After his initial visit, Gassée returned a few days later with a decibel-measuring app he uploaded to his iPhone, and was stunned by findings. The sounds within the store measured above 75 decibels – five decibels higher than the 70dB threshold the EPA says can cause hearing damage from long term exposure.
Naturally the main question floating inside and outside the Apple organization at the moment is, “what were they thinking?”
Gassée even writes that the sound levels in the store are not just annoying – they’re dangerously high. Employees subjected to this level of noise for eight hours per day are at an elevated risk of hearing damage and loss, and for every hour beyond eight that someone remains in the store, the risk increases exponentially.
It’s not the first time that Apple ended up looking as if it didn’t think things through thoroughly, although for the most part the company is known for its meticulous attention to detail; Apple generally enjoys a reputation of striving for excellence.
Nor is Apple the first company to blow a great architectural design by giving no forethought to acoustics either, especially in recent years when hard surfaces and minimalist design have become highly desirable.
But it has to be discouraging that the reverberant noise and deafening acoustics, for which hard surface structures are notorious, slipped past the architects and contractors, and came as a total surprise to everyone only after the store opened.
One company insider was quoted as saying, “It’s bad for customers, it’s bad for the staff, it’s bad for business, and it’s bad for the brand. Apple appears to be more concerned with style than with substance!”
Gassée likened the failure to the recent Apple Maps catastrophe.
“An obvious problem ignored,” he said.
When all was said and done, Gassée found that the inside of the store measured a full 10 decibels louder than the street traffic noise outside on high-trafficked University Avenue. When you’re talking decibels, sound pressure doubles for every three decibel increase in the environment. That said, a 10 decibel increase makes the noise inside the Apple Store about 10 times louder than the street noise outside.
It should be interesting to see who is held to the proverbial fire over this blunder, but to their credit, Apple is studying the noise problem and working on an answer. And although there’s no telling how long it might take, there’s little doubt the company will resolve the issue.
They’re Apple. They can do anything, right?