NC in the US of America

So some fellows and I were chatting in irc about various chiptune related things, and somebody said "imagine a song with noise as the lead" and so decided to link them to a couple of noise channel only lsdj tunes. The reaction to one was:

[00:51] <nick> okay I now hate that chip's noise generator wow that's grating
[00:52] <nick> what the hell is the chip actually called? a Z80?

And to the other

[00:58] <nick> better arrangement, sucky chip big_smile

But more to the point (with personal musical tastes aside):

[01:07] <nick> It's like the kinds of bad noise music that my ears tell me that it's very self destructive to continue to listen to it any longer and I should come back when the next set starts, before my ears get damaged

And this caught my attention, because last year when I was soaking myself in lsdj I noticed that after spending a large amount of time working on gameboy music (probably with the volume too high) my ears would become very sensitive to percussive noises such as my footsteps, snapping, clapping, finger tapping, utensils on dishes, doors closing and opening, my teeth tapping together. They didn't even have to be loud (like merely setting a mug down on a table) and it'd cause a light sharp pain in my ears.

Now I've never had this happen when working with any other type of music (and I'm sure it's not the only time I've had my music up too loud in my headphones), so I'm just curious as to what others think of this. Is long-term exposure to Gameboy music (or any other type of chipmusic that one could call abrasive) be more damaging to ones hearing than other lighter types of chipmusic? This is mostly about gameboy, especially when it relates to the noise channel (I've noticed many people complaining about the gameboy's noise generator vs. that of other chips like NES, YM, etc), but I put this in general discussion so you can "sound" off on any "chip". wink

Or maybe LSDJ users just favor more abrasive noise sounds in general, and it doesn't necessarily have to do with the chip itself.


Taichung, Taiwan

Anything loud enough will damage your hearing.

Last edited by katsumbhong (Aug 2, 2013 6:25 am)

México, DF.

Any constant sound over 120 dB will decrease your audition range and cause permanent damage to your ears.
For every 45 minutes at a 95 dB system you should take a 15 minutes break. Yeah, like when you play videogames.
Consider yourself blessed if you can still hear 16 kHz.

Taichung, Taiwan

Classical music at 120dB = Chipthrash at 120dB


hearing damage shouldn't be causing a pain in your ears. if you are more sensitive to loud noises that would suggest your hearing had actually improved.

Last edited by Fudgers (Aug 2, 2013 8:05 am)


It's not that simple, the human hearing is affected by duration, frequencies, sound pressure and bandwidth etc. Some sounds are actually more 'dangerous' to our hearing than others. Can't say I know the facts very well or at all, I just know it's not as simple as 'loud is loud'. smile

Actually, when I first started listening to chip music I did feel like it was hurting my ears more than what I was listening to before. It would seem reasonable that such was the case if you take into consideration that chip music usually consists of unfiltered raw waveforms that are quite sharp in nature. Maybe I'm wrong about this, would be interesting to know from someone who has the expertise!

Also; this comes to mind: … s-jericho/

It's an episode from Radiolab in which they discuss how you would actually tear down the walls of Jericho with shofars (a type of horn instrument).
They talk a lot about how you measure decibels and how to achieve loudness etc.

Last edited by _-_- (Aug 2, 2013 8:56 am)

NC in the US of America

They are not really very loud noises, and it only lasts temporarily. Maybe I shouldn't say "hearing damage" but "ear damage", because I'd think that anything that causes you pain is doing something harmful to your body. Or maybe it's like exercising where your muscles ache for awhile and then heal resulting in increased strength? yikes. "Gameboy soundchip improves hearing extra extra!" (but I doubt it, lol)

I never really measured the volume levels going into my ears, so I don't really know if it is simply the volume that is causing the sensitivity. I usually try to keep it at the lowest volume while still being able to hear everything but not always, especially with environmental noises. I was thinking maybe the specific frequencies were causing problems. The Gameboy probably has the "harshest" noise channel I've encountered in a classic game/vintage computer "soundchip". I wonder if the same effect occurs whether running lsdj on an emulator or gameboy with headphones (so far I've only done it with an emulator).

Now I am curious as to whether anyone else has used lsdj (or anything else) long and loudly enough to experience sensitivity to percussive sounds.

Edit: ah, I should have refreshed the page before posting :S

Last edited by SketchMan3 (Aug 2, 2013 9:00 am)


im not sure the timbral quality of the music is a good indicator of the damage it can cause to your ears. i would guess that merzbow fans are less likely to get hearing damage than drum n bass or trance fans.

maybe its worth considering that chip instruments have fairly limited dynamic range so it might be possible to make loud (relative to 0db) music using them which if you dont adjust your speakers accordingly could be painful

also note that headphones are somewhat more likely to cause hearing damage than speakers

Brunswick, GA USA

The only time I was afraid I may lose my hearing, I'd gone to see these indie bands play, the first made hellish feedback from an electric autoharp. I thought the PA sucked all night only to discover my hearing had muffled and didn't return to normal for three weeks. During that time, I experienced a hypersensitivity to low frequency transients, a symptom related to the strain that causes tinnitus.

Moral is, turn your shit down.

SketchMan3 wrote:

I'd think that anything that causes you pain is doing something harmful to your body.

Reductio ad absurdum? wink

I love the GameBoy's noise channel, but loud GameBoy music doesn't seem to make me wince when hearing it or other sounds. What volume percentage do you keep your MP3 player/iPod at? I rarely go above 75% these days.

chunter wrote:

Moral is, use ear plugs.


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Can we hear your noise channel songs already?

Manchester, UK

I'm not an expert on ears or sound, but something that comes to mind is that the simple waveforms you get from a game boy chip probably consist of much fewer harmonics than more complicated waveforms. That might be wrong right off the bat, but if it isn't, that means a song using a game boy chip playing at 120dB will have much fewer harmonics contributing to that volume compared with, I don't know let's go crazy, some Bach concerto, with complex harmonics all over the place. I would assume then, that each of the relatively few harmonics (specific frequencies) in the LSDJ track must be louder to achieve an overall equal volume to the concerto. Seems possible to me that the bits of your ear responsible for responding to those frequencies might take a nastier hit than any of them would while listening to the Bach song.

So in a nutshell, it seems very possible to me that loud game boy music could potentially be more harmful to your ears.

Gosford, Australia
Boddrick wrote:

I'm not an expert on ears or sound, but something that comes to mind is that the simple waveforms you get from a game boy chip probably consist of much fewer harmonics than more complicated waveforms.

actually a pulse wave has lots and lots of harmonics (although a 50% duty cycle won't consist of any even-order harmonics)

Manchester, UK
Victory Road wrote:

actually a pulse wave has lots and lots of harmonics (although a 50% duty cycle won't consist of any even-order harmonics)

Sure, but presumably an LSDJ track doesn't normally consist exclusively of pulsewaves. Even if it did, that's only, what, 4 tracks of pulsewaves ? (Can you tell I don't use LSDJ?) That's not exactly the harmonic content of a full orchestra.

Matthew Joseph Payne

I used to believe that pure square waves were bad for speakers (and possibly bad for ears since they work on similar physical principles) because the membrane is forced to attempt to follow the wave pattern - i.e. instantly extruded, instantly retracted, repeat repeat repeat. I'm not sure who told me that, but it's pretty thoroughly proven wrong. Both membranes are made for the job.