How loud is too loud? You know it when you hear it.

For years, Portland has struggled with the right response to complaints of loud music coming from Old Port night spots, but has found that it’s not that easy to set a limit that makes bar owners and their neighbors happy.

A better solution is now in the works that would create a mediation process in which noise-makers and those affected by them could work out a solution.

The idea comes from the Downtown Noise Task Force, which has been studying the issue and is made up of bar owners, musicians, residents and city officials.

What they have determined is that the current limit of 55 decibels — about as much noise as a city bus makes — is too low.

But they also found that a hard-and-fast rule applicable to all businesses may not make sense.

What might be a reasonable amount of late-night sound in one venue could be downright obnoxious in another.

The way the task force’s plan would work would be to set a more reasonable limit of 93 decibels and if it is exceeded, the complainant could ask the bar owner to turn it down. Those establishments that attracted a lot of complaints could be called before the a “sound oversight committee” which would have the authority to amend the bar’s entertainment license.

The approach is a little complicated, but it puts the focus on working out problems, rather than setting limits on establishments that may not even be causing a problem.

The whole city has an interest in a thriving entertainment district, even if there are some problems that go along with it. The task force recommendations look like a good balance for all involved interests.