in order to wake up but getting a speaker which wakes up at a lower volume won't necessarily help. You need a certain level of bass at whatever listening level you choose if you're going to have a satisfying tonal balance. If that level of bass causes too much bass transmission to your neighbours, the only way to avoid complaints is to lower the volume which leaves you unsatisfied or reduce the amount of transmission.

There are a limited number of options for reducing bass transmission. If it is being transmitted via a contact path you can try isolating the speakers from the floor. You can try increasing the distance of the speakers from your neighbour so if they're placed against an adjoining wall you can try moving them to another wall. There's no guarantee that either or both of those will be effective enough to satisfy the neighbours but they're worth trying and they're the cheap options. The other option is soundproofing your apartment. That isn't acoustic treatment of your room. Soundproofing requires structural modifications to your walls, floor and ceiling. You probably can't do it if you're in rented accommodation and it's expensive if you can do it.

About the only other option I can think of to avoid neighbour complaints is to resort to headphone listening which not everyone likes. You may be able to come to an agreement to use headphones after a certain time at night when the bass transmission is most annoying to your neighbours and that may be a compromise you're prepared to live with but you may not be prepared to use headphones all the time if that is the only thing which will satisfy your neighbours. A lot depends on how sensitive to bass your neighbours are, and also on how argumentative they are which is a different thing.

Improving your satisfaction at low levels is one problem with one set of solutions. Keeping your neighbours happy is a different problem with different solutions. I can't think of a single solution which will solve both problems for you.

There is one other option but it can only be offered tongue in cheek: start listening to music with less bass content. Instead of piano listen to clavichord, instead of double bass listen to violins, instead of baritones listen to sopranos; avoid drum solos, organ music, and synth, techno, and most rock, especially heavy metal, forget brass bands with tubas and euphoniums,. In short, make a complete change in your musical tastes. Bass transmission is causing the problem with neighbour complaints so a change in your music taste will solve that. As I said, this option can only be offered tongue in cheek, it really is too painful for most of us to consider and those who listen to music without bass content will have no experience of the problem you're facing.
Roon Nucleus+, Devilalet Expert 140 Pro CI, Focal Sopra 2, PS Audio P12, WireWorld Starlight ethernet cables, Cisco SG110D-05 network switch, Kimber Select speaker cables, Shunyata Alpha NR and Delta EF power cables power cables, Grand Prix Audio Monaco rack, RealTRAPS acoustic treatment.

Brisbane, Qld, Australia
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#5
(08-Feb-2019, 16:13)awkaplan Wrote: Hope this hasn’t been covered in depth before, but I am currently looking to do a speaker upgrade and hope to find a SAM-ready set of speakers that perform exceptionally well at low volumes.  I am currently running B&W 707s2 and run them at -30dB or lower quite often.  While I’d like the best of both worlds, my condo association hasn’t been happy with me recently, and my neighbor is convinced I’m using a sub. The Expert 140 Pro combo is pleasant, but I am open to suggestions.  Thanks!

The Elac FS 407.2 performs superbly at low levels. I recently auditioned a pair and am considering replacing my Sonus Faber Olympica 2s with them.
Project Eperience X Pack with Ortofon Rondo Red MC, Oppo BDP 105D, 2 x Sonos Connect, QNAP HS251+ NAS with 2 X 6TB Western Digital Red, Mac 5K 32GB running Lifetime Roon, iPad Pro 12.9" for remote control.  Etalon Ethernet Isolator, Devialet 440 Pro CI, Sonus faber Olympica ll with Isoacoustics Gaia ll feet, Auralic Taurus Mkll headphone amp.Denon AH-D5000, Sennheiser HD600 and HD800 with Cardas cable,  Van Den Hul The First Ultimate and Crystal interconnects, Furutech power cables, GSP Audio Spatia speaker cable.
South Coast England
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#6
(09-Feb-2019, 12:25)Axel Wrote:
(08-Feb-2019, 16:13)awkaplan Wrote: Hope this hasn’t been covered in depth before, but I am currently looking to do a speaker upgrade and hope to find a SAM-ready set of speakers that perform exceptionally well at low volumes.  I am currently running B&W 707s2 and run them at -30dB or lower quite often.  While I’d like the best of both worlds, my condo association hasn’t been happy with me recently, and my neighbor is convinced I’m using a sub. The Expert 140 Pro combo is pleasant, but I am open to suggestions.  Thanks!

The Elac FS 407.2 performs superbly at low levels. I recently auditioned a pair and am considering replacing my Sonus Faber Olympica 2s with them.

Did you audition the bookshelf model as well?  You have me digging.  Hoping they’re SAMed!
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#7
@awkaplan
This subject was covered, with some vigorous debate and notable disagreements, years ago... maybe 2015? It was well before the Pro upgrade era. I'm sure you will find those threads, but they may not give you any solid answers. @David A has covered some of the same thoughts about how hearing tends to work at various volumes. Short of a low-volume contour / bass boost command, I think it is just the way things tend to sound, regardless of amplifier. That is, assuming no added bass bump from amp or speakers that is designed in for any particular product.
Damon
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Vancouver, Canada
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#8
As I said, awkaplan has 2 distinct problems, one with his sound quality at low listening levels and the other with bass filtering through to his neighbours and causing complaints.

If there were no problems with the neighbours the problem of solving low level listening enjoyment would be easy to solve, and low level listening might not even be required. Since there are problems with the neighbours over bass and since a large part of the solution to the listening quality problem is more bass which will make the problem with the neighbours worse if the sound transmission problems is ignored, I think the first thing awkaplan has to do is find ways of reducing bass transmission to the neighbour's apartment. The options as I see them are limited:

1- easy and low cost: speaker isolation and/or increasing the distance between the speakers and the neighbour's apartment. These are also not particularly effective ways of reducing sound transmission. They will help with minor problems but they may not help enough to satisfy the neighbours.

2- difficult and high cost: structural modification to the walls. floor and ceiling of awkaplan's apartment in order to block sound transmission as effectively as possible. This can be much more effective than the low cost options but the cost will be much much greater, it's probably not possible if he's living in rented accommodation, and if it's his own apartment then it's money that he's thrown away if he ever moves because he's unlikely to be able to recover the cost of the building modifications.

3- free, unpalatable, and unacceptable: only listening to music when the neighbours are out or removing bass content from the music listened to at low level. The problems related to our hearing sensitivity won't arise and there'll either be no neighbours to be bothered by the bass or no bass to transmit to the neighbours but most of us would never want to listen to music without bass and would never wish to go down either of these roads.

4- bypass the neighbour problem entirely, cost variable: headphones but not everyone likes headphone listening.

I am unaware of any other ways to solve the problem of the neighbour's complaints and I am unaware of any way of improving listening enjoyment while listening to speakers at low levels which does not involve boosting the bass levels and doing that will make the problem with the neighbours worse. If anyone has some other options to add I'd like to see them.
Roon Nucleus+, Devilalet Expert 140 Pro CI, Focal Sopra 2, PS Audio P12, WireWorld Starlight ethernet cables, Cisco SG110D-05 network switch, Kimber Select speaker cables, Shunyata Alpha NR and Delta EF power cables power cables, Grand Prix Audio Monaco rack, RealTRAPS acoustic treatment.

Brisbane, Qld, Australia
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#9
(09-Feb-2019, 13:52)awkaplan Wrote:
(09-Feb-2019, 12:25)Axel Wrote:
(08-Feb-2019, 16:13)awkaplan Wrote: Hope this hasn’t been covered in depth before, but I am currently looking to do a speaker upgrade and hope to find a SAM-ready set of speakers that perform exceptionally well at low volumes.  I am currently running B&W 707s2 and run them at -30dB or lower quite often.  While I’d like the best of both worlds, my condo association hasn’t been happy with me recently, and my neighbor is convinced I’m using a sub. The Expert 140 Pro combo is pleasant, but I am open to suggestions.  Thanks!

The Elac FS 407.2 performs superbly at low levels. I recently auditioned a pair and am considering replacing my Sonus Faber Olympica 2s with them.

Did you audition the bookshelf model as well?  You have me digging.  Hoping they’re SAMed!
No, I didn’t audition the standmount models as I want floorstanders. The FS 407 and 409 are SAMed, but the .2 versions aren’t. I used the 407 SAM profile when I auditioned the 407.2 and it seemed to work fine, but I usually turn SAM off when I’m listening.
Give the Elacs a try. I think you’ll like them.
Project Eperience X Pack with Ortofon Rondo Red MC, Oppo BDP 105D, 2 x Sonos Connect, QNAP HS251+ NAS with 2 X 6TB Western Digital Red, Mac 5K 32GB running Lifetime Roon, iPad Pro 12.9" for remote control.  Etalon Ethernet Isolator, Devialet 440 Pro CI, Sonus faber Olympica ll with Isoacoustics Gaia ll feet, Auralic Taurus Mkll headphone amp.Denon AH-D5000, Sennheiser HD600 and HD800 with Cardas cable,  Van Den Hul The First Ultimate and Crystal interconnects, Furutech power cables, GSP Audio Spatia speaker cable.
South Coast England
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#10
(10-Feb-2019, 02:52)Axel Wrote:
(09-Feb-2019, 13:52)awkaplan Wrote:
(09-Feb-2019, 12:25)Axel Wrote: The Elac FS 407.2 performs superbly at low levels. I recently auditioned a pair and am considering replacing my Sonus Faber Olympica 2s with them.

Did you audition the bookshelf model as well?  You have me digging.  Hoping they’re SAMed!
No, I didn’t audition the standmount models as I want floorstanders. The FS 407 and 409 are SAMed, but the .2 versions aren’t. I used the 407 SAM profile when I auditioned the 407.2 and it seemed to work fine, but I usually turn SAM off when I’m listening.
Give the Elacs a try. I think you’ll like them.
I’ll give them a shot.  After hearing what SAM does for my 707s, it’ll be tough to run a non-SAM bookshelf.  I have a feeling the current “OK” state of low-volume listening is due to SAM.  I’m going to try 3-6 sets of speaker cables to see if perhaps that is the extra nudge I need.
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