Buell “Blaster” Horns Review by Adam Smith

Bottom line: These are good quality, economical automotive air horns for a locomotive-like sound with reasonable compressed air requirements. If you want an obnoxiously loud horn for your truck, these are a contender. I do not recommend putting a real, large locomotive horn on your vehicle for a few reasons listed below in the "real train horns" section.

I'm writing this review, primarily because these horns have become quite popular, but they specifications are often woefully exaggerated by online car customization retailers and eBay sellers who claim they will outperform $1000 Nathan and Leslie locomotive horns. These horns aren't in the same league as a Nathan K5LA or Leslie S5-T in terms of raw loudness, but they do keep up with the economy series of train horns, Nathan's P line, so they are not wimpy either.

Will blowing these horns at unsuspecting pedestrians make them jump?
At close range, most definitely!

Are they loud enough to cause hearing damage?
If you stand right in front, yes, but if you're 10 or more feet away you will not sustain permanent damage from a few honks. These horns are definitely safer than big train horns.

Will I get in trouble?
It's up to you to use the horns responsibly, on the highway and away from the elderly, babies, hospitals, etc. I personally recommend that anyone who installs air horns to their car or truck should use a city/highway toggle to go between the air horns and the vehicle's stock horn system. Also, do not wire your air horns to the keyless entry system!

Overall, the Buell horns are a good compromise: you get a horn that is much louder than stock electric horns, a little louder than your average semi, but not so deafening that you're going to get cited or sued.

The Performance

I've seen claims of up to 152dB for these horns. This is primarily why I got a set to review. I just measured the output of my set of 4 Buells on 150 psi tank pressure, and I got 104.2dBC @ 100 feet with an Extech 407732 sound level meter. This is a decently accurate meter, as used by police, not a $50 Radio Shack type. 104dB at 100 feet means they are hitting at least 134dBC @ 1 meter. This is as loud as the least-powerful real train horn, the Nathan P-3. This is plenty loud.

Real Train Horns

Big locomotive horns like the K5LA and Leslie RS-5T measure 115 and 116dBC @ 100 feet respectively, which is more than 10 times the output of these Buell horns. 99% of cops will agree, that 115dB @ 100' is unnacceptably for a motor vehicle. If you put a K5LA on your car or truck and honk it at people, just be aware that you are asking for trouble. Use of a real train horn on a vehicle should be restricted to auto shows or demonstrations under controlled circumstances without bystander casualties. The police are not your only concern, a pedestrian who is traumatized by getting blown up with an excessively loud horn has legitimate grounds to sue you for assault.

More Photos of my Test Set

Please note that the setup shown here came right from Buell. If you buy from an auto parts online store, you will probably have a different (cheaper) mass-produced air-ride type tank and compressor. The tank that Buell sent is a very heavy guage DOT approved 3 gallon tank meant for marine horn installations. The compressor is also very good, an industrial grade Thomas 315 with a real Square-D adjustable compressor switch, just like you get with the metal Buell horns and Kahlenberg's zero series setups.

For comparison purposes, the photo below shows the largest of the Buell blasters held up to a Kahlenberg S-203CHT navy ship horn. The S-203 hits a Coast-Guard-certified 148 dBC @ 1 meter. Keep this in mind when you see ratings like 152dB on small chrome horns on eBay--if the rating sounds to high to be true, it most definitely is!