Decibel question

I have seen some posts about listening decibels. I have a Adcom 500 and Infinity Kappa 8's. At home I can only go up to 80 decibels before the warning lights go off. I was at a Uriah Heep show last night and turned on a decibel app on my phone. It didn't go above 90. I love the sound of my system especially after getting my Thorens TD160 turntable tuned up. Am I missing something not being able to listen to 100 plus? All of you on this site seem to be so much more into gear and equipment. I thought I had a handle on things. At 90 last night my ears were hurting and I couldn't talk to my friend next to me. I would really appreciate any of your expert opinions. Thanks again!!!
Somewhere, on another thread around here, someone pointed out that those db meters on a phone can be off by as much as 8db, if not more.
(they don't have the best mics for picking up sound) Chances are that you were subjected to something more than 100db, and at sustained levels. 

I don't go to rock concerts anymore because of that. Haven't for many a year. Once you get tinnitus, you'll understand, unless you already have it. There's nothing like having that monkey on your back.

All the best,
First, keep in mind that in many and perhaps most cases SPL meters do not respond fast enough to capture the full amplitude of a musical peak whose duration may be measured in milliseconds.

Second, recordings which have wide dynamic range, such as many well engineered minimally compressed classical symphonic recordings, may reach brief dynamic peaks of 100 to 105 db at the listening position, yet not seem uncomfortably loud because their average volume may only be in the 70s. While recordings which are dynamically compressed and/or don’t have much dynamic range to begin with, such as many and probably most pop and rock recordings, may very well sound excruciatingly loud at 90 db, since their average volume won’t be all that much different than their peak volume.

Third, keep in mind that as Atmasphere has pointed out in a number of threads here our hearing mechanisms tend to interpret even very small amounts of certain higher order harmonic distortion components as loudness cues. So small amounts of those distortion components, whether present in the recording or introduced by the playback equipment, can make a recording seem louder than it actually is.

-- Al

You can get a calibrated microphone for "normal" phones from Parts Express. The imm6 I think it is called. 

Second, how high you can turn up the volume is a matter of speaker efficiency, impedance and amplifier "size" or power output at that impedance. A speaker swap could make your ears bleed. :) 


Am I missing something not being able to listen to 100 plus?

Only you can answer that question. But as you've stated at one point your ears were hurting, regardless of whatever you may be missing, your first priority (IMO) becomes protecting your ears from permanent damage. There are plenty of ear plugs available if your desire is to attend concerts and you're finding the SPL to high. 

You may be interested in reading a related and recent thread here on Audiogon.
Am I missing something not being able to listen to 100 plus?
Hearing damage, maybe?

FWIW - I use a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter.
Set to C weighting and Slow response for a display of "average" dB levels at a given volume setting, 75 - 85 is typical at the listening position (around 10-12 feet from speakers). Loud but still comfortable for me is pushing the average to a more consistent 80-85 (same meter settings). At these levels, using Fast response for peaks, I see "typical" peak values of 90-95...and definitely still less than 100 dB.   What's very satisfactory for me might not be for you.  Can't speak to that (or whether your amp/speaker match is ideal).

Hope this gives you additional context.
The iPhone case may cover the microphone, lowering the actual SPL so I wouldn't trust that for accuracy.
All too often, the sound you hear at a rock concert can be heavily distorted, especially when it is loud.    In many instances, that distortion is deliberately induced, because people think it sounds "cool".    The distortion may arise from the acoustics of the space in question, it can by caused by the electric instruments being used, and it can also occur if the sound technicians at the concert overdrive their amplifiers. Distorted sound at 90db can be excruciating. 

By contrast, when you listen to a well-produced recording at home on a great stereo, the relative amount of distortion in the music you hear will be low.    In fact, if you don't over-drive your amplifiers, (and allowing for the acoustics of your room), the only distortion you should hear should be that from the program material to which you listen (CD/record/tape).    Under those circumstances, you should find that your stereo still sounds great even when I play it at high decibel levels.