When setting up a live PA system, one of the most important decisions is what dB level to set your speakers to. This is important if you want your sound to be clear and balanced without distortion or feedback. But what dB level should you set your live speakers to?
This article covers what dB level is best for your live speakers and provides tips on striking the perfect balance between too loud and too quiet. So if you’re looking to make sure your next show is a success, this post is for you!
What dB level should you set your live speakers to? The appropriate dB level for live speakers during a performance can vary depending on the event’s size and venue. For indoor events, a range of 70-85 dB is recommended, while outdoor events may require a higher dB level of up to 110 or 120 to reach all areas of the audience. It’s essential to ensure that the speaker system and amplifier can handle the required dB level and power demands of the event to prevent distortion or feedback.
What is a decibel (dB) level?
A decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement for speaker output power. Our ears perceive a change in loudness in a way that is not linear. The loudness of a sound, which is different from its volume, may be affected by several variables. Two factors are the volume of air entering the ear and the physical separation of the eardrum from the sound source.
If the dB is reduced, more power is sent to the speaker, which may increase the volume. The volume of an audio system is affected not only by the number of speakers but also by its size, design, and location.
The decibel scale
A system of measurement called decibels was developed to help with this problem. The human ear can detect a loudness fluctuation of as little as 1 dB. So a change of 3 dB is a little small, but a change of 10 dB makes the sound twice as loud to the human ear.
Decibel levels for live performances
This data table provides information on the average decibel levels recorded during various types of live performances, from classical music concerts to rock concerts. Prolonged exposure to high decibel levels can cause permanent hearing damage. Rock concerts typically have the highest decibel levels, while classical music concerts have the lowest.
|Type of Performance||Average Decibel Level (dB)|
|Classical music concert||60-80 dB|
|Jazz concert||85-90 dB|
|Pop music concert||100-115 dB|
|Rock concert||115-130 dB|
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What dB level should you set for live speakers?
When setting up a live PA system, the appropriate dB level for the speakers is an important consideration to ensure clear and balanced sound without distortion or feedback. The appropriate dB level can vary depending on the type of event and the venue.
For indoor events, a recommended range for the dB level is 70-85 dB, depending on the size of the event and the room acoustics. However, for outdoor events with more space between people and speakers, a higher dB level of up to 110 or 120 may be necessary to ensure the sound reaches all areas of the audience.
It’s worth noting that as the dB level increases, the need for power also escalates rapidly, particularly when approaching “lifelike” or “theater” levels of around 100-104 dB. Furthermore, sudden peaks of 10-20 dB can make a significant instantaneous demand on the amplifier, potentially causing it to run out of steam quickly. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that the speaker system and amplifier are capable of handling the required dB level and power demands of the event.
Tips for setting your speaker levels
Here are some tips to help you set the right speaker levels for a successful live performance:
1. Aim your speakers properly
It is crucial to aim your speakers toward the most important part of the room where the audience is located. If you need to cover a group of listeners seated directly beside the stage, you may have to aim an additional set of small speakers to the side so that everyone can hear.
2. Determine the right dB level
Decide the dB level by considering the type of event, the size of the venue, and the number of speakers. Make sure that your speakers and amplifiers can handle the required dB level for your event.
3. Start with the mixer’s master volume control at zero
When powering up your sound system, set the mixer’s master volume control (or powered speaker level controls) at zero, and then turn up the gain, which is the amount of amplification provided by an amplifier circuit, expressed in dB or numerically. This way, you can avoid blasting the audience with a loud, unexpected sound that could damage their hearing or the equipment. Turn up the gain only when you know that all is well.
Setting up speaker levels for live performances requires careful consideration of factors such as venue size, audience location, and speaker placement. By following these tips, you can ensure that your sound system delivers the right level of sound.
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “How to Set Level on Amp (or Powered Speaker)” from the Collaborate Worship YouTube channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions about what dB level you should set live speakers to? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.
What is a good dB setting for speakers?
The test tone will then emit pink noise as you go from speaker to speaker, adjusting the volume, allowing you to fine-tune the volume as necessary. I prefer to set the maximum sound pressure level (SPL) for each speaker to 75 dB. This is plenty loud and will allow you to drown out any background noise in the room.
Is 85 dB good for a speaker?
Compared to lower background noise levels, 85 decibels is a loud level. Over time, being around this much noise could hurt or even destroy a person’s hearing.
How many dB is concert speakers?
The decibel level during a rock performance often exceeds 120. However, since electronic instruments are not as loud as acoustic ones, hip-hop events are typically a few decibels softer than rock concerts, clocking in at roughly 100–110 dB.
How many dB is too low?
The EPA and the WHO advise keeping ambient noise levels below 70 dBA for 24 hours (or 75 dBA for 8 hours) to avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
How long can you safely listen to 80 dB?
The danger of hearing loss increases with both the decibel level and the duration of noise exposure. For instance, an 80 dB sound level is acceptable to listen to for up to 40 hours each week. However, in the case of a sound level of 90 dB, the maximum amount of time that one may listen safely each week is cut in half to four hours.
Setting the right dB level for your live speakers is important in creating a great listening experience. You risk damaging the sound system and your audience’s ears if it is too loud. On the other hand, you will only be able to feel the music if it’s quiet. Finding the perfect balance between these extremes is key to delivering a great show.
So, at what dB level do you usually set your speakers? 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.
This article covered what dB level to set on live speakers. Here are some key takeaways:
- A decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement for speaker output power.
- Classical music concerts have an average decibel level of 60-80 dB, while rock concerts can have a decibel level of up to 130 dB.
- Indoor events can have a dB level of 75-80 dB, while outdoor events may have up to 120 dB.
- In setting up live speakers, ensure to aim them properly so that the audience can hear the performance.
- Start with the mixer’s master volume control at zero when powering up the sound system.