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Low Volume Decibels

jw3571

Inspired
You see a lot of talk about low volume playing on the forum. I'm a basement player myself and have struggled to dial in my low volume patches. My first question is, what do you call low volume, what kind of db's are we talking? 75db's, or higher? I've read that exposure to 85db or more can cause hearing damage which I definitely don't want. Should I try to dial in between 75-80db? Do I need to buy a sound meter or is a iPhone app ok? The db's can really creep up without really knowing it.
 

addedc

Experienced
The damage from loud sound is both the dB and how long you are exposed to it at one time. I believe you can play at 85dB for hours without damage. Now if that's through headphones, it may be different.

The definitely of low volume for guitar players is probably the loudest level that doesn't get complaints from the neighbors. ;-)
 

Stratoblaster

Fractal Fanatic
If you're playing at a consistent level night after night I'd suggest just tweaking the AFX to where you like it (at that level) and not worry about what the level actually is.

When I have my AFX at home I have presets tuned for a comfortable listening level; one that doesn't fatigue me over extended playing sessions...around 70db -> 80db I suspect; not sure, I've never measured it.
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
The damage from loud sound is both the dB and how long you are exposed to it at one time. I believe you can play at 85dB for hours without damage. Now if that's through headphones, it may be different.

The definitely of low volume for guitar players is probably the loudest level that doesn't get complaints from the neighbors. ;-)

Typically the standard is 8 hours at 85db, inversely less time at higher intensity, such as 4 hrs at 90dB et al, BUT....that is kind of a one size fits most "rule". What research is finding is that there are some things like genetic susceptibility so what is safe for one person may not be safe for another.

Its like saying 30 minutes in the sun without protection is safe. If your of Mediterranean descent that is probably fine, but if your a fair skin northern European you might be burnt to a crisp by that time. In my line of work I've tested guys who did the same job, same noise exposure, same shifts, but different hearing loss, tinnitus etc. Research hasn't quite figured out markers, but take the "safe" rules with a grain of salt
 

Muad'zin

Fractal Fanatic
When I was still working as a sound engineer at concerts we tended to have to work for long times with noise levels up to 100db or more. I tried to use ear plugs wherever possible, but you just can't mix FOH using ear plugs or headphones. And we at least tried to rotate so nobody was doing all the bands all the time. But most places or festivals only have one FOH engineer per stage for the duration, so imagine the toll this takes on these guys. Mixing monitors was more forgiving of hearing protection, but even there communication with the bands often required you to take them out. There's a reason why many live sound engineers are suffering from damaged hearing. Even though they all seem to insist there's nothing wrong and their hearing is made from concrete. Surest tell if a sound engineer is suffering from damaged hearing is if there's too much treble in the mix. And I reckon I must suffer from some of it myself as I do like to add treble to my guitar tone as well. None of that too bright/harsh highs for me, give me more treble for clarity!
 

aziz

Power User
Phone db-meters dont work, but hobby level meters are not too expensive. I have a slight damage in my right ear, and it gets "irritated" with noise exposure. Last summer I spent weeks with tinnitus and hearing loss. Take care of your hearing!
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
I have to disagree. I did a research project when I was in grad school with my psychoacoustic professor and we looked at how accurate the phone meters are compared to some ANSI certified reference grade handheld devices. For the most part they were within about +/2 dB C weighted which is pretty good.

I use the Studio Six Digital SPL Meter app on my phone, which was $0.99 or maybe $1.99 and it works really well, very similar response to the meter, with A and C weighting, peak hold, the ability to attach external mics as well as calibrate the unit. It does the job, does it well, is always with me, and cost next to nothing.

All the more accuracy most individuals will ever need in terms of judging SPL for hearing conservation needs and a great tool to at least get a ballpark idea if your playing at 85, 95 or 115 dB
 

Hotplate

Power User
I have to disagree. I did a research project when I was in grad school with my psychoacoustic professor and we looked at how accurate the phone meters are compared to some ANSI certified reference grade handheld devices. For the most part they were within about +/2 dB C weighted which is pretty good...... All the more accuracy most individuals will ever need in terms of judging SPL for hearing conservation needs and a great tool to at least get a ballpark idea if your playing at 85, 95 or 115 dB
I agree- I use a phone app meter at home and have borrowed a high-end meter from an engineer friend. I got within 1 db difference.

To the OP.. I tend to play loud. I've played 30 years now, and always used vintage amps turned up, so I guess it's my comfort zone to have some volume when playing. If I can, I like to play up around 90 db, give or take, when the wife and kids are not home or outside, etc. But I take routine breaks and turn down if I'm noticing too much ringing, etc. I'm probably over-doing it, but I hate playing at too low a volume. I spend a lot of time playing acoustic instruments when I can't turn up and play- uke, nylon string and a couple of vintage acoustics that are my babies. My wife loves when I sit around the house and play these instruments.. not so much when I'm channeling Hendrix..
 
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