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back to article EU to shout at media player makers over noise levels

A European Commissioner is preparing to present manufacturers of portable media players (PMP) and music-capable handsets with a mandate, following concerns that mobile music fans could be damaging their hearing. Next week, Meglena Kuneva - European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs - will present details of an EU mandate to …

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Sooo......

how is this hearing loss problem any different to the one that was raised when we first had Walkmen approx 30 years ago...

What we need is something to stop chav(ette)s playing their crappy, tinny 'music' through the even crappier, tinnier and nastier speakers on their mobiles.

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Shame

I thought this might limit the noise from the idiots who want to share their taste in music with the world at inappropriate times.

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And in other news...

"that between five and 10 per cent of music player listeners risk permanent hearing loss if they listen to a PMP for over one hour per day each week – at a high volume - for at least five years."

Bears defecate in forests, Pope etc etc

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hmm

"The mandate’s specific details haven’t been disclosed yet, but it’s reasonable to assume that it will push for manufacturers of such devices to take greater steps to protect consumer hearing"

... that would be the volume control then

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Great....

So now all of us who are already half-deaf will just have to use inline amplifiers with our mp3 players.

-d

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FAIL

Yeah, like that'll work.

Watch some time soon for the sales of PMPs in Europe to tank as world + dog imports the version that'll go all the way up to 11 (rather than stopping at an EU-friendly 5) from FleaBay vendors in countries where the administration isn't quite so Stalinist*.

Shortly after that little cockup there'll be some legislation introduced making the use of a PMP which doesn't have an "EU approved" sticker an offence (think some years ago, modems and green triangles). Those living in countries with more liberal governments** will wonder WTF we're up to.

*E.g. China. (Oh the irony.)

**E.g. China. (Just as ironic the second time around.)

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Hang on a second...

I thought the EU already had legislation covering this, as there was a huge fuss at the time of the 3G iPod over the maximum volume level (in Europe it was considerably quieter than the rest of the world). Personally I don't have a problem with them trying to protect people's hearing, though I'd rather they opt for education and warnings than simply outright blocking volumes above a certain level, as there are always circumstances that can be affected unintentionally (e.g. you can have large fullset headphones that can draw a lot more power and thus play back music more quietly).

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They keep making recommendations...

...but nobody ever listens.

:-)

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Grenade

Headphone lemmings

My biggest concern about head phones is the amount of people that use them while they cross the road.

These are also the same person usually staring into their gadget which means they arn't looking either.

I'm getting very worried these days, having to do sudden stops to prevent running them over and they don't even notice...

Maybe music players need to add an extra function where the user get an electric shock when they reach a curb to remind them there are more important things, such as their life, rather than which track they are currently listening to.

As for deafness, well that's their own fault, maybe it will stop them wearing players in public so they might need to use their eyes a bit more when their hearing packs up.

Nah, who am I kidding...

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Volume control

Wasn't the volume control invented years ago?

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Megaphone

Whaaaat!!

Deep Purple, Dundee Caird Hall, 1974

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in-ear phones

That's the nice thing about in-ear and noise canceling phones. Since they stop all the outside noise from interfering with the music, you can keep the volume down and still hear all the quiet bits.

They do have the disadvantage that you can't hear a dam' thing so far as announcements go. So if you like listening to your stuff with your eyes closed, you run the risk of being the last person on the plane when everyone else has got out through the emergency exits and is legging it.

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Re: Hang on a second

@Jonas Taylor

I believe that there is legislation in certain countries (France, maybe?). It may be that if Apple had to make changes to the electronics (to prevent simply reflashing the restrictions away) they decided to make this the designated "European model" to minimise retooling at the factory and cope with that pesky "free trade" thingy we've got going on here.

All speculation -- I don't give two hoots about iAnything. I'm more concerned in the general nonsense of limiting sound output on a device that doesn't actually have sound output. As others have said -- the volume of sound from a set of headphones isn't just the result of the electrical output of the device feeding it, but also the efficiency of the driver, the distance between the ear drum and the driver, and whether the driver is working in an enclosed space or there's sound "leakage" around the earphones.

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Market Opportunity

This would just be a market opportunity for third party manufacturers to relases higher efficiency earbuds. Never mind that the audio quality might suffer - if your main aim in life is to deafen yourself with loud music, and the only thing that matters is the beat, then that's pretty well by definition incompatible with the finer nuances of perceiving wide dynamic range (effectively non-existent in most popular recaordings these days) and wide frequency perception. As these types will all have tinnitus by the time they hit their thirties, they are pretty well a lost cause anyway.

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If it's too loud, you're too old

So, I guess that does it for all us old Who and Slade fans, then.

Seriously (for just a moment)... I read recently that Pete Townshend's self-inflicted hearing damage was caused not by massive stage volume in concerts, but in the studio, through prolonged headphone use.

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Pardon?

I didn't quite catch that.

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@ david bates

david bates writes: "What we need is something to stop chav(ette)s playing their crappy, tinny 'music' through the even crappier, tinnier and nastier speakers on their mobiles..."

Interesting; you often hear people remarking that "what's old is new again". I'm old enough to remember when the vast majority of American "yoof" listened to their music through those tinny, crappy-assed Japanese transistor radio speakers.

This is a memory of mine that immediately jumps out whenever I find myself asking "who the hell listens to music through those goddamn' nasty little mobile phone speakers?"

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leave media player volume levels alone!

I really enjoy listening to music through my MP3 player.

But I don't use headphones, and the risk of hearing-loss only exists if I turn up the gain on my amplifiers and increase the volume on my controllers.

If the EU [and eventually other countries] are successful at imposing limiters on our music players, it will cause problems.

The most notable is the problem of providing inadequate volume levels to be able to hear the audio.

I need my MP3 player to be able to output at a high audio level (yes, at the expense of battery life). Anything less will not do.

Thankfully we have Rockbox - the open-source jukebox firmware for portable media players. I get the signal amplitude I need, without the BS of having to use the original firmware (which can sometimes cripple the amplitude).

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FAIL

And if I'm using...

noise isolating full ear headphones rather than Tesco's own in ear buds? Or will the ear pieces have to inform the PMP what they are and their sensitivity so the PMP can set the maximum playing level correctly.

And what about those who already have damaged hearing? I worked with military jets in the eraly 70s and now my hearing is fading. Do I have to suffer these same restrictions or can I get a doctors note and buy an unrestricted PMP. If so will it be illegal for me to sell it on when I buy the latest new & shiny gizmo?

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Coat

Dear EU Comissioners

Rather that spoliling things for people with brains, please google "loudness war" and "brick wall compression". Then, please, make it illegal to reduce a recording to a serieses of loud squelches.

Mine's the one with the FLAC filled A3 in the pocket with a pair of SuperFi 10s.

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Stop

More EU legislation...

...that will implemented here after the civil service oiks have added their own restrictions, removed the volume control after having wound it back to 1.

The rest of the EU will ignore this and enjoy life.

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Hm.

Sounds like an old idea. I believe Apple already pulled something similar over here (Netherlands) some years ago with their iPods. Firmwares were locked to only allow a certain volume level. Creative users however found out that there were re-flashing options to remove the lock. Was it not? I forget. oh well.

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Stop

Problem

There are several problems with limiting the volume output. One is that it really depends on the headphones/speakers being used. Some need to be driven harder than others to get a similar percieved volume level. The impedance of some headphones and speakers means you NEED more gain. Also sound quality suffers as a result of limiting volume. People who have external pocket amplifiers know this. It's not just to increase the volume to your ears but the entire dynamics are affected too.

Being a chronic tinnitus sufferer myself with hyperacusis (Google it) and some high frequency hearing loss I recommend a program of education and if people still ignore it then it's at their own risk.

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I'm all in favour of noise limits...

...but only in terms of the amount of noise that leaks from headphones.

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Well...

I couldn't give a toss if some twerp wants to deafen himself, that's his lookout, as long as he doesn't go to the NHS for treatment.

What would be much better would be minimum standards for headphones' sound leakage to the outside world* so that we don't have to listen too.

_____________________________________________________

* or rather, every train I've been on in the last 5 years.

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Megaphone

@Mike Fluggenock

I too am old enough to remember those Japanese transistor radios. But those were nothing compared to the infamous ghetto blaster - remember those? At least in those days the yoof played decent metal instead of the "yo-yo-yo muthafukka" rap crap they spew out these days, and the sound quality from a decent ghetto blaster destroyed both your tranny radios and today's mobile phones!

Back on topic, I've listened to MP3s on today's players and the volume ALREADY sucks compared to my 80s Walkman (still working!). Not only that, but I used the earbuds that came with the player and they were SHIT. So I plugged in my trusty old ones from the 80s (also still working!) and - at max volume it's HALF as loud as the Walkman playing the same track. And they want to reduce it even more? Admittedly the MP3 does sound clearer and has better dynamic range than the tape, but without the volume what's the point?

Oh, and I'm 43, been listening to music at high volumes for years, and there's nothing wrong with my hearing. Yes, I have a bit of tinnitus, but it's only audible in absolute silence.

Megaphone because that's the only thing that produces decent volume these days.

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