The Palo Alto Apple Store Might Be Too Loud For Sensitive Ear Drums

The Palo Alto Apple Store Might Be Too Loud For Sensitive Ear Drums

One of the newest Apple Stores in the world opened up just a few weeks ago in Palo Alto, just a stone’s throw away from Apple HQ in Cupertino. The new store is supposed to be a sort of prototype for future Apple Stores and features a glass facasade that allows passersby to view the entire store from the street.

It’s a fabulous new building, except for one thing – customers have started to complain that the store is just too noisy and loud for their liking. One Palo Alto blogger/resident even tried to go all scientific on Apple by measuring the decibel levels in the store so his complaints would be totally legit.

Jean-Louis Gassée discovered that –

“On a relatively quiet Saturday evening, the noise level around the Genius Bar exceeded 75 dB. Outside, the traffic noise registered a mere 65 dB. It was 10 db noisier inside the store than on always-busy University Avenue!”

If only Gassée understood the comparative differences of the decible scale maybe his argument that the Apple Store is too damn loud would hold weight. However, as Gizmodo notes in their beat down, 75dB is pretty tame.

“Traffic in a real city usually clocks at a much louder 85 dB. Indeed, 75 dB is probably only a big deal for library-loving nerds from Stanford. Regular human conversation usually registers about 60-65 dB—or roughly the SPL that Gassée measured outside the Apple Store. It makes complete sense that the collected sound of many human conversations might be a little louder, no?”

So if you ever go to the Palo Alto Apple Store and hear anyone complaining about the noise, just tell them that’s the sound of excellence. It’s much quieter inside a Microsoft Store.

  • The_Network

    I love the comment “It’s quieter in a MS office”.

  • technochick

    It’s not really the noise that is the issue for most folks. It’s the combo of noises, body heat, physically having folks mashed up against you etc. It’s a sensory overload that puts many folks on edge in a kind of flight or fight manner. They nag on sound because its the only one they can really codify.

  • 75Central

    I like how you called Jean-Louis Gassée a “Palo Alto blogger/resident” without mentioning that Mr. Gassée replaced Steve Jobs as head of the Mac division and later created BeOS.

  • Buster

    @technochick have you been to this specific Palo Alto store? the design of it is pretty similar to the one I go to at the Scottsdale Quarter and that store usually seems to a bit busier/noisier than others in the Valley. I wonder if the glass walls have a tendency to reverberate noise more than brick and motar stores.

  • technochick
    @technochick have you been to this specific Palo Alto store?

    Nope. And I don’t need to, because I’m talking about basic human psychology. Where it is happening doesn’t matter.

    As to your glass question, a little googling would answer your question but the short answer is that any smooth surface will reflect sound better than an unsmooth one. Brick etc tends to have tiny like divets that refract sound waves. These typically aren’t present in glass to the same degree. However, things like people and their clothing absorb and refract the waves themselves so it often balances out.

    And ultimately this guys test is questionable because he compared inside the building to a potentially quiet street with little traffic. Of course inside the store would be louder, no matter the store. If he did the same test during the day the results could be very different outside. And regardless what is the ‘safe’ sound level for human ears and is the store still within that. That is the bigger question.

    It wouldn’t hurt Apple to investigate some sound reduction methods even just for the psychology. Micro lines in the glass to refract waves, white noise speakers especially in the tech and training areas etc. and I’m sure they are. But we won’t hear about it until they are or have already implemented it. Don’t want someone beating them to the punch after all. Especially not based off an idea they copied from a patent filing etc

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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