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.
The 5 Loudest Air Horns (Summer 2019)
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.
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.[toc]
The 5 Loudest Airhorns
If 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.
K3 Premium Air Horn
If you’re looking for a portable air horn that’s sure to get noticed on the beach, in the water, or virtually anywhere else, the K3 Premium Air Horn may be one of your best options.
This horn is available in both 3.5 and 8 ounce sizes, which makes this horn from K3 extremely versatile. Many people will keep the larger horn on board their boat, jetski or other vehicle, and keep the smaller version packed away in their bag in case they need to send a distress signal.
This horn is made from non-corrosive stainless steel, with a plastic trumpet. It’s ozone safe and made in America.
Hella Supertone 12V Air Horn
Hella has been producing quality horns for over 100 years, and you’ll find their horns in vehicles worldwide. The Supertone 12V horn is one of their most popular horns, and it’s easy to see why.
The Supertone maintains a minimal footprint, while still possessing enough power to produce a horn sound that’s sure to turn heads. Each kit includes two separate horns which work together to produce a loud, pleasant horn sound that manages to pack a decent amount of bass despite its diminutive size.
One of the most notable aspects of this horn is the ease of installation. If you have even a rudimentary knowledge of how electric components function, you’ll be able to install this horn on your own quickly and easily.
Each horn maintains a low profile, making it easy to mount the horns inside your engine compartment, even if there’s very little room there. A popular mounting spot for this horn is underneath the grille of your car or truck, and the red and black frame of the Supertone looks particularly striking when mounted in this way.
Since this horn is so small, it’s a strong option for installation on small boats and ATVs.
Once mounted, you’ll be rewarded with 118dB of sound each time you press the horn. If you’re seeking an extremely loud horn, this one will probably be a bit underpowered for your liking. Most people will find that it provides more than enough punch.
The Stebel Nautilus is an ideal horn if you’re looking for big sound but don’t have room for a big horn rig. The Nautilus is so small that you’ll be amazed by just how much sound this little guy can produce.
Despite the fact that it’s only about 4.5” tall and 3.5” wide, the Nautilus produces an incredible 139dB of sound. Two tiny internal trumpets produce a twin tone sound that’s pleasing and very noticeable.
Considering its small size, this horn is ideal for motorcycles, off-road vehicles, or any vehicle where you’re hoping to beef up the sound of your stock horn.
But, this horn does have its pitfalls, as well. As you may imagine, it doesn’t produce the type of round bass tone you’d expect from a larger horn. However, it still produces an impressive amount of bass considering how tiny it is.
For some users, longevity is a problem. Many people complain that the horn was everything they had hoped for initially, but over time the sound quality degraded to the point where it wasn’t as loud as most stock car horns.
For use on a boat or personal vehicle, you’ll need to be careful where you mount the horn since this particular model doesn’t play well with the elements. If you expose the horn to rain or debris, you can expect it to stop working for several days.
Falcon Marine Signal Air Horn
The marine signal from Falcon is one of the most trusted portable air horns on the market. Boaters and adventurists the world over have relied on this Falcon horn for years to alert others to their presence, or to give off an SOS signal.
This horn is virtually indestructible, and it’s backed by a guarantee from Falcon. It’s also approved by the US coast guard for use on boats up to 65m.
The horn is ozone safe, and the trumpet is removable for easy storage in tight areas.
Super Blast Pump Air Horn
This air horn from Magideal is a strong choice if you’re looking for a horn for 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.
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.
Types of Air Horns
One 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 Horn
Now 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 Horn
For 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.
There 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.
As 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.
The 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 Cycle
Finally, 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.
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 Systems
Depending 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.
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 amount of space you have to install your new horn, and the installation itself are the final considerations you’ll need to make before purchasing.
If you’re looking for an air horn for your car, popular places to mount the horn are the engine compartment or underneath the frame rails.
The size of an air horn system can vary widely, so the amount of space you have at your disposal can immediately help you eliminate some options from your search. This will probably be less of a concern if you’re looking for a horn for your boat.
DIY or Pro Installation
Once you’ve carefully selected the best air horn for your needs, you’ll need to decide how to install it. The installation itself is straightforward. If you have any experience with 12v installations, you’ll have no trouble getting your horn set up.
If you’re looking for a portable air horn to bring with you to the beach, or on the hiking trail, you won’t have to worry about installation at all.
The trickiest aspect of installing your new horn will be where the horn is installed.
Some people will have plenty of space to mount their horn quickly and easily.
On the other hand, some installations will be more difficult because there is less room to install the horn.
If you’re unsure of how to properly wire an air horn, if the installation is going to prove to be tricky because of space concerns, or if you’d just rather not deal with the chore yourself, professional installation is quick and isn’t too expensive.
If you’re looking for a powerful horn that’s sure to get noticed, there are plenty of different choices on the market. Depending on your needs and budget, some options may be better suited for you than others.
All of the horns we’ve covered today make a fine option if you’re looking for a horn for your boat, atv, motorcycle or bike. If you’re looking to add a horn that’s sure to get noticed to any electrical vehicle, we recommend the Hella Supertone. It’s small size makes it ideal for any application where you have a 12v electrical circuit, and it’s certainly loud enough to get noticed when you’re in a jam.
But, not everyone has access to electric. If you’re looking for a horn for personal use when you’re on the beach or out for a hike, our favorite is the Bazooka. Since it doesn’t rely on compressed air to produce its sound, you’ll always be able to use the horn when you need it most, and you won’t have to worry about your horn failing after prolonged use, or in situations of distress.