Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

28 thoughts on “Listening Loud

  • November 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm
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    I have hearing loss and mild tinnitus from too many loud concerts in my younger days. I have used hearing protection at concerts for years now. I attended a local outdoor festival here in Pemberton, BC this summer and was astounded by the sound levels. I have never experienced anything this loud in 40+ years of concert going. Even with the hearing protection I was wearing it was loud. You could feel your pants moving from the bass waves! The majority of the young crowd seemed oblivious to the fact they were doing irreparable damage that weekend.

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    • November 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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      It’s a real challenge. I make my son wear hearing protection during his rehearsals and concerts. He’ll thanks me someday.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm
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    I could’ not agree more. If I am actively listening, I like 75-80 db. Once over 80 db., it becomes painful. My wife & I attended several performances in Vegas & found all but one enjoyable. If my wife did not have cotton batting to put in my ears, we would have left. I have read that volume increases emotional response. Apparently senior nomadic tribesmen in the desert have the hearing equivalence of a 20 year old North American. If you love music, why would you want to damage your hearing?

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    • November 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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      Very good question.

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    • November 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm
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      My wife and I went to a Rick Springfield concert in Las Vegas. It was so painfully loud that we walked (no ran) out after one number. The ushers were stuffing rolled up napkins in their ears. Oddly, a gaggle of young girls ran up to the stage. I assumed that they were all profoundly deaf and were just at the stage to read Rick’s lips.

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    • November 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm
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      Hi Barry, those are quite low SPL values for the onset of pain. Not sure what you have used to measure them, but I recently compared smartphone ‘sound level’ apps with a cheap SPL meter and found the apps provide consistently low readings, sometimes by 15 dB!

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      • November 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm
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        Hi Grant. I am using a $50.00 Radioshack meter, “Scoshe “. My I phone app ” Decibel me ” reads higher. I can take 80+ db for a little while, but it becomes unpleasant for any sustained time. Barry

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  • November 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm
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    What odds that it doesn’t sound nearly as loud to them as to you, Mark? If that’s their daily working environment….

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    • November 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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      I suppose it’s become their standard operating procedure.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm
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    I think it’s a worldwide trend. There’s a famous folk and world music festival at a little town called Port Fairy in my state. Fifteen years or so back, there was some basic amplification in each of the tent venues, but levels were low enough so that there was no bleed through from one tent to another and we got a real insight into what the performers actually sounded like. Since then, each year I have watched as the mixing desks got bigger, the amps got louder and the bottom end got way out of control, too loud and with no bass definition at all. The result is that bleed through from one venue to another has become intolerable (there are many solo performers trying to compete with amplified groups) and the whole thing in my mind is a disaster. The organisers don’t see anything wrong and many of the performers (at least outwardly) don’t seem to mind. I wonder whether the people in charge of the mixing desks are mixing for their damaged hearing – I guess if you’re going deaf then things don’t sound as loud. It’s a sad state of affairs that does no favours to live music at all.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm
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    Sorry to post twice in succession, but have you seen Barry Blesser’s article, “The Seductive (Yet Destructive) Appeal of Loud Music”? His conclusion is similar to Dibble’s, who he quotes as saying that popular music can only be appreciated at 96 dB or louder, for cognitive reasons.

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    • November 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm
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      That’ll be an interesting read…thanks.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm
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    I would recommend getting the inexpensive Etymotic earplugs. They reduce sound levels by about 20dB without altering the frequency response the way ordinary foam earplugs do.

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    • November 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm
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      I have some custom molded earplugs…I got them for myself and my son.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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    Great article Mark.
    Yes, there is a body of popular music that is most satisfying w/ peaks around 100-105db,(Rolling Stones, for example,) but system overload or room overload can occur if not careful, as well as ear damage. It kind of makes sense for the complete acoustic performance envelope to max out at the same time: Ears, speakers, amps, room.
    I’ve recently put together and finished a real nice near-field control room type system in a small room in my house; offed my big rig after decades. On material that needs it, my entire system including room will give a very clean 90 db, and in a 10×10 room that is properly treated, that is plenty big and loud w/ o strain. Like you, my everyday levels are less.
    We’ve talked about this before, and that’s why I made my remarks about “pro sound” a while back. These guys are freaking deaf! So excuse me, I don’t care how many hits they’ve had, their audio sensibilities are coarse to say the least, and my tale of hearing more info playing the record on a great hi-fi than playing the master at the studio begins to make total sense! Thanks Mark, Craig

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    • November 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm
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      I don’t throw every engineer and audio professional into the “listens too loud” category…plenty of reasonable people make records in studios with great systems at 85 dB.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm
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    I feel bad for them. Wish I could turn back the clock and undo the hearing damage I inflected on myself over the years.

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  • November 11, 2014 at 7:42 pm
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    I’m around a lot of people who listen at ridiculous levels- I mean you can hear their earbuds from ten feet away. I think companies involved in hearing aid and closed captioning technologies might be present good investment opportunities. People are deafening themselves.

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    • November 12, 2014 at 7:30 am
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      I see/hear this one during every run I do along the beach. But just how to we inform people about the damage that can be done?

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  • November 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm
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    Mark:

    Since many folks nowadays use headphones for listening to music at home, how can they measure the ‘loudness’ of these headphone levels?

    O

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    • November 12, 2014 at 7:31 am
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      It’s perfectly possible to measure the level reaching your ears even when using a set of headphones.

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  • November 12, 2014 at 5:15 am
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    Recently, an otrhophonist friend was saying how surprised she was at the amount of ear damage she was detecting in people in their 20s. In her experience many of these people will experience hearing loss in their 40s or 50s.
    We could only conclude that the environment today is not only louder but exacerbated by high volume levels used in the various ear bud devices.
    Too bad they are only experiencing high volume rather than quality while their hearing system is still intact.

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  • November 12, 2014 at 9:12 am
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    Maybe this helps explain why live concert sound is often too loud, that is, too loud to listen to comfortably for an extended period and too loud to distinguish instruments and voices clearly. Sometimes it’s the artists themselves that demand it. I don’t know if that’s the result of listening too loud in the studio or wanting to drown out less than stellar playing and voices. But from the typically hostile reaction of sound booth folks, this article makes me wonder if it’s a case of recording studio carried to live performance.

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  • November 16, 2014 at 7:48 pm
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    There’s some great comments above regarding hearing damage and I’m so glad that I took measures preventing cumulative hearingoss and damage when still in my teens. I attended a Deep Purple concert in possibly one of the worst venues in the world (Lakeland Florida Civic Center). It was the first time I’d been frightened by the threat of hearing loss and damage. My friends made fun of my funny looking “hearing aids”, after all we were all bullet proof when we were 17 years old! I’m so glad I spent that money way back when-i saw Aerosmith at the same place a few months later. It was too loud, but Aerosmith made up for it by delivering a horrible show-Mr Tyler may have been unable to do anything beyond scream at the time. I also remember buying a very clean amp and preamplifier (Philips I think) that I some needed to remind myself how loud it actually was. That combo drove my JBL L212 and my Acoustic Research towers beyond a purity I’d never experienced beforehand. By that time it seemed at least 75-% of my friends had already done enough damage to not even experience the performance asking for more treble and volume after just 3-4 years. I truly believe musicians & engineers suffer damage much sooner than many are willing to admit.

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    • November 17, 2014 at 7:36 am
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      You’re absolutely right. I walked into the studio after the previous night’s session and found the control room volume turned up to 120 dB SPL. Crazy.

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  • November 18, 2014 at 9:00 am
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    Let me guess how you got into the habit of checking the volume levels before turning your system on 🙂

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  • November 18, 2014 at 9:58 pm
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    On November 1, 2014 I attended the 5th Annual Gala presented by the 100 Black Men organization of South Bend, IN. This organization mentors at-risk youth. The earlier portion of the program was speakers and presentations, with background music by a live band that allow normal conversation during dinner. However, after the main program ended the band kicked it up and the “party” began. The sad part was at that point the audio/video group cranked the music up way too loud. My phone sound meter app register just over 95db, and I was at a table at least 60 feet from the stage. I wanted to go over and let one of the sponsors for the night know that they should come down at least 10db (to around 85db), to make this part of the evening more enjoyable. But, the wife was not in favor of this action on my part. With that I tolerated about 10 minutes more before leaving. It occurs to me that most people do not understand that such high levels extended periods of time are harmful. Perhaps it is already too late for most of them and they need that level to “hear” what is being played. My home system, because my room size, is calibrated to 75db and it is more than adequate for the source material that I play for movies. For music I listen at 50db. At both levels extended listening is neither too loud or fatiguing for my viewing and listening needs.

    Thanks for the article.

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