Why Does Music Sound Better When It's Loud?

In this article, level refers to the level of loudness. The measurable intensity of a sound. Volume refers to perception of loudness. Our perception of a sounds intensity.

Have you ever wondered why music sounds better when it's loud? Well there's a nifty graph that explains this phenomenon. The graph I speak of is a display of equal loudness contours which are measurements of sound pressure, over the frequency spectrum, for which a listener percieves a constant loudness when presented with pure steady tones (wikipedia).


It implies that our perception of the frequency spectrum changes when listened to at different levels. In other words, if your listening to "If It Makes You Happy" by Sheryl Crown and you crank that shit, you will not percieve all the different frequencies as being turned up equally, despite the fact that all frequencies are boosted the same amount when the level goes up. So the frequency spectrum remains proportional as the level goes up. Your brain's perception of it does not. So you are actually hearing the song differently at different levels.

So why's it better loud? Humans hear the 2000 - 5000 Hz range the loudest relative to the rest of the spectrum at normal listening levels. This is known as midrange. Above this are the highs and below are the lows. Treble and bass. These ranges aren't percieved to be as loud as the midrange at normal levels. But when you listen at higher levels, your perceived volume of the highs and lows increases and the midrange is percieved a touch softer as a result. When this happens you perceive the music to be fuller, more well balanced, and probably closer to the way the artist and the engineers intended it to be. 

So this is no mystical sensation. And it's not just because it's louder. It's because when it's louder you actually here it differently, which in most cases, is better. 


Kyle JonesComment