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I can find official documentation about how loud the operating noise on a MacBook Air is

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and information about the speakers

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but no official documentation about how loud the speakers can be. Is there any official report from Apple about the maximum amount of decibels the speakers on any of its computers can produce? If not, what would be the best way to answer this question?

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2 Answers 2

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Output statistics such are usually reported as Watts. This sounds like what you are looking for. This is, unfortunately, a totally worthless data point, and the reasons why are beyond the scope of an answer on this forum.
Your best bet for measuring output, such as decibels/watt/meter, is an SPL (sound pressure level) meter. This would give you the best data set of output at different volumes and distances with different types of audio. You can actually get one for iOS right here that can measure the output of your speakers.

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The public health information about what sounds can damage hearing are reported in decibels. I'm not interested in how much electricity goes through the speaker; I'm interested in knowing how a Mac speaker making the loudest sound it can make compares to a vacuum cleaner or a rock concert or a jet airplane or the ripples of water on a pond. –  Daniel Lawson Mar 20 '12 at 5:35
    
The SPL part of the answer was very helpful. Unfortunately, the iOS solution won't work on my second generation iPod Touch because it doesn't have a microphone. Still, a good tip. I'd still love to know if anyone has already taken these measurements and posted them online. –  Daniel Lawson Mar 20 '12 at 5:42
    
An airplane taking off produces somewhere between 120 and 150 decibels (dB), the loudest rock concert ever recorded was a performance by The Who (not sure exactly when, this is off the top of my head), which checked in somewhere around 150 dB. Using those reference points, it's easy to make the leap of reasoning that no Mac (or other built in computer speaker) comes anywhere near this. The dB generated is probably just above conversational speech at 60 dB. The take home message is that you ears at not likely at risk for damage, if that is your concern. Hope this helps! –  soxman Mar 20 '12 at 16:40
    
I didn't expect it was a problem in any range I'd choose to set it to, but I wanted to know what it was capable of, worst case scenario. Thanks for your numbers. –  Daniel Lawson Mar 20 '12 at 16:49
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The info you have there is the acoustic specifications. In other words, how noisy is the air when not playing sound (fans, etc).

If they were to give a figure on how loud the speakers are it would be completely subjective because the speakers only respond to a limited frequency range and there is no real 'retail' standard to quote (eg. RMS vs Peak, A or C weighted, SPL type, etc).

Short story is, they are a lot louder than I anticipated but are only useful for general PC sound (Chat, YouTube, etc), not for playing loud music, etc.

They are on display practically everywhere so why not try one in a store?

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What would I try in a store? How would I measure the volume? A sound meter from Radio Shack? –  Daniel Lawson Mar 20 '12 at 5:04
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