Ever wonder exactly how loud your favorite band is? How about those sporting events you frequently attend to see the teams you love play? Both may be way noisier than you think.
Get Licensed, a course-booking website for license-linked courses, recently researched the loudest events ever recorded on a Decibel meter and shared its findings in a fun infographic. Some of the results you would expect, but others may be quite shocking.
How Loud is Too Loud?
To put things in perspective, exposure to noises 85 dB and over for prolonged periods of time is harmful to your hearing, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Just an FYI, that’s about as loud as New York City traffic. The organization states that you can be exposed to sounds as loud as 85 dB for eight hours before suffering hearing damage, and that time is cut in half for every 3 dB added. That means you can only be exposed to sounds as loud as 88 dB for four hours, sounds as loud as 91 dB for two hours, and so on and so forth.
Now that we’ve painted the bigger picture, let’s see which events made the list!
Indiana Hoosiers Basketball Game – 115.3 dB
As an IU alum, I can attest to the earth-shaking noise generated by the fans of Assembly Hall. I’ve even contributed to it many times. There are very few fanbases that can exceed or match the loudness of the Hoosier faithful, and they appear later on this list. Go to one of these games, and your ears will be ringing with the chants of “Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoosiers!” for days.
Deep Purple Concert – 117 dB
This 70s hard rock quintet can really blow the roof off a venue with its chunky guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats. At one point, it was recognized as the loudest band of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records after playing a famously noisy show at the Rainbow Theater in London. Noise levels reached an astounding 117 dB that night, and three fans were allegedly knocked unconscious by the sound pressure.
The Who Concert – 126 dB
Another group of rock gods known for its ability to blow out eardrums, The Who once played a concert that reached sound levels of 126 dB, officially claiming the title of the world’s loudest band at the time. The concert was in support of the band’s seventh album, The Who by Numbers, and was held at a London sports arena called The Valley. Funny enough, there is no evidence proving the English rockers were intentionally cranking up the volume to break the record.
Sacramento Kings Game – 126 dB
Even when they have little to cheer about, Sacramento Kings fans can still get loud. On November 15, 2013, a sellout crowd of 17,317 Kings fans set the record for loudest crowd roar in an indoor sports stadium twice. The first time, the fans roared at an impressive 124.9 dB, and the second time they reached an even more impressive level of 126 dB. Fun fact: the Kings’ record at the time was 2-6, and they finished the season with a pitiful 28-54 record. Needless to say, those are some dedicated fans.
Ted Nugent Concert – 130 dB
A fun fact about Ted Nugent is that he spent some of his teenage years living in my home town. Another interesting tidbit is that he once played a concert so loud in Kansas City that farmers who lived 18 miles away complained. Moreover, Nugent's shows have been measured to be as loud as 130 dB. To quote the legendary musician, "When you come into a place, you might as well devastate it." Well said, Ted.
Led Zeppelin Concert – 130 dB
Commonly known as one of the founders of heavy metal, Led Zeppelin’s guitar-driven sound led to some incredibly loud concerts. Rolling Stone writer David Krebs firmly believed that the band’s performances of “Whole Lotta Love” were the loudest live music acts of 1970. More notably, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) once measured a performance of “Heartbreaker” at an astounding 130 dB. My ears hurt just thinking about that...
AC/DC Concert – 130 dB
This Aussie rock outfit was so determined to be the world’s loudest band that it played a series of shows during an early 1980s tour at a whopping 130 dB. The noise was mostly fueled by Angus Young’s wall of high-powered Marshall amps and his set of Gibson SG guitars. Eventually, complaints from promoters forced AC/DC to turn the volume down a few notches to a less-deafening dB level.
Motorhead Concert – 130 dB
Fast, hard, and loud are the best words to describe Mötorhead’s unique brand of thrash metal. I mean, they did title one of their albums Everything Louder Than Everyone Else, if that tells you anything. Reportedly, the band reached a decibel level of 130 dB at The Variety Theater in Cleveland during a live performance in 1984. The noise was so great that it caused the ceiling to crack, and the band was forced to stop playing as a safety precaution. Two years later, The Variety Theater closed its doors for good.
Kansas Jayhawks Basketball Game – 130.4 dB
Officially the loudest fanbase in all of college sports, Kansas Jayhawks basketball fans broke the record for loudest indoor crowd noise by generating 130.4 dB of sound during a February 13, 2017 matchup against West Virginia. Not surprising seeing that Allen Fieldhouse is notoriously one of the hardest stadiums for opposing teams to play in, mainly due to the earth-rattling cheers from the stands.
Kiss Concert – 136 dB
Kiss has been making music and performing it since the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until recently that the hard rockers joined the club as one of the loudest bands ever. During a 2009 concert in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the group achieved an SPL of 136 dB. It was reportedly so loud that residents of the area filed noise complaints, ultimately forcing Kiss to turn the volume down mid show.
Seattle Seahawks Game – 137.6 dB
They’re called the 12th man for a reason. On September 15, 2013, Seahawks fans broke the Guinness Book record for loudest stadium in the world when they achieved a jaw-dropping SPL of 137.6 db. Did the noise carry their team to victory? Well, the Seahawks went on to win 29-3 against a 49ers team that went on to make the playoffs with a 12-4 record, so I would say that it did.
Manowar Concert – 139 dB
Never heard of them? Me neither. But this heavy metal group currently holds the title of world’s loudest band. There is a catch, however. While they did achieve the highest dB level ever recorded by a musician or band, generating a SPL of 139 dB, they did it during a sound check; not during an actual performance. Regardless, that’s extremely impressive. Probably a good thing they got that out of their system during sound check, or else a lot of fans would have probably left with permanent hearing damage.
Kansas City Chiefs Game – 142.2 dB
If you thought Seahawks fans were the loudest, you haven’t been to Arrowhead Stadium. In 2014, the Chiefs faithful broke the record for loudest outdoor stadium by producing an impressive 142.2 dB of noise. To put this in perspective, that’s louder than a jet airplane flying 100 feet overhead. Chiefs fans, once again, have a lot to cheer for these days, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them break their own record in the near future.
About the Author
Adam is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at e3 Diagnostics. His interest in hearing healthcare is driven by his passion for music because he feels everyone should be able to clearly listen to Pet Sounds at least once in their life. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games, digging through record stores for classic vinyl, shooting hoops, and writing stories.