Blog,  gadgets and equipment,  Jan's referee stories in The Hague area

The decibels of popular referee whistles

What is your favourite referee whistle? How do you pick your whistles? And what makes a whistle good? I like whistles with a sound other referees don’t have.

The Fox 40 Pearl has that in The Netherlands. That reminds of a situation during last season. I officiated with a blue Pearl version of the Fox 40 – matching with my blue referee kit ofcourse. Usually people ask me afterwards something about a situation or just say thanks for refereeing.

But a man stepped forward and began talking about that unique sound of the whistle. Yeah, it was a colleague who was off duty that weekend. I’m wondering if he found one, because (most of) the Dutch sport shops only sell the Fox 40 classic. But it kept me thinking: how do referees pick their whistles? I’d love to know what your favourite one is.

Recently stumbled on this picture below. A loud sound is important for me and Refsworld, an Australian referee shop, did some nice tests with a decibel meter.

Whistle comparison by Refsworld with decibel meter

The loudest referee whistle

  1. Valkeen – 127.6 dB
  2. Flox Blast – 127.3 dB
  3. Acme T2000 – 126.8 dB
  4. Fox Classic – 124.3 dB
  5. Fox Mini – 124.3 dB
  6. Fox Sharx – 123.2 dB
  7. Fox Eclipse – 118.7 dB
  8. Acme 888 – 116.9 dB
  9. Fox 40 Caul – 113.4 dB

Source is Refsworld – check their whistles.

For your information, some facts about decibel levels. A motorcycle is 100 dB, a loud rock concert is 115 dB and pain starts at 125 dB. Decibel meter at whistle test was at 2 meters, so players better not come close to the referees with the loudest whistles.


  • Adrian

    I thought ACME Tornado 2000 Whistle was the loudest in the world? I have never actually heard of the Valkeen or Flox Blast.


    hi sir i want to become a ACME Tornado 2000 whistle

    but i am in india

    how can buy the whistle
    please tell me

  • David

    I am not a football referee but am involved with another sport, hockey. In my early days as an umpire we were taught to use the whistle not only as a way of communicating which team had been awarded the free but also as a tool to let players know how you were feeling as an umpire about a particular breech. I call it talking with your whistle. Soft free, soft whistle. Heavy tackle, loud whistle. Loud whistle hopefully gains attention of the player where your body language and a little communication informs them that you are not happy with what took place.
    I personally use a Italian Police Whistle. A pea whistle. I originally had a fox 40 but struggled with the pitch (soft and hard). I have used this type now for a number of years with some success.
    On the odd occasion in front of a large crowd whistle tone went out the window due to the noise at the venue.
    No doubt this would be a problem at some football games.
    I know coach umpires and am always interested in what other sports do with their officials.
    Keep up the good work….

  • Joe

    The Pearl is 90 db. It is perfect for youth games. You only need a louder whistle if there is a large crowd. At 90db, you won’t destroy your hearing quite as fast. The 120+ db whistles make my ears ring.

  • Pete stimpson

    The whistle is the most important piece of equipment we use as referees so it needs to be the best you can afford, for me the valkeen whistle is the best but the most expensive, for a very good selection of whistles go to A&H international,

  • Curt Graber

    The loudest whistle in the world is The Original HyperWhistle at 142db and a center frequency of 2600hz it has a range of at least 2 miles and is significantly louder than the common whistles found in this list.

  • Kory

    I have been using the fox 40 blast for high school wrestling and I have to be very careful how hard I blow the whistle because it’s so loud. The pitch is a little higher as well so some kids don’t react the same as the original fox 40. But I hate how hard you have blow on the original Fox 40. So I am torn on if I want to try a pea whistle.

  • Alan Lee

    The Fox40 website has what I assume are more accurate decibels: Sonic Blast, 120; Classic, 115; Mini, 109; Sharx, 120; Pearl, 90.

    My favorite whistle has changed over time. When I first started refereeing, I used a Acme Thunderer pea whistle (plastic version and sometimes a metal version, a smaller size for higher pitch; they have fatter ones with lower tone, which I have used with very young players). I’ve stopped using pea whistles because the peas have sometimes gotten stuck.

    Subsequent favorites have been:

    — Fox40 Pearl: pealess, lower tone
    — Acme Cyclone 888: pealess, sharp strong tone
    — Noda: an expensive metal Japanese pea whistle; no longer made. Loved it but stopped using it after the pea got stuck several times.
    — Molten Dolphin (the original basic version, not the “fancy” more expensive recent ones). Liked it a lot but it has an “up” side and a “down” side and blew differently depending on which side was up, so I gave it up because of this.
    — My current favorite is the Fox40 Mini. Pealess, small in size, sharp tone, loud enough to make players complain, but not super loud at 109 dB (its older brother, the Fox40 Classic, is 115 dB). I also like it because no one I know uses it.

    Characteristics I consider when choosing a whistle:
    — do I like the sound–does it sound pleasing to me. This is most important to me. I got the expensive, “famous” Valkeen after seeing it used in a World Cup. One blow, and I knew I did not like the sound, and I’ve never used it since.
    — does it get the attention of players, including those not necessarily close by. This characteristic include: volume, harshness of sound.
    — can I easily modulate the sound, can I make the whistle “talk”: make it louder, quieter, shorter, longer.
    — easy to blow. In my experience, the Fox40 Sharx and Sonic Blast have been the easiest to blow; the air just flows through, and its very loud!
    — easy to hold in my hand and put into my mouth. A Fox40 Sharx has an odd shape I could not get use to. Also see what I said above about the Dolphin.
    — is not TOO loud to my own ears. I had a Fox40 Sharx (120 db; similar in sound to a Sonic Blast), which I used in only one game–an easy, non-controversial high school game, after which I had a headache for 3 days, bad enough to see a doctor. He told me ringing in the ears is a sign of hearing loss, and hearing loss cannot be regained. So be careful about prolonged use of high-decibel whistles. Loud does not necessarily mean better.

    Happy whistling!

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for these tips about the whistles. Do you mind if I use them as a seperate blog post? Good one for others if they need to pick a whistle. Will e-mail you too.


  • Eloane Gonçalves

    Actually in 2019, and I really like your blog! Congratulations, my friend! Keeps your beatyfull Work to this hard world of refering!
    I use an acme tornado 2000, and I really loves nos sound and loudness.

  • Carl Novak

    One thing most people don’t understand about decibels is that it’s an exponential scale. When you get up to 120 a few more decibels matters a lot. Every 3db doubles the amplitude. A 127db whistle is going to be 5,33x louder than a 120db whistle.

  • Andrea

    Hi, my daughter has Hyperacusis (acute hearing) so she hears noises 50% louder than everyone else. Her school is looking into a sports whistle after I saw this information awhile ago. Can you suggest one that would be low in decibels, not with that “shrill” sound etc. I realise usually they have to be loud to be heard over noisy kids but she can’t even play Netball where they blow the whistle every 1 min it seems…

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Andrea, I’ve been thinking of this.
      If I look online the Fox electric whistle is even at lower decibels than the “normal” whistles. Might be something to try.
      Hopefully your daughter can play with the others.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Just noticed this. Will ask around and get in touch with you. And if anyone scrolls through the comments and has a suggestion, let me know.

  • Brad S.

    Can a molded plastic whistle tone be raised or lowered by altering openings of the whistle in any way? In other words, enlarging existing openings or making small new openings in the whistle body with a drill?

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Changing the champer or the opening of the chamber will change the sound of the whistle. But that would just be trail and error for me on how it changes. Why want to change the sound?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.