As a recording engineer, I was always told to mix at 83-85 dB SPL because that's the general SPL where the ear has the flattest response. Dr. Toole says that is somewhat of a myth. Who knows what level the mix or mastering engineers worked at when they made overall spectral balance decisions? Or what monitors they worked on...
When I listen to background music at lower SPLs, I use basic EQ in my Lexicon MC-10 to boost bass +3 dB. When I do serious listening, I adjust volume to what sounds best to me and generally don't use EQ. Depending on the style of music that varies. I have found in my work as a recording and live sound mixer, I seem to settle on around 96 dB SPL A weighting at the loudest peak passages. I don't like to listen at that level for long periods of time. If I'm mixing a live concert, I use custom fit hearing protection with Etymotic Research ER9 or ER15 attenuators after I get the mix well established.
When I did mastering work in a DAW, (Digital Audio Workstation), I would jump from song to song, find the peak level passages and adjust the level of each song so it was appropriate relative to the overall peak passage on the entire CD. That's macrodynamics. I would also ride gain throughout the song to adjust microdynamics. Of course there are a lot of dynamic moves made during a mix too, gain riding on individual channels and the master fader. And, compressors and limiters are used to control dynamics of individual instruments and the overall mix. I started recording/mixing/mastering in 1976, long before console automation. I did mixes that required several assistant engineers at the console to ride gain on multiple faders through the mix in real time. If someone blew their moves, we had to start over again. Fader automation was a game changer.
Bottom line is, there is no set level to listen. Turn it up to the level that sounds best to you on your system in your room. Use EQ if necessary. Rinse and repeat for each song, lol. Enjoy!
Edit: had more time to complete my thoughts. Point of this talk about level and dynamic range is, you should be able to put on a CD and listen through it from beginning to end without adjusting level once you set the it based on how loud you want to hear the loudest passage of the entire CD. Of course if you are streaming and going from one artist to another, all bets are off. Levels and spectral balance will be different, sometimes radically so thanks to the Circle of Confusion. Older material that was mastered pre-loudness wars will not be as "loud".
Last edited by Rex Anderson; 10-24-2019 at 10:43 AM.