Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Decibel

Posted on 8:32 AM by texo

The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit of measurement that expresses the magnitude of a physical quantity (usually power or intensity) relative to a specified or implied reference level. Since it expresses a ratio of two quantities with the same unit, it is a dimensionless unit. A decibel is one tenth of a bel, a seldom-used unit. The decibel is widely known as a measure of sound pressure level, but is also used for a wide variety of other measurements in science and engineering (particularly acoustics, electronics, and control theory) and other disciplines. It confers a number of advantages, such as the ability to conveniently represent very large or small numbers, a logarithmic scaling that roughly corresponds to the human perception of sound and light, and the ability to carry out multiplication of ratios by simple addition and subtraction. The decibel symbol is often qualified with a suffix, which indicates which reference quantity or frequency weighting function has been used. For example, "dBm" indicates that the reference quantity is one milliwatt, while "dBu" is referenced to 0.775 volts RMS.[1] The definitions of the decibel and bel use base-10 logarithms. For a similar unit using natural logarithms to base e, see neper.

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