Sound Meter for Fitness Studios

We’re launching an Indiegogo campaign tomorrow (Sunday 3/30/14) to solve a problem most ALL of us face every week in our classes.

Do you really know when your class music is at exactly the right sound level?

Not too loud so it’s unsafe… but not too quiet that you miss out on the energy?

How about the level of your microphone… is it adjusted so your voice and cues are easily understood by your class?

I only know one Instructors on the planet who can answer this with, YES John, I do know when my mic and music volume are adjusted correctly – our very own Jennifer Lintz. That’s because Jennifer teaches at a studio where they’ve spent $766.00 to purchase one of these soundear noise meters. In this article she discusses teaching class with it hanging in the back of her studio. She only needs to take a quick peek and watch the color changes to know when everything is adjusted properly.

Fitness Studio Sound Meter

Image from http://www.soundsafety.com.au/

$766.00, for something you could live without, is what my buddy Randy would call “Stupid Money”.  To be fair, the SoundEar appears to have been designed for use in hospitals, where the intent is keeping noise levels very low.

Continuous understanding vs. checking once or twice a year :(

Do you still do this in your class?

Do you still do this in your class?

Over the years I’ve seen infrequent requests from GF Dept Heads saying something similar to:

We’re getting complaints about music levels in some classes!! Please check the sound levels in your classes!!  I have a sound meter in my top drawer you can use. I’m also going to make spot checks of classes to check and see that you’re under 100 decibels – which is our company policy.

How does checking my sound level today help me a month, week, day or even 20 minutes from now?

I can’t help comparing an annual sound check to the good old days when we checked our pulse with fingers and a watch. This gave the illusion of doing something important, but it’s a worthless exercise when you compare it with the understanding you get from a Heart Rate monitor that display BPM continuously. If my HR is too low, I can increase my level of effort, and then wait, check again and adjust as necessary.

The typical fitness studio sound system includes a bunch of knobs that will change the sound levels. Where I teach there are 5 ways I can adjust what my class hears:

  • Master Volume Knob
  • iPod Volume Knob
  • Mic Volume Knob
  • CD Volume Knob
  • And the volume level slider on my iPhone

+ don’t forget how many tracks play at a different volume

All those knobs effect how loud the music will be in class. Making a mark on the Master Volume Knob (as often suggested) ignores all the other settings that will over ride the Master Volume Knob. I need a meter that tells me the correct settings to make for the best class experience.

You don’t hear… what they hear

In most studios there’s what I call a cone of silencer, that looks like this:

What sounds perfect to you on the instructor bike can be deafening to riders in the front row. The only way you can truly understand what your class is hearing, is to get off and walk around the room.

So I propose building a Fitness Studio Sound Meter that looks like this prototype

Why in the clock?

Every fitness studio (if it doesn’t already) should have a clock hanging on the back or side wall, so the Instructor can easily know the time. I feel it makes perfect sense to incorporate the sound meter where it’s plainly visible while teaching.

Visible to you… but discrete

I’ve already test marketed this idea to a few dozen Instructors and Studio owners. The one negative concern expressed was not wanting participants focusing or judging you based on their watching the sound meter. So our design features small LEDs that are very easy to see in any level light.

I have a saying; “my ideas always sound good… to me“. The purpose of this campaign is to find out if my idea sounds good to you :)

I’ll be posting more details and a link to Indiegogo campaign tomorrow (Sunday 3/30/14)

Love your questions & suggestions below.

Yacker Tracker Sound – Noise Meter Reviews

Yacker Tracker Sound Meter Reviews

Another option for a wall mounted Sound Meter in your fitness studio or classroom is the Yacker Tracker – $89.95 at Amazon.

I appreciate how you can adjust the noise level to exactly where you want, without trying to figure out an exact dB level.

There are plenty of positive reviews at Amazon showing that using the Yacker Tracker has a positive impact on the noise levels.

Yacker Tracker Reviews

Click Image to read more reviews

It’s available for free shipping if you have Amazon Prime

Audio test MP3 for measuring fitness studio music volume – free download

graphic_equaliser

I discovered a challenge to measuring the volume of the music in your fitness studio and came up with a simple solution.

The volume of any typical music you play in class isn’t very consistent, it moves up and down and the readings you’re seeing on your sound meter are bouncing all over the place.

I created a quick fix for you – an MP3 file that’s a blend of frequencies (50Hz – 20,000Hz) that plays at a constant level. It sounds horrible, but you will see a very steady response on your sound meter.

Download this free audio test MP3 (Right-Click the link and select Save File As) to download it to your computer. Then you can open it with iTunes and drag it onto your smart phone.

How do I measure the sound / noise level in a Group X fitness studio?

fitness studio sound level meter

There are a number of methods you can use to measure the sound / noise level in a group x fitness, Zumba® or Spinning® studio, to ensure you don’t damage your participant’s or Instructor’s hearing.

  1. The most common method is by using a hand held sound meter.
  2. Some studios are using a wall mounted sound meter that displays the level of sound continuously.
  3. Adding a sound level limiter to the studio’s sound system.

Hand held sound meters are inexpensive and accurately show the sound level at the time they are used. It works best for someone other than the fitness Instructor to walk around the room, taking sound level readings at different parts of the studio.

The disadvantage of a hand held sound meter is that they’re only relevant when they are being used. Using a Sharpe to mark the volume control is rarely effective = many of your Instructors will simply turn right past the mark. Also, most studio sound systems have multiple level adjustments + many Instructors now use an iPod or Smart Phone with it’s own volumen adjustment, making some “setting” difficult to impossible to return to accurately.

Wall mounted sound meters, while being a bit more expensive, have the advantage of displaying the loudness of the sound continuously - in real time – while not insulting your Instructors. Your Instructor can monitor their volume throughout the class, making adjustments when needed.

Sound level limiters eliminate the problem by preventing the Instructor from exceeding a preset noise level. The GovNor Volume Limiter is an electronic device that can be installed into your existing sound system. The club owner/manager can set the allowable level (typically around 90db) and the volume limiter will prevent any combination of music and Instructor’s voice from exceeding the set level.

SoundEar Wall Mounted Sound Meter Review

SoundEar Fitness Studio Sound Noise Meter

SoundEar is a wall mounted sound meter for a fitness club or studio. The device gives a visual indication of the decibel level of the music being played by the Instructor.

I had a chance to watch an Indoor Cycling Instructor interact with the SoundEar yesterday and I found it very interesting how she would make small adjustments to her iPod’s volume controls if she noticed her music was causing the red light to flash.

The volume level that triggers the green/yellow/red lights can be set by the user. The club had a notice posted that explained the SoundEar Sound Meter’s purpose was to protect the participant’s and Instructor’s hearing. They have the maximum volume (turns red) set at 85dB. I’m not sure that you need to keep your music quite that low, but at 85dB I didn’t find myself wanting to yell out “turn it up!”

SoundEar Fitness Studio Sound Noise Meter dB Adjustment

Thumb wheel adjusts sound level settings

IDEA has published an article where they suggest that your music volume shouldn’t exceed 90 decibels and when you add your voice using a microphone the combined sound level shouldn’t go over 100dB total.

So with the SoundEar you would set the maximum level at 100dB and turn up the music until the yellow light displays and when you give a cue it briefly goes to red.

How do you measure the sound level or music volume in a fitness studio?

iPhone Sound Meter App for indoor cycling studios

This sound meter maxes out at 100dB – which limits it’s use in the real world.

Music volume is measured by Sound Level Pressure and expressed in Decibels or dBs. You can (as you would imagine) measure the dB level using some type of sound meter.

If you own an iPhone or Android device there are multiple Apps that you can find for free that will give you some basic understanding of the sound level in your Spinning® or Zumba® studio.

I’ve played around with this free Digital Sound Meter App on my iPhone and noticed that the sound level in the studios where I teach varies quite a bit, depending on where I am in the room. In all of the studios I tested the front of the room (where you typically teach) was the quietest – which makes sense with the speakers on either side, pointed at the class. So the Instructor doesn’t have a true understanding of what their class is hearing.

Live bands recognize that the performers can’t hear the music from the big speakers, which is why they use small monitor speakers pointed back at them. They will also have a member of the crew (Sound Engineer) adjusting sound levels on a mixer board, out in the middle of the room with all the concert goers – which is why I’m beginning to think that some type of remote sound meter (that the Instructor can see while facing the class from the front of the room) could really add to the quality of the participant’s experience in your class.

How Loud is Too Loud?

Is your fitness studio music is too loud?

If you’ve taught group fitness classes for any length of time you’ve probably had a participant make a comment about the sound level. It may have been a complaint that you don’t play it loud enough, but more commonly it was that your music was too loud.

So how loud is too loud?

I did some searching online to see what the fitness authorities had to say about the maximum volumen levels you should have in your classes.

Here are links to what I found:
IDEA Opinion Statement: Recommendations For Music Volume In Fitness Settings
Here IDEA is recommending that the music in your class should not exceed 90 dB (decibels) and because the Instructor’s voice needs to be ~ 10 dB louder the combined maximum volume shouldn’t go over 100 dB.

The Center for Hearing and Communication advises the same levels of 90 dB + 10 dB.

So how do you measure the sound level or music volumen in a fitness studio?