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EC to revise volume control standards for MP3 players

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 28 Sep 2009 21:31 User comments (15)

EC to revise volume control standards for MP3 players The European Commission (EC) has noted today that all MP3 players sold in the European Union will soon come with a required "default setting," in an effort to "discourage" users from listening to music at volume levels that will eventually hurt their hearing.
The group will revise the standards after reports from a scientific committee concluded that prolonged "exposure to loud playback" would eventually cause permanent damage to one's hearing.

The EC estimates that up to 100 million people, mainly younger users, use MP3 players every day and that 10 percent of those users are headed for permanent damage.

There are two main problems with MP3 players and volume control, says the EC, one of which is that many users use them in loud areas such as buses and subways and are therefore forced to raise the volume. The second problem is "prolonged use."

The scientific committee says listening to music at under 80 dBA (decibels adjusted) is perfectly fine but your risk factor goes up exponentially for every dB (A) after that. At 100 dB (A), only 1 hour of playback is recommended, per week.

The default setting will likely be in the 65-75 dB (A) range, and users raising the volume higher will be greeted with an on-screen warning.

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15 user comments

128.9.2009 22:15

My Blackberry already has this feature. Its really nice if you are on the bus or subway.

228.9.2009 22:43

I think this is a great new regulation offered up by the EU Commission because it doesn't limit the volume that the device can output, just warns consumers about Scientific evidence that shows a potential of hearing loss after prolonged listening at a certain level or higher, so it's not "interference" with consumers. Had the regulation made it impossible to raise the volume now it would be a totally different issue and I don't think I'd support it.

329.9.2009 4:51

"The default setting will likely be in the 65-75 dB (A) range, and users raising the volume higher will be greeted with an on-screen warning."

Sure, it isn't a hard-coded limit, but this has some serious problems that they seem to ignore:

1.) Not all headphones are created equaly. A good set of headphones can be twice as efficient as the cheap sets that come with most MP3 the customer thinks "As long as the warning is off, I am safe" while listening to music at 90db.
2.) Most MP3 players have small screens. A small warning on the screen of an iPod or Zune will not be much of a hindrance...but it will be enough to block out all information on medium size screens, and would not even fit on smaller screens.
3.) Their own evidence shows that it is safe to listen at 80db for indefinate periods. The article states that the pre-set safe range will top out somewhere between 65db and 75db. Even at 75db, the warning comes 5db before it needs to. At 65db, the warning is almost always on...and the customer ignors it the same way they ignore vista security warnings. A manufacturer who fixes this issue would not be allowed to sell their devices in the EU.

429.9.2009 8:44

My Creative Vision M already has a limit that can be locked with a password. Even with the limit unlocked it doesn't get so loud that it damages your hearing. Maybe only cheapy players have dangerous limits ?, don't know..

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529.9.2009 10:10

Far as im concerned they would be far better to just make sure all headphones sold with devices were noise cancelling instead..

That way users wouldnt need the loud volumes to drown out the other noises.

629.9.2009 13:22

lol I used to womph it up all the way an extra warning wouldn't have slowed me down.
thease days I have mild hearing problems...

729.9.2009 13:25


829.9.2009 13:27

half-past three.

929.9.2009 13:28

Noooo not TEA i want Coffee...

1029.9.2009 13:32

The doctor will have something for that!

I can see this going to far. Oh wait it did.

1130.9.2009 9:08

KillerBug, good comments, cheap does not equate to quality. Very few in-the-ear buds are not ultra-efficient.

You can always increase the loudness setting of the mp3. I doubt that the players will be smart enough to figure that trick out. I doubt that any well meaning government can force its people into acting safely.

121.10.2009 11:03

Another problem which will occur with gain limiting will be with the FM transmitters used to play MP3 Players in cars that don't have inputs on their sound systems. It is already necessary to crank MP3 levels almost to the max to get any sound from your car system. If those levels are cut back any further, it will render those transmitters useless.

136.10.2009 9:23

What?! Nobody finds this big brother control and intrusion troubling. It's my d@mn business what I want to listen to my music as, and as was stated before, headphones make a difference.

Sure, it's just a warning that makes navigation useless now, but when you don't react to this, it will be a hard limit "for your best interest" then when wireless becomes ubiquitous in these devices, it becomes a phone home to big brother so that you can be charged a premium on your health insurance or denied ear car because you're not deemed responsible enough.

146.10.2009 10:59

Tarsellis, what are you going to do about it?

I think it is an ill conceived plan to interfer with out rights. It will not help but will be a nusance. However, I am not going to get worked up over something that trivial. There are coutless issuse I find far more important to put some effort into stopping. I figure if you are not going to put effort into stopping it then laugh it off.

157.10.2009 1:46

"cheap does not equate to quality"

I know. When I refered to the underpowered ear buds, I was refering to the ultra-cheap earbuds that the iPod comes with (or at least the ones it used to come with when it first came out). I was also refering to the units that come with headphones, as these are often very inefficient. If this ruling goes into effect, it seems likely that manufacturers will start using cheaper earphones, as they will not want ear phones that are powerfull enough to turn the warning on. When customers try these and hate them, they will go out and buy good ear phones, and be back in the same boat they are in now.

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