Best Sound level meter 2023 • 7 Sound level meters Reviews
Noise can be particularly stressful, and some fields and jobs require the control of noise emission levels. Nothing does that better than a sound level meter. This device is designed to measure the noise emissions of a source, allowing you to determine whether it is within legal limits.
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What is a sound level meter and how does it work?
They are designed to measure ambient sound or noise levels. In the United States, the legal specifications for sound level meter performance follow the ANSI S1.4 standard. It corresponds to the IEC 61672 international standards for electroacoustics. The noise levels measured by this equipment are the waves that our ears perceive and send to our brains.
High sound levels, for instance, can cause hypertension, hearing loss, heart disease, sleep disorders, or stress. These potentially severe consequences are the reason why authorities have developed specific legislation on this matter.
Modern digital models are incredibly straightforward and consist of a microphone, electronic circuitry, and an LCD screen that displays the values. The microphone is mounted on a rod to keep it away from the body of the instrument, thus offering a more accurate measurement of the ambient noise.
The microphone integrates a flexible membrane that moves slightly when sound waves hit it. The membrane then creates electrical currents. The more it moves, the more current it produces. A sound level meter measures the intensity of the electric current produced by the membrane and converts it into a value displayed on the screen.
What types of sound level meters are there?
These instruments are divided into two different types, according to the IEC 61672 standards issued by the International Electrotechnical Commission. These regulations determine the regulations that manufacturers and brands must follow to provide the same sound measurement. Older devices meeting the IEC 60651 and IEC 60804 standards can still be used in most cases.
- Type/class 1 devices: These are precision-grade instruments for laboratory and field use (environmental and building acoustics).
- Type/class 2 devices: These models are general purposes grade for field use (noise at work and basic environmental levels).
Shopping Criteria for Sound Level Meters
Whether you are at home or in your workplace, it is essential to have a quiet place to rest for your health. Sound level meters have been specifically designed to evaluate the noise around us. In the following section, we will delve into the main shopping criteria to keep in mind to choose the right instrument for your needs.
- Measuring range
- Weight and design
Specific standards regulate the different types of sound level meters available. We strongly encourage you to learn more about these regulations, as they will determine the functionalities and accuracy of the instrument you purchase. The most common models are manual and programmable.
This corresponds to the type-2 devices, which are suitable for domestic work and are ideal for acoustic fans. Other sound level meters are precision equipment used for noise measurement and sound-related work. Type-1 instruments are also suitable for acoustic laboratories and highly specialized tasks.
This is another key criterion that you cannot overlook if you plan on buying a sound level meter. Every model and type of device will offer a different range. Generally speaking, they tend to be quite broad and can go from 1 or 2 dB to 200 dB, depending on the tasks for which they are intended.
This is more than enough for home or field measurements. If you need an instrument for laboratory use or more accurate tasks, you will have to turn to professional models.
Virtually every sound level meter out there operates with a battery. In that regard, your best option will be lithium-ion batteries since they are more durable. Besides, they offer better performance and have a much longer life. The best thing about them is that they aren’t subject to the memory effect, which is when batteries start having less and less power over time.
Most models come with 9-volt batteries that provide an operating window of around 50 continuous hours. Make sure they are included with your sound level meter, or you will have to buy them separately. Some instruments also integrate energy-saving technology to care for our environment.
As we briefly explained, you will need to gather all the information regarding your measurements. This is why sound level meters need to have internal storage space. This space will let you perform multiple in-field measurements and save the data in different formats for subsequent analysis.
While most sound level meters don’t actually have internal memory, they do present slots for you to insert memory cards. That being said, you can still find a few instruments with 4 to 8 GB of internal memory. Since SD memory cards are the most common and affordable on the market, you may want to look for a device that is compatible with them.
Weight and Design
This may not seem like a particularly important factor, but it will ultimately determine the comfort of use of your sound level meter. The built-in microphone is placed on top and away from the body in most instruments. This allows you to use the device comfortably without skewing the measurement.
The LCD screen is essential since this is where you can read the values recorded. Weight isn’t irrelevant, either; you may be holding the instrument for a while, which is why you will want it to be as light as possible. In that regard, we encourage you to opt for a sound level meter that weighs less than 5.5 ounces.
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Why should I buy a sound level meter?
Whether you are an acoustic enthusiast or a sound professional, you will need a sound level meter to measure the sound pressure effectively and accurately in any space. These devices are extremely simple to use, practical, and lightweight, which means you can take them anywhere with you. You will find different types of sound level meters, depending on what you want to do with them.
Here are various ways you can use this device: noise measurements in workspaces, professional sound measurement for auditoriums and music rooms, assessment of ambient noise, capture and analysis of sound events, statistical analysis with three-tier and full calculations, and noise measurement in cars and machines during repair and servicing.
Why should I calibrate my device?
There are two types of calibration for sound measurement instruments. The first one, field calibration, is performed before each measurement using the reference sound sources as an acoustic calibrator. Periodic calibration, on the other hand, is done when the instrument is returned to an acoustic laboratory.
You should always calibrate your sound level meter whenever taking any form of measurement. Otherwise, people could challenge the accuracy of the measurements. Professional sound level meters are expensive instruments, which is why you cannot risk having your work questioned by not calibrating them.
Calibration gives you peace of mind by knowing that your device is measuring consistently over a given period of time, manufacturer’s evidence that the instrument and acoustic calibrator are operating normally, and improved performance and longer life. Your sound level meter will last longer if you take care of it. If your device is under warranty, it may lose its validity if you do not perform periodic calibration.
How often should I calibrate my sound level meter?
You must perform a field calibration before and after each measurement. You can use an acoustic calibrator for this purpose. That way, you know that you have tested your instrument against a verified noise source and that it has compensated for any vibrations, ensuring maximum accuracy.
If you do any formal tasks with your sound level meter, you should always include the use of an acoustic calibrator in your report. You must also indicate any compensation for any variation identified. This regular field calibration test is vital in case your data is ever put in doubt. In addition, the manufacturer should recalibrate the device every year.
What is the difference between field and periodic calibration?
The field calibration of a sound level meter is a basic check of the instrument. An acoustic calibrator is used to compare the device with a known level or frequency, generally 94 or 114 dB. This calibration is somewhat limited; however, as it will only test the level and frequency. It is most helpful to verify that the sound level meter is operating at that reference point.
Periodic calibration is quite different and involves a much wider range of tests and performance checks. In fact, you can only perform it in an acoustic laboratory. The microphone cartridge is removed to test the instrument electrically. In addition, the cartridge must be tested using a multifrequency calibrator.
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