Require fitness-for-purpose warnings on volume-limited music players sign now

We petition the EU Council of Ministers to:

(a) Require the external packaging of volume-limited mp3 players to be clearly labeled with the imposed limit, and where that limit is 85dB or less, to carry a notice to the effect that, "THIS DEVICE MAY BE UNSUITABLE FOR USE WITH AFTERMARKET HEADPHONES OR OTHER AUDIO ACCESSORIES"

(b) Offer compensation or refunds to those who have bought media players or combination devices such as mobile phones, where an undisclosed volume-limiting feature renders the device unfit for connection to standard audio accessories.

Background:

The EU has imposed a requirement that all portable music players shall be limited in volume to 85dB. In some cases the limit can be raised by the user to 100dB, but in others that may not be possible.

The concerns behind the introduction of this limit are genuine, in that some portable players using highly-sensitive 'in-ear' or 'earbud' earphones can generate sound levels as high as 130dB, risking permanent hearing damage even with quite short periods of exposure. Levels of 100dB are also too high for prolonged listening, and will eventually cause hearing loss.

Where this directive goes wrong is in the way in which it has been implemented. Instead of banning the sale of earphones with excessive sensitivity, the output of the player's headphone jack has been reduced to below the standard voltage typical of audio equipment output sockets. This creates a situation where extremely sensitive, low-quality 'earbuds' are the ONLY type of listening devices which will work satisfactorily with these players.

It is typically the case that high fidelity headsets require stronger drive than do low quality models, for the same sound level. Thus, a hi-fi headset used on a player with a notional 85dB limit (for earbuds) will probably not even achieve background-music loudness with all controls at maximum.

The imposed limits are based on notional 'pop' music, recorded at near-maximum signal levels throughout. Since other forms of music such as classical are typically recorded at lower levels, this combined with the lack of adequate output and standard-sensitivity headphones may result in quiet passages being completely inaudible.

Likewise, accessories such as portable speakers or car audio expect a player's output to be at the industry-standard level, typically 0.7 volt RMS, and may malfunction where this is not the case due to poorly-implemented volume limiting. Since a consumer can reasonably expect the payer to perform such functions unless notified to the contrary, this again represents an instance of Unfitness for Purpose.

In view of the ill-conceived nature of this EU directive, we feel that the EU Council of Ministers should reconsider its position. An urgent requirement is to ensure that prospective purchasers of volume-limited mp3 players or mobile phones are made aware that the device they are purchasing may be unfit for some intended purposes.

There may also be grounds to compensate individuals who have unknowingly purchased volume-limited devices and found them unfit for the intended purpose.

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Ian RudgeBy:
MusicIn:
Petition target:
Euro-MPs, EU Council of Ministers

Petition community:
Audio equipment purchasers

Tags

fitness for purpose, headphones, mp3, music, phone, players, volume limiting

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