Tag: SPL

How Many Decibels? Ways To Measure SPL

Why Measure SPL?

Scosche SPL1000F

Scosche SPL1000F SPL Meter

One of the best ways to brag about your car audio system is by knowing exactly how loud it can get.  Typically, a car sound system is anywhere between 90 to 130 dB.  To put that into perspective, 90 dB is equivalent to heavy street traffic 5 feet away whereas  130 dB is considered the threshold for pain.   A few other things to note is that an increase of +3dB is barely perceived by the human ear but +10dB nearly doubles the loudness to the human ear. At about 190 dB your ear drums will rupture and the pure sound vibration will be agonizing.  So if someone says their system is pushing 200+ dB, then you should declare shenanigans and tell them to go rethink their entire life.


Term-LAB used in Sonic install bay

SPL, which stands for sound pressure level, is measured in decibels by an SPL meter.  There are a couple different variations of an SPL meter depending on how accurate you need the reading to be. The first and most convenient way is via a handheld SPL meter.  These are relatively inexpensive and are very simple to operate.  They use calibrated microphones and amplification to measure the SPL level and display it on a digital display.  You might not want to use this method for competitions or sound-offs seeing as it only goes up to 130 dB.

Smartphones offer applications that can measure SPL as well.  If you have an Android phone check the app called “Noise Meter” and if you own an iPhone check out “UE SPL”. These applications use the phones built-in vocal microphone to measure the sound pressure level around you. Most cell phone microphones cut off at 90db however, so these apps are best used for measuring ambient sound levels. Most of these apps offer calibration so you can increase their accuracy if you have a more trusted device to compare it to.

Another variant that is far less practical and expensive but very accurate is Term-Lab.  This is a precision system that utilizes hardware and software in order to measure the SPL level in the vehicle.  It requires a computer or laptop and features precision SPL Sensors that attach to the inside of the windshield.  It is used by numerous SPL organizations and even NASA uses it!  If NASA says it’s good enough then there’s no way we can argue right? We decided to get one for our Sonic installation bay so I took a picture of it that can be seen on the right.  We plan on using this for videos and events in the near future so stay tuned!

If you think you truly think you have the loudest system, then claim your bragging rights and comment below with your SPL level and equipment being used!





Whether you’re trying to overfill your car with bass or create the perfect sound, there is a set up that’s right for you . You may have heard of the terms “SQ” or “SPL” before.  Understanding these terms will assist you with what kind of sound you are seeking.



SPL stands for sound pressure level which basically means how loud the subwoofer or speaker is producing sound.  In regards to subwoofers,  ported enclosures are usually favorable for SPL set ups.  This is due mainly to the ports being able to push more air and create more pressure. Bigger subwoofers such as 15 or 18″ or multiple subwoofers are more common in these set ups as the more cone area you have the more air pressure you’re going to be able to produce.  SPL is measured in decibels which means you will be able to tell just how loud your system is with an SPL meter.    SPL systems are going to be higher powered and geared towards pushing your system to it’s maximum limits. Musical genres like rap and hip hop are ideal for this purpose  Speakers can also play a role in an SPL system.  Metal tweeters are ideal for obtaining louder highs which you will need to prevent the bass from draining out the high frequencies.  If your goal is to make sure the whole neighborhood can hear you, then go SPL.


JL Audio CS110-WXv2

JL Audio CS110-WXv2

If SPL had an estranged brother, then it would be SQ.  There are many differences to an SQ system.  SQ is for sound quality which means there are no overbearing frequencies, excellent sound staging and superb tonal accuracy. Sealed enclosures are ideal for subwoofers in this application to give you a tighter and more accurate bass response.  Genres of music with double bass pedals, such as rock, require subwoofers that are more responsive. For this reason, 10 and 12 inch subwoofers are more commonly used for this type of application.  Sound quality can not really be measured.  However, a good subwoofer should be able to produce +/- 3 dB. It is mostly about personal preference for sound quality.  Go SQ if you are looking for a sound that will make you feel like your right in front of the artist.

Keep in mind that one is not necessarily better than the other.  It all comes down to what you’re into.  Its even possible to create an SQL system that can take the best of both worlds.  Theres always going to be haters on both sides of the fence but only you can decide what is right for you!