In today’s mobile-dominated landscape, there seems to be an app for everything. Whether you’re ordering an Uber or getting a virtual medical consultation, there are plenty of different things you can do directly from your phone. Because of this, it’s no surprise there are apps available for assessing noise levels. However, you may be wondering if they are viable alternatives to expensive sound-level meters. Throughout this post, we will be going over what these apps do and we will discuss some of their limitations. By the end, you will see exactly why it’s still recommended to get high-quality and professional-grade equipment if you want to get accurate readings.
Because as many as 70% of people in the United States alone use smartphones, it only makes sense that anyone seeking noise exposure detection will immediately look for an app. There’s seemingly an app for everything out there and noise detection is no different. You could want to detect noise levels for various reasons. It could be something as simple as having concern about being in a noisy environment for an extended period. No matter the reason, you’ll want something that can deliver accurate results. There are a lot of quality sound measurement apps available for both ecosystems. You’ll find quality apps on Apple’s AppStore and Google’s Play Store. However, you’ll want to know which ones you should consider as there is a multitude.
Here are a few of the best sound measurement apps to consider:
Decibel X is one of the limited applications out there that comes pre-calibrated. It also happens to support both dBA and dBC measurements. This app is readily available on both Apple’s AppStore and Google’s PlayStore. It delivers good functionality and it allows you to save measurement results for analysis. You can also share the results directly across various social media platforms.
Sound Meter and Noise Detector
This app is available on the Android ecosystem. This app is fantastic for those that want to record and visualize sound. Also, it can help save on the battery because it can run in the background. One of the things that you’re likely to dislike about the app is the intrusive advertising. It’s a free app. Therefore, they monetize it with in-app ads which can get annoying.
Sound Meter Pro
While this app is a paid app, it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s worth paying for an app and supporting a developer so they don’t have to fill it with intrusive ads. This particular app is always getting updated. The developer is very responsive and they even maintain a blog that you can monitor for updates and changelogs.
While all of these apps do a good job of giving you an approximation of the noise level, none of them will deliver the kind of accuracy that you will get from a professional sound level meter. Because of this, they are not approved by the international governing bodies for this purpose.
Here are some of the reasons why they fall short of being approved for these use cases:
The Reliance On Internal Mics
One of the inherent design flaws with smartphones being used as a sound level meter is their reliance on internal mics. These devices are designed with internal mics for a reason. After all, they are meant to be communication devices for humans. Thus, not only do they have mics inside of them but they are optimized to be compatible with the ranges of a human voice which tend to sit between 40 and 65 dB. Some internal microphones are even limited to a reading of a minimum of 30 dB and a maximum of 96 dB which further hinders their use as a sound level meter. Auricl in Reading represents clear, expert acoustic advice, from the high level to the minutiae.
They Are Designed For Talking
The microphones that you find in smartphones are fully designed to limit external noise. After all, the primary purpose of a phone is to communicate with others. They tend to have noise-canceling features. This particular feature makes it a better communication device, but a lousy noise detector.
They Aren’t Calibrated For External Microphones
A lot of smartphone apps are calibrated with an internal microphone. However, as mentioned, the internal microphone isn’t good enough. As a result, you will need to use an external microphone for the best results. Unfortunately, these apps aren’t calibrated for them. Therefore, you would have to re-calibrate it for the best results.
People Don’t Hold It Right
The majority of people tend to hold their phones in an optimal way for talking into the microphone. They tend to position the microphone towards their face and body. With a noise detector, you want to point it toward the sound. Also, a lot of people tend to use these devices directly on a surface which further hinders the input of the sound making the measurement inaccurate.
They Don’t Meet International Standards
To qualify, it needs to meet international standards. Any sound meter in the market needs to meet both IEC Class 1 and 2 standards. This is something that smartphones won’t have.
Too Many Variations
There are too many variations of different smartphones in the market. Thus, it can be very difficult to optimize these phones to accurately read noise levels.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why these apps may serve a purpose, they don’t necessarily make for the most accurate sound level meters. They are certainly not accurate enough to use as a substitute for professional equipment. You won’t get exact sound levels from them. They certainly cannot be used legally for filing noise complaints. However, they do make for good options if you just want a quick and close reading of noise levels nearby for safety reasons. It’s always best to go for a professional sound level meter, but they won’t always be available either.