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What SPL (dBz/flat) do you start to feel the subs?

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KaphaSound View Drop Down
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    Posted: 14 April 2021 at 8:47pm
Crossposting from the soundsystem subreddit. I can't seem to find a good answer to this even though there are a couple threads on the topic. Assuming all things are equal (outside, no reflections etc..) what SPL do you start to really physically FEEL say around 30-80hz? I'm looking for flat/dBz measurements because any weighting seriously obscures the comparison of measurements at frequencies this low. At the Village at Shambhala pictured here the techs said they were measuring 130dBc at full tilt which I'm assuming is closer to 135-140dBz and this was at the console just beyond the edge of the photo not even front row. 



Having experienced this I know that I don't need to compete with the giant 218 g-sub stack as it's about as physical as you'd really ever want it to be, but I do intend on throwing events where the focal point is still the physicality of the music (drumnbass, dub, dubstep, space bass etc...). Looking at the hornresp charts for the horn subs I'm planning I should be able to provide at least 130db continuous from about 33hz-80hz (+/- 3db) confidently, but all I really want to know is what's the threshold for a truly physical experience? Ideally I'm just looking for people's thoughts on a number here again in dBz as the other threads never really answered the question, and I’m guessing someone has taken measurements for this kind of thing?


Edited by KaphaSound - 14 April 2021 at 11:24pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tinnitus Rex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 April 2021 at 9:24pm
Volume vs Dynamics ..... Peoples ears are the only true measurement apparatus , the built in human compressor limiter everyone has will yeald different results .SPL vs Time is most important in not destroying the human apparatus.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Conanski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 April 2021 at 10:30pm
With a sufficient number of boxes subbass dynamics can be felt long before the average measured SPL gets very high, so an SPL number may be the wrong thing to be focusing on.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote KaphaSound Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 April 2021 at 10:50pm
Tinnitus Rex I believe there are sensory cells (parcinian corpuscles to be exact) in our skin that enable us to feel low frequencies (likely evolved due to predators/natural disasters etc) so the whole human body really encompasses the full sense of hearing. And with bass we’re talking pure sustained sine waves so continuous at 130dBc/135-140dBz on the rig above.

Conanski I want to agree with this but I can’t seem to find any solid physics behind why that would be the case. There have been interesting discussions on particle velocity in the near vs far field but ultimately I can’t imagine that it doesn’t come back down to SPL.


Edited by KaphaSound - 14 April 2021 at 11:32pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Conanski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 April 2021 at 11:33pm
I'm sure we could put SPL measurements on it, but as you are aware that tactile feel doesn't seem to coorelate well with those measurements and that is in no small part because those measurements are essentially ignoring the dynamics. Take car audio for example, a single 12 or 15" sub in the boot can produce bass you can feel at SPLs still low enough to talk over, so it's more to do with effective coupling of driver/s to airspace IMO.  The same thing happens in home audio but it takes more and bigger drivers because the air volume is larger, a typical home theater sound system with say 5" sats and a single 8-10" sub just doesn't produce much of that tactile bass regardless how loud it is played, but a pair of monkey coffins with 15" woofers makes things on the coffee table dance despite the fact that they don't go as low as the dedicated sub.

Edited by Conanski - 14 April 2021 at 11:41pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tinnitus Rex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 April 2021 at 11:50pm
Humans  can only perceive the difference per second of an audio event, the attack of a bass note defines its apparent volume (like the G -force in an accelrating car) therefore the apparant volume is the differrence relative to silence. Thats what makes it exciting,  continuous SPL is "dissatisfying" and fatiguing . There is also the Masking problem where having too mush sub means you can no longer get any deffinition in the whole sound spectrum as the air is too busy...... afterall air is the canvas that your painting in..depending on how the recorded music has had the dynamics  pre mixed  and limited, it is often not ideal  to just scale up that sound to hi SPL unless it was mixed at that level with dynamics in mind, Some recordings try to sound loud when played quietly.. This sounds terrible when you actually play it loud. It can get like turning the contrast and colour full up on your TV. .........also check out the definition of Leq, it is very important.


Edited by Tinnitus Rex - 15 April 2021 at 12:00am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fatfreddiescat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2021 at 12:16am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Conanski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2021 at 12:31am
Originally posted by Tinnitus Rex Tinnitus Rex wrote:

Some recordings try to sound loud when played quietly.. This sounds terrible when you actually play it loud. 
Totally agree, the loudness wars have ruined popular music genres. 
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KaphaSound View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote KaphaSound Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2021 at 12:36am
Will look into Leq and by no means am I saying that dynamics don’t add to the impact! I am saying though that if a bass note say 40hz is on or off you will definitely notice it, and at the SPLs like those at the Village in the picture above you literally physically cannot miss it as if your whole body is physically touching the moving driver. At this point yes dynamics will still add to the experience but a continuous vibration won’t stop physically shaking you back and forth so there must be a point in terms of SPL at which your body begins to start going from say 100% a perceived audible sensation to 50% of the stimulus feels tactile and 50% audible.

Edited by KaphaSound - 15 April 2021 at 12:38am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote KaphaSound Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2021 at 12:44am
Originally posted by Conanski Conanski wrote:

I'm sure we could put SPL measurements on it, but as you are aware that tactile feel doesn't seem to coorelate well with those measurements and that is in no small part because those measurements are essentially ignoring the dynamics. Take car audio for example, a single 12 or 15" sub in the boot can produce bass you can feel at SPLs still low enough to talk over, so it's more to do with effective coupling of driver/s to airspace IMO.  The same thing happens in home audio but it takes more and bigger drivers because the air volume is larger, a typical home theater sound system with say 5" sats and a single 8-10" sub just doesn't produce much of that tactile bass regardless how loud it is played, but a pair of monkey coffins with 15" woofers makes things on the coffee table dance despite the fact that they don't go as low as the dedicated sub.

Imo the reason for the difference in sensation across these examples often has to do with other objects in the room also resonating. In a car your whole seat vibrates making it feel like a stronger tactile experience likely at lower SPLs. Same thing with the home theater setup except this could be your couch or surrounding furniture. I’m more specifically interested in standing on solid ground outdoors with nothing else other than the stack of subs (and you aren’t physically touching the cabinets, the shear air pressure changes make you physically feel it).


Edited by KaphaSound - 15 April 2021 at 1:03am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Conanski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2021 at 1:11am
I'll agree there can be some structural transmission of vibrations in certain environments but that can happen without it being felt too and I know enough to be able to differentiate.

If you have a stack do an experiment, set it up outside on solid ground and test the SPL level where you just start to feel the dynamics in the air, it's going to be relative to distance from the stack but I bet you will find it's a lot lower spl than what you might think and the bigger the stack the less spl required to feel it. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elliot Thompson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 April 2021 at 1:22am
Originally posted by KaphaSound KaphaSound wrote:



Having experienced this I know that I don't need to compete with the giant 218 g-sub stack as it's about as physical as you'd really ever want it to be, but I do intend on throwing events where the focal point is still the physicality of the music (drumnbass, dub, dubstep, space bass etc...). Looking at the hornresp charts for the horn subs I'm planning I should be able to provide at least 130db continuous from about 33hz-80hz (+/- 3db) confidently, but all I really want to know is what's the threshold for a truly physical experience? Ideally I'm just looking for people's thoughts on a number here again in dBz as the other threads never really answered the question, and I’m guessing someone has taken measurements for this kind of thing?


Your question could be answered if one was playing solely in a fixed location at all times. We are in the Sound Reinforcement market where the saying “It depends” determines the direction on what methods to take since, we are playing at lots of locations.


If you are playing indoors, you can always use corners to energize the bass to give the punters a greater feeling. Outdoors is more to wards bringing more boxes in addition to, amplifiers than you think you will need. There is a learning process in which, you must endure to graduate at the level of, looking at a location and knowing ____ amount of subs in addition to, ____ amount of amplifiers will give the punters a tremendous feeling from 40 Hz – down.


The harsh reality is the bulk of the home made horns on the market cannot make it to 30 Hz. This is why, those who want get to 30 Hz will use reflex cabinets. Theses home made horns that you see many are using on the market are good to around 45 Hz and struggle to make it to 40 Hz (a lot of cone excursion). Physically, the horns are just too small to approach anything significant in terms of SPL under 50 Hz.


A significant amount of 50 Hz will give one the sensation in addition to, giving one the perception that they are hearing very low bass. It is also easier to calculate higher dB figures at 50 Hz than an octave below.


In the Sound Reinforcement Market, guys who have enough don't worry about how much SPL is reading on a dB meter. They will know soon enough once, the Police stops by with a dozen or so noise complaints, due to the bass.


So it goes back to where you stand under the given circumstances. How many boxes in addition to, amplifiers you are willing to use, to give the punters a tremendous feeling, when it comes to bass?


Bear in mind, Horn Response, like all simulators estimates the SPL from a 1 meter perspective. You will need to use the inverse square law to determine what your design will do when catering for the masses.


Best Regards,



Elliot Thompson
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