Apple’s Palo Alto Flagship Store an Unbearably Noisy Echo Chamber

There's a new Apple Store in Palo Alto, California, and it's making headlines for the wrong reason. Blogger and local resident Jean-Louis Gassée, who also used to serve as president of Apple's Products Division, is a fan of the Cupertino outfit (no big shocker there) and was eager to check out the new location, which is "big, bold, [and] elegant, even more so at night." Unfortunately, it's also very loud, he says.

"The store is impressive… but it's also unpleasantly, almost unbearably noisy, Gassée stated in a blog post. "And mine isn’t a voice in the wilderness. The wife of a friend walked in, spent a few minutes, and vowed to never return for fear of hearing loss. She’d rather go to the cramped but much more hospitable Stanford store."

Apple Store

Could the noise level really be as bad as Gassée describes? To provide some hard data to his claim, he returned a week later with the SPL Meter iPhone app, which as its name implies is a software tool designed to measure the Sound Pressure Level in decibels.

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

SPL Meter
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To put that into perspective, 75 dB is roughly equivalent to an alarm clock or a barking dog. You're not going to go deaf browsing around Apple's Palo Alto store (OSHA regulates that employees shall not be exposed to 90 dB for more than 8 hours). However, Gassée notes that there was a professional SPL recorder set up in the store, along with employees wearing omnidirectional sound recorders, so it appears that Apple is at least aware of the undesirable noise level.