Is It Too Loud in the AAC? What?

This is how loud Mavs playoffs games were at Reunion Arena. And this is how regular season games sound at the American Airlines Center, where, writes The New York Times's Alan Schwartz, "it is hard to tell if the Mavericks' favorite machine during these playoffs is Dirk Nowitzki, their star player, or their sound system." That's from a front-pager this morning on why some sports arenas feel the need to turn it up to 11 -- Dallas especially, where there's hardly a moment of silence in between all the classic rock, clutter and cacophony, which is a far cry, as it were, from the days when the sound track consisted of the "Charge" fanfare banged out on an organ and a respectful "basket by Rolando Blackman," in the words of 27-year Mavs vet Steve Letson, who sits courtside and operates the A/V presentation. Writes Schwartz:

The Mavericks' equipment involves more than simply pumping up decibels to levels that some experts fear could contribute to long-term hearing loss. Rather, with fans spoiled by earbud fidelity and 5.1-channel home theater systems, owners like the Mavericks' Mark Cuban have turned hosting a game into producing an event -- with "assisted resonance" and "crowd enhancement," buzzwords for insiders and euphemisms for others.

Sixty mammoth speakers hanging above the court thunder music and clamorous sound effects louder than a jumbo jet engine. More speakers encircling the seating bowl replicate a roaring herd of horses in perfectly timed surround sound.

The AAC's noise registers somewhere between 90 and 110 decibels and occasionally touches 115, right around the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's not-safe levels over extended periods of time. Which is gonna happen as the arenas get bigger: You need to pump up the volume, lest you get nothing but "echoes and reverberation," in the words of AAC acoustic engineer Jack Wrightson (and Jeff Liles!).

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky