Volume read-out in decibles (Explanation?)


New member
Username: Lytalbayre

Post Number: 7
Registered: Oct-04
Okay, I'm a newbie when it comes to sound, I basically listen and when I hear something I like, that's it. My first receiver 4 years ago was a Sony, and it's volume read-out was straight forward, 0=no noise the higher the number, the more noise.
My second receiver, read in decibles ( I think). It would start at like 88 and as you turn up the volume, the numbers would go down (20-30 was very loud).
My latest receiver, a HK AVT630, definately has a read-out in decibles, starting at -88 and going up to + whatever.

My questions is how does this decible read-out relate to your speakers, or the amount of amps or wattage being sent to your speakers. Basically, what does it mean.

I can put the receiver on -20 decible and it's nice and loud, but I don't know what it means.

Can someone explain this to me. Thanks all.

Silver Member
Username: Petergalbraith

Rimouski, Quebec Canada

Post Number: 162
Registered: Feb-04
The dB scale is much better. In theory, 0 dB should correspond to the max your amplifier is rated for, given a source of normal max voltage. So your amp is 100W per channel, then that will be around 0dB. If it's 50W, then that will be around 0dB.

Down from 0 dB, the scale is logarithmic. A decrease of 10 dB is a factor of 10 in power and a decrease of 3 dB is about a factor of 2 in power.

At -20 dB, you are listenning at about 1/100 of the rated power of your amp. This is likely peaks of around 1 W per channel.

Hope this helps.

New member
Username: Lytalbayre

Post Number: 9
Registered: Oct-04
So, does that mean that when I turn the volume up into the range of + decibles, I am actually going over the maximum listed watts per channel, and does that mean I run the risk of blowing out the receiver?


Silver Member
Username: Petergalbraith

Rimouski, Quebec Canada

Post Number: 168
Registered: Feb-04
You have to start being careful at that point. If your source is recorded low, then it will take more gain to reach max output. Also, some receivers are not well calibrated (or don't have 0dB set to max output). For example, my friend's Onkyo's volume control goes all the way to +18dB or so, and needs around +10dB to get as many watts as my lower rated h/k avr-325. So it can vary. Just start being careful there and listen for distorsion and clipping.

About how many decibels would a sterio play medium volume classical music? Loud rap? Thanks.

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Silver Member
Username: Petergalbraith

Rimouski, Quebec Canada

Post Number: 245
Registered: Feb-04
Threshold of Hearing (TOH) 0 dB
Rustling Leaves 10 dB
Whisper 20 dB
Normal Conversation 60 dB
Busy Street Traffic 70 dB
Vacuum Cleaner 80 dB
Large Orchestra 98 dB
Walkman at Maximum Level 100 dB
Front Rows of Rock Concert 110 dB
Threshold of Pain 130 dB
Military Jet Takeoff 140 dB
Instant Perforation of Eardrum 160 dB

Unregistered guest
Also Mark, don't get too hung up on the number your receiver displays. As Peter pointed out, 0 dB is not necessarily the maximum.

The actual sound pressure that your ears feel will depend on the level at which the source was recorded, speaker sensitivity, room size, the distance you are from your speakers, the resistance in your speaker wire, etc.
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