Talk:Siren (alarm)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Fire Service (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon Siren (alarm) is part of WikiProject Fire Service, which collaborates on fire service-related subjects on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, you can edit the article attached to this page, or visit the project page, where you can join the project and/or contribute to the discussion.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Law Enforcement  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of the Law Enforcement WikiProject. Please Join, Create, and Assess.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the quality scale.
WikiProject Percussion (Rated B-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Percussion, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of percussion on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.

sound power[edit]

The article includes the text "sound power (123 dB at 10 feet)". As it stands this is ambiguous. Its most likely meaning is one of:

  • sound power level of 123 dB (re unspecified unit)
  • sound pressure level of 123 dB (re 20 μPa) at 10 ft
  • sound level of 123 dB(A) at 10 ft

Does anyone know which of these (if any) is correct? Thunderbird2 (talk) 15:52, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

"Best Practices" section reads like an installation manual[edit]

Right. Like I said. It reads like an installation manual. (talk) 04:10, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

disambiguation page[edit]

Please put the noisemaker on first place on the "siren" disambiguation page.

No sane person expects anything else than the noisemaker and THEN the Greek mythological creature when he searches for a "siren". The other stuff has to be placed much lower. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 04:35, 29 November 2010 (UTC).


There are two references provided for "John Robison" and his "musical sirens". I can't speak for the one in German, but the English reference given mentions neither Robison, sirens, nor the year 1799. I suggest it be replaced with a suitable reference, or at least removed. If a suitable reference can't be found to support the assertion that Robison invented the siren in 1799 and applied it to organs, then perhaps this entire section needs to be rewritten, to reflect actual, verifiable history? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:53, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Electronic are not as common?[edit]

Is this statement really accurate? "Most fire sirens are single tone and mechanically driven by electric motors with a rotor attached to the shaft. Some newer sirens are electronically driven by speakers, though these are not as common." In my own following of siren enthusiasts online and just general observations in the communities I visit, electronic sirens are becoming the norm, at least in the U.S. Municipalities see them as the cheaper alternatives (less maintenance, lower manufacturing cost, etc.). Even in my own city, nearly all the 1000Ts have been decommissioned in favor of the more popular 2001s. --RKrause (talk) 16:34, 26 May 2013 (UTC)

Agree, that's out of date, at best it's no longer a global view, if it ever was. Not sure how to source that information, though. Andrewa (talk) 05:56, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Move to Siren (acoustic alarm)?[edit]

I would like to suggest a name change for this article - the name "noisemaker" is a vague description and could apply to a myriad devices. Paul venter (talk) 09:17, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

Agree sort of, see #Alarms and musical instruments below... perhaps we even need a new article, one scoped to alarm devices. Andrewa (talk) 17:56, 26 January 2014 (UTC)

Requested move 15 January 2014[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: No move. Cúchullain t/c 03:22, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

– Should be obvious, really. A modern reader is much more likely to be looking for the noisemaker that they encounter in daily life than the mythological creature. (talk) 13:20, 15 January 2014 (UTC)

  • Oppose, as there are many meanings of the word. If anything, Siren (disambiguation) should be moved to Siren. bd2412 T 20:33, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose any move; pageview statistics are jaw-droppingly strong in favor of the mythological creature. [1] [2]. Red Slash 03:16, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose any move (other than Siren (noisemaker) → siren (alarm) to use more normal English); the current Siren page is primary, the "noisemaker" (a what?) is named after the mythological beast. In ictu oculi (talk) 05:15, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
    • See Discussion below. Andrewa (talk) 16:05, 20 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Semioppose Oppose moving the noisemaker, support moving the mythological subjecct, replace with the disambiguation page per BD2412. -- (talk) 06:51, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
    • I fail to see how there's any way the mythological creature doesn't have primary topic. The pageview advantage alone should guarantee it primary topic. Red Slash 03:14, 17 January 2014 (UTC)
      • See Discussion below. Andrewa (talk) 16:05, 20 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Absurd – the disambig page should move to Siren, as there's clearly no primarytopic here. Dicklyon (talk) 19:04, 18 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Semioppose similarly to the IP above. I'm surprised that there's so much interest in the mythology, but this does seem therefore to be a case of no primary topic, so the DAB should be at the undisambiguated name. But I'm not sure that noisemaker is the best disambiguator... other suggestions? Andrewa (talk) 13:14, 19 January 2014 (UTC)


The claim that the mythological creature is the primary topic above seems to rest on the pageview statistics and the history of the name (the claim that the noisemaker is named after the creature).

The second argument, regarding the name's history, is completely contrary to policy, to the point that I'm a bit surprised that it's even raised here by an experienced editor. Where does WP:AT give any support at all to it?

Regarding the claim (made several times above) that the pageview statistics alone settle the issue, please note that the guideline explicitly rejects this argument. See Wikipedia:Disambiguation#Determining a primary topic: There are no absolute rules for determining whether a primary topic exists and what it is... Tools that may help to support the determination of a primary topic in a discussion (but are not considered absolute determining factors...) include:... Wikipedia article traffic statistics or Wiki ViewStats traffic statistics (my emphasis, with ... indicating my snip of omitted text).

There may be valid arguments that the mythological creature is the primary topic, but we don't yet have any above. Andrewa (talk) 16:08, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

But there is no argument at all that has been made in favor of the alarm. Nor could there be, unless I'm way off. (It's happened before.) Red Slash 02:04, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
There could be, but let's not worry about that, and just make Siren be a disambig page. No primary is needed or sensible here. Dicklyon (talk) 03:01, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
It's true that I'm putting no argument at all... in favor of the alarm. The suggestion is rather that there is no primary topic. In support of this, the two arguments in favour of the mythological creature being the primary topic are examined, and both found wanting. Andrewa (talk) 01:55, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Based on this result, an RM to implement the proposal to make Siren a disambig page has been opened at Talk:Siren#Requested move. Dicklyon (talk) 16:33, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

Requested move 24 January 2014[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Moved to siren (alarm). Editors are far from unanimous. There is not much enthusiasm for siren (noisemaker), and a bit of support for siren (device), but siren (alarm) has the widest support. EdJohnston (talk) 03:26, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

Siren (noisemaker)siren (device) – Following on from the RM above, this seems a better disambiguator. Andrewa (talk) 20:02, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

Relisted. BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 16:52, 11 February 2014 (UTC)


Feel free to state your position on the renaming proposal by beginning a new line in this section with *'''Support''' or *'''Oppose''', then sign your comment with ~~~~. Since polling is not a substitute for discussion, please explain your reasons, taking into account Wikipedia's policy on article titles.
  • Opppose. Once you've read about the nekkid chicks luring sailors to their doom, if you were in fact looking for the acoustical device, "noisemaker" would be nicely re-assuring. A "device" is so...bloodless. Anything could be a "device", and I can't wait to read the Wikipedia article about silent sirens using to process Russian bread dough, or some such foolishness (which the noismaker article wouldnt' be about, anyway). --Wtshymanski (talk) 23:02, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
    • This doesn't seem to have a great deal of relevance. Andrewa (talk) 03:43, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
      • hahahahahahaha!! Red Slash 03:14, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
        • Can someone explain the joke? I mean, I'm as keen to lighten up as anyone, but this does represent an oppose vote, apparently without rationale, and it's just going to waste the closing admin's time sorting it out. Andrewa (talk) 03:24, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
          • No, Andrewa, my laughter was provoked by you responding to him. You wrote perhaps the most hilarious, dry, understated piece of commentary I've ever seen on WP. The oppose !voter shows up and (no offense) unleashes this inexplicable comment... and you just come in and say that--holy snap, I cracked up!! GREAT job. That was funny! smile Red Slash 00:11, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
            • Thanks, understood. Did you like my quip about Mozart [3] in #Topics below? Andrewa (talk) 00:36, 30 January 2014 (UTC)
              • Unfortunately, I'm not quite up to snuff when it comes to my knowledge of the usage of sirens in musical compositions, so I don't know how pithy and precise that comment was, but just about any attempt to introduce humor is magnificent and well-received. Red Slash 02:43, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Weak support, but Siren (alarm) would be better. When is a siren used that isn't an alarm? In ictu oculi (talk) 02:52, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
According to Siren (noisemaker)#History, ...the first siren was invented by the Scottish natural philosopher (physicist) John Robison.[3] Robison's sirens were used as musical instruments.... According to Siren (noisemaker)#In music, Sirens are also used as musical instruments, such as... (... shows omitted text of course). Next question? Andrewa (talk) 03:25, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
I asked when is a siren used that isn't an alarm? The only notable use of sirens in music are in the compositions of Varese and Varese stipulated that the sirens should be New York City fire sirens - which are alarms. In ictu oculi (talk) 22:23, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
And I answered that question. See #Notable uses of the siren for discussion of your latest reply and claim, and also #Alarms and musical instruments. Andrewa (talk) 22:10, 26 January 2014 (UTC)
(I hope the adjusted stringing is acceptable) Acoustic siren is suggested below as an alternative name for this article. Is that better or worse in your opinion? Andrewa (talk) 06:47, 27 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose, but support siren (alarm). "Device" is vague. Red Slash 03:14, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
    • That would be an improvement on the current name in my opinion, but it does considerably reduce the scope of the article, which I think is unnecessary. But better than no move. Andrewa (talk) 06:00, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
      • That's what I thought at first, but technically (noisemaker) does describe a siren... Red Slash 00:11, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
        • Agree that it does, and it also decribes a ratchet and a gong and a drum and even a serpent and a violin (not sure what you mean by technically). But it's not a very good description, either of the musical instrument (which came first and is still in use) or the alarm device, and seems to be used nowhere else in Wikipedia as a disambiguator. That's the rationale for this RM. I'm not for one moment saying that noisemaker would be a problem if there were no better alternatives, rather that there are and that therefore we can and should do better. Andrewa (talk) 20:16, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
        • Another possibility, suggested below, is to use natural disambiguation and name the article acoustic siren. That to me is better than the current name, and certainly better than siren (alarm), which possibly should be an article in its own right but doesn't match the scope of this one (unless you believe IIO above, see #Topics and elsewhere below). And see for its current usage, so it's not made-up. Andrewa (talk) 20:21, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
        • Yeah, I like natural disambiguation, but I just don't know how I feel about acoustic siren. It may not be made up, but... IDK, the musician in me is cringing and describing anything electrically powered as acoustic. Even though I know what acoustic technically means (drat, there's that word again) I still think of it in the sense of non-electric. But even if they can be used for other things, as a siren can be used as an instrument, it doesn't change its main meaning, does it? I mean, you can use a box (theatre) for concerts or sporting events, but would we move it for that reason? Red Slash 02:43, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Rename to acoustic siren. The current name is ugly, but most proposals so far are little better, or even worse. "Siren (alarm)" narrows the scope, while "siren (device)" is too vague.
    "Acoustic siren" gets only 16,500 hits on a websearch, but it does get a rather more impressive 344 results on Google Books. More significantly, it is the term used by the Smithsonian Institute and in 158 patent applications. Given the strength of its use in reliable sources (even tho the patents are primary), I think that this this natural language disambiguation is the best solution. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 20:52, 5 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose I actually agree with the first comment, it's a bit irreverent but still makes the point that "device" is near-meaningless and could be replaced by "object" or "thing" in this context. I like IIC's suggestion, although the two terms are synonymous in common usage so perhaps acoustic siren as proposed above is the best option for natural disambiguation—I'd support either. benmoore 19:11, 12 February 2014 (UTC)
    • Comment: Then will you be proposing that we move the other articles currently disambiguated by (device) (see below)? But seriously, device is a perfectly good description and disambiguator. The mythological beastie could be called a thing or perhaps at a stretch even an object, but not a device. So it's nowhere near meaningless. **Andrewa (talk) 06:30, 13 February 2014 (UTC)
      • Comment A device is a "thing made for a particular purpose." I agree this can be a fair disambiguator in certain cases (to distinguish Spring (device) from the season or the motion, for instance.) However, in other cases, a better disambiguator would specifically describe the purpose for which the device is made, if that purpose is easy enough to describe simply. Siren looks to be such a case. Sirens are devices which, fundamentally, make noise. The question at issue for me is whether sirens are always used to make noise for the sake of raising alarm. I think they are (even Acme sirens are used to raise alarm, if only for musical and/or comedic effect.) Sirens jar people, raise an emotional sense of alarm, even when they are used for unusual musical purposes. Hence, my !vote below. Xoloz (talk) 21:01, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Support move to Siren (alarm). As in the comment above, I believe sirens always cause alarm, even when that sense of alarm is used for a comedic, ironic and/or musical purposes. Noisemaker is my second choice as a disambiguator; even though an unusual choice, it is both accurate and more precise than "device." Xoloz (talk) 21:01, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Move to Siren (device). "Acoustic siren" may be a term of art used in patent applications but it's not really common usage. "Device" is a perfectly good disambiguator, per the examples given by Andrewa below. Sirens may alarm people, but that doesn't mean they're not a device. Likewise, this article discusses non-alarm use of sirens, so "Siren (alarm)" would be inappropriate. Incidentally, from the article - "loud noise maker"? Seriously? That sounds like it was written by a child. — Scott talk 10:37, 4 March 2014 (UTC)


Any additional comments:

Happy to consider other ideas, but noisemaker is an unusual (perhaps unique) disambiguator and I think we can do better.


and note in the case of ratchet, that the musical instrument known as the siren is more specifically covered at Acme siren. On the other hand, the scope of this article includes the Acme siren, and others. Andrewa (talk) 20:09, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

See also alarm device, but the term siren device doesn't seem nearly so common. [4] [5] Andrewa (talk) 00:14, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

Notable uses of the siren[edit]

From above: The only notable use of sirens in music are in the compositions of Varese and Varese stipulated that the sirens should be New York City fire sirens - which are alarms.

Several problems here.

Firstly, when Varèse asks for sirens that should be New York City fire sirens (in Ionisation for example) he's explicitly rejecting the Acme siren which is the normal orchestral instrument, in favour of an object from everyday life. So I guess part of what you're saying is that the use of the Acme siren in music is not notable. That's a bizarre suggestion. It's a standard part of the orchestra, available in many music shops, and often used for comic effect by bands... including even one of my own.

Secondly, are you sure that Varèse was using these sirens because of their use as alarms, rather than using the texture of this sound for musical effect? He was probably doing a bit of both, but the principal use of the sirens here is for their sound texture rather than for any cultural connection with the alarm. That's according to the experts, anyway.

Thirdly, this doesn't even attempt to address the historical use of John Robison's invention.

In summary, this impressive-sounding example completely fails to address the issues. It's not an example of the orchestral instrument, it's not an example of the original use of the Robison siren, and it isn't even an example of a siren being used as an alarm. Andrewa (talk) 22:14, 26 January 2014 (UTC)

And fourthly of course, there's a great deal of use of sirens by other composers... try Metropolis Symphony (second movement) by Michael Daugherty (see second video). only notable use of sirens in music??? Indeed. The mind really boggles. Andrewa (talk) 08:14, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Alarms and musical instruments[edit]

There seems to be some confusion on the musical uses of sirens (note the plurals), and on the relationships of these musical sirens to those used as alarms. Without wanting to pull the rug out from under my own move proposal above, but rather not wanting to clutter it further, let's do some brainstorming.

The goal is to come up with some informed proposals on the number and scopes of the articles we need on sirens used in music, both articles dedicated to musical instruments and more general articles with significant information on sirens used in music. It's obvious from the discussion above that our current coverage is not sufficiently informative!

The first musical siren was invented by John Robison (1739-1805). It was a musical instrument right from the start, but is also the ancestor of the sirens now used as alarms. I don't have a date for this invention, or any examples of its musical or other uses. It would be good to have all three.

The Acme siren was patented on 1895, and it and its imitators are still widely available in music shops. It's often used in bands for comic effect (I have used one myself). A recording of one (rather skillfully played IMO) was famously used in the original Addams Family TV show as the mail alarm, and this particular sound (now electronically generated and relatively unmusical) seems to me to have since become the standard for building evacuation alarms and warship general quarters alarms (but I could be wrong in this). Most important, the Acme siren is a standard part of the percussion section of the symphony orchestra, and in an orchestral score it's what is meant by siren if there's no other qualification (some examples would be good, Terretektorh (1966) by Iannis Xenakis is a possibility but I'm not sure of the exact instructions or normal interpretation, and may tell us when I get time to watch them).

And there are sirens of other sorts used musically, for example the two electric sirens used by Edgard Varèse in Ionisation (1929–1931) and the factory siren used by Dmitri Shostakovich in Symphony No. 2 (1927) (but Shostakovich's siren part is nowadays often played by the brass section using their standard instruments).

Whew...! And that's just for a start...

Some possible articles:

  • An overview article on acoustic sirens of all sorts (this article, by whatever name).
  • Acme siren (that article).
  • Orchestral siren, covering the Acme siren and others used by Varèse, Shostakovich,...
  • Electric siren, covering the electrically powered mechanical sirens once common but now largely replaced by electronic sirens, and used by Varèse. Possibly cover electronic sirens here as well. What about non-siren alarms such as the Sonalert?
  • Electronic siren.

Others...? Andrewa (talk) 00:25, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

What about Acoustic siren, the acoustical research instrument originally given the name siren, used to generate complex tones, not alarm noises or music? Like some of these. Dicklyon (talk) 01:55, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

Yes... another topic to be covered, definitely, good catch. gives some history, which should be included in this article IMO. But I'm concerned at the term acoustic siren... what would be the scope of an article with this name? It may well be an alternative, natural disambiguation for the current article. Andrewa (talk) 06:03, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

Some more possible article titles:

  • Acoustic siren could be an alternative name for this overview article, or it's suggested above it could be scoped down to the research devices used by Seebeck and others.
  • Siren (alarm) seems to me to be a narrower scope article, but this is disputed above, leading logically to the possibility that siren (alarm) would be a good name for this article. Or it may be worth splitting off.

Other ideas? Andrewa (talk) 06:55, 27 January 2014 (UTC)


Taking a step back:

  • Devices called siren
    • Acoustic sirens
      • By usage
        • Musical devices called siren
          • Acme siren, now a generic trademark
          • Robison's siren, first used as a musical instrument but the ancestor of many and perhaps all later sirens
          • Sirens used in acoustics experiments particularly in the 19th century
          • Sirens from everyday life used musically... Varèse and others
        • Siren alarm devices
      • By type
        • Acme siren, blown by mouth
        • Steam siren
        • Hand cranked siren... very old fire engines, acoustics experiments
        • Air blown siren... other acoustics experiments
        • Electric siren... medium old fire engines, Varèse...
        • Electronic siren
        • Others... are there any?
    • Other devices called siren... are there any?
  • Other things called siren
    • The mythological beastie
    • Others... are there any?

That's some of the coverage we want to achieve, in a manner that takes the reader efficiently to the information they want. And it's patently obvious that we don't do it too well at present. I'm still digesting IIO's claim above that The only notable use of sirens in music are in the compositions of Varese. That's not quite as bad as saying The only notable classical composer is Mozart, but... well, maybe it is. Andrewa (talk) 19:31, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

One point that is made at is that there are essentially two types of siren. In the Acme siren, steam siren etc, the holes in the moving plate are drilled at an angle, so the rotation is produced by the passage of air or steam. In others, the plate is turned by some other means. Andrewa (talk) 19:39, 27 January 2014 (UTC) is another really good page, and highlights a gap in our current coverage. But they are using the term acoustic siren to mean the physics apparatus only, excluding Robison's invention. Andrewa (talk) 20:29, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

Most alarm sirens (or the ones on police cars and ambulances at least) these days are electronic sirens, which are not acoustic sirens. Functionally, they serve the same purpose. This may be a good reason not to lump them all under acoustic. The distinction you make between two types of acoustic is a detail. Dicklyon (talk) 03:20, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
I think you mean that acoustic siren is a technical term... in that an these electronic sirens generate sound (rather than just an electronic signal that can be converted to sound) they are acoustic devices, so acoustic siren as a descriptive term would apply.
Agree that it's a detail... but also an important piece of information that doesn't seem to be in the content of our pages yet. Unless I've missed it.
This is opening up a whole new world for me... I'd never even wondered how the hand-cranked sirens on old fire engines worked, and I'm still curious. But the steam siren is an old friend (I built a working model once and it was deafening), as is the Acme siren obviously (although I don't currently own one, but I'm sure I can borrow one to provide a picture). The details of all of them belong in our encyclopedia, and none of it is there yet. And that matters a lot more than what we call the articles! Andrewa (talk) 06:24, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure of the official definition, but I think here "acoustic" is a term of art about how the sound is generated, essentially by chopping a stream of air. See if you can find any sources that call electronic sirens acoustic; sort of like in guitars, not likely, I think. There may be intermediate buzzer-like devices, electromechanical, between electric an acoustic, like [(blacklisted site url some of these], which they refer to as acoustic but sell like electronic components. One thing we could do is make an article on acoustic sirens, but include a section on modern electronic simulations and replacements, even though they're not acoustic in the usual sense. Dicklyon (talk) 06:48, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
In the "by usage" section one should recognize the original usage as instruments for sound synthesis, which allowed various kinds of demonstration and experiment, and allowed easy calibration of tones to absolute frequencies in cycles per second (now hertz). Seebeck's patterns of holes in sirens led to his theories of tone and pitch perception, and subsequent influential debates with Ohm and Helmholtz. See for example this book or some of these. Dicklyon (talk) 06:55, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
I think that's already covered... Seebeck, Ohm and Helmholtz were all investigating music rather than pure physics, Helmholtz for example called his thesis On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music (my emphasis) and the others were similarly focussed. In that sense, these are all musical devices. Andrewa (talk) 06:05, 19 February 2014 (UTC)