We here at DC9 know a lot about sound. For instance: The average human voice registers at 25 to 35 decibels. By contrast, the Indonesian Krakatoa volcano, which erupted in 1883 and could be distinctly heard 1,930 miles away in Australia, registered at 180 decibels. Unconfirmed reports from the Mavericks' Game Five win at the American Airlines Center put the noise level at a shockingly high 125 decibels. That's louder than a chain saw, which operates at 110 decibels.
So how high is too high? Health officials set the "ouch" meter at 115, which is where volume can start to cause permanent hearing damage.
At a 2009 concert in Ottawa, KISS clocked in at 136 decibels, drawing noise complaints. The Who, famously touted as the world's loudest band, were once measured at 126 in 1976. These bands employ enormous sound systems that are built for loudness. Turns out, so is the AA Center. Last week, The New York Times posted a detailed description of the gametime speaker setup at the AAC, describing microphones in the backboards that amped up the sounds of clanging baskets and squeaking shoes for maximum effect. According to the Times, the meter during the AAC-hosted Game Five of the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City peaked at 115 decibels, a full ten points lower than the reported 125 of the last game held there this season. Considering that the human ear perceives a doubling in sound level for every 10 dB increase, that's a pretty huge increase.
Granted, decibel meters at sporting events are oftentimes inflated for maximum effect, so 125 may or may not be correct. But one WFAA producer tweeted during the game that their decibel meter measured "loud enough to cause hearing loss," which means it was probably louder than 115.
Either way, Mavs fans tore the roof off AAC during Game Five -- and all season long, for that matter. So, in honor of our fair-weather but passionate local basketball fans, we've compiled a list of 11 things that are actually louder than Mavs fans. (For the record, all levels above 194 dB are approximated; 194 is the level at which sound waves compress the air around them to such an extent that they turn into pressure waves). In other words: Something to shoot for next season.
Update 4:20 p.m.: Photographer Mike Mezeul, who was at the AAC on Sunday, recorded the moment the Mavs won. Listen to this.
A nuclear bomb. Decibel meters set 250 feet away from test sites peaked at 210 decibels. The sound alone is enough to kill a human being, so if the bomb doesn't kill you, the noise will. Fun fact!
The band Manowar. Heavy metal is meant to be played loud, but Manowar takes it to new levels. During their soundcheck at a 2008 show, their meters hit 139 decibels (the concert itself was quieter; Manowar are considerate like that).
The Tunguska Meteor. In 1908, a meteor fell to earth in rural Russia, flattening trees for miles around. Reports estimate the impact to be equivalent to a 1000-megaton bomb, which would put the decibel levels at around 300.
Bats. The calls of these squeaky little flighted mammals are too high in frequency for human ears to hear, which is a good thing since the loudest recorded bat call clocked in at 137 decibels.
Whales. The blue whale emits a low-frequency rumble that can be heard through hundreds of miles of ocean; these whale calls have been measured at 188 decibels.
A Boeing 747 jet engine. If you stood with your head inside the engine, you'd hear a 165 decibel roar. We don't recommend doing this; the human ear drum breaks instantly when exposed to sounds louder than 160 decibels. The sound of takeoff, if you're nearby, is around 140 decibels.
A space shuttle launch. There's a reason why everyone watches these from several miles away; the noise levels at the perimeter of the launch pad can reach 160 decibels. Even at the three mile mark, the level is 120 dB.
The detonation of one pound of TNT, measured from 15 feet away. Again, we wouldn't recommend testing this one out, as the TNT would certainly kill you before the 180 decibels of sound did.
The quietest sound that is able to break glass. Lots of stories about glass-breaking sound levels are caused by glass that is old or cracked; a solid sheet of non-treated glass breaks at a minimum of 163 decibels.
The loudest car stereo ever. In 2002, a group of German car engineers built a car stereo that produced 177.6 decibel sounds, breaking the previous record set by Arizona engineers. Led by a 64-year old schoolteacher, who installed a 175-decibel speaker system into a Ford Bronco, the group rendered the Bronco barely driveable, as the seats had to be squished so far forward to accommodate the speakers thrown in the trunk.
An earthquake. A quake registering 5.0 on the Richter scale, at its epicenter, is 235 decibels worth of loud.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.