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Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Here are some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources, that help one to understand the volume
levels of various sources and how they can affect our hearing.

Environmental Noise
Weakest sound heard

0dB

Whisper Quiet Library

30dB

Normal conversation (3-5')

60-70dB

Telephone dial tone

80dB

City Traffic (inside car)

85dB

Train whistle at 500', Truck Traffic

90dB

Subway train at 200'

95dB

Level at which sustained exposure may result in


hearing loss

90 - 95dB

Power mower at 3'

107dB

Snowmobile, Motorcycle

100dB

Power saw at 3'

110dB

Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert

115dB

Pain begins

125dB

Pneumatic riveter at 4'

125dB

Even short term exposure can cause permanent


damage - Loudest recommended
exposure WITHhearing protection

140dB

Jet engine at 100', Gun Blast

140dB

Death of hearing tissue

180dB

Loudest sound possible

194dB

OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure


Hours per day

Sound level

90dB

92dB

95dB

97dB

100dB

1.5

102dB

105dB

.5

110dB

.25 or less

115dB

Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level


Imperceptible Change

1dB

Barely Perceptible Change

3dB

Clearly Noticeable Change

5dB

About Twice as Loud

10dB

About Four Times as Loud

20dB

Sound Levels of Music


Normal piano practice

60 -70dB

Fortissimo Singer, 3'

70dB

Chamber music, small auditorium

75 - 85dB

Piano Fortissimo

84 - 103dB

Violin

82 - 92dB

Cello

85 -111dB

Oboe

95-112dB

Flute

92 -103dB

Piccolo

90 -106dB

Clarinet

85 - 114dB

French horn

90 - 106dB

Trombone

85 - 114dB

Tympani & bass drum

106dB

Walkman on 5/10

94dB

Symphonic music peak

120 - 137dB

Amplifier rock, 4-6'

120dB

Rock music peak

150dB

NOTES:

One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.

High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is
2,048-4,096 Hz.

Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.

Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may
have occurred.

Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.

The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 1330%.

Statistics for the Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart were taken from a study by Marshall Chasin , M.Sc.,
Aud(C), FAAA, Centre for Human Performance & Health, Ontario, Canada. There were some conflicting readings
and, in many cases, authors did not specify at what distance the readings were taken or what the musician was
actually playing. In general, when there were several readings, the higher one was chosen.

Conversion between sones and phons,


but more of a guess for the dBA values
sones

phons

dBA

sones

phons

dBA

0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1.0
1.1
1.2
1.3
1.4
1.5
1.6
1.7

17.9
22.8
26.2
29.0
31.4
33.5
35.3
37.0
38.6
40.0
41.4
42.6
43.8
44.9
45.9
46.9
47.7

20.5
21.5
22.5
23.5
24.4
25.3
26.3
27.2
28.2
29.2
30.2
31.1
32.0
33.0
33.5
33.9
34.4

1.8
1.9
2.0
2.1
2.2
2.3
2.4
2.5
2.6
2.7
2.8
2.9
3.0
3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4

48.5
49.3
50.0
50.7
51.4
52.0
52.6
53.2
53.8
54.3
54.9
55.4
55.9
56.3
56.8
57.2
57.7

34.8
35.3
35.8
36.4
37.0
37.5
38.0
38.4
38.8
39.3
39.8
40.2
40.6
41.1
41.5
42.0
42.5

*)http://www.google.com/search?
q=Always+wonder+what+a+manufacturer+Rane&filter=0

This frequency weighting with the A-curve is used for noise


measurements. It is close to the frequency response of the human
hearing for levels below 40 dB only. But this filter is also used for
higher levels, a purpose it was never intended for, and is not
suited to, and therefore gives lower test results than our ears
are feeling. The cut-off low frequencies are not measured.
A formula with a cautious try to convert sones to decibels:
dBA = 33.22 log (sones) + 28 with a possible accuracy of 2 dBA
or sones = 10^[(dBA 28) / 33.22]

Weighting filter after DIN EN 61672-1 2003-10 (DIN-IEC 651) - weighted


dBA and dBC
The phon is a unit of perceived loudness level, which is a subjective measure
of the strength (not intensity) of a sound. At a frequency of 1 kHz, 1 phon is
defined to be equal to 1 dB of sound pressure level above the nominal
threshold of hearing, the sound pressure level SPL of 20 Pa (micropascals) =
2105 pascal (Pa). Our ears as sensors cannot convert sound intensities and
powers, they can only use the sound pressure changes between 20 Hz and
20,000 Hz. At other frequencies, the phon departs from the decibel, but is
related to it by a frequency weighting curve (equal-loudness contour) that
reflects the frequency response of human hearing. The standard curve for
human hearing is the A-weighted curve (the equal-loudness contour for a
40 dB stimulus at 1 kHz), but others are in use.
sone
1
2
4
8
16
32
64
128
256
phon
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
110
120
The "unit" phon has been largely replaced by the dBA (A-weighted decibel),
though many old textbooks and instructors continue to use the phon.

Note: "Set the volume of the radio double as loud or half as loud." Who does
not know, how to do this, is a normal person. Psycho-acousticians are telling
us, that it has to be 10 dB level difference. Try to cool your hot coffee to the
point "half as hot" - and think it over. Your own feeling may be much different
to other persons.
An increase from 6 dB to 10 dB is perceived by most listeners as "double"
the volume. These sensations are highly subjective, meaning that different
people will hear this in different ways, and "twice as loud" is a much harder
thing to guess than something.
The human perception of loudness is perceived differently from each subject.
In other words it is ones own perception of sound and it is subjective of sound
pressure level SPL.

Sound Level Comparison Chart with


Factor
Table of sound level dependence and the change of the respective factor to
subjective
volume (loudness), objective sound pressure (voltage), and sound intensity
(acoustic power)

How many decibels (dB) level change is double, half, or four times as
loud?
How many dB to appear twice as loud (two times)? Here are all the different
factors.
Factor means "how many times" or "how much" ... Doubling of loudness.
Level
change
+40 dB
+30 dB
+20 dB
+10 dB
+6 dB
+3 dB
- - - - 0 dB - - - 3 dB
6 dB
10 dB
20 dB
30 dB
40 dB
Log. quantity

Volume
Loudness
16
8
4
2.0 = double
1.52 times
1.23 times
- - -1.0 - - - - - - 0.816 times
0.660 times
0.5 = half
0.25
0.125
0.0625
Psycho quantity

Voltage
Sound pressure
100
31.6
10
3.16 = 10
2.0 = double
1.414 times = 2
- - - - - 1.0 - - - - - - 0.707 times
0.5 = half
0.316
0.100
0.0316
0.0100
Field quantity

Acoustic Power
Sound Intensity
10000
1000
100
10
4.0
2.0 = double
- - - - - 1.0 - - - - - 0.5 = half
0.25
0.1
0.01
0.001
0.0001
Energy quantity

dB change

Loudness multipl.

Amplitude multiplier

Power multiplier

For a 10 dB increase of the sound level we require ten times more power from the
amplifier.
This increase of the sound level means for the sound pressure a lifting of the
factor 3.16.
Loudness and volume are highly subjective. That belongs to the domain of
psychoacoustics.
Is 10 dB or 6 dB sound level change for a doubling or halving of the loudness
(volume) correct?
About the connection between sound level and loudness, there are various theories. Far
spread is still the
theory of psycho-acoustic pioneer Stanley Smith Stevens, indicating that the doubling or
halving the
sensation of loudness corresponds to a level difference of 10 dB. Recent research by
Richard M. Warren,
on the other hand leads to a level difference of 6 dB. *) This means that a double sound
pressure
corresponds to a double loudness. The psychologist John G. Neuhoff found out that for
the rising level our
hearing is more sensitive than for the declining level. For the same sound level
difference the change of
loudness from quiet to loud is stronger than from loud to quiet.
It is suggested that the sone scale of loudness reflects the influence of known
experimental biases and
hence does not represent a fundamental relation between stimulus and sensation.
*) Richard M. Warren, "Elimination of Biases in Loudness Judgments for Tones"
It follows that the determination of the volume (loudness) which is double as loud
should not
be dogmatically defined. More realistic is the claim:

A doubling of the sensed volume (loudness) is equivalent


to a level change approximately between 6 dB and 10 dB,
the psycho-acousticians are telling us.