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SPL Meter

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  • SPL Meter

    So...I finally picked up an SPL Meter. How the heck do I use this thing?

    Okay, I have a general idea. From what I can glean from the interweb the settings I want to use are C, Slow, High. Some pointers would be great though.

    I got it because of our annual youth camp. In the past the sound man thinks that the louder we can get it the better. I'd rather not send these kids home with hearing damage so I picked one up. From what I can tell pain begins at 107dB on some frequencies. A rock concert is usually 120-130dB and hearing loss can start at 130. I'm thinking our target will be 95-105.

    Just goofing around with it I was able to get my PC speakers to 103dB, my electric guitar to 108dB (POD X3 Live into a 12" tube amp set on 2 hehe) and my truck stereo to 98dB. Aren't new toys fun? I think I'm just rambling now. Any help would be appreciated!!

  • #2
    You will get a ton of differing opinions on this b/c there are multiple ways to measure and multiple standards. We typically use A Slow. All the current gov't. standards are set based on A Slow readings, even though C is more accurate for loud music. Music in the 90s on A slow is safe for extended periods of exposure without causing permanent hearing damage or even typically any ringing in the ears.
    Travis Paulding,
    Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


    • #3
      I also use A, slow for measuring SPL at church. We typically run around 95 db which is fairly loud. I can mix all morning at that level without any issues.

      We've run a few services at 100 db. By the third service, I was experiencing some ear fatigue and was losing the mid-high's.

      We used to use C weighting and would run in the 100-104 range comfortably.


      • #4

        We run about 94 dB A-slow in a typical service. A lot of the feeling of the sound can depend on acoustics, too. You might also want to check out this thread by Jan Owen on dB Levels.



        • #5
          I know everybody is going to throw out what they run their services at, so I will refrain from that, but I would like to add one thing. Remember that SPL stands for Sound Pressure Level. Or maybe more simply put, how much sound pressure it takes to fill up a certain space. SPL does not necessarily mean 'volume', it means the ratio of sound-per-square-whatever.

          Think if this: If you were to put 2 lbs. of single-point pressure onto the middle of a pencil, it would surely snap. If you put those same 2 lbs. of pressure on a 2"x4", nothing would happen. It's all relative. I agree with Travis, A-Weighting is pretty much the standard, although I used fast. As far as where you "should" run it, it's all about your space. Your exposure to various levels of dB should directly be related to the amount of time listening. For Example, OSHA recommends the following:

          90 dB SPL 8 hours
          95 dB SPL 4 hours
          100 dB SPL 2 hours
          105 dB SPL 1 hour
          110 dB SPL 30 minutes
          115 dB SPL 15 minutes.

          As far as what sounds good, that's up to you, your room, your acoustics, your crowd demographic, and quite possibly the most important factor....the quality of the mix.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Adam Ogden View Post
            SPL does not necessarily mean 'volume', it means the ratio of sound-per-square-whatever.
            I would modify your statement a bit and say SPL does not necessarily have anything to do with power levels. It may require a very high level of power to get an SPL in a large venue that would take a much lower level of power to achieve the same SPL in a smaller venue.

            In common venacular, "volume" generally refers to how loud something sounds to your ears, which is generally logarithmically proportional (with frequency weighting) to SPL.