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I am considering the miniature speakers of CUI Devices for a project. The ambient noise may be as loud as 60 dB to 80 dB (the speaker could for isntance be placed close to a highway), but could just as well be as quite as an empty room with closed doors and windows.

Just to repeat my question, I am wondering how loud sounds the speaker must be able to produce for it to be audible. By that I do not mean that I would like it to be barely audible, or just as audible so that I can just tell that it is there. I would like to be able to hear what is said if the speaker is outputting voice for instance. Preferably as well as when a person standing in front of me speaks to me.

Excuse me in advance if I should have used dBA and not dB.

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Decibels(dB) work in a logarithmic scale.

Every 10dB is perceived as twice as loud as the as the previous - thus 60dB is heard as twice the level of 50dB. (SPL doubles every 3dB)

This being the case, it can safely be said that 90dB will be perceived as twice the level of your 80dB background noise. The finer details will be up to you depending on how far above your background noise you want the speaker sound to be and whether you just want the sound to be heard or if you want it to mask out the background noise.

There's some great information about all of this on the ProTools Reviews website

Graph showing the logarithmic relationship between SPL and dB

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    Hi, and thank you for answering, great link :) I am unsure about what you wrote after reading the article the link points to. To me it seems like a 10 dB increase is perceived as twice as loud, while a 3 dB increase results in twice the SPL (Sound pressure level). Did i misunderstand something?
    – TheJonaMr
    Jul 19 at 11:15
  • No, you're right - I wrote it originally as 10dB = twice perceived loudness but then thought I must have misremembered after looking a the chart - I'll go and correct it now Jul 19 at 17:00
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how loud sounds the speaker must be able to produce for it to be audible. By that I do not mean that I would like it to be barely audible, or just as audible so that I can just tell that it is there. I would like to be able to hear what is said if the speaker is outputting voice for instance.

While an answer is given with more scientific explanations, the question is not really specific in what you try to accomplish.

Even besides a highway, or busy road with lots of noise, it is possible to hear the ring tone of your phone.

So, go to your point of reference with the noise, take out your phone, and play music over the phone speaker. Once determined the level, the you have a reference point.

Probably better to do this with a portable amp/speaker combo if your phone is not sufficient. Or with your car with the car door open and playing through your car audio system.

When you say "I would like to be able to hear what is said if the speaker is outputting voice for instance" this is very subjective to you, so you need to try, test, and repeat, until you have the level you want.

Test and try on different distances from the sound source. As this will probably be more of a factor for outside locations with ambient noise.

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