Our preliminary results showed even greater accuracy of such apps when used with external mics. Impulse noise assessment is a tricky issue by itself because even type 1 sound level meters are often not capable of measuring impulses that exceed the dynamic range of the meter. NIOSH has published extensively on the issues with impulse noise measurements. For example, see: Noted Chuck. Even a Class 1 is only fully specified up to 16kHz.
In Europe, meters have to be fully tested, but in the USA as far as I am aware, such specification claims do not have to be substantiated by pattern approval and so may not be trustworthy. I feel you would be doing people at hearing damage risk a great dis-service by supporting the use of phone apps.
Perhaps the authors could add an addendum that references a few of these or even extends the blog post. For example, I could not expand the images enough to read many of the app names so the additional information buried in responses that identified the four best performing apps was very useful. I also found links such as these quite useful: Many smartphone developers have built measurement apps that can potentially turn the device into a dosimeter or sound-level meter.
We live in a noisy world. It is well documented that sound levels over 85dB can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. This article clearly demonstrates the relative accuracy of the smart phone decibel meter to measure that noise. Based on our measurements of some of the apps we tested, we were able to measure sound levels as high as dB SPL without any issues. I could not expand the images enough to read many of the app names so the additional information buried in responses that identified the four best performing apps was very useful.
Android and Apple smartphones have won a kind of sweepstakes leaving other platforms such as Windows Mobile and Palm OS in the dust. What about longer term noise measurement? It very likely would get stolen. If long-term 24 hours to one week noise monitoring could be done with less desirable and cheaply replaceable devices the picture changes.
WAV files, for post-processing into a number of noise statistics over time, and for extracting clips of incidents of interest.
For shorter time periods, higher sampling rates are perfectly feasible, if only to validate the expectation that noise at the highest audible frequencies is seldom very high energy. Thank you David, you raise some very interesting and exciting ideas. I believe some citizen science projects have done just that albeit on a small scale — used cheaper smartphones and developed a basic sound measurement app, specific for those devices. The idea of smartphone sound measurement apps is more about personal awareness and empowerment since most people carry one everywhere they go.
As for NIOSH, our mission is focused on occupational noise exposure and we hope that this effort would serve to empower workers to use their smartphones to become better aware of their noise environment and take actions to reduce their personal exposure to noise. The Chinese smartphone ever give a better result. There are already many prices and models with increasingly better qualities. The issue is not the origin of the smartphone or its manufacturer as much as the operating system, and the availability of reliable apps on that operating system. We have tested several Android and Windows-based smartphones, but the apps available were not as advanced or fully-featured as the apps available on iOS.
See discussion above about our findings. It is linked in the text above or you can find it at http: There are a number of design choices that can help or hinder repurposing. For example: For noise measurement purposes it should be possible to turn this off. WAV files, 16 or 24 bits per sample, sample rates variable up to 22, or 44, per second.
Why not make these accomodations mandatory through the FCC, just as radiation, interference, telemarketing and privacy are already regulated? Making phones more friendly to repurposing can promote a number of societal benefits. Very interesting discussion. I was thinking that the apple one was very good and what you said really resonated with me.
The decibel app pro is only what you said it is. Thank you Brett, decibel meter pro was one of the least accurate in our testing difference of Apple did a great job with iPhones and their other iOS devices in most respects.
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Android may be pretty good too. Nevertheless there are a lots of other smartphones out there. That is unless they can be repurposed. As a science teacher I was surfing the net for apps to use in the classroom and share amongst the pupils. Now I know that relatively low but constant levels of both infra- and ultra-sounds — mostly from machinery — can permanently damage hearing, but are there any apps available that can measure infra- and ultra-sound levels at all? We actually tested the Buller app from the Swedish Work Environment Authority and though it was well-designed and easy to operate, it did not meet our accuracy criterion.
See page 30 of our more detailed report: As for ultra sounds and infra sounds, the issue is not the apps but the built-in microphones used on most smartphones which have a limited frequency response and introduce distortions at very low and high frequencies. There are external microphones that can be used with smartphones but even those have are limited especially below 20 Hz. For such measurements, you will need a high-end sound level meter and a special attention needs to be made for the selection of the appropriate microphone. Whether this is also feasible for Androids is harder to judge.
Apparently there is a lot of variation in the hardware, brand to brand and perhaps model to model. Ultrasound measurement would normally be limited by maximum sample rates, 44, or 48, Hz. Even at 48, there would need to be a steep filter blocking frequencies above 21 or 22 kHz to avoid aliasing. Nevertheless, if noise is random you could look at the highest frequencies that can be measured. As a DIY experiment, perhaps you could build an oscillator with selectable output about 10 kHz apart, through the entire band of interest.
If you got a microphone capable of responding in that range, you could amplify that signal with a filter to cut out the audio band, then mix it with oscillator output. Input that into a MIC jack and run an app with spectrum analysis e. Then there should be peaks at difference frequencies. For example if there is ultrasound at 31 kHz and you mixed it with 30 kHz, you should see a spike at 1 kHz. Thank you for this great work. Is it safe to assume that the accuracy would improve on later iPhones, such as the iPhone6? We just completed a series of experiments using iPhone 6s and the measurements are very similar to our earlier results, however, when used with external microphones, the results show much improved accuracy.
Thank you for your comment, there are few new studies on methods for calibrating smartphones for noise monitoring and measurements e. We just completed our own evaluation of smartphone sound meter apps using external microphones that can be calibrated using standard acoustic calibrators. This is an excellent idea, Eva — to allow other crew members to use your SPL meter to calibrate their apps since calibration is one of the most important things to achieve better accuracy.
Noise cancelling earbuds are able to measure the ambient noise level that if they have a companion app.
The sensitivity of mic integrated in earbuds is greater than one that fit to smartphones. I believe noise cancelling earbuds use MEMS mics as well not sure if similar to smartphone MEMS mics or not but if you have additional information on their performance and their sensitivity, please share it with our readers. Hi there, thank you for good post, veryinformative. Thanks for sharing, keep up the good work, Thank you, regards. Great article and study. I wish to determine the approximate amount of sound attenuation that a muff provides. I can use the MicW i with an iPhone to measure the ambient noise, but is there another mic that can be used inside of the hearing protection muff for a second reading?
Thank you for your interesting question, Richard. I have not thought of such an application, though I do not think these apps and smartphones are suitable for these types of measurements. You may find this article helpful: If you have a specific earmuff in mind, I would recommend that you consult our hearing protector compendium at http: However, you may be able to get a very rough approximation of the noise reduction of an earmuff by using a MicW or some other mic see the Etyomtic Research in-ear mics with an extension cable running under the foam cup of the earmuff.
I would recommend using two calibrated mics and devices unless you can generate the exact ambient sound field when you conduct your measurement under the earmuff.
NIOSH Sound Level Meter on the App Store
You will also need to secure the mic at the entrance of the ear canal with some form of tape without compromising the seal of the hearing protector too much. Low recurrence has been specified as an issue as has adjustment and non consistent clamors sources. On the off chance that alignment is out and a meter application peruses only 3dB too low, the presentation to clamor harm danger will conceivably be DOUBLED. Essentially if the commotion is indiscreet with a high LZpeak content, the application may well read 6dB low, so the specialist is conceivably presented to FOUR times the sheltered level.
WAV documents, for post-handling into various commotion insights after some time, and for extricating clasps of episodes of hobby. For shorter time periods, higher inspecting rates are flawlessly plausible, if just to accept the desire that clamor at the most noteworthy capable of being heard frequencies is rarely high vitality. The level of responsiveness regarding microphone stand bundled inside earbuds is actually higher than one who match to help smartphones. The noise dose can then be compared with the recommended safe level of 85 dB A for eight hours.
Of all the apps that we tested, 4 apps met our test criteria, and of those, NoiSee from EA LAB provides a Dose calculation as an included feature of their app. There may have been other apps that have been introduced recently that offer such features though. Look for its release soon. Government i. Our research revealed that certain apps performed better than others on specific measures.
Identifying this does not imply an endorsement of one product over another.
The best smartphone decibel meter apps to measure noise levels
This may be a good time to reiterate what we noted in the blog and in our published paper: Thanks in advance for any suggestions. Hello Felipe, there have been very few newer sound meter apps on Android but we have not evaluated them. As mentioned in our article, we continue to see the same issues with the Android-based apps — fragmented marketplace for hardware devices, lack of uniformity in audio integration between the different manufacturers, and most importantly, lack of support from the developers community.
For purposes such as teaching a course, I would focus on precision of measurements instead of accuracy. One of the major issues with Android devices is that a very small percentage run the latest version of the OS. I suggest you have the students download a certain app see table 9 in our expanded report http: You bring up a good point regarding access, so I invite our readers to contribute to this conversation if they know of specific newer Android apps or ideas that could advance noise measurements on Android devices. We will get the word out using a variety of mechanisms when the app is ready for public release.
I have a question: Andwhat happens with the influence of wind on the measurements? Great question Alvaro, this is something that we have considered — how to translate our lab-based measurements into real-life measurements. We are collaborating with several researchers to evaluate the performance of smartphones to conduct actual field measurements. See recent studies by Murphy and King http: I actually used one of these apps to help decide the purchase of my last car. I used the phone to measure the noise rating on several vehicles at 70 MPH, normal highway driving conditions. I have a long commute from Morgantown to Pittsburgh so a quiet cabin is very important to me.
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I am glad to see that my investigation actually had some validity. Thanks Michael, would you please share with our readers additional details about your specific experience as some may find it interesting? Thank you for the feedback. My experiment found its origin when I began to notice that when I would turn my car on the radio would be blasting. I began to wonder what the long term effects of all this road noise would be on my hearing.
I downloaded Decibel 10th Professional Noise Meter, free from the app store. I drove down the interstate at 70 MPH and had my wife sit in the passenger seat and operate the app. I have a Suburu Impreza hatchback and it measured 83 decibels. My first vehicle to test drive was a Hyundai Sonata. Quite a step up from the Impreza in terms of price, but I thought it would be worth it for a much quieter ride. Unfortunately the Sonata came in between 75 and 80 decibels which was quite surprising. The final car that I tested was a Nissan Rouge measuring 60 decibels. It was noticeably a quieter cab, but the app provided that reassurance.
Thanks a lot for sharing this useful and attractive information and I will be waiting for other interesting posts from you in the nearest future.
Top Sound Level Apps for Smartphones
This is absolutely disgraceful. Surely you demand a sound level meter that meets the ANSI or other national standards. Did you test frequency response, linearity, any of the other very many parts of the standard that ensure a sound level meter is reading accurately? Sound level meters are very difficult to design and build because of the need for extreme accuracy when measuring such small changes in pressure. Inaccuracies away from that reference signal could easily make a difference of 3dB or more, which, as NIOSH surely agrees, makes a difference that halves the safe exposure time.
Why do none of the sound level meter manufacturers not offer such an application? You can be sure they have tried, I know this because as a software developer I have been involved in such attempts. The reason is simple. Nobody has so far got close to meeting the standards. Yes, with a good quality external microphone you can get close, but still not there. And of course the cost is high. Thank you for your comment, Michael. We put the apps through a battery of tests in our laboratory and currently conducting studies in the field to verify their performance and accuracy, please see our open-access publications in the reference section to learn more about our studies.
In our recent publication using external, calibrated, microphones http: We also state very clearly that such apps are not meant to replace professional sound level meters. Hello Chuck, thank you for your reply. Some of my words were not well chosen as I agree that this research is very valuable and needed to be done by an independent body. I know from work I have done that even with an external microphone other than some USB mics it is also not possible to meet the standards.
You can get something that measures accurately within a limited span, but that still does not meet the standards. There are other limitations too, but this is a big one with no solution. The standards are there for a very good reason. People are reading this research and taking from it that the smartphone apps are up to the job, when in reality they are a long way from it. Much further away than 2dB! Thanks again. Research is good and essential, not letting people develop the wrong conclusion is too.
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. First of all i would like to thank you for the great and informative entry. I have to admit that I have never heard about this information I have noticed many new facts for me.
Do you find that there is a meter app better suited for unweighted, impulse noises like that? Also, have you continued to test new apps as they are released — anything new that meets or exceeds the Faber or SPLnFFT for that sort of measuring? Generally, the rise time of the system is the problem — I need to figure out how to get a 20 microsecond or less mic and system to truly capture impulse noise like that. Even some professional instruments are not often suited for making such measurements, see our study on limitations of dosimeters http: We were able to capture peaks, fairly accurately, up to dB SPL.
Lastly, we have not done any additional studies on new apps, nor do we have any immediate plans to do so. Please see the November and January updates above, they point to our study on the use of external, calibrated, microphones to achieve closer agreement with a sound level meter. Nice blog..! I really loved reading through this article… Thanks for sharing such a amazing post with us and keep blogging….
Thanks for publishing this interesting study. I am the author of the AudioTool Android app, and am keen to understand how I might be able to improve it so that it meets or exceeds the criteria you used to select the Android apps you tested in and perhaps more recently? Hi Julian and thanks for reaching out. This was not the case few years ago when we did our first study. Please feel free to share your experience and help us close the gap between iOS and Android sound measurement apps. As you mentioned, one of the main issues we ran into when we did our initial study was the inconsistencies of getting accurate measurements, even from the same app, across multiple Android devices.
This app is only available on the App Store for iOS devices. Screenshots iPhone iPad. Description Best Sound Meter sound pressure level is an app which can measure the actual sound level meter with dB.
General improvements. Interface update. Jun 27, Version 1. Size Category Utilities. Compatibility Requires iOS 7. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. It can raise employees' awareness about the noise levels in their workplace, help them make informed decisions about their hearing health and determine when hearing protection is necessary. Researchers can also use the app to collect data about noise exposure. Her career in hearing care spans sales, marketing and content creation and she enjoys helping people with hearing loss seek help and be their own advocates.
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These apps turn your smartphone into a mobile sound level meter. But, how do you know when loud is too loud?