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What is SPL?

by Stuart Charles Black
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This is part of a FAQ series! Please share and comment if you found any of these articles helpful πŸ™‚

  1. What is Soundstage?
  2. What is Latency?
  3. What is Timbre?
  4. What is MIDI?
  5. What is XLR?
  6. What is SPL? (You are here)
  7. What does Sibilant mean?
  8. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
  9. Do Headphones Need to be Burned In?
  10. How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

Greetings friend and Welcome aboard!!

What is SPL? That’s a great question and one that is seldom thought about in much detail. \

efore we get into specifics, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this article

  1. Introduction
  2. What is SPL?
  3. SPL vs. Volume
  4. Damage
  5. Video
  6. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!


You may have been perusing microphones online and come across something like, “Can handle SPL levels of up to (insert dB level here).”

Generally the higher the number, the more you can scream into the mic without distortion. πŸ˜€

Some mics, like the AKG C214, have SPLs of up to 156dB.

What’s great about this is that you won’t have to worry about playing too loud or singing too loud, thus getting a crappy recording.

What is SPL?

Sound pressure level, abbreviated SPL, and measured in decibels, is how humans actually hear.

You would think volume is the standard measure, but this isn’t actually the case.

A decibel is a measure of sound intensity or loudness.

Both of these terms (dB and SPL) are based on the logarithmic principles of Alexander Graham Bell.

An informative video on dB:

Think of a water faucet: At the point where the water comes out, Pressure and Volume are both 1.

At the point where the water is just about to hit the sink, the pressure is around 0.5 while the Volume is still 1.

Now just apply this to sound.

  • If you’re farther away, the volume is still the same but the sound pressure level is diminished.
  • The closer you are to the sound, the more pressure you will hear.

So volume does affect the sound, but it doesn’t directly affect our perception of its loudness.

Professional studio monitors can produce more pressure with less volume than a consumer speaker can.

That’s why we’re able to (and are supposed to) mix down a track at low levels with a monitor.

The pressure and the damage done

Did anyone catch that reference?

Anywho, generally, our ears start to really feel it when there’s an SPL above 80 dB.

Because standard rock and metal concerts hover around 100-130 dB, it’s handy to have ear protection.

I can tell you firsthand that I thought I did permanent damage after my first metal show. Lol.

Interested in learning more? Check out these videos!

Final Word

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope I’ve answered the question, What is SPL?

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please contact me!!

I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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Valerie April 18, 2018 - 3:17 pm

You’re a great writer!

Stuart Charles Black April 18, 2018 - 10:54 pm

Thanks Valerie! Hope you decide to peruse the site more. There’s a lot of good stuff abound!



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