A Louder Big House

Submitted by Blue in Seattle on August 21st, 2008 at 11:36 AM

Bumped from the diaries; I'm a sucker for footnotes.

In my opinion, from reading the few articles I could find on stadium noise, the lack of noise in Michigan Stadium is because of the fans.

First of all, from scanning the internet, many articles claim noise levels, but do not describe how they were measured. The best I could find on other stadiums was quotes of "the ESPN Crew measured noise levels of XdB. But at least for the Big House, the Michigan Engineering department stepped in for something scientific.

"A Louder Big House", The Michigan Daily

First the bottom line is that the noise measured 100 dB. Which changes to the stadium they estimate an improvement to 110 dB. Unfortunately this is still far behind the Oregon claim of 127.2 dB. Now to the best of my memory, 3dB is a doubling of noise level. so with Autzen (Ducks) Stadium at 27dB higher, that's 9 Doublings of noise level!! Or 2 to the 9th power for the computer engineers. Looking at the pictures of Autzen stadium I can't see how the shape can possibly be responsible for all that, although admittedly I'm not a sound engineer, and don't have any experience making these measurements in different shaped enclosures.

Autzen Stadium from Wikipedia

But check out the images at that page yourself. Here's the quote from the section on crowd noise. Notice that when anyone wants a measuring stick to prove how "awesome" they are, it is frequently Michigan that serves as that stick.

"Autzen is known for its crowd noise. On October 27, 2007, during a 24-17 defeat of the USC Trojans, a record crowd of 59,277 fans was recorded at 127.2 decibels. A similarly-loud 31-27 upset of third-ranked Michigan in 2003 prompted a Michigan Daily columnist to write[5]

Autzen's 59,000 strong make the Big House sound like a pathetic whimper. It's louder than ... The Swamp at Florida, The Shoe in Columbus, and Death Valley at Louisiana State. Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr later said that Autzen Stadium was the loudest stadium he'd ever been in.[6]

In 2006, a Sporting News columnist named Autzen the most intimidating college football stadium in the nation.[7]

Lee Corso of ESPN College Gameday frequently says that; "Per person Autzen Stadium is the loudest stadium that I have ever been in my entire life!"[8] "

Autzen Stadium seats just under 60,000 fans.

And here's the quote from the Daily article when the Professor measured the Big House.

"Crowd participation was almost entirely located in the student section. If all 109,840 individuals had yelled at the same intensity, Navvab said the measurement would have increased to 102 or 103 decibels - a significant sound increase."

In conclusion, I think the Big House will definitely look more impressive when the construction is completed, but I don't think it's going to come close to sounding imtimidating.

So finally here is a link to Top 15 Stadiums that provides good pictures of the "conventional wisdom" on most intimidating stadium.

Top 15 College Football Stadiums







turbo cool

August 17th, 2008 at 11:49 AM ^

michigan stadium needs that same awning as Autzen. that would be awesome. i've long wanted michigan stadium to get an awning on either side, just like the soccer stadiums in europe have. it keeps fans dry when the weather sucks but more importantly, it traps all the noise within the stadium.


August 17th, 2008 at 11:52 AM ^

Not sure what you've read, but as volume increases, the interpretation of loudness over decibel level is logarithmic -- at 100db, an increase of 3db is hardly noticeable.


August 17th, 2008 at 1:18 PM ^

I should have been more specific, actually -- an increase of 3 db at any volume does double the sound pressure, but to the ear, plus or minus 3 db at 100 db is hardly noticeable.  However, it is noticeable at lower volumes.  This has more to do with the ear's perception of sound than the nature of a decibel:


The perceived loudness is NOT proportional to
the intensity of the sound.  It is more nearly proportional to the logarithm
of the intensity.  This is what makes decibels such a useful measure.
It also illustrates the cleverness of evolution and explains why we can
clearly hear the quietest whispers and the buzz of a mosquito and still
understand and survive the sounds made by subways, jackhammers, and even
rock concerts with our hearing almost intact.
An increase in the sound intensity by a factor of 10 does increase the
decibel rating by adding 10.  However, it is perceived by the ear as less.
For example, an increase of the decibel rating from 100 to 110 would be
perceived as roughly a 10% increase and NOT a factor of 10, which would be a
1000% increase.
Technical details:  Decibels are defined as B = 10 log (I/H) where I is the
sound intensity (usually measured in watts/m^2) and H is a reference
intensity, generally taken to be 1.0 E-12 W/m^2, which is about the
threshold of hearing for a normal ear in good health.  To gain a feeling for
this equation, I find it very useful to do a few simple calculations with a
calculator which has a log function (base 10) and can take powers with base
10 (log (x) and 10^x).  Note that these are inverse functions:
log(10^x) = 10^(log(x)) =  x.  100 db gives I = 10^10*H while
110 db gives I = 10^11*H.



August 17th, 2008 at 1:57 PM ^

One of the main differences between Autzen and Michigan Stadium is the seats. If you look at the seats of Michigan, they open up, letting a lot of the sound out. The seats at Autzen were designed to keep as much of the sound in as possible. They increase in vertical angle as you get closer to the top, bouncing much of the sound back and focusing it onto the playing surface, much like a satellite. If you are curious, they talk all about how the staduim gets loud on this show http://www.hulu.com/watch/24912/fields-of-glory-university-of-oregon-au…

Champ Summers

August 17th, 2008 at 2:53 PM ^

They performed these measurements at halftime after the band performance... there was no announcement about what was going on in any way, shape, or form. I distinctly remember this because everyone in our section was trying to determine what on earth they where wheeling out onto the field. The crew that wheeled the microphone out to the 50 yardline almost exclusively encouraged the student section to get louder, with a noticeable portion of the rest of the crowd out in the concourses.
Point being, the 100 db they measured is hardly a "max" or even "usual" reading of how loud Michigan stadium can be... It definitely needs to be louder more consistently, but it's not quite as bad as the 100 db would make it seem.


August 17th, 2008 at 5:36 PM ^

Now that you mention it I do remember being at that game. When they rolled out the equipment everyone in our section got noticeably quieter because everyone just turned to each other to ask what that might be. I had no idea it was a sound tester until I read this thread. We always thought it was something that was measuring the weather. And while I will be the first to admit the the Big House is way to quiet much of the time I also remember the 2004 triple overtime game against MSU and the 1997 OSU game and I would put the noise in the stadium at clutch times in those games against any other stadium in the nation.

Michigan Arrogance

August 17th, 2008 at 3:43 PM ^

They increase in vertical angle as you get closer to the top, bouncing much of the sound back and focusing it onto the playing surface, much like a satellite.

this design is used to put the maximum number of people as close as possible to the field.

Real Tackles Wear 77

August 17th, 2008 at 5:16 PM ^

In ESPN the magazine's college football preview which came out the other day, they did a whole article on Student Sections and ranked sections in a few different categories, Michigan did not come in the top 5 in any, behind such "powerhouses" as Yale... clearly another example of the sports media's anti-M bias

Ninja Football

August 18th, 2008 at 2:10 AM ^

I think you also have to take into account that our offense hasn't been that exciting over the past 15 years. In many instances we'd get ahead by 14 and then run, run, run- using long drives to eat up the clock. In that regard, going to a game in the Big House has been like watching paint dry, and then trying to be excited because it dried.

I'm of the opinion that the new construction and the new style of play, with a sped up offense and increase in big plays (20+ yds) will change the atmosphere. The quiet people will always be quiet, the really loud will always be loud- if you can reach the middle part and get them excited that's the key. An increase in pace and fun on the field will accomplish that.


August 18th, 2008 at 9:42 AM ^

Ninja, does the O or the D get the crowd noise going and when should we want to be the loudest?

On offense, I will make a bunch of noise for the successful play, but in general, I'm not at the top of my lungs for each play.

When we are on D, I make all of the noise I can. Making it more challenging for the opponents O to communicate would seem to be the best way for the fans to provide a home field advantage.

I agree with Cbus. If the design of the stadium would create a louder environment, it would encourage the fans to make more noise. Its a virtuous cycle.

Ninja Football

August 18th, 2008 at 3:05 PM ^

Mj, I agree to some extent. My point was the overall feeling n the stadium. Watching us go off tackle left, rinse and repeat 50 times on offense doesn't lend itself to a lot of excitement for when the D does get on the field. My point is that excitement feeds on itself. Jumping up for a big play on offense will get you excited, and therefore more likely to yell and scream for the defense. With the new structure that noise will be contained and that'll help too. It's a combination of the two, not a mutually exclusive thing.


August 21st, 2008 at 11:52 AM ^

No announcement, etc. It was some weird mechanical octopus that they wheeled onto the field - perhaps if the PA guy had asked fans to make some noise there would have been a semi-realistic reading. Instead, they probably picked up a lot of people asking aloud "WTF is that??"


August 21st, 2008 at 12:17 PM ^

If I remember correctly, the "Big Metal Dandelion" was wheeled out at halftime of the Minnesota game. As others have pointed out, people being out of their seat at halftime + no announcement + the atmosphere of a game against 1-win Minnesota = an inaccurate reading


August 21st, 2008 at 12:23 PM ^

Yeah, sommy mentioned it before but your concept on decibels is off. 140 dB (shooting a machine gun) is not 2^9 = 512 times louder than 100 dB (operating a jackhammer) If you could ever generate something that was 512 times louder than operating a jackhammer, you would probably produce enough vibration to start your own earthquakes, level cities, etc.

As for 3 dB being a signficant sound increase, most people probably couldn't quantify that, at that level everything sounds the exact same: really loud. Maybe the writer wasn't a stats person and the prof said "Statistically Significant"

a non emu

August 21st, 2008 at 2:25 PM ^

Well, not quite. A 20 dB increase does correspond to a 10 times increase in sound pressure. So shooting a machine gun (140 dB) is in fact a 100 times (not 512) "louder" (in terms of sound pressure) than operating a jackhammer (100 dB) at close range.

The way the human ear perceives it is another story though. I have seen various rules of thumb, and as you say percentage increases are a factor. But the most commonly used factor that relates sound pressure - perceived loudness is a factor of 2 for every 10dB increase in sound pressure (reference - http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/2004-About-dB). So you are still looking a stadium of 60,000 being perceptually 4 times louder than a stadium that holds 110,000. Which is, anyway you look at it, quite stunning.

Tim Waymen

August 21st, 2008 at 3:31 PM ^

"Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die."

I remember that line! I remember reading that very article my freshman year after we lost to Oregon, and I remember that exact line! Thanks for bringing back very minor, petty memories.

If it's just the students making noise at Michigan, then there should be team spirit leaders or something. Not cheerleaders, but a group of students who somehow encourage people entering the stadium to be loud. It seems like people have to realize that a loud crowd is a good thing. I've read one too many times that people outside the student section making noise are shushed at the Big House.


August 21st, 2008 at 3:58 PM ^

I scream more than most, and no one has ever asked me to quiet down (other than my wife). But what does happen is people asking for people in front of them to sit down (not on third downs or other dramatic moments).

I sit in good seats (row 5 towards the middle) and the people around me yell frequently. I just don't think that the acoustics allow for much noise to reach the field.

If people felt that their effort resulted in something other than a head ache and sore throat, people would participate more.


August 21st, 2008 at 4:27 PM ^

Just to throw some thing out there.

1. Is the crowd noise at Autzen aided by architecture? Let’s just put some numbers out there. 59K people in Oregon are louder than 110K in Ann Arbor. Do you really believe each individual Oregonian is more than 2X louder their Michigander counter part? Coupled with the fact that anecdotally those Beaver fans are louder than every other crowd, including others nearly twice as large and not handicapped by the legendary recumbancy of Michigan alumni, and it is necessary to conclude that the percieved noise level at Autzen is significantly aided by architecture. You could make it more ridiculous by removing 20K or so students from each side, because it was my experience that the student section at the Big House was sufficiently loud and DMZ-like, and you’ve got the remaining 39K completely overshadowing Michgan’s 90K.

2. There is no point to measuring ‘crowd noise’ at a time when the crowd is not making noise. Unless, of course, Lee Corso has testified that the ambient crowd noise at Autzen is akin to a jet taking off. Talk about having a headache after the game.

3. Will the stadium renovations increase perceived crowd noise? Since it appears the Big House will be ‘deeper’ or more concave it follows that will trap or reflect noise better. So, yes. Will the human ear or Kirk Herbstreit sitting in the press box perceive the difference? Who knows and since it is my experience that engineers are shit-awful at predicting non-intended effects that they don’t have 9 text books of data on, I think we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m sorry if I’ve offended any engineers. Take heart in the fact that you’re better at predicting things than economists who basically make shit up.

4. Sorry, NinjaFootball, I do not think offensive philosophy will increase actual crowd noise. You could make an argument that more exciting plays might increase perceived crowd noise but I doubt it. People like to win and cheer for winning and whatever method brings the winning because it’s all about winning. Crowd noise when David Cone hands off to Elijah Bradley in the 4th quarter of a MAC blow out is not important. When the Wolverines take the field against Notre Dame, that’s when the marker is set. When Troy Smith takes over inside the 10 down 9 late in the 4th (in the 2005) is a good time to learn how loud it can get. Or, in the case of the ‘shoe, any time Mike Nugent trots out on the field is a perfect time for Buckeye fans to cheer (or so they think).


August 22nd, 2008 at 11:16 AM ^

The way sound is heard depends on the shape of the container or 'room' as well. 110dB in a closed room (small bar)is rather loud. The waves of sound bounce around the enclosed space and off the ceiling. In an open stadium I might question exactly where they took the measurement.

Yeah, I AM a live sound engineer.


August 22nd, 2008 at 11:22 AM ^

Oh, and an increase in 3dB is NOT double the noise level, but it requires double the power to raise it 3dB.

ie: If I use 1000 watts of power to create 100dB, I need 2000 watts of power to raise it to 103dB. Think of it in terms of your home stereo.