I think we all know, but it’s often overlooked: One of the most important safety aspects of any vehicle, whether it’s a car, boat, truck or train, is its horn. An air horn can be especially handy if you ever find yourself stranded on your boat, at the beach, or on the road. Knowing how to use an airhorn can make the difference between life and death in a dire situation. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to alert another vehicle to your presence immediately, or if you’re in distress and need to give an SOS signal from your boat, or at the beach, it pays to have one of the loudest airhorns possible.A large boat horn or marine horn function a bit differently. Instead of a diaphragm, they function more like a whistle. When the compressed air is fed into the chamber of these large horns, it blows past a knife edge, which in turn creates the sound waves.
A sealed system is usually a bit more expensive, but in some cases (like vehicle mounting) opting for a sealed system could prove critical.
The 5 Loudest Air Horns (Summer 2020)Today, we’re going to learn a bit more about the different aspects that go into an air horn, and we’re also going to take a look at some of the best and loudest air horns on the market today.
How Do Air Horns Work?An air horn consists of a few different parts which work together to produce the noise of the horn.
- First, you have the bell of the horn, which is the piece that resembles a trumpet. This section amplifies the sound and also determines the type of sound the horn makes. A more extended bell makes for a deeper, more bass heavy tone. Conversely, a shorter bell produces a higher pitched tone.
- Next, you have a small air chamber which contains a diaphragm. Compressed air is fed into this little chamber, where it vibrates against the diaphragm and produces sound waves.
- The 5 Loudest Air Horns (Summer 2020)
- How Do Air Horns Work?
- The 5 Loudest Airhorns
- SeaSense Air Horn
- Hella Supertone 12V Air Horn
- Stebel Nautilus Air Horn
- Shoreline Marine Air Horn
- Super Blast Pump Air Horn
- Types of Air Horns
- Things to Consider Before Buying an Air Horn
- Final Verdict
The 5 Loudest AirhornsIf you’ve done some browsing, you’re already aware that there are tons of different air horns on the market. While almost any of these horns will get the job done, not all horns are created equally. Below, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best loud air horns available today.
SeaSense Air Horn
- Available in multiple sizes
- Loud sound from a small package
- Made in USA
- Needs to be replaced once the can is out of air
- Doesn’t work well in cold weather or rain
Hella Supertone 12V Air Horn
- Easy to install
- One of the smallest aftermarket horns available – perfect for tight cavities
- Not as loud as other options
- Not enough bass
Stebel Nautilus Air Horn
- Extremely small – perfect for ATVs and other personal transportation vehicles
- Very nice tone despite its size
- Lacks bass
- Volume and sound quality seem to degrade over time
- Doesn’t work well in rain
Shoreline Marine Air Horn
120 decibel volume can be heard up to 1 mile away! It’s also approved by the US coast guard for use on boats up to 65m. The horn is ozone friendly and is powered by non-flammable aerosol. The trumpet is removable for easy storage in tight areas and makes carrying it around quite easy.
- US Coast Guard Approved
- Removable horn for easy storage
- Very loud for a portable air horn
- Doesn’t last as long as other portable horns
Super Blast Pump Air Horn
survival or emergency situations. Unlike most portable air horns on the market, this horn features an integrated air pump that allows you to force air into the canister by hand. That way, the canister can never run out of air, which is possibly the most important consideration if you’re looking for a horn for emergency situations. Check out the Super Blast video This horn features a particularly large trumpet which provides the horn with an unmistakable sound that’s just about as loud as a traditional canister air horn.
- Piercing sound is easily recognizable
- Never runs out of air
- Ideal for emergency situations
- Large trumpet makes storage more difficult than other, smaller horns
- Might not be loud enough to signal people far away
Types of Air HornsOne of the primary factors that differentiate air horns is the way that they work. There are a few different types of horns available. Depending on your needs, one will be better suited for you than the other. The first type of air horn, and one you’re probably familiar with is the portable air horn. These are popular at sporting events and are used on small boats and other tiny vehicles that don’t have a horn on board. These kinds of horns are also very useful as a safety device, and can alert others in the area to your presence if you find yourself stranded at the beach or on a trail. These types of horns feature a bell and small air chamber attached to a can of compressed air. When the button on the horn is pressed, the air enters the chamber and creates the sound. The way that these simple horns work is similar to many of the horns on the market for car, truck or boat use. They are called direct drive airhorns. These horns have a few different parts which work together to create sound. First, you have the bell. The bell features an air outlet which gets connected to a compressor with airline tubing. The compressor acts just like the can of compressed air on a portable horn. When the horn is pressed, the compressor releases a blast of air which travels through the horn to create sound. Finally, there are horns which use an air compressor, as a direct drive system does. But, these systems also use an air tank to store compressed air. The air inside the tank can range from 100-200psi and when that air is released into the bell of the horn, an incredibly loud sound is produced. If you’re looking for an extremely loud horn or air horns for boats, you’ll want to check these systems out.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Air HornNow that we have a better understanding of how an airhorn works, and the different types of systems available, let’s look at what you’ll need to have in mind before buying a new horn.
The Sound of the HornFor many people, the most critical consideration will be the sound that the horn makes. Let’s say you’re stranded at the beach and need to give off a distress signal, you’ll want a horn that produces a loud, well defined sound that anyone within earshot can recognize quickly. There are a few different elements that go into the sound of a horn. First, the bell of the horn plays a key role. Horns that are longer and wider will produce deeper tones than a horn which is thinner and shorter. The amount of bells used in the horn also plays an important role. The majority of horns on the market use 2 or more bells that produce a harmony together to create the singular sound the horn makes. For example, the classic train horn uses three long, wide bells to produce its sound.
Air ConsiderationsThere are a few different aspects of the horn that have to do with the air the horn uses to produce a sound. These will affect how long the horn can sound, how loud it can sound, and how often it can sound.
PressureAs a general rule, the higher the pressure in the system, the louder the horn will be. If you’re looking for an exceptionally loud horn, you’ll want to look into options with high-pressure systems that are 120+ PSI.
CapacityThe air capacity of the system will affect how long the horn can sound for. Tanks with lower air capacity won’t be able to sound for as long as a tank with higher capacity.
Compressor Duty CycleFinally, the compressor duty cycle controls how often you’re able to use the horn before the compressor needs to rest. For reference, a 10% duty cycle compressor would allow you to use the horn for a total of 6 minutes every hour. Typically, a 10% duty cycle compressor is more than enough for most kinds of use. But… If you’re planning on needing to use the horn very often, you’ll want to look into a cycle with a much higher duty cycle.
Sealed and Unsealed SystemsDepending on where you’re going to install your horn, you’ll need to decide between a sealed or unsealed system.
- Unsealed systems need to be mounted in a clean and dry area. If they’re installed in an area where they could get wet or dirty, the system will malfunction, and the horn will be useless. To add insult to injury, if an unsealed system becomes damaged because it got wet or dirty, it’s unlikely the warranty will cover you.
- Sealed systems don’t allow outside dust, dirt or water to enter the system, so they’re a much safer option if you’re planning on mounting your horn somewhere where the system will be exposed to the elements, like a vehicle chassis, for instance.