How loud is loud, What DB is actually loud?


I like I should say love old school rock and hip/hop rap and funk all kinds of music. I found out my dads listening level is around 75DB which i find to be completley unsatisfying.

I was looking up Quad esl's and everyone says witha 85DB rating they wont go loud, but how loud is loud, How loud is rocking out?
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How loud is loud? Try here:

http://www.abelard.org/hear/hear.php#how-loud
http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/2004-About-dB/

Another source of info.

Also, in simple terms, tbe 85 dB rating is generally measured at 1 meter from the speaker with a 1 watt input at some frequency. A speaker will certainly play louder than it's rating; however, a speaker with an 85 dB rating is someone less efficient than many speakers so it won't play as loud as a speaker with, for example, a 91 dB rating.
Ok I wrote that one pretty quick, I listen to mostly rock rap hip hop funk old school that needs some punch.

I am planning on using 2 subwoofers

I was looking at the quad esl's and people say they wont play loud but how loud is loud? Is more of a question of House party loud or just rocking out. I want to be able to play my music loud but i dont need to hit ear bleeding levels but I am also 26 and what good is your system if it doesnt knock at this time (remember 95% of you got into this because you liked rock) I got caught up in audiophile recordings until I realized I love music I love and theres no money in HI-Res or remastering what I listen too (People who listen to classical typically have money LOL)

So basicly, With a 200 watt amp high current aside (I know its a big point and If anyone can go really into depth it would be awesome) And inneficient speakers I should still be able to produce an awesome enough experience for a younger audiophile who still rocks out, watches movies, uses it for backround working music?

Also Im curious Mofi, I saw amplified rock music was 110-130DB but at the same point we all grew up wearing ear plugs at shows as you cant stand the pain otherwise, based on this at what DB do you get to the point where it sounds awesome but you dont blow your hearing or cause pain, Is this based on all humans or tweeter types, listening room reflections, genetic heritage (Im not racist and I dont mean to offend anyone, but is it possible that certain areas of people at some point had to develop a better sense of hearing in order to survive) or other factors unknown.

Wow alot of questions

Thanks a million, all of the help i have ever recieved from you all you have been amazingly helpful in my search to rebuild from the ground up and actually do it right this time as im knocking on wood.
A quad ESl would not be the speaker for what you are looking to do. For me 90-95 db is very loud and i dont normally listen that loud a din. Normally 80-84 db nominal with peaks at or near to 95 db is about the loudest i like to listen at home.

For you :

http://www.vmpsaudio.com/loudspeakers.htm

http://www.legacyaudio.com/

regards,
Can't really go wrong with a pair of Klipsch speakers, say around 96dB sensivity.

Frank
more to it then it's sensitivity :) Some of the best sounding speakers are in the 80-90db efficiency area

I think it depends on the person on what DB is loud. I prefer loud music.... & movies my brother doesn't like it anywhere close to as loud as I like it. Never put a SPL meter to my stereo to know how loud it is.... did years ago in my car audio days.... 135-140db is all I would do since it was a SQ setup
I agree with the Klipsch comment! Very good speakers for the money, and very efficient.....easy to push! I personally have spent much cash on my system over the years, and also love to rock out! That being said, when sitting in the listening chair, with the volume cranked up, and I mean helicopter in the room with you loud, it's still only 90 to 95db, in the listening chair.

I don't know how rock concerts come up with these big numbers, think it must be because they are pumping out pure distortion. At 90 to 95db in my listening room, you swear you could pound nails into the wall with the bass, incredible!

As for what type of speaker to buy, I don't think electrostatic or planar are the way to go for you! Both can be great speakers, but generally like lots of power to get the bass working well, which all starts to cost you money. For a reasonable amount you can get some nice Klipsch.......and get the volume bug out of your system!
I would think a Quad would NOT be an ideal speaker for you at all and your likely to regret it quicky.
If you like that sort of presentation Martin Logans are a better choice as they have that magic but dynamic woofers and will play louder but again when you consider the music you likely will favor they can be ruthless with the average at best majority of recordings your probably gonna listen to.
Klipsch is a good idea, KEF, BW, Legacy would all probably be better places to look, I also would say VMPS offers a good line to explore but I own them for the record.
As always take all this with a grain of salt and trust nobody as you just need to listen for yourself from either a store to maybe even a member around here who can give you some time in their seat for a trial.
Post where your at here and under clubs tab and see what may be close to you............might be a real game changer for you and ya might make a friend in the bargain.
I suspect you've already damaged your hearing. 135 dB is above the threshold of pain.
I have a friend that listens to his musics very loud at times. In high school he put in ear plugs in his car to "feel" bass and actually got a nose bleed out of the deal. When we shared an apartment he had the system in his room cranked up so loud that a lady from the next building (about a 30 foot air gap) came over to complain. I requested that she wait while I got him since he wouldn't believe the complaint if he didn't hear it from her. In any case, we used a dB meter once to check the listening volume because he wanted to see how it compared to OSHA recommendations for hearing damage. I don't think he even exceeded 95 dB (probably not the loudest he ever turned it up) on the meter. We were both surprised as we expected a higher number. Concert volume is stupid in my opinion.
Mceljo,

Correct , 95 db in a domestic environment is very, very loud, even on crescendos.

Viggen900 , agree , most high sensitivity speakers suffer from uneven and exaggerated bandwidth IMO and most balanced speakers tend to be in the high 80's 88-89 being very good.

I wouldn't let sensitivity be the criteria for looking...
Bullot ,

Like your setup ...........

regards,
I dont know who the nutter is who had 135db in the car, but I suspect the figure is wrong. More like 95db... Or he is deaf or dead.

I seem to remember the space shuttle taking off is 135db several miles away!

A quad will not get you rocking. Maybe a big sound lab could if you like ESLs. A big magnepan if you like that ESL sound will get you closer and will be cheaper. But you will need a lot of power to keep it controlled. ICE power will do it for reasonable money.
Real men (and real women for that matter) listen at no less than 120 db, for hours. It may seem loud at first, but don't worry, after a few months it won't, and, as a side benefit, neither will anything else. But on a serious note, if you want volume try either (a) horns - for more than one person and mid field or (b) large studio monitors and near field listening. The efficiency of the horns will do away with a need for a lot of power - try to find something with a horn loaded bass as well as the mid and high.
chadeffect, 135db in a car is pretty easy to do with subwoofers. i use to compete with my car about 9 years ago and only had 1 12" subwoofer and would score 136db any day. these competitions are bass only, and usually people use simple test tones to hit one frequency. there are vehicles now that score well over 170db in these competitions.
Right now on my Radio Shack meter at my chair, 50dB average "C" rated. Listening to Teleman Oboe concertos. Sound is wonderful, and my neighbors don't get bothered in the early A.M.
So I would say 50dB is the bottom end of real listening, any lower and it just gets to be background noise (my frig is pretty noisey... 30/35dB is a guess.
Anyway I listen up to the mid 70dB range, with peaks up to 82dB, and this is all quiet in apartment/not disturbe the other little old ladies (I am one of them now) next door.
So for the average old fart 80dB is loud.
Now when "I" was young, I could crank the stereo up too. I did not have a ratshack meter then, but would guess 90 to 95dB was the tops.
So 100dB+ would probably ALWAYS get the cops called.
in the 90s would if it was later in the evening, and the 80dB range in the early AM is cop /ticket territory.
For "Little old lady next door" listening, that lowers the level a LOT, thus max 85dB midday, 77dB evening, and NO dB after 11PM to about 7AM. The silence here in my 'over 55" apts is wonderful at night. (compared to the last place, with gunshots, hallway fights, arguing by drunken fools at 3AM etc.. the folks above coming home at 2Am and cranking up the stereo. a cheap boombox, bye the way. the place had gradually gone to Hell over the 17 years I lived there..) Now I can hear the mile away trains. (And I am only about a mile from my old place.)
This is my opinion.
Anything over high 80dB is gonna ruin your ears anyway.
AND consistent low level listening allows your ears to become accustomed to low level listening, and it then becomes as enjoyable, or even MORE enjoyable than listening at high volumes. (one also needs equipment that SOUNDS good at low volumes..)
85db at 1 watt at 1 meter 1 meter is far inside a car...
88db at 2 watts
91db at 4 watts
94db at 8 watts
97db at 16 watts
100db at 32 watts
103db at 64 watts
106db at 128 watts
109db at 256 watts and so on.
Imagine what it takes to get to 170db if you keep doubling your power to gain a measly 3db? You need to gain about 10db to double the perceived volume. Even with 102db speakers (which are rare), it takes more wattage than any amp I've seen to get 170db. I imagine that it sounds pretty crummy and distorted at those levels.
Low listening levels beget lower listening habits? Don't let my missus hear that! My life is hell already! It already feels like I listen to music rather like someone who is sitting next to a passenger on the tube who is using earphones!
180dB is instant distruction of hearing in humans.
The loudest car stereo (in a contest) measured at 185dB.
Some say 194dB is the loudest 'sound', and higher is a shockwave, and is not a sound at that point, (like an atomic bomb or big explosion, the shockwave can be seen moving away)
150dB for a short time will give permanent damage to human hearing.
Blue whales can whistle at 188dB. I guess underwater is different than in air. And i would NOT want to be right next to a Blue whale singing.
Then some claim to have produced louder sounds. Nasa claims 214dB. (but that may be a calculation based on some other measurement?)
Then various volcanoes have been heard exploding thousands of miles away...
Football stadiums with fans yelling: loudest 127dB.
Jets taking off 140dB or so...
European standards in the workplace are:
85dB employers must offer ear protection. at 90dB the employee MUST wear earplugs, AND the employer has to try to reduce noise levels.
In the USA those levels are 5dB higher for the rules to apply
75/85dB chamber music group in small venue
100dB is a chain saw or pnumatic drill.
110 dance club'
120 rock concert, thunderclap, (though a rock concert can reach 150dB peak)
130 jet takeoff, gunshot
120/137 Symphonic music peak (IN the orchestra, probably right next to the trombones and trumpets which by themselves can reach 120+dB)
So I hope this helps.
Niacin: you should try a good headphones setup. Then for when you want LOUD, you can use the phones.
I use headphones at night if I want to hear Rock..
And your wife will(almost certainly) have better hearing than you anyway.. it is a fact women have better hearing than men by a big margin, on average.
(Google it before you scorch me with flaming responses!)
I listen to music around 80db with peaks to 90db with a Radio Shack SPL meter. Obviously I can turn it up higher if really in the mood to rock, however the best part of a great music passage is the silence inbetween the riffs. The dynamic range and level of a recording has plenty to do with what level sounds good to the listener. Most of the rap is recordeed at the full range capable so all the music and lyrics are at the same volume level. This is just as bad a compressed music MP3 etc.
For me it is about the sound quality. The experience of the music. Volume takes second chair.
Add on: the 140dB jet taking off is a military, the 130dB is civilian.
And right now I am listening to some rock at average 62dB and really loving it.
Rocking out starts at 95 dB SPL IMHO and can go as high as 105 db SPL at the listening position. You need a system that is capable of producing these prodigious volumes cleanly with as low distortion as at 85 db SPL or else it will just sound awful rather than exhilarating.
What does 'big brother' say? Most towns have noise level ordinances. In the ordnance it will give what db's are considered objectionable,and which could get you a ticket. The most common use of these rules is to silence noisy air condition units. I would agree that 90db would be tops, with most listening being done at 75db to provide lack of strain. Hopefully you have found a good audiologist and have had your hearing levels checked. Only a good hearing test will tell you what actual levels you are 'hearing'. Oh, if you over 65 always get the wax removed. Medicare pays for two cleanings a year. You will be surprised how the latter provides better listening.
Rayray8, 01-08-11: 135db in a car is pretty easy to do with subwoofers. i use to compete with my car about 9 years ago and only had 1 12" subwoofer and would score 136db any day. these competitions are bass only, and usually people use simple test tones to hit one frequency. there are vehicles now that score well over 170db in these competitions.

Elevick, 01-08-11: Imagine what it takes to get to 170db if you keep doubling your power to gain a measly 3db? You need to gain about 10db to double the perceived volume. Even with 102db speakers (which are rare), it takes more wattage than any amp I've seen to get 170db. I imagine that it sounds pretty crummy and distorted at those levels.
If we optimistically assume 110 db for 1 watt, 170 db would require 1,000,000 watts. Doesn't sound too likely to me. Fortunately :-)

Regards,
-- Al
Al,

It can be done.

Where there is a will there is a way
What?

:-)

Best regards,
-- Al
Elizabeth - I have a good set of phones - I just prefer my listening via the speakers. Give me the airy soundstage any day. Phones are the absolute last resort for me.
Jet noise? I was at Rose Parade when the B-2 just idled over. You could hear it for another 30 seconds after it was gone. Close up, that thing's gotta be LOUD.

I also was at a landing and takeoff of a Concord. That was maybe the loudest thing I've ever heard. Ear covering loud, even.

But, bang for buck? A Harrier just 10 feet off the ground hovering there. Visit an airshow that has one.
I never sat it it at full volume.... this was back almost 20yrs ago that I was into car audio a lot. Adcom amps (which I still have), Denon CD player.... etc.. I wanted a Mcintosh amp but they were just so expensive..... out of my budget so I stuck with Adcom. I then tried Adcom at home.... their car stuff is or I guess was a lot better

It really isn't difficult to get 140+ in a car but yea, totally stupid to sit in it when hitting those numbers. I use to work at a home/car audio shop.

Those 170db systems I think use multiple 5-10K watt amps... with a wall of subs. Doesn't adding a 2nd driver add 3db if the power stays the same? Been so long I forget. But if 100w does 100db with a single 12 then that same 100w going into a pair of 12's would equal 103db? Dam it's been to long.........

With the proper amp you can make ineffecient amps play loud
Viggen900

If I remember right adding a second sub adds 6DB I believe

Just out of curiousity does anyone have experience with Focal Utopia Car speakers and subs, I am currently running original Focal Utopia 6.5 Component speakers with a zapco Z350-C2SL I believe or something close in model bridged running 350 watts to my midrange, A Diamond D7402 (400 Watt a channel Class AB) to my subwoofers, and I need a Tweeter Amp as I am currently using a Alpine Deck booster type thing. My main issue is space, I never got around to another amp as I ran out of money and had little space left, Something thats an old school classic cheater amp thats not that big. Thanks a million Toby
look on youtube and you will see plenty of cars hitting over 160db and 170db. you dont sit in the vehicle at these competitions! these cars use multiple alternators and batteries along with thousands of watts. plus they have bulletproof glass and heavily reinforced bracing in the vehicles. the tone bursts they play only last a few seconds, just to register on the meter.
When I remember, I am going to be taking out a sound meter at work and measuring the dB's. I have only done this once so far since getting the meter, at a rehearsal for a pops concert. In this particular case, we had an unusual set-up, and I was actually behind most of the loudest instruments, so my meter only registered a peak of 104.99 dB. I was a little surprised it wasn't higher, it was basically a big band type of set-up. I think in our normal set-up, the same concert would have registered higher levels at my chair, as the louder instruments are usually closer to me (I am a horn player). I had another opportunity at another pops show yesterday, but forgot all about it.
Doesn't adding a 2nd driver add 3db if the power stays the same? Been so long I forget. But if 100w does 100db with a single 12 then that same 100w going into a pair of 12's would equal 103db?
Driving two 100db/100W subs with two separate amplifiers, each providing 100W, would result in an spl of 103db, assuming that the subs are positioned such that their outputs are in-phase at the listening position.

Connecting two 100db/100W subs in parallel to a single amplifier, that would provide 100W into one sub, would also result in 103db, IF the amplifier is capable of providing the 200W that would be drawn by the halved impedance that the paralleled speakers would present to it. And assuming also that the amplifier has negligibly small output impedance (which is the case for most solid state amps, but not for most tube amps).

Connecting the two subs in series, btw, would not make sense as it would result in a reduction to 97db spl, with only 50W being drawn from the amplifier.

Rayray8 -- truly awesome. I'd imagine that one reason for keeping the tone bursts short is to prevent the voicecoils from melting!

Regards,
-- Al
double speaker sq area and then doubling of power would result in a 6 db gain ...
yea, I would think if you double the cone area & also double the power you would get a 6db gain vs a just increasing the power.

If each speaker is getting 50w I would think it would move more air then a single driver with 100w.

No clue with the focal stuff..... I have had really good luck with Image dynamics subs. They are excellent for SQ & do not require lots of power or a big heavy box. Great stuff........
If you replace one 8ohm speaker with two 16ohm speakers in parallel then area will double but power to each speaker will half and SPL will stay the same.

Two 8ohm speakers in parallel will receive total of 2x power resulting in 3dB increase in SPL. It is the same as two exactly same subs, that Al mentioned, driven by separate identical amplifiers also resulting in 3dB increase.

It seems logical to me since adding more transducers (area) of the same efficiency without increase in power cannot improve overall efficiency. SPL is increased by 6dB only if power is doubled to each of two speakers (quadrupled power from the amp)
">>01-07-11: Systembuilder
I was looking at the quad esl's and people say they wont play loud but how loud is loud? Is more of a question of House party loud or just rocking out?"<<

Drop $35 or whatever on a Radio Shack meter and you'll have your answer.
Weseixas & Viggen900, one 100db/100W speaker will put out a certain small number of acoustic watts, in response to the 100 electrical watts that are being fed into it.

A second 100db/100W speaker, also being driven with 100 electrical watts, will put out that same small number of acoustic watts.

If the two speakers are at identical distances from the listening position, the number of acoustic watts arriving at the listening position will be double what it would have been with one speaker. Twice the number of watts (acoustic or electrical) corresponds to a 3db increase.

You may be thinking of the fact that a larger driver will tend to be more efficient than a smaller driver, everything else being equal, producing more acoustic watts for a given number of electrical watts. However, that has no relevance to the question being considered.

See "Multiple Sources" near the bottom of this page:

https://ccrma.stanford.edu/CCRMA/Courses/152/SPL.html

Kijanki's post and my previous post are correct.

Regards,
-- Al
there are vehicles now that score well over 170db in these competitions

I had absolutely no idea this was a realm of human aspiration. I must not get out enough.

"Takes all kinds to make a world," my old man used to say. :)

John
Kijanki...

If you double the area and power remains the same , the increase is 3db or you half the distortion at the same db as one.

regards,
Al,

Play your system in mono, turn of one channel , guarantee you will have more than a 3db loss, even after factoring losses you will still have a 4.5-5 db min drop, the theoretical difference would be 6 db.

regards,

Al,

Tell the university guys there is such a thing as room gain ..

regards,
The 3 db gain is correct for free space ( anechoic) go ahead and measure your hi-fi system, with speakers l/r and with room gain it is more than 3 db, when you turn off one side from the listen position.

regards,
"Play your system in mono, turn of one channel , guarantee you will have more than a 3db loss"

Yes, but not because of the smaller radiating area but because you cut off half of the power.

yes, there is room gain, but since it applies to both speakers it disappears when you'll take the difference - the gain is still 3dB.

I must be missing something - I would thing that if one speaker is creating certain SPL at my sitting position (including room reverberation) second exactly same speaker will double this SPL. Doubling SPL means 3dB increase
Very good write up of all this sort of stuff at www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/musFAQ.html (FAQ in music acoustics). In particular, "Does adding two equal sounds give an increase of 3 or 6 dB? Why?" is explained very clearly.

Frank
Frank, Thanks, great link.
Interesting thread.
Mainly of the "who knew?" variety, re: SPLs in a car.

As to the substance of the OP's original question:

I'd propose that he might want to find subwoofer(s) that will produce single digit THD at 95 db (quasi)anechoic - the conditions used for most subwoofer tests - at 30-35 hz. That will allow a safety margin for music, particularly when room gain is considered. There aren't all that many single subs out there that will satisfy this condition - JL, SVS, Rythmik are a few that will do so. A pair (or more) of subs buys more headroom and a wider variety of choices. Once you've found a suitable subwoofer (or subwoofers), your choice of main speakers will be much broader.

If max clean SPL is the main goal, it is the unusual circumstance where you should probably choose a subwoofer first and work backwards to the rest of the system.

Just MHO.

Marty
A Martin Logan can rock out if you want panels. I hit 100db clean at 10 ft. Never tried them louder
01-09-11: Weseixas
The 3 db gain is correct for free space ( anechoic) go ahead and measure your hi-fi system, with speakers l/r and with room gain it is more than 3 db, when you turn off one side from the listen position.
Weseixas, room effects are a separate issue from the contention that I was disagreeing with. The contention I was disagreeing with was that the spl resulting from two paralleled speakers would increase 3db due to doubling of the power supplied by the amplifier, and ANOTHER 3db due to doubling of total cone radiating area.

My contention in response was that total radiated acoustic power would be doubled, resulting in a 3db increase in spl (neglecting any inequalities in the effects of the room on the two speakers). The Stanford paper I cited directly supports that, based on the assumption of "no interference." The paper Frank linked to takes interference effects into account (as distinguished from room reflection effects -- as you may realize they are two different things), and states that on average there will be a 3db increase, with a range between 0 and 6db depending on the interference effects at the exact listening position and frequencies.

Your post that I quoted above refers to a 3db increase as being correct apart from room effects, so I think that we are now essentially converged on that issue.

As far as room effects are concerned, I would certainly agree that inequalities of those effects on the sound produced by the two speakers could change the 3db figure, but not always in the direction of making it larger. Consider the situation where positioning is such that one speaker receives a bass boost due to room effects that is significantly different than the bass boost on the other speaker. Turning off the speaker that is receiving the smaller of the two boosts would reduce spl at the affected frequencies by less than 3db (as averaged over the listening space to account for interference effects), while turning off the other speaker would reduce it by more than 3db (as averaged over the listening space to account for interference effects).

Regards,
-- Al