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Anybody use a decibel detector?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by dbogart, May 19, 2011.

  1. dbogart


    Sep 16, 2008
    This might be a stupid question, but does anybody
    use a decibel detector instrument to see how loud a
    band mate's amp is cranking out sound? i see they sell
    them at sam ash, etc.

    our two guitarists are having trouble balancing their sound
    and one of them i convinced is deaf because he plays so
    freaking loud.
  2. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    Mine melted
  3. coreyfyfe

    coreyfyfe Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2007
    boston, ma
    Haven't used one for that purpose but the friend we have that does sound for my cover band has brought one to our gigs to measure SPL in the crowd, and we ended up using it to measure audience vote for a contest once. Worked pretty well.
  4. Syco_bass

    Syco_bass Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2008
    Tucson, Arizona
    Custom builder - Arizona Bass Company/Curcio Custom Basses
    We use one all the time. Had to just to make sure everyone was staying honest. Actually we needed to for one venue that wants us to stay below 95 db's during dinner hour until 9pm.
  5. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    A decibel DETECTOR? That means detecting any sound at all.

    If you want to measure it, you need a decibel or sound level METER. AND - this is a good idea to see how much your are damaging your hearing.

    There are also some good sound level meter apps for your iPhone (one is called Decibel) and probably other Smartphones as well.
  6. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    I use one to set up audio systems but never for a band setting.
  7. You mean a decibel meter.
    Assuming we're talking about sound waves, decibels can't be detected, per se, as they are a measure of power relative to a reference point, and therefore, a "lack of decibels" would occur at negative infinity. In the real world, there will always be sound waves above negative infinity decibels around whatever measuring equipment you are using.:hyper:
  8. dbogart


    Sep 16, 2008
    thank you. a decibel meter is what i meant.

    sounds like no one has really used them on an individual basis to detect
    how loud each instrument amp really is?
  9. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    I have a Phonic Personal Audio Assistant that I use on the PA sometimes in difficult rooms. It has a db meter, real time frequency analyzer, can send pink noise to the PA, plus a few other handy functions. Can really help speed up the process, whether it's finding feedback frequencies or just eq-ing the system for the room.
  10. I use one. This may seem off topic, but I believe it may help.

    Sound waves have certain lengths. Low frequencies are much longer than higher frequencies. The higher frequencies bounce around the room, interacting with surfaces and themselves, causing the sound to become "delayed" slightly in you ears and for lack of a better word, confusing. The frequencies of the guitar are notorious for this phenomenon. The room (or lack thereof) plays a major role in the maximum volume that you can achieve with acceptable coherence. Acceptable coherence is, in my experience, a decay from full amplitude to 1/6th of its original amplitude in 400ms. Some types of music draw their sound off of slightly more lax figures. The guitarists are perhaps turning up to hear themselves better, only making things worse. If the guitarists can't turn down without being unable to hear themselves, either they suffer from massive hearing loss and need position their amps closer to ear level, or the drummer (or everybody) needs to play more quietly. The alternative, which is a great idea, is to strategically place some acoustic dampening material in the practice area. Also avoid placing speakers completely parallel to walls. The SPL meter should be set to C weighting/fast for the kick drum, C weighting/slow for the bass, and A weighting/fast and slow for the guitars. You won't be able to measure the rate of decay with the SPL meter alone, but with the help of software, its pretty easy.

    Very shortly put, there is a maximum volume for every room before things start sounding bad no matter what. You can turn down (drums being the hardest to do), treat the room, or get a bigger room (unrealistic). When you play out, you can take this understanding and apply it to the room...but remember it will sound totally different when it is full of people. Hopefully though, the venue will be treated and you will get to work with a competent soundman who knows the room already. Then, just watch your stage volume.
  11. I always use one when I mix, I've never used one to get a gui**** to turn down though; good idea!
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    never needed one. if the gig demands playing quietly, i play quietly because i am an adult.
  13. dbogart


    Sep 16, 2008
    type c basses: do you think i could realisticly use a meter to tell guitarist A that he is cranking his sound this much compared to guitarist B ?
  14. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    They're pretty much standard issue in every church I've ever played at.

    As far as for checking stage volume though I've never used one, or seen one used. I've been privileged for many years to work with bandmates who keep that under control.
  15. I use one when I mix at my church. We have to keep things under 95dB (A-weighting).
  16. You could certainly try. The one issue (other than those stated above) is that the loudness is subjective. A lead guitarist's typical range cuts through the mix better, requiring less actual volume to meet the desired perceived volume. So what you could do is measure them both while they're in the same note range.

    My guess is that if you believe he is too loud, he probably is. Your guitarist needs to understand that his inability to hear himself/ego/whatever it is needs to be fixed on his dime and his time if the volumes he thinks he needs are unacceptable to the rest of you...hearing loss is forever...IMHO. Get the SPL meter, trust me. You will have fun with it and learn about stuff, like how loud a window a/c unit really is.
  17. LOL!!! This^
  18. dbogart


    Sep 16, 2008
    the issue here isn't ego or immaturity by our guitarists. they are good guys.
    it is just that the one has loss his hearing quite a bit.
  19. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I bought an SPL meter several years ago to monitor sound pressure levels in a workshop with several loud woodworking machines and an enormous dust collection system; we had to maintain records to show that we were meeting workers' comp, cal osha, and insurance company requirements.

    When running sound I find it useful to take SPL readings while positioning sub-woofers, and setting output levels during sound check; if you're working a venue with a fussy manager, an SPL meter can keep you out of trouble.

    During a bass gear shoot-out, I use an SPL meter to assure all of the gear is evaluated under the same conditions [gain matching].

    At home, an SPL meter made it easy to set up a 5.1 surround system.
  20. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I've had my eye on one of these:


    Is this the same one you have?

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