So... how should I set my equalizer levels to minimize hearing loss?
SETTING SAFE HEADPHONE VOLUME LEVELS
The Fletcher-Munson loudness curves (shown above) indicate that low-level listening may not be as satisfying because perception of loudness is not linear, but is dependent on frequency and volume. The curves are flattest when the SPL is at the threshold of pain. Tone controls can rebalance sound to have the same pleasing amplitude spectrum at lower listening levels. The most accurate loudness compensation would dynamically adjust to both frequency and volume. Such dynamic filters are not widely available to consumers. Still, a small amount of equalization (treble and bass boost) can restore naturalness to the sound of headphones, so that listening at safe levels is appealing (or at least, not unappealing).
The table in figure 1 lists the maximum safe exposure times at various noise levels, but headphones do not come with built-in SPL meters to help the listener determine whether the volume is too high. Also, audio professionals may need to set the gain of the headphone amplifier high to hear low-level details clearly, but then are overwhelmed when the music swells or explodes in crescendos. Therefore, methods for setting safe headphone volume levels depend on how the headphones are being used.
- I use my headphones in my room, where the background noise isn't really that high.
- I mostly listen to metal/rock and classical music.
- I use Vista's built-in Loudness Equalization (default parameters).
- I use Vista's built-in Bass Boost and Low Frequency Protection (80Hz, +6dB).
- I am going to be using Songbird to play my music.