Ambient Noise Level: How Quiet is Quiet Enough?

Ron Resnick

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What is the ideal ambient or background noise level for a listening room in decibels?

Is the objective the quieter the better?

What is considered to be an acceptable background noise level?

What is considered ro be a highly desireable background noise level?

What is the ambient noise level of your listening room?
 

Jbs

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Nov 25, 2016
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I believe the quieter the better, no question about it. I am not sure what is acceptable for BG noise level but I am at about 40db. My guess 30db would be really great without doing some serious room alterations/work. I live in downtown Seattle (condo commando). Im guessing there are much quieter environments. great questions.
JB
 

BlueFox

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Unfortunately, my Radio Shack SPL Meter doesn't go below 60, and at that level it reads Low. So it is quieter in here. I do know when I visited Magico to audition the S7 that it was an A/B comparison to the S5. This was in their dead quiet, custom, listening room. When Alon played the S5 I commented that it sounded just like my S5. So, it appears that somewhere between a custom listening room, and a suburban living room, is all that is needed to get the best sound.
 

pjwd

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Jun 23, 2015
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What is the ideal ambient or background noise level for a listening room in decibels?

Is the objective the quieter the better?

What is considered to be an acceptable background noise level?

What is considered ro be a highly desireable background noise level?

What is the ambient noise level of your listening room?
Ron - if your designing a concert hall you try for sub 30dB to enable clarity of quiet passages and engagement- it is not easy to achieve in that area but easier in a home environment
I have 2 rooms - one is the purpose built mancave that is about 28dB or below ( limits of portable measuring device) - except when a Harley goes past:). It is just astounding how much this improves the performance of the system - how much more detail you can hear.

The other room is a living room - naturally ventilated and open to the house - might get down to 35dB or a little below on a quiet night but of course you dont turn it up to 13 at that time out of deference to neighbours.

I get more enjoyment from the latter as it is a part of the ebb and flow of the day where you can be surprised by a track - or have a sneaky few tunes in between tasks whereas the former is an listening assignment ( which has it benefits )

The purpose built room was my audiophile dream in a holiday house but it surprised me that in that house I probably hear more music in a modest living room system

Still I love that super quiet room that closes off the world - it is a thing of beauty when that door shuts and the pressure literally drops

So not an answer really

Phil
 

Ron Resnick

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. . .
I have 2 rooms - one is the purpose built mancave that is about 28dB or below ( limits of portable measuring device) - except when a Harley goes past:). It is just astounding how much this improves the performance of the system - how much more detail you can hear.

The other room is a living room - naturally ventilated and open to the house - might get down to 35dB or a little below on a quiet night . . . Phil

Interesting, Phil. Thank you.

We visited the house yesterday, and with air conditioning and refrigerators off I saw a background noise level of about 33.5dB. I don't see how to achieve a lower background noise level than that without a lot of acoustic absorption material.

How much absorptive acoustic treatment did you have in your mancave?
 

Bobvin

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My room is much quieter than the rest of the house. But I live on wooded acreage, and this time of year the sound of the frogs can be amazingly loud. Leave the bedroom window open and there is a concert going on out ‘round the water feature, so loud it can make it hard to sleep. Even with window closed—but we accept as part of life in the woods. Between tracks with the turntable spinning, with the doors closed, those little froggers can still be heard. No way to turn ‘em off. Another month or two and it quiets down.

With SPL meters, how does one calibrate? I’m never sure what I’m reading is accurate. Are iPhone apps any good for this?
 
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Ron Resnick

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My room is much quieter than the rest of the house. But I live on wooded acreage, and this time of year the sound of the frogs can be amazingly loud. Leave the bedroom window open and there is a concert going on out ‘round the water feature, so loud it can make it hard to sleep. Even with window closed—but we accept as part of life in the woods. Between tracks with the turntable spinning, with the doors closed, those little froggers can still be heard. No way to turn ‘em off. Another month or two and it quiets down.

With SPL meters, how does one calibrate? I’m never sure what I’m reading is accurate. Are iPhone apps any good for this?

I think that iPhone applications, some of which mimic the traditional old Radio Shack SPL meter, are a lot better than guessing ourselves!
 

wil

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Jul 22, 2015
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The phone apps are pretty good I think. Use dbA for room ambient noise and dbC for music levels. My room is in the low 30's at best.
 

Ron Resnick

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The phone apps are pretty good I think. Use dbA for room ambient noise and dbC for music levels. My room is in the low 30's at best.

From what I saw yesterday at our house (not lower than 33.5 to 34) low 30s is very good!

When the air conditioner went on, or when the refrigerator in the kitchen adjacent to the listening room went on, the SPL rose significantly.
 

BlueFox

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When the air conditioner went on, or when the refrigerator in the kitchen adjacent to the listening room went on, the SPL rose significantly.

My kitchen is next to my living room, which is where the stereo is. Since the refrigerator annoyed me when it ran, I moved the refrigerator to the garage. Made a huge improvement for both the stereo, and more room in the kitchen.
 

Ron Resnick

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Isn't it annoying to have to go to the garage to make a cheese sandwich?
 
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User211

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My kitchen is next to my living room, which is where the stereo is. Since the refrigerator annoyed me when it ran, I moved the refrigerator to the garage. Made a huge improvement for both the stereo, and more room in the kitchen.

I have just had that problem in my new listening room which has a kitchenette. The fridge will remain permanently switched off!

BTW phone SPL meters are generally a joke and you will get a probably quite inaccurate result. They need to be calibrated against something to give decent readings

Don't believe what it says unless you have good reason to believe otherwise! They can be hugely off the mark.

Does anyone make an audiophile fridge?:D;)
 
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pjwd

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Jun 23, 2015
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Interesting, Phil. Thank you.

We visited the house yesterday, and with air conditioning and refrigerators off I saw a background noise level of about 33.5dB. I don't see how to achieve a lower background noise level than that without a lot of acoustic absorption material.

How much absorptive acoustic treatment did you have in your mancave?

Ron at the end of the day absorption in the room is mostly to treat noise ( hopefully music) from the room - I am sure it can help reduce the reverberant field created by noise entering but it will always enter - the best way to lower that is reduce it at the source so you could look at adding traps in kitchen joinery or ceiling etc.

This will also make those spaces more pleasant

Plenty of ways to attenuate AC noise

In my case I have filled conc block 200mm walls , double glazing 200 deep, studio quality acoustic seals etc. When you close the door the permanent low level hum of the world disappears, eerie and calming at the same time - plenty of folks on this forum will know that feeling and I expect you have experienced it as well.
In the room I only have a small amount of treatment at ear level and on ceiling - mainly to minimize early reflections + some bass traps

cheers

Phil
 

audiohippo

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Jan 13, 2016
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This is a good reference... it seems 30 or below is what you should be shooting for.

 

audiohippo

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And another version

 
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Ron Resnick

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Ron at the end of the day absorption in the room is mostly to treat noise ( hopefully music) from the room - I am sure it can help reduce the reverberant field created by noise entering but it will always enter - the best way to lower that is reduce it at the source so you could look at adding traps in kitchen joinery or ceiling etc.

This will also make those spaces more pleasant

Plenty of ways to attenuate AC noise

In my case I have filled conc block 200mm walls , double glazing 200 deep, studio quality acoustic seals etc. When you close the door the permanent low level hum of the world disappears, eerie and calming at the same time - plenty of folks on this forum will know that feeling and I expect you have experienced it as well.
In the room I only have a small amount of treatment at ear level and on ceiling - mainly to minimize early reflections + some bass traps

cheers

Phil

Thank you, Phil.
 

BlueFox

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rugyboogie

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Measured my room this evening and it bounces between 18 and 19db.

211, you can get a remote mounted compressor for the fridge. Have installed wine fridges that were made in Sweden that had this so the the wine woundn't vibrate in the fridge. Whisper quiet, Subzero can also have a remote mounted compressor.
 
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Zeotrope

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18db is very quiet - you would need a special device to measure that low. A smartphone will not be accurate.

On another related note, how much background noise does your system add? In other words, what’s the noise level with your system off, vs on? I measure +0.5-1dB with it on. 35dB off -> 35.5/36dB on. Is that good?
I sit 10’ away from 105dB sensitive horns, but have a new crossover on the way which should reduce it further.
 

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