2 disadvantages of playing music loud in a high-end audio setup

Dries Van HooydonckListeningLeave a Comment

disadvantages of playing loud audiophile setup

Some audiophiles like to play very loud. They want to experience impact, or a sound level that matches a live concert.

Johan – a friend of mine – is such a person. He has got a very nice setup at home: JBL Jubilee speakers & a Bryston 14B3 amplifier. He’s one of the only “volume” freaks I know that can make a Bryston 4B clip when he goes all the way. Blasting his speakers…

Actually, this clipping happened literally: when Johan wanted to buy a new amplifier, a dealer came by his house to give a demonstration of the Bryston 4B. Johan was concerned about how this amp would react on his listening habits. But the dealer was convinced that the 4B wouldn’t clip.

Until Johan raised the volume. And oh yes, the 4B SST2 clipped. This dealer had not yet seen a client play this loud. That’s why Johan now has the highest series Bryston: the 14B3 power amplifier. A beast with more power reserves than any sane person would ever need.

Bryston 14B 3 power amplifier

Johan can’t live without his dose of “high volume” once in a while. Compare it to a short pump on the gas pedal, after which you continue to cruise smoothly. Or a quick fix, a shot of adrenaline. It gives him a kick. For Johan this is part of the audiophile experience.

Bob Dylan shares Johan’s opinion. A famous quote of the recent Nobel Price winner:

“Play it fucking loud!”

Disadvantage of playing loud

Even though this can add to the experience, I would like to share two reservations with you. Two concerns why you should be careful with high listening levels:

Room overload at high sound levels

Every room has a “breaking point”. A point where the standing waves take over, where the bass accumulation in the corners is too audible, or where other acoustic problems arise that keep you from an optimal musical representation.

Not the audiophile representation I’m used to. But of course, nice for the kick.

“Play it fucking loud!” like Bob Dylan.

Or like my buddy Johan.

Hearing impairment

Sometimes I go listen at Johan’s place. Other than a high-end audio setup for stereo listening, he’s also got a pretty amazing home cinema setup with a huge screen, and he’s a big fan of Joe Bonamassa.

There are worse things I could think of, than an afternoon of letting his speakers blast on the virtuoso guitar riffs of this blues legend.

However, I can’t stick through for more than 5 seconds of Johan’s volume.

My ears literally start to hurt. Not because I have “extremely” sensitive hearing. But I’m younger than Johan. So, my hearing has suffered a bit less than Johan’s.

Since his teenage years, Johan frequented his fair share of concerts. (His first concert was Todd Rundgren by the way).

So, except for the acoustic problems that every room will show, it’s also important to think about the hearing consequences if you play too loud.

Hearing damage occurs faster than you’d think. And then your audiophile representation is done for.

I know audiophiles that had to sell their beautiful, expensive high-end setup due to hearing damage, because they just couldn’t hear the differences anymore.

Of course, your hearing range isn’t the only factor that comes into play being an audiophile. I know audiophiles that have partial hearing loss, and can still enjoy their setup.

But it’s still important to think about the consequences playing loud can have on your hearing.

Fortunately, Johan realizes the risk of hearing damage. Playing “full on” for a small amount of time is enough for him to get his desired rush.

When he had his portion of “high volume”, he’s satisfied and can play his music at a normal listening volume again.


Playing loud on a high-end setup can give you a “kick”. A shot of adrenaline that some audiophiles really need. Completely understandable.

That’s why Johan made the conscious decision to get the JBL Jubilee 250 Ti with a Bryston 14B3 amplifier.

JBL Jubilee 250 TI

Blasting his speakers.

High SPL (sound pressure level)

Or like Bob Dylan says: play it fucking loud.

But you should think about the consequences too: acoustic problems that will get worse at higher sound levels, and that stand in the way of a perfect audiophile representation.

And maybe even more important: the risk of hearing damage when playing loud. Especially we audiophiles should care more for our hearing than the average person. Because we want to enjoy our high-end audio setup for a long time to come, right?

To finish: are you also an adrenaline junkie that likes to play loud? Or does it not interest you? I’m curious to read your comment. You can write it down below. 🙂

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