Not so long ago I was riding on the Bangkok outerring road during my morning commute, an car began to change lanes into the space I was occupying. I immediately hit the horn button but was only met with a weak beep that wouldn't startle a mouse. As you'd expect, the driver of the car had the windows closed and never heard the motorcycle's weak noise emitting from the horn, forcing me to take evasive action.
I thought perhaps there was something amiss with the motorcycle's horn, so I hit the horn button a few more times afterward while riding at around 100km/h with no cars nearby. The sound level was exactly the same (I could barely hear it over the wind noise, so I can imagine it would be barely perceptible to a car with its windows closed and maybe the radio on). So I beeped it a few more times while stopped in the parking lot of our office to check; sure enough, the horn seemed to be working properly – it's just that 'properly' is a relative term when you're dealing with already-distracted drivers of cars equipped with acoustic interiors that were designed to block out external noise, coupled with powerful stereo systems that would be overkill for a average sized pub/cafe. It strikes me as odd that with all the technological advancement occurring right now with motorcycling in general that a component such as the horn can be stuck in the Stone Age. IF you were to tak the horn off a '70s-era motorcycle and compare it to one taken from one of the latest 2015 models, I doubt you would be able to notice any major differences in construction... or sound, for that matter. Apparently the motorcycle-buying public these days doesn't pay much attention to the horn on the motorcycles, and considering how feeble they sound compared to the majority of car horns, I guess I can see why.
I can recall when accessory horns were very popular in the '80s and '90s, with many riders changing the stock horn as quickly as they would the stock tires. Granted, it was likely a lot easier to install an accessory horn on most of the motorcycle back then, as their interiors weren't crammed with componentry like they are now as manufacturers have sought ever-shrinking construction in their single-minded effort to lose weight and centralize mass for improved performance.
But that's understandable with sportsbikes, where every non-important item gets shaved of nonessential bits to save grams of weight. On the big sport-touring machines, Advanture bikes, and all-round bikes there's very little difference in the horn construction and design, and I've found quite a few to be sorely lacking in the sound level department for such a full-size motorcycle where weight isn't so crucial. Quite frankly, I've actually been embarrassed by how pathetic some of the horns of motorcycles for sale in Thailand sound.
The horn is an essential safety item in my opinion. No, I don't feel that a rider should be blasting away at motorists at every opportunity, not do I think that it's a replacement of any sort for keeping your concentration and evasive maneuver riding skills sharp. But there are plenty of situations where a horn that gets the attention of a distracted car driver – and that's a common description in today's electronically bombarded driver's environment – can be the difference between a possible accident and a elevated heart rate.