Documenting loud bass from a neighbor

Joseph Black

New member
May 21, 2022
North America
Hello, apologies if this isn't the correct forum for this kind of question.

An individual living in my neighborhood has powerful subwoofers in their car and likes to play their music loud as they drive to and from home. On several occasions over the past 6 months, they've been loud enough to rattle the windows in the house as they drive by. They play their music loudly at all hours of day, recently as late/early as 3am, 6am, 11pm, and midnight. This is an almost daily occurrence.

Several people, myself included, have spoken with them and asked them to stop with no real change. I am in touch with the police and their landlord about local noise ordinances, but progress has been slow on that front.

My issue is that I can hear the thump thump of the car driving past, often a minute or two prior to the car arriving adjacent to my property, but trying to record with my phone has yielded less than optimal results in documenting the nuisance nature of the noise.

My searches for ways of documenting low frequencies led me to an unrelated thread on this forum about measurement microphones.

For documenting/recording low frequency nuisance noise, would a measurement microphone be my best choice? Would an affordable/entry-level model be capable of capturing the low frequencies? I'm not sure what stats I should be prioritizing. Hoping to spend less than 200 dollars, not sure how realistic that price point is (maybe used equipment? I don't think I need ultra-calibrated, I just need a decent approximation of the thump thump).

Thank you for your time reading and any pointers you're willing to provide.
Oct 25, 2018
Bideford, Devon. UK
Sorry to hear of your noise woes. You could do a lot worse than this:

Measurement mic

Here in the UK, noise tends to be measured as a 'dose' of sound over time (Leq), typically over a one hour period, and represents the same total sound energy as the fluctuating level measured. This is of course useless for short duration high noise peaks such as you are being subjected to, as they will simply disappear into the average sound level.

When monitoring road noise Leq on a quiet road, the level rises abruptly with each passing vehicle, then gradually lowers as the total energy is integrated over time until the next vehicle, when each passing adds to the eventual average sound level. (Think of it as pouring a pint of water into a large container every minute - there's a splash and disruption of the still surface, then the surface flattens out over time at a slightly higher level). I am not aware of any specific nuisance noise standard which would properly accommodate such a situation so this would require some research. There is a trend in the UK which is empowering any person who is personally affected by many different issues - regardless of specific legislation - to seek resolution through legal channels. 'Being offended' seems to be a really big one right now...

You will need to look at 'nuisance' rather than actual average noise levels and attack the problem from that angle, so you appear to be on the right track already. It would however help your case immensely to record levels, times, dates etc. as evidence. Free software would also enable spectral analysis to be carried out, enabling the LF content to be highlighted.

Again in the UK:

"Noise law specific to loud car stereos 6.
Environmental Protection Act 1990 s79 brings noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street under the statutory nuisance regime."

(Valerie Shawcross AM. Rapporteur on mobile nuisance noise Environment Committee).

I trust you will be able to rid the neighbourhood of this blight through legal channels, but most Americans possess guns, right? ;)

Paul Johnson

Oct 27, 2012
On another forum a guy is trying to collect evidence of a similar problem, and the snag with this kind of thing is that while it is incredibly annoying (I have a neighbour who drives off at 6am every day, then comes back at 6.30, then goes to work at 6.45. Hundreds of people have complained all along his route to the Police (but they have stopped his vehicle and while it is so annoying, it is actually not breaking any of the laws for cars in terms of testing and a dB limit. A phone and even a measurement mic will record the waveform, but not the nuisance. The sound of his subs at midday is far less annoying than at 12 midnight. The authorities will simply deal with it's level, and that might be not as loud as you think.

Weogo Reed

Jan 4, 2012
Western North Carolina
Hi Joseph,

An approximate number could be useful for getting the attention of an enforcement officer, and for before/after comparisons.
If you want to have specific dB numbers enforced, you HAVE to have a qualified meter, otherwise the complaint will be thrown out.

Our local ordinance has fairly typical numbers, and at the end this clause:
"3) Sounds emitted at levels lower than those prohibited by Subsection (C)(2) above shall not be permitted if, because of the type or frequency of the noise emitted, such sounds are offensive, disruptive, or in continual disharmony with the character of an adjoining or nearby residential neighborhood."
Maybe you have a similar clause where you are?
I suggest finding out who actually enforces your local ordinance and asking them how they can help.

Thanks and good health, Weogo

Rob presson

New member
Jun 1, 2021
I would go down the path of what exactly are you trying to accomplish? you could get a better mic and record it, and then what? play it back for an officer? Unless the officer is there to witness the event, it won't mean much.

You COULD get a dB meter that is calibrated, but like was said before this is only useful if the laws in your area specify what is inappropriate. There is A-weighting vs C, slow vs. fast. where do you measure from? your property line? that means you will need to be out of the house perhaps.

what country, state, city, neighborhood laws, and indentures are in play? I would contact a lawyer and find out what tools are available legally before spending a dime. You might want to just add a HEPA filter (read: white noise to cover sound) in your bedroom, find and fix the windows so it minimizes the impact. I have a blanket over my bedroom window because I keep late hours, and that works fine.

best of luck

Paul Johnson

Oct 27, 2012
This is the critical bit. What do you want to happen? Ideally them stop it totally, or just to turn it down so it's within any local volume figures? Or do you want them fined, and then of course when you come home to find the window smashed .........

Number one on any court official's to do list will be to ask you what the response to your polite request to turn down, or do it at a different time of the day, or to ........

Did you ask the neighbour and what response did you get? Then you view it from their perspective (I'm using example here, but you get the idea hopefully) The crazy neighbour is at it again. Every time I turn on the music he complains, or contacts the local government, or even the police. Fred, who lives next door says he can hardly hear it, and the police came the other day and neither could they?

A truck going past could move a sound meter more than the bass - you will have to demonstrate the nuisance to the satisfaction of a court - so think how you would explain this to Judge Judy. What real evidence that she would understand have you got? Bass at a low level can be really annoying, but a car driving past much, much louder might not be?

Remember that if you record the sound, at best it indicates XdB on a scale. It does not convey any off the nuisance value. In still air at night it sounds really loud and will wake you up. At 10am, the same volume level is below the ambient traffic noise if you have busy roads nearby - recording nuisance sounds never really works. It gives a figure - accurate or maybe accurate depending on calibration. It means absolutely nothing without context. I fear that unless your local laws are really good and the officials on the ball, you are frankly, stuffed! Somebody will have to use a set of tables and look at the dB reading, and the kind of noise and then make an assessment as to the value of the nuisance.

We have a 6.30 and 7am car journey with barking dog every day, that wakes us up like an alarm. The Police stopped him and measured the loud exhaust pipe against our MOT specification for annual test - pass/fail. It passed. The Police have no action they can take. All the locals talk about him - but he is breaking no national or local laws. Our advice was to suck it up and stop moaning.

Tim McCulloch

Graduate Student
Jan 11, 2011
Wichita KS USA
You may have a disturbing peace ordinance that does not have a dB SPL specification, only that the activity or actions of another party prevents your "quiet enjoyment" of your property.

Paul Johnson

Oct 27, 2012
These things are all over the internet - similar problems with anti-social behaviour. Loud noise everyone can hear, subsonic rumbles, the smell of weed, car exhaust noises, shouting, RF interference - the list is huge. Clearly, the majority are justified complaints while others are just over sensitivity to the nuisance. Practically - in most jurisdictions, these things are NOT crimes, so the Police are powerless. There may be local ordnances, or bylaws but these are normally civil matters, so you have to take them to court, prove your case and if you lose, pay for it!

This means that you cannot just talk to the police, or the local authorities and demand they do something. The police won't see a crime, and in today's society, police resources won't be wasted on these things unless there is a very serious prospect of injury or worse.

Civil authorities work 9 to 5, so if your problem is always at 2am, you are without hope, practically. Everything noise related is evidenced by a calibrated measurement system that cannot take time of day into account 70dB at 2am is loud. 70dB during the day is not. 70dB of sub bass is brain stressing volume, 70dB of next doors mowing machine is not. A cat screeching in the middle of the night wakes you up, the plane flying overhead at 10am doesn't - unless you work night shifts, and most people who need to sleep during the day wear earplugs in bed, not try to stop the noise at source.

It's considered a mental health issue potentially nowadays, but dBs measuring noise and nuisance is out of context, and one person's nuisance can be somebody else's irrelevance.

This leaves a third solution series - so we're looking at alternate solutions. Big people, the potential for physical damage, intimidation, and cleverness. Outside my house, is a big grassy area. There is a sign saying "No ballgames" - it's a sign erected by the local council 40 years ago, totally unenforceable of course. My neighbour got driven mad by the kids hanging around, playing football, leaving empty cans and bottles, bad language, shouting - you get it. He got a mouthful of verbal abuse when he tried to get them to go.

I am old, he is old and so is everyone on our side of the green. I left the front bedroom window open, brought out a powered PA speaker and simply turned on 200W of 16K sine wave. I can't hear it. The effect on the kids was stunning. They knew it was somewhere, but couldn't localise it, but it hurt. Every time they started to group, I turned it on. After two weeks, they never came back. In noise issues like this one with the subwoofers - you need to be imaginative. what will annoy him? What anonymous steps can you take? He's probably doing nothing illegal, just antisocial so you are seriously limited. Tit for tat is of course childish and even if you annoy him, will he make the link between the noise, the complaints and whatever cleverness you initiate? It may not solve the problem, just cheer you up. Do you know any seriously scary people? People your neighbour would not want to cross? You don't need to do it, but letting them know who your 'friends' are worked for a member of my family, but not everyone has British gang land brothers as people they know well - with great names, one of the gang was known as the mad axe man - which kind of sets the context. - Look uo the Kray Twins. This kind of solution is of course, extreme, but legal solutions for these things rarely work.

drew gandy

Jul 17, 2011
Fight fire with fire?

Set up your own subwoofer system (tell the other neighbors that it's only to teach this guy a lesson), find out when he sleeps and then crank it away (at legal levels) so that he gets the point.

I've had thoughts over the years about building a bass array into the back of a pickup such that it can be aimed for these kinds of purposes. But that's an awful lot of work just to ruffle feathers. One of those portable air horns, used at precisely the right time, might be more cost effective.

OR maybe pickup up a Woody Norris sonic "weapon" and send him "subliminal" messages when leaves and returns home?