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A society, institute, company, report, engineer, etc relating to acoustics.


The interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics technology may be called an acoustical engineer.


The ‘A’ frequency weighting roughly approximates to the Fletcher-Munson 40 phon equal loudness contour. The human loudness perception at various frequencies and sound pressure levels is equated to the level of 40 dB at
1 kHz. The human ear is less sensitive to low frequency sound and very high frequency sound than midrange frequency sound (i.e. 500 Hz to 6 kHz). Humans are most sensitive to midrange frequency sounds, such as a child’s scream. Sound level meters have inbuilt frequency weighting networks that very roughly approximates the human loudness response at low sound levels. It should be noted that the human loudness response is not the same as the human annoyance response to sound. Here low frequency sounds can be more annoying than midrange frequency sounds even at very low loudness levels. The ‘A’ weighting is the most commonly used frequency weighting for occupational and environmental noise assessments. However, for environmental noise assessments, adjustments for the character of the sound will often be required.


The ambient noise level at a particular location is the overall environmental noise level caused by all noise sources in the area, both near and far, including all forms of traffic, industry, lawnmowers, wind in foliage, insects, animals, etc. Usually assessed as an energy average over a set time period ‘T’ (LAeq, T).


Audible refers to a sound that can be heard. There are a range of audibility grades, varying from “barely audible”, “just audible” to “clearly audible” and “prominent”.


Total silence does not exist in the natural or built-environments, only varying degrees of noise. The Background Noise Level is the minimum repeatable level of noise measured in the absence of the noise under investigation and any other short-term noises such as those caused by all forms of traffic, industry, lawnmowers, wind in foliage, insects, animals, etc.. It is quantified by the noise level that is exceeded for 90 % of the measurement period ‘T’ (LA90, T). Background Noise Levels are often determined for the day, evening and night time periods where relevant. This is done by statistically analysing the range of time period (typically 15 minute) measurements over multiple days (often 7 days). For a 15 minute measurement period the Background Noise Level is set at the quietest level that occurs at 1.5 minutes.


The ‘C’ frequency weighting approximates the 100 phon equal loudness contour. The human ear frequency response is more linear at high sound levels and the 100 phon equal loudness contour attempts to represent this at various frequencies at sound levels of approximately 100 dB.


The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic scale that allows a wide range of values to be compressed into a more comprehensible range, typically 0 dB to 120 dB. The decibel is ten times the logarithm of the ratio of any two quantities that relate to the flow of energy (i.e. power). When used in acoustics it is the ratio of square of the sound pressure level to a reference sound pressure level, the ratio of the sound power level to a reference sound power level, or the ratio of the sound intensity level to a reference sound intensity level. See also Sound Pressure Level and Sound Power Level. Noise levels in decibels cannot be added arithmetically since they are logarithmic numbers. If one machine is generating a noise level of 50 dB, and another similar machine is placed beside it, the level will increase to 53 dB (from 10 log10 (10(50/10) + 10(50/10)) and not 100 dB. In theory, ten similar machines placed side by side will increase the sound level by 10 dB, and one hundred machines increase the sound level by 20 dB. The human ear has a vast sound-sensitivity range of over a thousand billion to one so the logarithmic decibel scale is useful for acoustical assessments.

dBA – See ‘A’ frequency weighting

dBC – See ‘C’ frequency weighting


Many sounds, such as road traffic noise or construction noise, vary repeatedly in level over a period of time. More sophisticated sound level meters have an integrating/averaging electronic device inbuilt, which will display the energy time-average (equivalent continuous sound level - LAeq) of the ‘A’ frequency weighted sound pressure level. Because the decibel scale is a logarithmic ratio, the higher noise levels have far more sound energy, and therefore the LAeq level tends to indicate an average which is strongly influenced by short-term, high level noise events. Many studies show that human reaction to level-varying sounds tends to relate closer to the LAeq noise level than any other descriptor.


Sound level meter design-goal time constant which is 0.125 seconds.


The Fletcher–Munson curves are one of many sets of equal loudness contours for the human ear, determined experimentally by Harvey Fletcher and Wilden A. Munson, and reported in a 1933 paper entitled "Loudness, its definition, measurement and calculation" in the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.


In acoustics a free field is a measurement area not subject to significant reflection of acoustical energy. A free field measurement is typically not closer than 3.5 metres to any large flat object (other than the ground) such as a fence or wall or inside an anechoic chamber.


The number of oscillations or cycles of a wave motion per unit time, the SI unit is the hertz (Hz). 1 Hz is equivalent to one cycle per second. 1000 Hz is 1 kHz.


The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has specified that the IIC of a floor/ceiling system shall be determined by operating an ISO 140 Standard Tapping Machine on the floor and measuring the noise generated in the room below. The IIC is a number found by fitting a reference curve to the measured octave band levels and then deducting the sound pressure level at 500 Hz from 110 decibels. Thus the higher the IIC, the better the impact sound isolation. Not commonly used in Australia.


Sound level meter time constant now not in general use. The ‘I’ (impulse) time weighting is not suitable for rating impulsive sounds with respect to their loudness. It is also not suitable for assessing the risk of hearing impairment or for determining the ‘impulsiveness’ of a sound.


Australian Standard AS ISO 717.2 – 2004 has specified that the Impact Sound Insulation of a floor/ceiling system be quantified by operating an ISO 140 Standard Tapping Machine on the floor and measuring the noise generated in the room below. The Weighted Standardised Impact Sound Pressure Level (LnT,w) is the sound pressure level at 500 Hz for a reference curve fitted to the measured 1/3 octave band levels. Thus the lower LnT,w the better the impact sound insulation.


An impulse noise is typified by a sudden rise time and a rapid sound decay, such as a hammer blow, rifle shot or balloon burst.


The volume to which a sound is audible to a listener is a subjective term referred to as loudness. Humans generally perceive an approximate doubling of loudness when the sound level increases by about 10 dB and an approximate halving of loudness when the sound level decreases by about 10 dB.


The root-mean-square (rms) maximum sound pressure level measured with sound level meter using the ‘A’ frequency weighting and the ‘F’ (Fast) time weighting. Often used for noise assessments other than aircraft.


The root-mean-square (rms) maximum sound pressure level measured with sound level meter using the ‘A’ frequency weighting and the ‘S’ (Slow) time weighting. Often used for aircraft noise assessments.


A set of empirically developed equal loudness curves has been adopted as Australian Standard AS1469-1983. These curves allow the loudness of a noise to be described with a single NR number. The Noise Rating number is that curve which touches the highest level on the measured spectrum of the subject noise. For broadband noise such as fans and engines, the NR number often equals the ‘A’ frequency weighted dB level minus five.


Noise is unwanted, harmful or inharmonious (discordant) sound. Sound is wave motion within matter, be it gaseous, liquid or solid. Noise usually includes vibration as well as sound.


See: "Sound Absorption Coefficient"


Reference: Dictionary of the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997).
"Offensive Noise means noise:

(a) that, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances:

(i) is harmful to (or likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premise from which it is emitted, or  

(ii) interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
(b) that is of a level, nature, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is made at a time, or in other circumstances prescribed by the regulations."


Pink noise is a broadband noise with an equal amount of energy in each octave or third octave band width. Because of this, Pink Noise has more energy at the lower frequencies than White Noise and is used widely for Sound Transmission Loss testing.


The time in seconds, after a sound signal has ceased, for the sound level inside a room to decay by 60 dB. The first 5 dB decay is often ignored, because of fluctuations that occur while reverberant sound conditions are being established in the room. The decay time for the next 30 dB is measured and the result doubled to determine the T60. The Early Decay Time (EDT) is the slope of the decay curve in the first 10 dB normalised to 60 dB.


Sound is absorbed in porous materials by the viscous conversion of sound energy to a small amount of heat energy as the sound waves pass through it. Sound is similarly absorbed by the flexural bending of internally damped panels. The fraction of incident energy that is absorbed is termed the Sound Absorption Coefficient, a. An absorption coefficient of 0.9 indicates that 90 % of the incident sound energy is absorbed. The average a from 250 to 2 kHz is termed the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC).


Sound level meter design-goal time constant which is 1 second.


A reduction of sound due to distance, enclosure or some other devise. If an enclosure is placed around a machine, or an attenuator (muffler or silencer) is fitted to a duct, the noise emission is reduced or attenuated. An enclosure that attenuates the noise level by 20 dB reduces the sound energy by one hundred times.


Integration (summation) rather than an average of the sound energy over a set time period. Use to assess single noise events such as truck or train pass by or aircraft flyovers. The sound exposure level is related to the energy average (LAeq, T) by the formula LAeq, T = LAE – 10 log10 T. The abbreviation (SEL) is sometimes inconsistently used in place of the symbol (LAE).


The rms sound pressure measured in pascals (Pa). A pascal is a unit equivalent to a newton per square metre (N/m2).


The level of sound measured on a sound level meter and expressed in decibels (dB). Where LP = 10 log10
(Pa/Po)2 dB (or 20 log10 (Pa/ Po) dB) where Pa is the rms sound pressure in Pascal and Po is a reference sound pressure conventionally chosen is 20 µPa (20 x 10-6 Pa) for airborne sound. Lp varies with distance from a noise source.


The rms sound power measured in watts (W). The watt is a unit defined as one joule per second. A measures the rate of energy flow, conversion or transfer.


The sound power level of a noise source is the inherent noise of the device. Therefore sound power level does not vary with distance from the noise source or with a different acoustic environment. Lw = Lp + 10 log10 ‘a’ dB,
re: 1pW, (10-12 watts) where ‘a’ is the measurement noise-emission area (m2) in a free field.


An internationally standardised method of rating the sound transmission loss of partition walls to indicate the sound reduction from one side of a partition to the other in the frequency range of 125 Hz to 4000 kHz. (Refer: Australian Standard AS1276 – 1979). Now not in general use in Australia see: weighted sound reduction index.


The amount in decibels by which a random sound is reduced as it passes through a sound barrier. A method for the measurement of airborne Sound Transmission Loss of a building partition is given in Australian Standard AS1191 - 2002.


Noise which varies in level over a specific period of time ‘T’ (standard measurement times are often 15 minute periods) may be quantified in terms of various statistical descriptors with some common examples:

  • The noise level, in decibels, exceeded for 1 % of the measurement time period, when ‘A’ frequency weighted and ‘F’ time weighted is reference to as LAF1, T. This may be used for describing short-term noise levels such as could cause sleep arousal during the night.

  • The noise level, in decibels, exceeded for 10 % of the measurement time period, when ‘A’ frequency weighted and ‘F’ time weighted is reference to as LAF10, T. In most countries the LAF10, T is measured over periods of 15 minutes, and is used to describe the average maximum noise level.
  • The noise level, in decibels, exceeded for 90 % of the measurement time period, when ‘A’ frequency weighted and ‘F’ time weighted is reference to as LAF90, T. In most countries the LAF90, T is measured over periods of 15 minutes, and is used to describe the average minimum or background noise level.


Noise, which varies in level by 6 dB or less, over the period of interest with the time-weighting set to “Fast”, is considered to be “steady”. (Refer AS 1055.1 1997).


This is a single number rating of the airborne sound insulation of a wall, partition or ceiling. The sound reduction is normally measured over a frequency range of 100 Hz to 3.150 kHz and averaged in accordance with ISO standard weighting curves (Refer AS/NZS 1276.1:1999). Internal partition wall Rw + C ratings are frequency weighted to simulate insulation from human voice noise. The Rw + C is similar in value to the STC rating value. External walls, doors and windows may be Rw + Ctr rated to simulate insulation from road traffic noise. The spectrum adaptation term Ctr adjustment factor takes account of low frequency noise. The weighted sound reduction index is normally similar or slightly lower number than the STC rating value.


White noise is broadband random noise whose spectral density is constant across its entire frequency range. The sound power is the same for equal bandwidths from low to high frequencies. Because the higher frequency octave bands cover a wider spectrum, white noise has more energy at the higher frequencies and sounds like a hiss.


The ‘Z’ (Zero) frequency weighting is 0 dB within the nominal 1/3 octave band frequency range centred on 10 Hz to 20 kHz. This is within the tolerance limits given in AS IEC 61672.1-2004: ‘Electroacoustics - Sound level meters – Specifications’.



The measurement of energy or movement in a vibrating object.  Amplitude is measured and expressed in three ways: Displacement (commonly in mm Pk-Pk); Velocity (commonly in mm/s Pk); and Acceleration (commonly in m/s2 RMS). Amplitude is also the y-axis of the vibration time waveform and spectrum, it helps define the severity of the vibration.


Energy dissipation in an oscillating structure.  For free vibration, that results in a decay in the amplitude of motion over time.

DYNAMIC STIFFNESS               

The frequency response function of force/displacement.


The FFT is an algorithm, or digital calculation routine, that efficiently calculates the discrete Fourier transform from the sampled time waveform.  In other words it converts, or “transforms” a signal from the time domain into the frequency domain.

FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS or MODELLING                         

A computer-aided design technique for mathematically modelling a structure.  Finite element modelling is used for structure analysis and modal analysis.


The repetition rate of a periodic vibration, per unit of time, determined by taking the reciprocal of the period (T).  Frequency is expressed in three ways: Hz (how many cycles per second); Frequency is also the x-axis of the vibration spectrum.


The is a characteristic of a system which has a measured response resulting from a known applied input.  In a mechanical structure, the frequency response function, also called the FRF, is the spectrum of the vibration of the structure divided by the spectrum of the input force to the system.  To measure the frequency response of a mechanical system, one must measure the spectra of both the input force to the system and the vibration response.


A frequency that is an integer multiple of a given frequency.

HERTZ (Hz)                             

Vibration can occur over a range of frequencies extending from the very low, such as the rumble of thunder, up to the very high such as the crash of cymbals.  The frequency of vibration and sound is measured in hertz (Hz).  Once hertz is one cycle per second.  Structural Vibration is generally measured over the frequency range from 1Hz to 500Hz (0.5kHz).


A method of measuring the frequency response function of a structure by hitting it with a calibrated hammer and measuring the system’s response.  The impact hammer is instrumented with a load cell to measure the input force pulse while the response is typically measured using an accelerometer.  The impact imparts a force pulse to the structure which excites it over a broad frequency range.


The frequency of oscillation of the free vibration of a system.

PEAK TO PEAK (Pk-Pk)        

This is the measure of the vibration amplitude, maximum to minimum, equal to twice of Ö2 times the RMS value of a sine wave.


Vibration velocity can be measured in a number of ways.   For some projects vibration levels can be given in terms of Peak Particle Velocity (PPV).


The resultant particle velocity magnitude or vector sum of the transverse, vertical and longitudinal particle velocity components.


When a forcing frequency is the same as a resonant frequency of the structure, the structure is said to be in resonance.


For most applications where there is continuous vibration, vibration is measured in terms of root mean square RMS velocity (mm/sec).


The spectrum is the result of transforming a time domain signal to the frequency domain. Spectrum analysis is the procedure of doing the transformation, and it is most commonly done with an FFT analyser. 

Association of Australasian
Acoustical Consultants