Acoustic Glossary


Sound Levels and Integrating Sound Level Meter Terms, Definitions, Units, Measurements ...

Sound Level in decibels, is typically the RMS (root-mean-squared) of the sound pressure level which was measured and average over a stated period of time. The measurement may also be A-weighted for example to correlate with the subjective human response and unless some time-weighting or other rule of average is specified the measurement is now commonly known as the Leq - equivalent continuous sound level as measured by modern integrating sound level meters.

Sound Level Definition IEC 801-22-14, logarithm of the ratio of a given sound pressure to the reference sound pressure of 20 μPa, the sound pressure being obtained with a standard frequency weighting and with a standard exponential time weighting. Sound level in decibels is twenty times the logarithm to the base ten of that ratio
Note 1 : standard frequency weightings A, B and C and standard exponential time weightings fast (F), slow (S) and impulse (I) are given in IEC 651 Sound level meters.
Note 2 : time and frequency weightings employed should be specified, but if not stated explicitly, Fast (F) exponential time weighting and A-frequency weighting are understood

Sound Level is also known the weighted sound pressure level

Time-average Sound Level Definition IEC 801-22-16, logarithm of the ratio of a given time-mean-square standard-frequency-weighted sound pressure for a stated time period, to the square of the reference sound pressure of 20 μPa. Time-average sound level in decibels is ten times the logarithm to the base ten of that ratio. Also known as the equivalent continuous sound level and the Leq.
Note 1 : If a frequency weighting is not specified, the A-frequency weighting is understood
Note 2 : In principle, exponential time weighting is not involved

Not be confused with the Time-average Sound Pressure Level Definition, IEC 801-22-11. To compare these definitions directly click here

There are various other Sound Level terms in common use, listed below, but not all of them are directly related to sound pressure levels and the Pascal, see also the IEC Definition of Level

Other Sound Levels
Average Sound Level
Background Noise
Fast Sound Levels
Impulsive Sound Levels
Leq (Equivalent Sound Level)
Maximum Sound Level (Lmax)
Minimum Sound Level (Lmin)
Peak Frequency-weighted Sound Pressure Level
Peak Sound Level
Residual Sound Level
Short Leq
Slow Sound Level
Sound Energy
Sound Exposure Level (SEL)
Sound Intensity Level (SIL)
Sound Power Level (SWL)
Sound Pressure Level (SPL)
Specific Noise Level
Statistical Sound Levels • L10, L90, Ln etc..
Z-weighting Sound Level

Integrating Sound Level Meters, a little history. In earlier times the instantaneous sound pressure levels were exponentially averaged in a simple RMS detector of limited dynamic range and the results were further dependent on the selected meter time-constant settings, so a series of measurements could not be combined to get the overall result. The only way to 'measure' and 'record' time histories, at that time, was to connect the meter output voltage to a logarithmic level recorder and plot the dB level vs time histories.

With the advent of digital techniques it was possible to integrate the sound levels over a wide dynamic range, use linear averaging circuits over long measurement periods and the integrating averaging sound level meter was born, now commonly known as the Leq or equivalent continuous sound level meter

Integrating circuits also greatly enhance the accuracy and dynamic range of L10, L90, Ln etc., statistical noise measurements.

To see a range of integrating sound level meters click here.
We also have full pages dedicated to sound level meter basics and Leq basics.

Sound Level Meter Classes Sound Level Meters are divided into classes, originally known as types.
Sound Level Meter Class 0 is the requirement for laboratory measurements
Sound Level Meter Class 1 are precision instruments with a wider frequency range and much stricter tolerances than -
Sound Level Meter Class 2 instruments - sometimes referred to as Industrial Grade Meters.

There are also many cheap sound level meters for sale that do not meet even the Class 2 requirements - buyer beware.

Why are good sound level meters so expensive?

See also • noise dosesound exposuresound intensitysound power
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