Mutant Vehicle Sound Policy and DJ Lineups: The Update

"Stereo! That spells trouble - another all night rave!"

“Stereo! That spells trouble – another all night rave!”

The new and improved (?) Mutant Vehicle Sound Policy – starring the Dance Music Zone – has been posted at ePlaya (thanks JV). Loud Art Cars can play music loud outside the Dance Music Zone – but only next to the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock sound camps. This year there are 6 art cars with Level 3 systems.



Burning Man has had a sound policy for a few years now. Those policies are being expanded and clarified in 2015. Mutant Vehicle builders, drivers, and interested people should take a few minutes to read through the Mutant Vehicle Sound Policy below…

Mutant Vehicle sound systems are classified into three levels.

  • Level 1: Normal car stereo / average living room (under 90 dB at a distance of 30 feet from the speaker)
  • Level 2: Dance club or theatre (90 dB and up at a distance of less than 100 feet)
  • Level 3: Large dance club, arena, or stadium (100+ dB at a distance of 100+ feet)

(Note: All decibel levels refer to maximum potential dBA.)

The dB levels here are intended as guidelines. What is important is the impact your vehicle’s sound has on your surroundings.

Vehicles with Level 1 systems may play anywhere in Black Rock City, but must be mindful of your volume and surroundings, especially in quieter areas of the City or late at night.

Vehicles with Level 2 systems may only play at high volume on the open playa (not on or pointing right into the city streets) and must be mindful of where you are playing and turn it down when appropriate — e.g. around art pieces, burns, etc.

Vehicles with Level 3 systems may ONLY play at high volume by the Large Scale Sound Camps on the 2:00 and 10:00 sides of the City, with speakers pointing out to the deep playa.

If you get more than two warnings about your sound system, you may lose your Mutant Vehicle license and the right to drive your vehicle for the rest of the event.


This year we are establishing a deep playa zone where level three mutant vehicles can park for more than 3 hours. The zone will be 5,340 feet from The Man between the 10:30 and 11:15 clock positions with banks of toilets at each end. This distance out follows the arc of Kook Street. The length of the arc is 1,747 feet. Art placement will be modified to accommodate this zone.

The new experimental zone will allow for a longer stay, up to 12 hours as well as provide sanitary stations at this fixed site. The area is large enough for several level 3 sound vehicles to occupy the zone, where their speakers must be turned out and away from the city. The restriction no “encampments” still applies: no camping or setting up speakers or other type of structures on the ground. Of course leave no trace practices must continue.

In this effort we are reacting to the rise of edge cases with a spirit of giving permission whilst supporting all aspects of the community, rather than creating new restrictions.

We hope this experiment is successful in limiting the impact of deep playa gatherings on other members of the community including art installations, sound camps, the temple and other non-partying participants, and that it will additionally promote public safety and sanitation, while holding to our leave no trace principle.


[Update 7/21/15 2:37pm]

Thanks to Anonymous Burner for sharing this latest email to the Placement mailing list. BMOrg persist with the public shaming of Mayan Warrior, despite their apologies and the fact that they didn’t actually break any rules, since up until now this has been an unwritten request that BMOrg have tried to keep “on the downlow”.

3.    Announcing DJ Lineups in BRC

Dear artists, organizers and leaders who make Black Rock City what it is,

We’re writing to you with a request. We want you to refrain from pre-announcing and promoting your on-playa DJ lineups, a practice that many sound camps already employ. If you absolutely must announce your lineups ahead of time, we ask that you wait until the week before the event. Here’s why:

As you may be aware, the beloved Mayan Warrior Mutant Vehicle crew recently announced their DJ lineup, much like it was the lineup for an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival all its own. (They have since taken the lineup down from their website, which we appreciate.) We want to share with you this comment a Burner posted in response to the announcement at Resident Advisor:

“Hey, I really love Burning Man, and I really love music at Burning Man, and as a long-time Burner, I love the artistry behind your car, the sound system, and as always, the people you bring on your car to play.

But releasing a lineup like this, over a month in advance, flies right in the face of the rules and is pretty disrespectful in general. We want to avoid turning Burning Man into an EDM festival, with people hunting for lineups and timeslots. Burning Man is not an EDM festival, or even a music festival. It’s something else, undefineable.”

Even to someone who loves EDM enough to comment on an EDM news site, the practice of posting on-playa DJ lineups causes an upsetting sensation that there’s un-Burning Man-like activity going on. We couldn’t agree more — in fact, for many years, we’ve discretely requested that camps keep their line-ups a surprise. So yes, we feel that sensation, and we bet some of you do, too.

These kinds of promotions create notoriety in a community that doesn’t necessarily share our principles, and specifically commodifies and commercializes artistic experiences. Promotion beyond Black Rock City gets especially uncomfortable when on-playa camps, Mutant Vehicles and events are connected to off-playa commercial enterprises.

Promoting lineups to a worldwide audience is not the same thing as listing an act or an event within the confines of Black Rock City, in resources like the online Playa Events Calendar or the printed WhatWhereWhen guide distributed to participants when they arrive. Those are for reaching people who are already going to be on the playa to let them know what’s going on. They are not intended to build a brand on the merits of an appearance at Burning Man. It’s simply unnecessary to promote beyond ticketed Burners for an experience you’re giving to Black Rock City.

Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, not a traditional festival like the others. So when our participants post splashy DJ lineups, EDM sites and forums talk about us as though we are, spreading that message far and wide. It can also add to an already painful ticket scarcity issue — we don’t want to artificially drive up demand for tickets that aren’t available, and the attraction of big-name DJs can also drive up the price of after-market tickets.

Burning Man doesn’t have “headliners”. We pride ourselves on that. Burners don’t follow anyone else to Black Rock City, they go for themselves. Please understand, we don’t have anything against EDM, an art form whose vibrant community has made great contributions to Burning Man for many years. But we welcome members of the EDM community to come to Burning Man for a different experience than they’re used to: to fully participate in an experiment in a temporary community.

So, while we used to ask this on the downlow, we’ve seen enough instances in the last couple years that we feel the need to formally ask you not to announce your lineups. If you are dead-set on it, OK, but please wait until a week prior to the event before you do so. However, as surprise is great fun, and playa rumors help make things more exciting, we’d suggest that not announcing your lineup at all would be ideal. We’re asking you to listen to this request, think about it, and do what’s right for Burning Man culture. Thank you.


Thank you and stayed tuned!!

81 comments on “Mutant Vehicle Sound Policy and DJ Lineups: The Update

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  5. Honestly, if you want to see big name DJs in the Nevada desert, you can always go any weekend just a couple hundred miles south to see them play in Las Vegas. Why does BM have to become yet another boring event to stand around and watch over-paid commodity DJs and not participate in any way besides selfish consumption and narcissistic posing?

  6. I’m not sure I understand the big deal. Just go to the designated loud EDM zone and listen and dance. Done. that way those who might not want that music don’t have to hear it and those that do can go and listen to their hearts content. I’m a long time Burner (2000) and the loud EDM seems to have diverted the focus of the experience. But I wouldn’t deny someone that experience if that is what they want, so go to the loud EDM area if you choose and that way more people are happy. You get loud EDM and others get their more peaceful spiritual journey. Burning Man should not be about advancing someone’s DJ career. That is not the point of the experience. But if you do choose that, you have a platform to do so in the Zone. Let’s not divide our community over this issue.

        • I’m not objecting to their ruling, or porta-potties. I’m objecting to the hatred of ravers being shown by a community that supposedly values Radical Inclusion. Prejudice is not cool in the Default world, so why should we embrace and promote it at Burning Man?

          • Most all have given reasoned arguments for their belief that sound camps should not be given free reign over BRC. How do you find that as “hatred of ravers?” How are they being “prejudiced?”

            Sounds like you also did not get the memo on Radical Inclusion not trumping the other Tin Principles, like LNT, and Community Responsibility.

          • “the practice of posting on-playa DJ lineups causes an upsetting sensation that there’s un-Burning Man-like activity going on”…one example of anti-EDM prejudice. DJs are not un-Burning Man at all, they were there before Maid Marian was.

            I’m not going to bother providing you with a summary of all the anti-EDM sentiment, it is clear that it exists and some are passionate about it. If you were on Facebook you would see more of these comments than just what is at this site. Many feel that sound intrudes on the experience of others, but why should all ravers get the blame for that? “I thought that camp was loud, therefore all ravers are bad”.

          • A lot of the hate towards EDM on the playa comes from the feeling, pretty well warranted, that it’s threatening to fundamentally change the event towards something more commonplace. There’s always been tension, but it’s only recently that it’s spilled over to the general BRC population, due to things like a 15,000 person dance party with level 3 sound in the middle of the playa, I’m guessing. If there were mobile Thunderdomes dropping in on art installations with that size of a crowd, people would be up in arms about Death Guild.

            Wait a sec…mobile Thunderdome. MOBILE THUNDERDOME!!

          • Seems like simple supply and demand for me. The demand is for music and dancing, not workshops and thunderdome. How is it going to change the event when it has always been part of the event? The real cultural concern is non-participating spectators and commodification, not ravers.

          • Unfortunately, the Moop Map shows the issue – the sounds camps attract non-burners. That does NOT mean that they are the majority there, but they spend most of their time there. The moop shows that they are not in the spirit of the event, particularly NLT and Community Responsibility.

          • What % of burners do you think go to a sound camp or dance by a mutant vehicle? Because I am saying 80%, based on observation of where the crowds are at any time.

          • On that note…hey Death Guild…we better see a dude suspended from an art car, wailing on a guitar with flames shooting from it…this is your responsibility….

          • “Seems like simple supply and demand for me. The demand is for music and dancing, not workshops and thunderdome.”

            Burning Man ain’t a free market. It’s a free-for-all arts festival within certain boundaries and context.

            “How is it going to change the event when it has always been part of the event?”

            Because the volume, crowd sizes, MOOP levels around sound camps and marketing being done off-playa by DJs and sound camps is reaching levels where it’s beginning to fundamentally change the nature of Burning Man into something more commonplace, such as an EDM festival (and there’s nothing wrong with EDM festivals, it’s just that Burning Man is definitely not that). I’ve typed that sentence about 3 or 4 times now in this thread. Do you deny my assertion?

            “The real cultural concern is non-participating spectators and commodification, not ravers.”

            True. But if the rave community within Burning Man is starting to encroach upon others’ enjoyment of and expression while at Burning Man, which by all accounts it is, then it’s the rave community that will be targeted.

          • “The real cultural concern is non-participating spectators and commodification, not ravers.”

            No, the real concern is you doing your thing keeps me from doing my thing, that I only do at the burn. Maybe I should bring my Diagonal Cutters Bike Experience, where I pedal around cutting wires on sound cars. Would that be fun or what?

  7. I think a giant sound-meter art car would be awesome and educational. Drive around actively taking readings and in real time displaying them on a giant screen that could be seen from 100 feet. The sound buses would have no excuses.

  8. Over the last few years I’ve found that earplugs are fantastic to wear at almost all times during the event. It turns the static down on so many levels. You don’t overhear gossip and arguments, and if someone is needs to tell you something they need to look directly at you to say it.

    Turning the general volume down on the event with a supply of earplugs works a treat. Some asshole was yelling at me about something last year, and when I pointed to my earplugs she almost exploded realizing I hadn’t heard a word she said.

    I wouldn’t burn without earplugs now. Try it for one 24 hour period just as an experiment and you’ll be sold.

  9. JV, Burnersxxx, and other interested parties:

    I suggest that you take the BOrg’s sound camp “experiment” and turn it into the real thing. Get some SL meters, the $30 variety will do (the cost of a nice drink in town), and take some measurements in BRC and on the playa. You should be able to pace out the 100′, and take some dbA readings near your head – just hold up the meter in front of your face and read it. (And don’t unpack it when you get to NV – play with the meter some before you go, to get a feel for what readings you get. And find a good, padded/zip-lock bag to carry it on the playa.)

    You might even form your own committee, include some of the sound camp people, meet at BRC, and organize what you will measure, and meet again to discuss your results. Then write up a report. I won’t be there, but would be glad to be your technical adviser.

    I would bet that some of the sound camps would be interested to learn your readings as you make them, too.

    Since the BOrg has put a metric on this, let’s see how things measure up IRL. I have no doubt that you would learn something helpful.

    If he is interested, I suggest Burnersxxx create a new post to solicit those who might participate; maybe titled, “The Ad-Hoc Sound Camp Sound Committee.” Hopefully we could focus on the measurements and reconciling them with the BOrg rules above, and discourage the ethics and rights discussions – have enough of them in the two existing threads. And as a bonus, I will try to behave myself.

    • That’s a possibility. Could make it into a fun gag, like the Sound Police, with uniforms and fake citations and whatnot. Thanks for the idea!

      • Wish I were going. The Sound Police would be cool – I would carry my megaphone, and use the siren to announce that they were too loud and people were being disturbed. But dressing up as a dead cilla could be cool. Or take a cue from Russ, and dress up as an ear plug, and gift them on the playa.

        Hope you take pictures.

        • Be careful giving out those earplugs on the playa. Last year a buddy of man held out his hands filled with earplugs to pass out to our group and an undercover cop immediately grabbed his arm thinking they were drugs. Of course, the group just laughed at him and let him know that he was now outed as a narc..haha…

          Be careful out there!

  10. Just because a bunch of youngsters want to thrash their hearing shouldn’t mean the rest of us have to be inflicted. Burning Man isn’t EDC. All this chatter about just how loud sound camps can get, to me, is ridicules. Be courteous to your neighbors. Be at Burning Man. If you want Lallapalooza, go to Lallapalooza!

    • katerussell010, I thought about this… I wonder if the Burning Man culture does not scare some of these EDM people, particularly virgins. By going to the EDM camps, they can do something familiar, inside their comfort zone, safe from the unexpected. And ironically enough, driving through BRC, blasting away the other burner stuff, is imposing that normative force on what makes them uncomfortable. It is a culture struggle, as Pooh suggested, and by force of sound they can win.

  11. Sorry about the length of this, but I felt the need to say what’s on my mind…

    I like EDM, I just don’t like what EDM is doing to Burning Man. For me, Burning Man is the world I’d like to live in. I like the Ten Priciples as a way to try and live my life year round and I like, for a week, being in a place that is largely composed of people that feel the same way. To me, Burning Man is a community, not a music festival, not a rave and not an art festival. All those things are there, but they don’t define Burning Man, nor do they have any right to assume a voice for Burning Man.

    That being said, I think the EDM scene, (for lack of a better term, I’m speaking of sound camps and sound cars) is becoming an anchor that’s dragging Burning Man from something amazing and singular to just another commercialized stop on the concert tour. The sound cars and sound camps try to secure the highest ranked DJ’s, they have a year round social media presence promoting their schedules and events, they post the DJ lists on non-Burner sites and the DJ’s post their stops on the playa as if it were just another stop on their tour. Non of these things are wrong, but they do run contrary to the values that make Burning Man what it is. The actions of the sound camps and cars are of the default world and that’s what I am trying, for a week in the desert, to get away from. I’m not trying to get away from noise, sound or EDM. I want a break from commodification, I want a place where everyone is responsible for themselves, they participate, they engage, they’re inclusive, the are trying to be civic minded and obsessive about leaving no trace.

    The sound camps and sound cars run counter to this ethos by the very nature of how they go about business and how they’re set up. When a big name DJ is flown in and whisked from the airport to his or her RV with a security person standing outside their trailer, they’re hardly being self reliant. They certainly aren’t participating. How is the act of bringing in Diplo or Skrillex not commodification? How is it any different than having a camp that’s hyping Nike or U-Haul? How are back stage and VIP areas radically inclusive? The act of bringing in superstars that are ranked and then pandering to them is fine in the default world, but it runs contrary to why a lot of us travel to Black Rock. By advertising to the world who they’re presenting on the playa, they bring in a lot of people that think it’s just another music festival, except you have to bring things to give away and pick up some of your trash. The notion that compromising the principals by which a lot of people have come to Black Rock to try and live by, to present Thugfucker without a charge after the admission price, isn’t any more a gift than going from stage to stage at Coachella can be considered a gift.

    The sound cars present the same default world issues as do the camps, but their volume and mobility also affects the experience of others that might want something different. That’s all it is. Turn the volume down, the complaints go down. If I go to a sound camp, I know what I’m getting. If I go deep playa to enjoy the night sky with friends and a sound car drives out there or parks near by, my experience is affected. The sound is forced upon me. Yes, there will be rules where speakers can be pointed. There are rules where flame throwers can be pointed. Both are for good reasons. So if you want to bring a sound car that puts out sound a harmful levels, right on! Bring it. Just take it away from the city so people that might want a different experience can have one. And if you’re all in the same area, work together. Each car gets and hour, you rotate nights, you play off of each other. Be adults and figure it out.

    So I’m sorry EDM fans if you feel like this music festival you paid good money to attend, doesn’t want you. It’s not that at all. But how about a few suggestions? How about you bring in people that just want to play in front of a lot of happy, appreciative people? If a big name wants to play at Burning Man, do we need to know their name and ranking? Can’t they just play and make us dance a lot? If we liked the music, (since there are no back stages or VIP areas), we could just go into the DJ booth, give pave him or her a hug and say thanks. And if we ask their name, they can tell us who they are. I’ve danced at so many camps and had a lot of fun and appreciated the music and never once knew or cared if the DJ was important. I just had fun. So please don’t take this personally, just stop trying to make Burning Man into something common.

    • I’m confused by this message. Music has always been a part of the burning man ethos. While I agree with you that comodification of music is absolutely antithetical to our community’s principles, but how is having a DJ express his or her art comodification? IF the DJ were promoting his or her own business, then sure…I can understand that (and, it’s clear that the offenders from last year have not been invited back). That said, to paint a broad brush that all “sound cars” are simply spewing EDM, as if this were Electric Daisy Carnival is just not true. As someone who worked with a mutant vehicle last year (that also happened to play music on the deep playa…perhaps not what you would define as “EDM”), I can say that most of the creators of these vehicles are deeply committed to the principles of Burning Man. Therefore, why isn’t it good enough that (a) the promotion of “lineups” prior to the event be “banned” and (b) some realistic rules be setup to prevent too much noise bleed-over into the city? It seems to be that BMorg is being proactive here in order to make sure that the principles are being upheld, not the least of which is radical inclusion.

      Also — this is an absurd statement: “The actions of the sound camps and cars are of the default world and that’s what I am trying, for a week in the desert, to get away from.” — do you think that camps like Pink Mammoth, Distrikt, Celtic Chaos, and others are really of the default world? Come on now! I just think we don’t do our community any justice when we essentialize from the actions of a few to the experiences of many.

      • I didn’t say a DJ expressing their art is commodification. But I did make the point that when a camp advertises a particular DJ or hypes them, that’s no different than a camp hyping a brand or product. The DJ’s have become brands, commodities.

        I don’t think I said all sound cars spew EDM, but I did say that when I used the term EDM I was referring to sound camps and sound cars, as the majority of them play electronic dance music. I personally haven’t heard any large scale sound cars cruising the playa playing hours of country, jazz or classical.

        Next point. I wasn’t being critical of mutant vehicles in general, I’m not sure how you got that from what I wrote. My point was, the sound cars have the same issues (exclusivity, hyping dj’s, etc.) as the sound camps with the added problem of mobility. I can choose to not go to a sound camp, but I am affected by the sound cars because they move about. I used as an example, going deep playa to enjoy the night sky. If I go to the effort to get away from the sound camps and a sound car comes out to where I am, that affects my experience and I have to move or I lose that moment.

        You lost me when you asked why isn’t it good enough that lineups be banned and rules be setup to prevent too much noise bleed into the city… I have no idea why you’re asking me that. I made the point that they should accept those rules. Be adults about it.

        Well, I disagree with you on the last one. If I thought it absurd, I wouldn’t have written it. I don’t think Distrkt, Pink Mammoth and Celtic Chaos behave the same way as the larger camps. So to answer your question, no. I think the large camps could avoid a lot of the criticism if they emulated those smaller camps. To use Pink Mammoth as an example, I was dancing there a couple years ago, approached the DJ after his set, shook his hand and said thanks. I can’t really do that with the high profile camps, can I? Unless I had the right wristband and security clearance…

        • Pink Mammoth is the model for sound camps, in my opinion. Just big enough and just loud enough while still maintaining a cozy, inclusive vibe. And they serve great drinks. And we always camp a half block or so down the road from them so they’re my afternoon dance party. And the music is great and the crowd is diverse in age and other things.

        • Really well said on all fronts. We don’t want to ban EDM, we just want it to conform to the spirit of the city. No advertising your line-up. No paying for DJs. There is no need for big names at Burning Man. There have always been plenty of talented amateur DJs out there who can throw a great party.

          • That was my point. I just needed twenty paragraphs of typing to figure it out where it was going…

        • no, its not all EDM< some of the disco music at 100 decibels is much worse, when someones elses 'art" or music adversely affects someone else's experience painfully
          , its wrong

  12. The rule should be simple, if you have less than ten people dancing and your sound level is at X, you need to turn it down. Conversely, if you have 100 people dancing at X decibels, you need to turn it up.

    • Knowing that they have chosen 90 dB, which is the 3-hour hearing loss, they should keep the level below 90 dB at the far edge of their crowd, be it 4 or 400. Let the crowd determine the area, rather than an arbitrary 100′.

  13. This is key:

    “Promoting lineups to a worldwide audience is not the same thing as listing an act or an event within the confines of Black Rock City, in resources like the online Playa Events Calendar or the printed WhatWhereWhen guide distributed to participants when they arrive. Those are for reaching people who are already going to be on the playa to let them know what’s going on. They are not intended to build a brand on the merits of an appearance at Burning Man. It’s simply unnecessary to promote beyond ticketed Burners for an experience you’re giving to Black Rock City.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Sure, they didn’t need to name Mayan Warrior, but I agree 100% with the sentiment of the letter.

  14. I don’t see how this new policy isn’t the result of this portion of the BLM letter to the BMORG (

    “7. Sanitation Management.
    BLM LE and Civilian Operations observed and reported human waste on the open playa associated with mobile rave participants who did not have convenient access to portable toilets. Insufficient resources were dedicated to removing blackwater from participant campsites. Public health is compromised by insufficient portable toilets where they are needed and insufficient blackwater pumping resources throughout the city. These issues were also noted on page 37 of Operational Assessment (Environmental Compliance Recommendations). The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services? AAR, page 4, states, few theme camp participants registered complaints about the limited availability of septic tank pumping services.” Also stated on page 5, ?Throughout the event empty hand sanitizer containers continued to be found at the port?a-potty banks. particularly on the 6-10 o?clock side of the No hand sanitizer was installed on the posts at the open playa port-a?potty banks until this (was brought) to the attention of the Burning Man organization must stress the importance of properly setting-up and stocking hand sanitizer with Public health is compromised by a lack of functioning hand sanitizing stations. Also noted throughout the event were sporadic and untimely schedules for daily pumping of porta potties.”

    A lot of that is bullshit, but the BLM required all 20 points raised in the letter to be addressed. The BMORG is dealing with a tremendous amount of government bureaucracy just to get the fucking event permit. The fact that some ravers might not FEEL the music in their chest 100ft from the speakers just doesn’t fucking matter at this point.

  15. Pingback: Burning Man Creates Dance Music Zone [Updates] | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  16. “Loud Art Cars can play music loud outside the Dance Music Zone – but only next to the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock sound camps.”

    Is 90db at 100 feet not loud? That’s level 2, which can happen any time and anywhere on the open playa for as long as they want with speakers faced away from the city. Five years ago, anything over 90db at 100ft wasn’t even possible, and yet somehow we were able to hear the music and dance.

      • I guess that’s subjective. I highly doubt and dancers will be complaining at level 2 dance parties that they can’t hear the music.

          • You’ve been going to BM for more than 5 years, right? Were you ever thinking back then, while dancing, that hey, this is cool, but I’m not FEELING the thump in my chest? Maybe I’m naive, but I couldn’t believe how loud the music was when I first started going. And it’s only gotten louder, which, you know, is impressive on a technical level. But at 90db at 100ft, you’ll feel it. If you need more, than yeah, I guess you have to head out to 2 or 10 or the DMZ. It’s a compromise.

          • In 2010 , at Nexus / Circus Maximus on the Esplanade, I danced in the middle of the dancefloor to Bass Nectar for about 4 hours. The Funktion1 system is able to produce 15 hz bass. At the end of it, my skull ached.

          • That was a stationary sound system, right? If not, then yeah, those parties will only happen at 2 and 10 and the DMZ. Again, a compromise, most likely based on BLM stipulations that I will post in another comment.

          • Yes, that was a stationary sound system.

            I feel absolutely broken up that the bros won’t be able to “feel” the music anywhere they want. That is tragic for them. All because of selfish Burners who want to enjoy the art and playa and “retain” their “hearing”. Lame.


            My old Extech 407735, set to Low range (35-100 db), (S)low response,does not break 90 dBA in my office when I am driving my Bose AM5’s to as loud as I could listen. Mostly in the high-70 to mid-80 dB range. Could NOT carry on a conversation, and that’s with Acoustic Alchemy. Certainly not with Robert Palmer or Elton John. (Office NC is about 52 dBA with the window a/c on.) MUCH happier in the 60-70 dB range, which is normal conversation range.

            Remember to hold it near your head and not near any large surfaces with standing wave nodes.

            I would stay away from 90 dbA, or use ear plus.


          • And Nomad, I’m guessing you weren’t 100ft from your speakers. Level 2 is 90-100 db at 100 ft. That’s fucking LOUD, no matter how young or old you are.


            Since I am in my office, and listening to Bose AM5’s (little speakers pointed away from me), I am in the reverberant field – the SPL is pretty much the same anywhere I could put my head. On the playa you would be in the direct field, where the SPL would tend to follow the inverse square law times two (for the playa floor), depending on the frequency and the characteristics of the compacted playa dust.

            The point is what you are getting at your head. If you want to be closer and kill your cilia, that’s up to you, The field/playa readings can be trickier, that’s why I suggested that you just make judgements about what is reaching your ears.

            Of course anyone listening at 90+dB for a few hours is going to need it louder over time due to their hearing loss – temporary at first, then permanent.


          • Professional question , do you think it makes a difference being indoor vs outdoor when it comes to exposure to dangerous levels ?

          • If you are static, no – SPL at the ear is SPL at the ear. However, on the playa, you can reduce the SPL by just walking away from the source, something not available to you in a room with a constant sound level in the reverberant field.

          • Good question. Interestingly enough, the BOrg lawyers might be SPL savvy, knowing that if you assign my camp a location in BRC, and then you whomp it with 90+ dB for over 3 hours, there could be a lawsuit. A public health and safety issue, not unlike getting sick because they did not service the potties.

          • Perhaps you should include Nomad’s chart in the update. Sounds like important information.

          • It is a common graphic in many forms with the same numbers. Just google “noise induced hearing loss.” Here is a good document:

            One thing they often miss is noise-induced coordination loss. Why do you wear hearing protection when you are using a table saw? To keep from cutting off your fingers. …Also explains a lot of rave dancing.

            Let’s declare war on our nervous system!!

        • Nope, Sound Person. While the exposure level over time is generally consistent with other sources (thought not with that chart! try 90 dB = 4 hours?!), the SPL at different distances you cite is not that simple. Variations over distance depend on many factors, starting with direct and reverberant fields. Go out and measure sound, and you will find that those numbers don’t hold. For example, take readings on the playa, in a stadium, and in a large warehouse – not the same. Even the grass in the stadium will make a difference. You need to START with correcting for reverberation time (RT in seconds) and the Room Constant (in feet/meters). To predict actual situations, scale modeling is usually needed. That’s why the reference measurement is important, in this case SPL 100′ from the source. That should be largely reproducible.

          But thanks for trying. The exposure info may be helpful to some.

          • Of course if you have taken measurements on the BR playa, and have published an article in JASA, that link would be good to have.

          • In the DMZ or at the 2 and 10 large sound camps that will be a very good approximation. I agree on reference measurements and that 90dB at 100′ is much too high as a standard.

          • If we can get a cadre of burners out there with meters to take some readings, they can validate or suggest modifications to the 100 dBA and 90 dBA criteria. They might also develop some different distance criteria, but that should be based on measurements and not on calculations.

            One benefit of the 100′ distance is that the direct field is largely mixed at that point, and few if any reverberant field standing waves can be present in that environment. I suspect that they will find readings much closer will be more variable based on location along the distance arc, and hard to reproduce. Would be an interesting experiment.

          • The main takeaway is that 90db at 100ft is fucking loud. And that saying “that’s only as loud as a hairdryer” is entirely missing the “at 100ft” point. I really think that needs to be hammered home because there are some people (ahem) who don’t seem to be getting it. And, that’s not even the limit for level 2, it’s actually 90-100 decibels at 100 ft. Anything OVER 100db at 100ft is level 3, so to say “boo hoo no more major dance parties at art installations” is ridiculous.

            I will say, though, that if we’re defining “major” as 10,000+ people, then that’s different on a lot of levels. For one, I suppose (although I’m not sure) that 100db at 100ft is maybe not loud enough for the people on the edge of that 10,000 person crowd. But the other and, to me, more important point is that when crowds get that large in the middle of the playa, it’s no longer just the sound that’s intrusive. A crowd that size will push away anything else that’s going on in the vicinity. For hours, apparently.

            So, if these sound restrictions result in smaller parties on the open playa outside of 2 and 10 and the DMZ, I think that’s a good thing, even without taking sound levels into consideration.

          • If Sound Person wants to run some calcs, I would suggest a determination of how far away you need to be from each sound camp class to be at 85 dBA, the highest long-term exposure level.

        • While other groups are getting better over time, white men are getting more deaf… Hmmmm. Maybe that explains Congress.

          • Presumptuously speaking for Congress, “Huh-what?”

            Now to the topic of dB levels, after decades of ZZTop concerts I have to agree as high volume does deafen. So, that would be a “Huh-What, D’Uh.”

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