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Sound Level Meters

Sound level meters are essential tools used for measuring the intensity of sound in a given environment. They are commonly used in industrial, commercial, and residential settings to monitor and control noise levels, which can have negative impacts on human health and well-being. In this article, we will explore the basics of sound level meters, including what they are, how they are used, how to read and calibrate them, and what to consider when purchasing one.

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What is a sound level meter?

The sound level meter is an instrument that gauges the strength of sound in a particular environment and determines the noise levels within this area to take actions according to these values with respect to an allowable limit. It is made up of three main components: a microphone, an amplifier, and a meter or display that indicates the sound level in decibels (dB). There are two basic categories of sound level meters: analog and digital. Analog sound level meters feature an analog meter to present the sound level, while digital sound level meters are equipped with a digital display. The type of microphone used in the sound level meter is also important, as it affects the accuracy and range of the measurement. There are various types of microphones, including omnidirectional, directional, and pressure-sensitive microphones, each with unique characteristics and applications.

Depending on the technical characteristics, sound level meters can measure from the simplest parameters such as the equivalent sound level or sound pressure level to frequency analysis for more specific applications, both in Occupational Health and the Environment and in specialized Acoustics studies where parameters like RT60, FFT, pure tone detection, and others are required. In the case of environmental noise, frequency analysis can be particularly useful, as it provides a visual representation of the frequency content of the noise, which can help identify the sources of the noise and inform effective noise reduction strategies.

What is a sound level meter used for?

Sound level meters are primarily used in occupational health and safety settings to monitor and control noise levels. They are commonly used in factories, construction sites, and other industrial settings to ensure that workers are not exposed to excessive levels of noise, which can cause hearing damage and other health problems. Additionally, sound level meters are used in residential and commercial settings to monitor and control noise levels, including those from traffic, construction, and other sources.

Understanding and utilizing RT60, FFT, and pure tone detection parameters can greatly enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of sound-level measurements and evaluations. RT60, also known as reverberation time, is a measurement of the time it takes for the sound level in a room or space to decay by 60 decibels. This measurement is important for evaluating the acoustic properties of a room, as it provides information about the room’s ability to absorb sound.

FFT, or fast Fourier transform, is a mathematical algorithm that can be used to analyze and visualize sound data. FFT is commonly used to analyze the frequency content of sound signals and to produce spectrograms, which are graphical representations of sound data. In the field of sound measurement, FFT can be used to analyze the frequency content of a sound level measurement, providing information about the presence of specific frequencies in the sound signal.

Pure tone detection is a process used to identify and analyze pure tones in a sound signal. A pure tone is a sound wave with a single, well-defined frequency. Pure tone detection is used in a variety of applications, including the measurement of hearing sensitivity, the evaluation of hearing aids, and the diagnosis of hearing disorders. In the field of sound measurement, pure tone detection can be used to identify and analyze specific frequencies in a sound signal, providing information about the presence of specific sounds in the environment.

The construction industry follows strict ISO standards when it comes to construction, occupational measurement, and environmental measurement. These standards ensure that every aspect of the construction process, from design and planning to execution, is carried out in a safe, efficient, and sustainable manner.

ISO standards for construction cover everything from safety and quality control to project management, ensuring that all construction projects are carried out in accordance with best practices and industry standards. ISO standards for occupational measurement ensure that workers are protected from hazardous working conditions, such as excessive noise levels or exposure to hazardous materials.

ISO standards for environmental measurement ensure that construction projects are carried out in an environmentally responsible manner, minimizing their impact on the surrounding environment and preserving natural resources for future generations. By adhering to these strict ISO standards, the construction industry is able to deliver high-quality projects that are safe, efficient, and sustainable.

In addition to evaluating noise levels in various settings, sound level meters can also be used to measure and map road traffic noise. This information can be used to create noise maps, which provide a visual representation of the distribution of noise levels in a given area. These maps can be used to identify areas where road traffic noise is causing excessive noise pollution and to develop strategies for reducing it.

Furthermore, sound level meters can be used to measure the effectiveness of noise mitigation measures, such as the installation of sound barriers or the implementation of traffic calming measures. By continuously monitoring noise levels before and after these measures are put in place, it is possible to determine the extent to which they are reducing noise pollution and to make any necessary adjustments.

Overall, sound level meters are an important tool for managing and reducing noise pollution in a variety of settings, including the workplace, residential areas, and on the roads. By providing accurate and detailed information about noise levels, sound level meters can help to promote healthy and safe environments for workers, residents, and communities.

How to use a sound level meter?

To use a sound level meter, simply turn it on and point it in the direction of the sound source. The meter will display the level of sound in decibels (dB). It is important to note that sound level meters should be used in a representative manner, meaning that the measurement should be taken from a location that accurately represents the exposure of the person or group being monitored.

How to read a sound level meter?

Sound level meters display the level of sound in decibels (dB). The decibel scale is logarithmic, meaning that an increase of 10 dB represents a tenfold increase in the level of sound. For example, a sound with an SPL of 60 dB is considered to be 10 times louder than a sound with an SPL of 50 dB.

It is important to note that exposure to high levels of noise can cause hearing damage, especially if the exposure is prolonged. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends a maximum exposure limit of 90 dB over an eight-hour period. This limit is based on the assumption that exposure to higher levels of noise can cause permanent hearing damage.

What are the most accurate sound level meters?

The accuracy of a sound level meter is determined by several factors, including its type, design, and calibration. The most accurate sound level meters are type 0 and are mainly used for research and laboratory purposes. These meters meet the most stringent international standards for accuracy and precision and are designed to provide the most precise and reliable measurements. In addition to the factors mentioned earlier, the type 0 sound level meters are equipped with the most advanced technologies and features, such as advanced signal processing algorithms and high-quality microphones, to ensure that they provide the most accurate and reliable readings possible.

In commercial uses in general, Class 1 sound level meters are considered to be the most accurate, as they are designed to meet strict international standards for accuracy and precision. These sound level meters are typically used in professional settings, such as in occupational health and safety, environmental monitoring, and acoustical engineering. Other factors that can influence the accuracy of a sound level meter include the type of microphone used, the frequency response of the meter, and the level of ambient noise in the environment. To ensure the highest level of accuracy, it is recommended to purchase a sound level meter from a reputable vendor and to have it calibrated regularly by a certified expert.

What is a Class 1 Sound Level Meter?

A Class 1 sound level meter is the highest level of accuracy in sound measurement equipment for commercial uses in general. It is used for industrial and occupational health purposes, and it is the only type of sound level meter that is recognized by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This type of sound level meter must comply with strict accuracy and performance requirements, making it the preferred choice for professional and industrial applications.

How to calibrate a sound level meter?

Calibrating a sound level meter is important to ensure accurate readings. Calibration can be performed by an expert laboratory or a certified vendor. During calibration, the sound level meter is compared to a known sound source, and any discrepancies are corrected. Calibration should be performed periodically to ensure that the sound level meter continues to provide accurate readings.

Sound Level Meter vs Personal Noise Dosimeter

A sound level meter and a personal noise dosimeter are both used to measure sound levels, but they are designed for different purposes. A sound level meter is typically used to measure the sound levels in a specific environment, such as a factory or construction site. It is designed to measure the overall sound level in a specific area, and it provides an average sound level reading over a period of time.

On the other hand, a personal noise dosimeter is designed to measure an individual’s personal exposure to noise. It is typically worn near the ear, and it measures the sound levels that an individual is exposed to over a period of time. This type of device is often used in occupational settings to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

What Sound Level Meter Should I Buy?

When choosing a sound level meter, it is important to consider your specific needs and the type of environment in which it will be used. For professional and industrial applications, it is recommended to use a Class 1 sound level meter, as it provides the highest level of accuracy. For personal use, a Class 2 sound level meter may be sufficient.

Additionally, consider the features that are important to you, such as frequency analysis, data logging, and connectivity options. It is also important to consider the cost and the vendor’s reputation. You can consult with an expert laboratory or a certified vendor like Inteccon to help you choose the right sound level meter for your needs.

Svantek Models

As a world-leading manufacturer of noise and vibration monitoring instrumentation, Svantek is dedicated to quality and technical excellence. With a highly qualified and innovative team of design engineers, Svantek offers a range of noise and vibration monitors that are second to none in terms of quality and accuracy.

Svan 971A

The SVAN 971A is a small and lightweight Class 1 Sound Level Meter that offers a range of measurement options, including 1/1 and 1/3 octave analysis. It features an easy-to-use interface, making it an ideal choice for various applications, such as industrial hygiene noise, environmental noise, and technical engineering. The device also includes a built-in self-vibration monitoring system that provides information about levels of vibration that can impact measurement results. With broadband results, time-history logging, and audio recording capabilities, the SVAN 971 is a versatile instrument for sound level measurement. Data can be easily downloaded to a PC via USB or RS 232, and the device can be calibrated in the field using an acoustic calibrator. The SVAN 971 is protected by a robust casing and has an IP65 protection level, making it suitable for use in a range of environments.

Svan 977

The SVAN 977 is a next-generation Type 1 sound and vibration instrument designed for environmental monitoring and occupational health and safety monitoring. It has an exceptional hardware design, enabling the measurement of ultrasound frequencies in the 40 kHz band. The device provides broadband results, time history logging, and audio recording. The user interface works with networks like GPRS, Ethernet, WLAN, and ZigBee for remote data download and settings configuration. The instrument also has a Bluetooth interface and a smartphone application, SvanMobile, which extends measurement capabilities. The device is powered by four AA batteries, an external DC power source, or a USB interface, and has a robust and lightweight design.

Svan 979

The SVAN 979 is a high-accuracy sound and vibration measurement instrument that is designed for easy communication with computers and has exceptional features for field measurements. It has a dynamic measurement range, a flexible set of interfaces, built-in signal generator, and GPS time synchronization. It offers 1/1, 1/3 octave real-time analysis, FFT analysis, time-domain signal recording, audio events recording, and pure tone detection. It is powered by AA batteries, external DC power, or USB interface and has a super contrast color OLED display. The instrument can be remotely controlled by the PC with the SvanPC++ software and is equipped with a micro SD card for data storage. It is a robust and lightweight design that is easy to use.

TSI Models

With a mission to provide trusted measurement, application guidance, and data analytics solutions, TSI is committed to helping its customers make informed decisions. The company’s vision of creating a better world by protecting people, products, and the environment speaks to its dedication to making a positive impact in the world. With TSI’s innovative products and focus on quality, we are confident that they are a valuable partner in our mission to protect what matters.

Quest Model

The Quest SoundPro SE-DL Series Sound Level Meters and Real-Time Analyzers are advanced instruments for monitoring and analyzing sound levels. They come in Class/Type 1 and Class/Type 2 models and feature a large screen display for real-time frequency analysis. They can store data for post-processing and evaluation of workplace noise levels. These meters are suitable for a variety of applications, such as occupational noise evaluations, environmental noise assessments, general sound analysis, automotive design and vehicle noise evaluations, building acoustics, HVAC testing, and hearing protection selection.


In conclusion, a sound level meter is a crucial tool for measuring sound levels in various environments and assessing the risk of hearing damage. By understanding the fundamentals of sound level meters, including their uses, how to use and read them, and how to calibrate them, you can ensure that you are making the right choice for your needs. Whether you are using a sound level meter for professional purposes or for personal use, it is important to choose a device that is accurate, reliable and meets your specific requirements.

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