What Is dB In Music?

Sound is a very deep topic and one of key facets of music production.

To know how to make good music in general, you need to have more than a good idea about music.

You need to dig deeper and understand sound to a foundational degree.

This not only makes you more equipped to handle sound, but also helps you to help others understand music creation as a whole.

Of course there’s a lot of that surrounds the topic of sound and there’s obviously a lot to know.

However, I wrote this article to start you off at the most basic level so you get a good foundation.

This article will discuss what dB in music means so you know what you’re dealing with better.

with that said, What is dB in music?

dB is the abbreviation for decibel which is simply the unit of measurement for the intensity of sound.

At a frequency of 1 KHz, the smallest sound that a human being is able to detect via the ears has an objective volume of 0 dB.

 However, its worth mentioning that a decibel is not an absolute level or unit of sound… it simply represents the amount of air pressure that the sound creates. (This is an important distinction to note because most people have a misconception.)

 As it grows in volume, sound is able to displace more and more air pressure and that is what we commonly characterize as simply, loudness.

dB measurement

The relationship between sound intensity and perceived loudness is not linear.

The decibel scale is therefore a logarithmic (log) in nature and uses the standard intensity as a reference point. This scale reports all audio intensities as logarithmic ratios relative to the reference intensity.

Without getting too technical, let’s get into loudness.

LUFS

LUFS is the abbreviation of Loudness Unit Full Scale….therefore a LUFS meter measures the perceived loudness of audio material.

This standard is sometimes referred to as LUFS (Loudness K-weighted Full Scale).

Even though they have different names, these two are exactly alike because they both describe the science of measuring loudness.

LUFS is a newer standard for measuring loudness and is considered as the most accurate. Which is why you’ll find it mostly used by those in music production and other kinds of audio production.

In such practical applications we learn that amplifying audio by 2dB is the same as raising its volume by 2 Loudness Units.

The same also applies for LUFS units.

Measurement of LUFS

Most normalization tools simply measure at the peak points of audio.

LUFS however, takes into account the average loudness of audio over an extended period of time.

Therefore, an audio file with loud, momentary peaks will have a consistent volume within a LUFS algorithm because they do not affect the long-term average.

With other standard normalizers, the same audio will shift in the volume each time the peak reaches a certain level.

Momentary readings in LUFS are adjusted according to what is called the Fletcher-Muson Curve.

This standard applies a boost in high frequencies to inconsistent audio in order to make them more suitable to human ears.

dB vs. LUFS

dB and LUFS can seem pretty complicated therefore its important to know their difference.

Loudness Units are not the same as decibels.

Firstly,

Like we’ve already established with our definition a decibel quantifies the amount of air pressure that is displaced by a sound.

 However, a Loudness Unit or LU will uphold the consistency of the resulting volume from audio.

Second, decibels use standard air pressure as a reference point in measuring the intensity of sound….

on the other hand, loudness units don’t require a reference to measure the same loudness.

Human perception of hearing

Decibels are useful because they present changes in sound pressure on a scale that is more applicable to the way that humans perceive loudness.

Most of us are accustomed to thinking in linear terms.

But this way of looking at things isn’t applicable for the way humans perceive the loudness of sound.

Because using this mode of think, you may think For example that twice the amplifier power produces a sound twice as loud.

This is not the case.

The scale of human perception of loudness is closer to a logarithmic scale than a linear scale.

In a linear scale, each step is the same size, such as 10, 20, 30, 40 (each step is an addition of 10)

dB as ratio

Most audiophiles will tell you that decibels are not necessarily a unit but are a ratio in a way, which is true.

A decibel is a way in which we can describe the ratio between two quantities because when we work with decibels, we are always comparing two values. 

Therefore, decibels are more meaningful when describing the ratio between two quantities.