The New Palo Alto Apple Store Isn't Too Loud

The new Apple Store in Palo Alto just opened a few weeks ago, and while its design is indisputedly gorgeous, some are complaining that the place is too loud. They're even using scientific instruments to try to prove it! Deep breath people. It's not as bad as it sounds. We're going to get through this.

Blogger and Palo Alto resident Jean-Louis Gassée is very fond of Apple Stores. So he was understandably thrilled when a new store came to his town, and equally dismayed at how loud the store was. And it wasn't just him: He heard others complain of the din inside the store.

So Gassée decided to investigate. He returned to the Apple Store armed with the SPL Meter iPhone app, which measures the sound pressure of the store in decibels.

On a relatively quiet Saturday evening, the noise level around the Genius Bar exceeded 75 dB.

Outside, the traffic noise registered a mere 65 dB. It was 10 db noisier inside the store than on always-busy University Avenue!

Then, as if to justify his grievances, Gassée notes that he saw professional sound-measuring equipment inside the store (above). Proof of failure!

Except no. Traffic in a real city usually clocks at a much louder 85dB. Indeed, 75dB is probably only a big deal for library-loving nerds from Stanford. Regular human conversation usually registers about 60-65dB -- or roughly the SPL that Gassée measured outside the Apple Store. It makes complete sense that the collected sound of many human conversations might be a little louder, no? For reference, 75dB is the SPL of a toilet flush. You want loud? Try a 120dB heavy metal concert. [Monday Note via Hacker News]


    I can never understand how rock concerts are allowed to play so loud. Surely there is a WHS requirement that they don't play above a certain sound level...

      Yes there is, and it's related to the amount of time spent at that loudness. Usually around a couple of hours is around the limit for those higher levels, but only a small increase can drop the exposure time to a few minutes, so they will push the boundary.

      The hard part though is deciding where to measure it, at 1m from the speaker or 100m from the speaker, it will be very different all over the place and hard to put a official number on.

        The last time I went to a concert (Muse), I was in the seated section maybe 30 or 40m away from the stage, but my ears were hurting from how loud it was so I went out and bought some earplugs. I hate to think what hearing loss the people closer to the stage got...

        The "safe limit" is usually stated as being 85dBA constant over 8-hours, 94dBA constant for an hour, up to 130dBA for 1 second. The problem is that sound varies from the source, and the A weighting is only accurate to about 55dB. Not to mention that the people enforcing those limits can't usually tell the difference between sound-weightings, nor realise that peaks and constant measurements are very different.

        That said, the levels at the mix-position at a concert will usually be around 100dBC-110dBC, give or take. So hearing protection is usually a really good idea.

    But every 3dB the sound level doubles in loudness, so a 10dB difference is more than three times louder, that is significant and something you can't ignore easily.

      Not quite.

      6dB is a doubling of power, 6dB-10dB is a perceived doubling in volume.

      And since none of this article mentions what weightings the references were measured at, it is all just hand-waving anyway.

        (Although the image is showing an A weighting, which is only useful for lower dB levels than measured - under 55dB).

    *Deep breath* musthavebeenalltheclapping

    Woo! There, I got it out.

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