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What Are Decibels? How Does It Work with Music? (Answered)

I often get asked about decibels and how they are measured. In this post, I will answer these questions and more about decibels in recording music.

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If you’re ever wondering how loud different sounds are or what the dB scale is, this post is for you!

We’ll explore how decibels work in recording music and discuss some of the most common questions about dB levels. We’ll also provide tips on how you can safely listen to music. So whether you’re a producer, musician, or audiophile, read on to learn more about decibels and how they affect your audio experience.

Image of a midi with decibels that shows the db levels. Source: cottonbro studio, pexels
Image of a midi with a decibels that shows the db levels. Source: Cottonbro Studio, Pexels

What are decibels? The decibel scale is used to rate sound intensity. It might also be said that they evaluate the volume of a sound. A larger amplitude means a louder sound. The unit of measure for decibels is the dB.

What is a decibel?

The decibel scale (dB) measures a sound’s loudness. The decibel range and resolution of a sound meter display may be similar to the dynamic range of the human ear, but usually only in the louder range.

It will take a lot of work to keep track of the 14 numbers that change in front of you. The decibel scale is not linear. Instead, it is a logarithmic scale with a base of 10. This makes it easier to express sound levels in amounts that are easier to understand.

And considering the variety of noise sources that need to be monitored in a typical workplace, you can see why making a sound level meter with linear performance would be challenging.

Here is a simple version of the decibel scale.

DecibelsSound
10Normal breathing
25Rustling leaves
55Moderate rainfall
60Normal conversation
70Washing machine
80Inside airplane
90Hair dryer
100Motorcycle
110Nightclub
Decibel chart

How do dB levels work in recording music?

Decibels are used to quantify sound intensity in the context of music (SPL). Whenever we state that the volume during a rock concert is 110 dB, we imply that the sound pressure level is 110 dB. 110 dB is a comparison to a different quantity, 0 SPL, given that the decibel is only a ratio.

The normal atmospheric pressure is 0 SPL (20 micro pascals). Most people agree that this is the lowest sound that a human can hear. It is the sound that all other sounds are compared to.

If you want to measure the decibel reading in any room, check out this sound level meter.

  • 35-135DB MEASURING RANGE---With wide measuring range of 35~135dB, the sound level meter could fit many working condition
  • LCD BACK LIGHT DISPLAY---With LCD back light display, the reading of the sound level meter could be seen quickly and clearly
  • OTHER FEATURES---The sound level meter is of min/max/lock current value, manual/auto shutoff, and could hold the measurement date
  • SUITABLE FOR---The decibel meter is suitable for sound quality control in factory,office,home,school and construction site
  • DIGITAL DISPLAY--- 4-digit LCD display

How are decibels used in recording equipment?

Decibels are used in recording studios, especially on the level meters found on your DAW, audio interface, and other studio equipment. A level meter reads 0 dBFS at its highest point (meaning 0 dB full scale). This is the maximum signal level the system can handle without causing distortion.

Below that, dBFS readings go more negative, eventually reaching – dBFS. Input levels for recording are often set between -15 dB and -6 dB; however, this varies greatly depending on who you ask. Overall, -10 dB is a reasonable middle ground.

Image of a decibels showing all the db levels. Source: cottonbro studio, pexels
Image of a decibel showing all the dB levels. Source: Cottonbro Studio, Pexels

What is a safe decibel rating?

Experts and audiologists say to keep the volume between 60 and 85 decibels to avoid permanent hearing damage. In addition, you should limit your exposure to music at 100 dB or above to no more than fifteen minutes. These are, of course, only suggestions; everyone has a different tolerance for noise.

When listening to the audio, most people keep the volume between 75 dB and 105 dB. Compared to other loud or moderate decibel levels (up to 85 decibels), a decibel level of 100 is very loud and could harm human hearing. A rise of 10 decibels (dB) in a sound level indicator is equivalent to a multiplication by 10.

Tips for safe listening

It is important to ensure you listen to music with the right sound and volume. here are a few tips to help prevent permanent hearing loss.

  • Turn down the volume.
  • Avoid placing yourself directly in proximity to the concert’s amplifiers and speakers.
  • Use earplugs or earmuffs to prevent damage to your hearing.
  • If you don’t have earplugs, protect your hearing by placing your hands over your ears.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Decibels (dB) In Audio | The 5 Things You NEED To Know” from the Audio University YouTube channel.

A video called “Decibels (dB) In Audio | The 5 Things You NEED To Know” from the Audio University YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about decibels.

What is the normal dB level for music?

When listening to music, most people keep the volume between 75 dB and 105 dB. However, any thing over 85 can do permanent hearing damage.

Are 100 decibels loud for music?

Compared to other loud or moderate decibel levels (up to 85 decibels), a decibel level of 100 is very loud and could harm human hearing. A rise of 10 decibels (dB) in a sound level indicator is equivalent to a multiplication by 10.

What are sones?

A sone is a unit of measurement used to identify the loudness of an appliance or ventilation device.

Conclusion

In the end, there’s no doubt that listening to music at the right decibel level is important. So next time you think something is a bit too loud, consider turning down the volume.

This article covered decibels, how dB levels work in recording music, and how they are used in recording equipment. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • The decibel scale measures how loud a sound is.
  • Decibels are represented as dB.
  • Decibels are used to quantify sound intensity in the context of music.
  • The decibel scale is based on a logarithm with base ten.
  • Loud noise is very damaging to hearing.
  • Loudness is the effect of sound pressure on the human ear.
  • Using the logarithm of the bel, we can get the power ratio in decibels (remember that the bel compares values to a ratio of 10 to 1).

So, what dB levels do you prefer when playing music? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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