Feature

Which Controller Is The Loudest? Sounding Off On Controller Noise

by Kyle Hilliard on Sep 07, 2015 at 03:30 PM

Recently, while making my way through Infamous Second Son as the rest of my household was asleep, I could distinctly hear my controller echoing through the house. It wasn't from the speaker built into the controller I always forget is there that periodically emits noise to remind you of its existence, but rather the clicking of the shoulder buttons. It seemed louder than any controller I could recall. The same seemed true of the Xbox One controller. In a silent house with the television volume turned low, I felt like I could hear the clicking of buttons and tapping of control sticks more than I could in the past. I decided to take initiative and find out if the latest controllers were truly louder, or if I was just imaging things.

This feature was originally published on August 19, 2014, at 6 p.m. Central.

To do this, I looked around to find a recommended decibel-measuring application to download for my phone. I landed on Decibel 10th, which you can find here. While useful for my purposes, it is not a perfect measurement of sound that a professional device would offer. Understand that this data is not perfect, but it does offer a good idea of which controllers make the most noise, from the NES' rectangular square controller, to latest speaker-enhanced controllers of today like the PlayStation 4's.

The first thing to measure was the background sounds from the quiet room I hid away inside of to perform my experiments.

With no noise happening, other than my breathing and some light ambient noise, I peaked at about 51 decibels.

First up was the classic NES controller. As I did with all of the controllers, I started up the app and pressed each button twice starting from the left side of the controller making my way to the right. I was careful not to exaggerate my button presses, tapping them in the same manner I would had I actually been playing a game. Where control sticks were present, I rolled them around and also moved them back and forth. I looked very cool as I played imaginary games with unplugged controllers in a small, dark, quiet, abandoned office.

For the NES controller, the face buttons, A and B, proved to be the loudest, peaking at 78 decibels.

Next up were the SNES and Genesis controllers. It's worth noting that I did not use third-party controllers for these measurements. I used the original controllers included with the consoles. The Genesis controller was a little louder, peaking at 80 decibels thanks to the controller's loud face buttons. The SNES' shoulder buttons seemed the loudest, peaking at about 74 decibels. As I worked my way through the controllers, a bizarre pile was beginning to form next to me.

A new generation of consoles means new controllers. Between the Nintendo 64, the original PlayStation, and the Sega Saturn, the Nintendo 64 controller proved the loudest. The Nintendo 64's control stick peaked at 84 decibels, while the PlayStation's shoulder buttons peaked at 80 decibels. The Saturn's face buttons only made it to 78 decibels. The Nintendo 64 controller is still incredibly weird, and it felt foreign in my hands, despite the hours I dumped into the console.

Amongst the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, and the original Xbox, the Dreamcast proved the loudest at 87 decibels with its loud shoulder buttons. The PlayStation 2's DualShock controller peaked at 81 decibels because of the L3 and R3 buttons, and the GameCube peaked at 84 decibels thanks to the noisy shoulder triggers. The GameCube's A button on the other hand was impressively quiet. The Xbox controller, an S-model controller, peaked at 81 decibels thanks to the tapping of the control sticks against the edges as they were rotated and moved. I didn't test the black and white buttons because I forgot about them, as every developer and player did when they held an Xbox controller in their hand.

For the previous and current generation of console controllers, head to the next page.

Between the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 (of which I tried out the Sixaxis and DualShock 3), the Wii proved to be the loudest. The Xbox 360's clicky bumpers peaked at 79 decibels, while the nunchuk's control stick on the Wii controller peaked at 80 decibels. It may be thanks to the control sticks octagonal housing. The DualShock 3 proved to be louder than the Sixaxis peaking at 78 decibels (thanks to the control sticks) and the latter peaking at 77 decibels (thanks to the shoulder buttons). The pile of discarded controllers was getting larger.

Finally, it was time to look at the modern generation of controllers – the ones that sent me down this rabbit hole – and I could not be more disappointed with the results. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers peaked at 77 decibels, while the Wii U gamepad peaked higher at 80 decibels. The Xbox One's d-pad proved to be the loudest aspect of the controller, while the PlayStation 4's shoulder and face buttons were its noisiest culprits. The Wii U's shoulder buttons were its loudest buttons. I also took a look at the Wii U's pro controller, whose face buttons caused the decibels to peak at 74 decibels. At this point, my co-workers started to ask questions, and all I could do was violently shush and wave them away.

These weren't the only controllers I looked at (or listened to rather). Head to the next page to see sound measurements for the Ouya, the Virtual Boy, and what proved easily the loudest controllers of all.

After doing all the main controllers I took a look at other random controllers. I started with the Ouya and the Amazon Fire controller.

The Ouya peaked at 79 decibels and the Amazon Fire controller peaked 83 decibels, both thanks to the shoulder buttons. The Fire's L3 and R3 buttons also seemed especially loud. It was the first time the Ouya controller had seen use since the release of Towerfall.

I found a SNES Super Scope, which was surprisingly loud at 86 decibels. The button clicked with your thumb was the loudest, which was especially odd considering the controller is mounted on your shoulder, placing its loudest buttons right near your ear.

The Virtual Boy's back shoulder buttons proved to be the loudest, peaking at 83 decibels. I had never truly held a Virtual Boy controller in my hand before this moment. It was a confusing experience. There were two d-pads.

The PlayStation Move and the Saturn's 3D controller, originally included with special copies of Nights, peaked at 60 decibels and 84 decibels respectively. The Move was the quietest controller I tested, even though its small face buttons do click. The 3D controller's control stick (or maybe a circle pad would be a better description), was the loudest part of that controller.

The title of loudest controllers, overall, belong to Duck Hunt's NES blaster and the legendary Steel Battalion controller. The trigger on the NES blaster peaked at 88 decibels, defeating the previous record set by the Dreamcast. The winner though, is the Steel Battalion controller. The metal switches peaked at 92 decibels, making it the loudest controller I tested.

And just because graphs are fun, here's a full breakdown comparing all the peak decibels of all the controllers I compared.