A weighting filter is used to emphasise or suppress some aspects of a phenomenon compared to others, for measurement or other purposes.
In each field of audio measurement, special units are used to indicate a weighted measurement as opposed to a basic physical measurement of energy level. For sound, the unit is the phon (1 kHz equivalent level).
In the measurement of loudness, for example, an A-weighting filter is commonly used to emphasize frequencies around 3–6 kHz where the human ear is most sensitive, while attenuating very high and very low frequencies to which the ear is insensitive. The aim is to ensure that measured loudness corresponds well with subjectively perceived loudness. A-weighting is only really valid for relatively quiet sounds and for pure tones as it is based on the 40-phon Fletcher-Munson equal-loudness contour. The B and C curves were intended for louder sounds (though they are less used) while the D curve is used in assessing loud aircraft noise (IEC 537).
In the field of telecommunications, weighting filters are widely used in the measurement of electrical noise on telephone circuits, and in the assessment of noise as perceived through the acoustic response of different types of instrument (handset). Other noise-weighting curves have existed, e.g. DIN standards. The term psophometric weighting, though referring in principle to any weighting curve intended for noise measurement, is often used to refer to a particular weighting curve, used in telephony for narrow-bandwidth voiceband speech circuits.
Environmental noise measurement
A-weighted decibels are abbreviated dB(A) or dBA. When acoustic (calibrated microphone) measurements are being referred to, then the units used will be dB SPL (sound pressure level) referenced to 20 micropascals = 0 dB SPL. dBrn adjusted is a synonym for dBA.
While the A-weighting curve has been widely adopted for environmental noise measurement, and is standard in many sound level meters (see ITU-R 468 weighting for a further explanation).
A-weighting is also in common use for assessing potential hearing damage caused by loud noise, though this seems to be based on the widespread availability of sound level meters incorporating A-Weighting rather than on any good experimental evidence to suggest that such use is valid. The distance of the measuring microphone from a sound source is often "forgotten", when SPL measurements are quoted, making the data useless. In the case of environmental or aircraft noise, distance need not be quoted as it is the level at the point of measurement that is needed, but when measuring refrigerators and similar appliances the distance should be stated; where not stated it is usually one metre (1 m). An extra complication here is the effect of a reverberant room, and so noise measurement on appliances should state "at 1 m in an open field" or "at 1 m in anechoic chamber". Measurements made outdoors will approximate well to anechoic conditions.
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