Motorcycle owners can usually improve on those wimpy stock horns, but it isn't always as easy as it...sounds.
In a strange twist of reverse logic, somebody somewhere along the line laid down a rule: the smaller the vehicle, the quieter the horn.
Think about it -- big 18-wheeler trucks have horns as loud as those used on a freight train, while the horn on a scooter is about like what you'd hear from a gnat if you stepped on its toe.
By way of disclosure I'll admit that I have fortunately never had to use a motorcycle horn in anger.
Maybe it's the ultra-defensive way I ride, but I've simply never had to press the horn button.
I consider a horn to be a safety device of last resort -- if you have to use it, you're already in a situation that probably could have and should been prevented.
Now probably not everyone will agree, but there you have it.
And just because I've never had to use the horn doesn't mean I don't want the meanest, loudest and most obnoxious sounding blast I can find, just ready and waiting to go as soon as my left forefinger hits the button.
Which brings us to this probably long overdue webBikeWorld comparison of motorcycle horns. We purchased a few of the most popular horns we could find, with this single criteria: louder is better.
We then purchased an Extech Digital Sound Level Meter (a so-called "decibel meter"). It has a ±2dB accuracy with 0.1 dB resolution, and it records dB A or C. It also has a maximum dB hold on the display and a wind cover over the condenser microphone.
The purpose of this article is to compare sound levels, find the loudest horn for our specific riding conditions and to see how they stack up against manufacturers' claims -- which, by the way, are mostly taken at anywhere from 4 feet to 2 meters from the horn.
Not all of the manufacturers will tell you the distance for their claimed dB rating -- just like motorcycle helmet manufacturers, who rarely list the size of the helmet they claim is so light.
So we picked a reasonable but totally arbitrary set of distances to locate the sound meter, and the chart below shows our sound level readings taken at 2 feet, 10 feet and 20 feet. No reason we didn't list this in meters, except we didn't have a metric tape measure handy at the time!
We then installed a wiring harness with a relay on the Ducati GT1000. The harness was connected directly to the battery to power the horns, so the horns would get as much "clean" power as required.
A 20 amp fuse was installed in the power line, because we figured if the horn was too powerful for a 20 amp fuse, it probably shouldn't be used on a motorcycle anyway.
I think you'll agree that the results are rather interesting -- although it may come as no surprise that the horn manufacturers' use of the 2 feet or 4 meter distance for measuring sound levels basically have zero relevance to perceived sound levels.
It's sort of like megapixels being the measurement of a camera's performance, when in fact there are many other criteria that are more important.
There's one problem we have to report right up front: both Stebel Nautilus horns had serious and fatal flaws. They died before we could even get them registered on the sound meter! We were, however, able to record the first and only beeps spoken by the big red Nautilus Max (see below).
The Nautilus Max horn worked for a few short honks; less than about 3 seconds total. After the final honk, it died. We've since discussed this with several other Nautilus owners who have indicated that premature and unexpected (and sudden) failure is a common problem with the Nautilus horns.
The Stebel Nautilus Compact, which is the most common Nautilus horn of this type sold to motorcyclists, didn't work at all -- it was DOA, right out of the box. Dead, nada, ixnay, nothing.
Both horns were purchased separately from completely different vendors, several months apart. One horn was purchased in the UK an one in the U.S., so our only conclusion is that Stebel has a serious problem with these horns.
Apparently the Nautilus uses some type of internal compressor that powers the horns, and it is very prone to failure -- especially if it gets wet. When the Nautilus horns fail, all that's left is a flatulent 77 dB croak, which is useless for our purposes.
So our conclusion is that at this point, the Stebel Nautilus cannot be recommended. After all, what good is the loudest horn in the world if you can't depend on it when it's needed?
Not to mention the things are huge, heavy and they have really awful mounting brackets, making it a real chore to mount on any type of motorcycle that we can think of.
Here's a tip: definitely do not depend on the retailer's description of the sound volume for any horns! In almost all cases, the descriptions were wrong, misleading or downright deceptive as to the claimed sound volume for all of the horns shown here.
For example, Nippy Normans (UK) lists the Stebel Magnum at 139 dB! Not only is this way, way off even the listing on the Stebel Magnum package (115 db), it's about 14 dB beyond the threshold of pain, and right at the limit of causing permanent damage -- 139 dB is also the highest recommended sound level you should be exposed to even when wearing ear plugs!
The numbers shown in this chart for the claimed sound levels were taken either from the manufacturer's website or the packaging -- and in at least one case, the claimed dB on the package didn't even match the claims for the same horn on the manufacturer's website.
This tells us that the claimed sound volume numbers are very spurious indeed -- which we confirmed, as you will see, in the actual sound volume readings we recorded in the open air.
Here's a chart we put together that compares some of the basic features of the horns in this comparison:
|Motorcycle Horn Reviews and Cost Comparison|
|Horn Reviews||Cost||Manufacturer||Buy It Here|
|Hella Supertone (Pair, High/Low)||$69.99||Hella, Inc.||Hella Supertone Horns|
|Fiamm Freeway Blasters (Pair, High/Low)||$30.00||FIAMM S.p.a.||Fiamm Freeway Blasters|
|Stebel Magnum (Pair High/Low)||£19||Stebel S.p.a.||Stebel Magnum|
|Stebel Nautilus Max (Single)||$39.99||Stebel S.p.a.||Stebel Nautilus|
|Stebel Nautilus Compact (Single)||£24||Stebel S.p.a.||Stebel Nautilus Compact|
|Note: Pricing may vary.|
The chart below illustrates the results of the sound level measurements. Each horn was compared at 2 feet, 10 feet and 20 feet (approximately 0.6, 3 and 6 meters respectively).
The figures below are the average dB reading of 3 readings. If one set of readings for a particular horn varied more than 3 dB, we took another average reading.
After several trials in various locations, we decided that it only made sense to measure the sound volume where the horns will actually be used: on the open road. So the set of measurements shown in the chart below were taken with the motorcycle parked on the side of a road, in the open air.
The final sound level readings were taken on a sunny and clear day, with a temperature of 91 F (32.8 C) and an almost non-existent variable breeze, occasionally registering 3 MPH. The rural location was very quiet with little background noise; the birds and natural background sounds registered a quiet 40-45 dB (normal conversation ranges from about 60 dB to 70 dB).
[UPDATE 1: We used the dbA rating scale because our research found that this is the scale used by the horn manufacturers. The battery was kept at full charge.]
[UPDATE 2: Here are comments from Hella USA, received after this article was published: "In our laboratory and also due to SAE and ECE regulations, all of our horns are tested using a bracket and they are fixed to a 50 kg steel block. The measurements are taken 2 meters from the horn at different power inputs 9, 13 and 15 Volts, also the min. and max. voltage. The dBA readings are taken at all Voltages but the valid result is the one at 13V.
Each factory might use different methods but this is the one that Hella has been using for almost 100 years and is based on official regulations. We work together with Universities and Technical institutes to develop this and other techniques." See this interesting .pdf file describing diaphragm and other horn types.]
The front-facing horn mounting location on the Ducati GT1000 is unique, and it made the work much easier. We mounted all of the horns for these measurements in the same location, but with the open part of the horn facing forward for consistency.
This forward-facing horn mounting location is not the normal mounting location on most motorcycles, but it worked great for this comparison, helping us to keep the variables to a minimum.
The Extech sound meter was mounted on a tripod set at the same height as the horns. We carefully located the tip of the microphone in the same location at the 2 ft., 10 ft. and 20 ft. intervals. The bottom line is that we tried to minimize the amount of variability as carefully as possible to run a fair comparison.
Horns are usually paired, with a high and low tone, so the chart below also notes the dB reading of each individual horn, followed by a sound reading of each pair of horns together.
There are some curiosities, as you will notice. For example, it's interesting to note that the Stebel Magnum horns were louder at 10 feet than at 2 feet, and the Fiamm Freeway Blasters were louder at 20 feet than 10 feet. We re-tested these and found the same results.
The Extech sound meter has a ±2dB, which may account for part of this disparity. Or, the paradox may be due to the very slight breeze we experienced during the trails. Or perhaps it had something to do with the combination of horn tones; a strange quirk of sound pressure recording or -- who knows -- a quantum aberration in the space-time continuum. Maybe.
What this also tells us is that even under controlled conditions, there may be some variability in measuring horn volume. Who knows what happens on the road, with other traffic and background noises, with the motorcycle and cars running, car windows closed or the loud sounds of a multi-lane highway.
From various experiments with the horns in the garage, just outside the garage, in neighborhood driveways, in the wide open spaces (where the final measurements were taken) and even in the basement, we discovered that the surrounding physical environment and sound levels absolutely and positively will affect the sound levels from these horns.
It is possible that under certain conditions that some of the manufacturers' claims may be correct, but only for very specific instances and under specific closed conditions; i.e., inside a room or sound laboratory.
One thing's for sure: when you bring these horns out on to the road, which is the location where they will be used, the open space has a dramatic effect on the perceived volume.
It's sure obvious to us that the manufacturers are not taking their measurements on the open road. They're probably not lying, but it's sure misleading to take a horn sound measurement in a closed environment where it will never be used and then basically claim that the horn will provide that much noise when installed on a motorcycle or car. That's the only way we think they're coming up with figures as high as 139 dB for some horns.
Also, don't forget that the variance from claimed sound levels will be even more dramatic when the horn is mounted pointing downwards, or behind a grill, under some bodywork, etc.
By the way, this isn't an exact science. If someone else repeated our sound level measuring procedure in a different environment, the results would probably vary. All we can do is report what we found during our controlled evaluation.
We originally planned on also recording the sound levels for each individual horn and each pair at varying distances to the side of the motorcycle, but even our rural neighbors were getting fed up after a couple of weeks of continuous honking, so we abandoned that idea about half-way through.
Here are the results as measured:
As you can see, the Hella Supertone horns are the surprise winners. A surprise to us, anyway. Also, how about those stock Ducati horns, louder than the Stebel Magnums?
Not only are the Hella Supertone horns loud, they have a particularly obnoxious and hair-raising tone that should attract some attention, yet they also have a bit of a friendly "continental" back tone that softens the bite. Something like "Yo dummy -- outta my way!", but with a "wink-wink" at the end.
The standard dual horns on the Ducati GT1000 are in front of the bike, just under the headlight, facing directly forward. This is probably the best location possible for motorcycle horns.
Most motorcycles have horns that are hidden under the bodywork and/or pointing downwards, and motorcycle horns are usually located behind the front forks. All of this will greatly diminish the perceived volume.
As stated above, we measured the sound level of each horn by mounting them a forward-facing location with the horn opening always pointing towards the front, facing the microphone on the decibel meter. We mounted the sound meter on a tripod and kept the height, distance and orientation the same for each recording.
Since the mounting locations can vary widely for each specific brand and model of motorcycle, we didn't compare the horn volume in any other orientation, but we did notice that the sound levels decreased significantly if the horns were held behind the forks, under the fuel tank or pointing downwards.
But that's OK -- the point of this article is not to record the sound levels in every mounting location, but to eliminate as many variables as possible and record comparable sound levels of the most popular motorcycle horns available.
In reality, the Hella Supertone horns are the only horns that can be mounted in a forward-facing position on the GT1000. This location, and the diaphragm shape of the Hella Supertone horns, helps to increase the ability for any type of horn to be heard.
The Supertone horns are very large though (see chart above), compared to the small Ducati Stock horns, so they may not fit as a replacement for standard diaphragm horns if mounted under the fuel tank or in the hidden locations that are common on other motorcycles.
Mounting is a huge issue with any of these horn replacements, especially the Nautilus horns. You may have to design and build new brackets to hold the horns, and unless your bike has a relay in the horn circuit, you'll probably have to install one of those also, or risk frying your horn switch.
We purchased a couple of dual-horn relay wiring harness kits from Eastern Beaver (review) for this comparison, but to be honest, for the GT1000 we probably would have been better off using a homemade harness with a relay, because there just isn't much room on the GT1000 to install the wiring in the Eastern Beaver kit.
They do make a kit with extra-long wire, but we ended up having to trim and re-solder so much wire that we'd have been better off making one up from scratch.
Most BMW motorcycles that we've seen come with a relay in the horn circuit, so it was a cinch to replace the existing horns with a pair of Fiamm Freeway Blasters on the R65 (and the old K75).
Here are a few .mp3 format sound recordings of the horns for tone comparison only. Note that although the sound tone is consistent with the way the horns sound "live", the sound volume on these recordings is not comparable, because they were recorded over the course of several days under different conditions and distances.
|Tone Comparison of Motorcycle Horns: Sound Files|
|▪ All Horns Compared (0:1:16)|
|▪ Hella Supertone (0:0:17)||▪ Stebel Nautilus Max (0:0:10)|
|▪ Fiamm Freeway Blasters (0:0:14)||▪ Stebel Nautilus Max w/Failure (0:0:13)|
|▪ Ducati GT1000 Stock Horn (0:0:13)||▪ Fiamm Freeway Blasters BMW R65 (0:0:19)|
|▪ Stebel Magnum (0:0:14)||▪ Ducati Multistrada Stock Horn (0:0:14)|
|► NOTE: Sound files are .mp3 format. ◄|
One last point -- We created separate pages for each of the horns, but the standard horns that we are replacing are the stock horns that were installed at the Ducati factory on the GT1000.
They have a sound rather like an extended Road Runner beep, something like "MMMMeeepMMMMeeeeeep".
Tone apparently has something to do with recognition, because these certainly didn't seem as loud as the Stebel Magnum horns, which look and sound very similar to the ubiquitous Fiamm Freeway Blasters.
But surprise -- at 86.4 dB, the GT1000's stock horns actually registered slightly louder than the pair of Stebel Magnum horns score of 81.9 dB on the sound meter.
In reality though, if we had to choose only between the standard Ducati diaphragm horns and the Stebel Magnum horns, we'd much preferred the deeper, more "car like" sound of the Magnums.
The Ducati horns sound weak and non-authoritative in comparison, and this illustrates that sometimes the tone of the horns can be just as important as volume.
The Hella Supertone horns were not only the loudest in this comparison, they are also of the same form factor of most diaphragm-type motorcycle horns, thus should pose fewer mounting difficulties.
Not everyone will like the look or the sound of the Supertone horns; they don't have that deeper and more authoritative tone of the Freeway Blasters or even the Stebel Magnum horns. But they sure are annoying...
Remember that any of these horns will most likely require a relay, which feeds power directly to the horn but is switched from the motorcycle's standard horn button. And again -- don't always believe what the retailers or manufacturers tell you!
Publication Date: August 2008
From "D.M." October 2011: "I recently purchased a very clean 2009 CBR 1000RR with 9,500 miles and noticed immediately that the horn sounds more like a RoadRunner cartoon than a seriously jolting warning tone. My previous bike was a CBR 929RR, and that horn was pretty loud.
Thanks for publishing this comparo, and especially the sound bytes. After hearing the actual tones, there's no way I would buy the Hella Supertones, they just sound rank!! But the FIAMM's are cool.
There's a YouTube video with the airhorn tones, and they are unbelievable. A great sound. But after your report, forget it.
Also must go on record to say I totally disagree with your statement about horn use in the beginning of the write-up. Think about it - what is the fastest carrier of information? Light, right? Vision, or how fast you can see.
Then there's sound - an audible warning tone. Lastly there's how fast you can actually move your machine out of the way. Vision is only hampered by your reflexes and how, or if, you react.
Remember, in a large cause of accidents the driver does not take quick evasive maneuvers because in the seconds that precede a collision drivers do not believe what they are seeing is real.
So visually, if you have good situational awareness, yes, you should see a threat before it becomes critical, or maybe a better word would be catastrophic.
But to run away/avoid such a threat in a defensive maneuver is not always the best first reaction. You have to check your escape routes before doing so, which takes a second.
While you are doing that, the smartest thing you can do is lay on your horn. Because sound is fast, and will buy you some time (maybe).
When the other driver hears your horn, hopefully they will slow down, or hesitate, which will give you an extra split-second to evade, slow your own speed, etc.
If I see someone so much as begin to drift over into my space, I give 'em horn. (I give good horn. Ha!). Because as I'm checking out where and how I can "get out of Dodge", I make sure I use sound, one of the fastest mediums, to clear the way for me. It has saved me countless times."
Editor's Reply: As I stated in the review, I have never had to use a horn in anger on a motorcycle and I can count the times I have used a horn in a car on less fingers than one hand.
I drive defensively and anticipate events, which I believe has prevented possible accidents. I know where my escape routes are at all times -- it's what defensive driving is all about, especially on a motorcycle.
Think about it: By time you think about using a horn, find the button on a car or bike and press it, then hope that the other vehicle is not listening to an MP3 player or stereo or GPS or cell phone, then hope that they would hear it, then hope that they know where your horn is coming from and which way to move without being scared into reacting unpredictably and then finally reacting, much time will have passed -- far more than if I had anticipated the problem to begin with and took evasive action.
From "F.G." (August 2011): "I recently read your motorcycle horn comparison review and I have to disagree with something that you said. I use my horn extensively at intersections.
I want to make sure that people not only see me but also hear me.
I have a Triumph Tiger 800 which has a pretty decent horn and can be heard. I have noticed several times where people who were looking in the other direction, immediately turned their heads in my direction when I hit the horn.
As far as I am concerned, I rather be annoying but visible! Keep up the good work you are my #1 source for information."
From "G.H." (November 2010): "I've installed over 20 Stebel air horns on mostly BMW sport bike and G/S restorations and rebuilds. From a performance perspective, you can't ask for a better life saving upgrade to a motorcycle.
Easy to install and it flat out works to keep the cages from crushing you.
BUT The physical design is not able to handle the jarring that occurs from the motorcycle suspension.
So far, 10 of the Stebels have failed. The plastic section that is actually the horn will separate from the metal compressor and slide down rendering it useless.
The horn section is held on by a single plastic loop that snaps at the top to the compressor outlet. The rest is a friction fit that surrounds the compressor.
Over time - about 5k miles of street, not off road riding - the plastic loop vibrates and loses its form enough so it cannot retain a purchase.
Same for the rest of the plastic, it expands with vibration. Then the entire plastic section slides down and the horn can't work.
I just got back from a 5K mile trip and this one failed at 3,5K miles. I've started using Crazy Glue or Gorilla glue on new units to try and stop this failure from starting. So far 2 units have 3K+ miles and are still holding.
Wish I had used the glue on my own unit! I asked Stebel to go back to their design and improve it to solve this problem..no response yet."
From "DPL" (August 2008): "Here is my input on the Stebal Nautilus Compact, which I have on my bike.
The first horn worked well until the trumpet dislocated from the horn motor, then all you heard is the electric motor whirring away (basically, the trumpet drops down about one-quarter of an inch, so that the air supply does not go through the trumpet portion).
I pulled the trumpet portion back up to align with the air supply hole from the motor and secured it with a tie-wrap, then the sound was very loud again.
I changed the horn out to the same model in chrome instead of black and have not had any problems. However, it does appear that the connection of the horn to the motor section is a bit flimsy, only held in place by a small plastic tab."
From "T.A." (August 2008): "I bought a set of the Hella's when I was commuting heavily on Rt. 128 in Boston. Only buy the supertones - the next set down (rated for 113 dB) are not loud enough.
More importantly, the Hella's must be mounted somewhere where they are protected from the elements. As you can imagine, this can be a problem on a motorcycle, and one which I wish they would better address.
The contacts inside will corrode if rained on - mine died after 2 years.
The horns can be disassembled and cleaned up if necessary, but they never recover their initial bark. I would not buy another set for the price they charge unless the motorcycle had a fairing-covered spot for them."
From "B.M." (August 2008): "I have a Stebel Compact air horn that has worked flawlessly for about 2 years now. I just bought a second, and will find out shortly if it has any problems.
My Stebel replaced a pair of Fiamm electric horns (I'm not sure if they were "freeway blasters" or not, but they were essentially the same in appearance. I can say that, subjectively, the Stebel is much louder and more piercing.
On the Honda ST forums in which I participate, I think the Stebel is the most popular aftermarket horn by a great margin, and I've heard of only a couple of failures. It's unfortunate you had two bad samples, but I don't think that's typical."
From "JB" (August 2008): "I get to your site from my XS650 site, 650Rider.com (a plug for them) I visit you regularly and bought some Oxford soft luggage based on your reviews.
I own a 2006 EX250 Ninja and on the ninja250.org site they recommend the Fiamm Freeway Blaster low tone. After have some encroaching cagers I thought I would try it.
Purchased at my local Advance Auto parts store for $15 or so, installed as a direct replacement in 10 minutes. Loud as I want and has seemed to do the job."
From "L" (August 2008): "Of course you knew that you'd get some comments from Stebel owners who love their horn and have had no problems, well that's me!
On my previous bike, a Ducati ST4S, I was only able to mount a pair of Fiamm Freeway Blasters under the fairing. They sounded pretty loud until a buddy gave me a shot from his Stebel one day and put them to shame.
On my current bike, a Multistrada, it had to be Stebel for me. The horn fits easily near the stock horn location and is not noticeable to anyone without me pointing it out to them.
The horn has given me no problems over more than a year of use and is loud as stink. I have not ridden in a full on rain storm but the location on the Multi subjects the horn to all the water thrown off the front tire so it has definitely gotten very wet.
I have run the optional remote intake tubing as suggested for 'critical' use, it keeps the compressor from sucking in water if used during rain.
I don't find myself using the horn all that much, particularly for the reasons others have posted about how it freaks out the drivers around you because of the loudness.
Because of this, when I'm out in an area without too many other vehicles or houses around I'll give it a few blasts just to satisfy myself it's working OK. Hasn't failed me yet (crosses fingers).
I did take some advice from you article and added a tether in case the mounting should somehow fail. However, I've taken a few off road rides that nearly jarred the teeth from my head but have failed to dislodge the Stebel from its mount."
From "G.M. (August 2008)": "This "true life story" may or may not apply to the horn article, I will leave it to you to decide.
I will study on these horns, as I am interested in the subject. I completely agree with our comments about defensive driving, it's best to not need your horn.
Once upon a time, my third bike was a Honda 550. I had installed a Windjammer fairing on it as I commuted 60 miles a day highway riding. I installed a pair of air horns (SEV Marshall if I remember correctly).
The pump was mounted inside the fairing pocket, and the horns were mounted underneath the bottom of each side of the fairing. These were the loudest horns I have ever heard on a motorcycle.
They were designed for an automobile, and designed to be loud enough when hidden behind the grille, not out in the open in the manner that I mounted them. These horns were LOUD.
One day on the expressway, driving defensively, keeping plenty of space around me, a car to my right started to change lanes into my lane, apparently having not bothered to check his rear view (or simply not caring there was a MC in that lane, you never know which).
He was perhaps four car lengths in front of me as he started moving into my lane. He was invading my "space" and going slower than I was. I hit the air horns.
He quickly moved back out of my lane, but the car 8 car lengths in front of me was so startled by the sound of my air horns that they slammed on their brakes.
The guy to my right had distracted me while the guy in front tried to finish me off. Cagers will gang up on you if you give them half a chance.
We were all doing about 75 MPH when this started. Although I knew it was best to hit my front brake first, my right foot rested on the rear brake and I had to reach for the front brake, so I reached the rear brake first. BAD, very bad.
I locked up the rear drum brake on the 550 at 75 MPH on I-285 here in Atlanta.
The back end began to wallow, I prepared to meet my Maker, and actually started moving my body toward a dismount when the bike went down, but the Lord was with me and the locked drum brake eventually broke loose, and I survived to ride another day.
Oh, and the drivers who caused the whole thing were on down the road. I had only startled the car ahead of me, and he came to his senses, did not stop and got back on the gas.
The moral to my tale is two fold: 1) Cagers, when confronted by an enormously loud horn blast, can become distracted and disoriented, because they are looking for an 18 wheeler, a dump truck, or the Queen Mary, when in fact "only a motorcycle" is the source of the sound;
2) one must never hit the rear brake first in an emergency (retraining was in order, as well as Honda's first 750 Super Sport, which had a rear disc that was incredibly controllable).
Due to moral # 1, I am not sure that I want to ride with a mega-horn today. If I ever do, I will use it with great discretion. As for moral # 2, I have retrained myself on the rear brake/front brake thing."
From David .G., one of the authors of this article (August 2008): "It might be helpful to point out on the horn home page that the Wolo Bad Boy and the Nautilus are one in the same.
A buddy bought a Wolo and the only difference between the two is the name on the Nautilus diaphragm cap versus a sticker on the Bad Boy.
Since they are physically identical in every other regard and the design is patented, I presume they are one in the same but didn't have the Wolo packaging material to see if it had European sourcing.
Also, my concerns about their mount proved to be prophetic. Noted four cycles on the edge of the road last week and the riders were darting in and out of traffic to pick up shiny something-or-others in the road.
I turned around to see if they needed info on local repair shops. Nope, they were collecting the pieces of a Wolo/Nautilus horn that had let go and self-destructed on the pavement after dropping off a cycle. Yet more proof that this horn is a lousy investment."
From "C.W." (August 08): "You said "I consider a horn to be a safety device of last resort -- if you have to use it, you're already in a situation that probably could have and should been prevented."
Have you ever ridden the DC Beltway? The only way to stay out of those situations is NOT to ride it.....they are CLUELESS here.
I run two Klaxon horns from a Volvo since I have a Volvo and they are pretty freaking loud. My Suzuki DL1000k5 has a lower fairing and I mounted them barely inside the lower fairing in front of the radiator.
They point downward to the opposite side in a criss-cross fashion. That is all the fairing allows, but that's okay since the number one problem here is lane changers not looking before moving!
I bought them both at a salvage yard with the special connectors for $20!!!
Most of all I can't say enough about how well the headlight modulator works!!!!! Hey everybody.......GET ONE! They think it's a cop so they get out of the way..."
From "B.P." (August 2008): "I have the Stebel Nautilus mounted on the outside of my '07 V-Strom DL650A and have had no problems - even after removing the horn and painting the bare metal areas and reinstalling.
It's mounted just in front of my right knee on the frame and points down like it's supposed to be - looks kinda cool when I point it out to people before I let them hear it - everybody jumps at the blast.
It's been effective on the road, has gotten a little wet once or twice, but is fairly well protected at speed and never failed in almost two years."
From "D.W." (August 2008): "Thanks for putting up this review. It is great to finally have some valid comparisons.
There are 4 bikes in my garage currently, various types acquired at various times over the years, and the first fun mini-project I typically do is replace the horns as a self-preservation measure.
Years ago the only thing you could find cheap would be the Fiamm/Hella style and these have served me well over a decade or two and I've never had one fail. I have a small collection of OEM horns in my parts bins.
For grins, even though I understood the size issue, I decided to try the Stebel Nautilus - first trying to fit it on a naked BMW (gave up, no workable room in a reliable place, resigned to install a set if Fiamms instead).
The second try on the Nautilus was FLHRCI (surely I could find a spot on this beast), but the size, silly mounting, and eyesore of the Nautilus made even this fun mini-project difficult.
A trick I learned after I gave up on the Nautilus on the BMW was that the horn and the compressor could be easily separated by lifting a clip, then mounting the two parts separately connecting with a piece of fuel hose or similar.
The standard little one-piece Nautilus is still so large and ugly this is the only way I could make it work and be satisfied with the final results.
On the FLHR I mounted the compressor under the seat and the horn in the standard location under the horn cover, connected by a 18" hose.
When I started the project, I actually had two of these Nautilus horns, the first died after 1 blast, the second is installed now and seems to be working ok after a year and a few dozen blasts.
But the Nautilus is frankly not worth the bother as the sound differences to me seem minimal. If the last one breaks I am going to go back to Hellas or Fiamms as they are much less hassle and frankly to me sound just as loud.
You could probably sell a zillion horns if we could come up with a compact, simple, non-hideous, inconspicuous method to mount a pair of forward-facing weatherproof monsters designed specifically for motorcycles, tuned to wake the dead - or at least a cell-phone yacking, four-wheel, unguided missile.
Keep up the good work."
From "B.B." (August 2008): "Thank you for doing this review. I purchased a Fiamm Freeway Blaster last year for my 1993 Harley FLHS. I tried a regular one and then moved up to the Freeway Blaster when I didn't get the sound I was looking for.
I switched the horns back and forth numerous times and couldn't hear any difference. Even with the Freeway Blaster I was still disappointed.
About a week ago I was riding with my brother-in-law. He was leading, and I spotted several deer up ahead. I wasn't sure if he spotted them, so I hit my horn several times to get his attention.
A few seconds later he saw them and slowed down with plenty of time.
Later I asked him if he heard my horn. Even though we don't have loud pipes and he was only about 30 feet from me, he said he never heard my warning.
Considering the claimed decibel level compared to the actual ones, I now know why.
I decided to do some research, and found that some manufacturers use a claimed decibel level that was measured six inches from the horn. I don't know about you, but if a car is six inches away from me when I hit the horn, I'm guessing it may already be too late.
As always, I appreciate you cutting through the hype and giving us the real info. I am considering an air horn for my bike and I hope that you will consider doing a similar report on motorcycle-specific air horns.
Thank you again for the service you provide for motorcyclists everywhere. I recently told as friend about your site, and he told his brother-in-law.
His comment was that your site had so much information that it may be the only motorcycle site you'll need . Gotta love that! Thanks again."
From "N.W." (August 2008): "As ever, your review of horns is most interesting. I think loud horns are a must; they are cheap and easy to fit, and a much better thing to spend money on than one more bit of chromed bling. In traffic, I tend to ride with my thumb on the horn button, just in case ...
My experience is purely subjective, but - I replaced the single horn on the Guzzi, which bleated feebly, with a pair of Fiamms (bought at my local auto supply store for about $30), sited under the fuel tank, at the front, pointing down at about 30 degrees.
This involved fitting a relay (from Radio Shack, about $5), which took a hour or two (if you want to know how to reconnect a Guzzi fuel tank, I can tell you!).
Like you, I have never used them in anger, but I check that they are working every time I go for a ride, and even with earplugs they sound satisfyingly loud - not an objective measurement, but definitely an improvement on the feeble farting of the OEM horn.
Also, the low tone horn on the Yamaha died, and I replaced it with a Fiamm.
I don't know whether it's any louder in terms of dB, but it sounds louder, and both the idiot who pulled out in front of me today, and the woman on the mobile phone who found driving in a straight line and at a steady speed difficult, reacted when I hit the horn button, so they seem to have the desired effect.
What you said in your article about tone, as opposed to sheer volume, may be the key - I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but maybe that is it.
I bought a Nautilus as well, but damned if I can figure out how to fit it - it's plain too big. In view of what you say about them dying prematurely, I may just test it in the garage and see how long it (and my neighbours' patience) lasts.
While on the subject - horn buttons would be a lot more useful if you could hit them instantly - as it is, by the time you get your thumb where it needs to be, it may be too late.
I'd prefer to have the horn button on the side, rather than the back, of the left switch collar, so that you can hit it just by moving your thumb sideways, rather than over, back, and forwards.
Alternatively, on the Guzzi, the current horn and 'flash-to-pass' buttons could be reversed; either way, hitting the horn would be much faster.
Thanks for another interesting and useful review - keep up the good work!"