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August 29, 2011

SPL App: Can Decibel Meter Apps Keep Up With Actual Decibel Meters?

Filed under: AV question — Tags: — Amie C @ 6:01 am
Can an SPL App keep up with the real thing?

Can an SPL App keep up with the real thing?

Like a lot of you audiophiles, from time to time Ian gets the urge to tweak his setup, and as he was doing so the other day, a visiting friend was checking out his vintage Lutron SPL meter in amazement. (Truthfully, the styling is . . . rather retro!)  For kicks, we asked her if there was an SPL App available for iPad and clickity-click, there was!

It was interesting to run pink noise through the speakers and watch the results on both devices.  In most areas the two meters were quite close, but for low frequencies, the iPad SPL app was at a complete loss (more accurately no doubt the mic in the iPad was at a complete loss).  I described the test to Alan Lofft, who would definitely have been impressed at the gorgeous and realistic graphics on the app, if nothing else!

Alan commented: “At lunch one day in a very noisy restaurant, Mike Trei showed us his iPad SPL meter, and said it was “better than nothing”. It would be interesting to compare the iPad spl meter to the Radio Shack SPL meter, which  thousands own, since it’s always been widely available through the “Shack” stores, and it’s cheap ($50). The Shack spl meter is pretty accurate through the midrange. I’ve compared it to the one at Axiom in the listening room, shown in the photo. However, it’s acknowledged that the Radio Shack meter isn’t accurate at low frequencies. In fact there’s a correction curve available online for the RS meter.”

For random tests like “wow, how loud is my cubicle-mate playing that awful music?” the SPL app would be just fine, but out of the box without calibrating your device or hooking up an external microphone, to use it  for tweaking your home theater system . . . well, as Bono would say “Nothin’ better than the real thing.”

Have you tried an SPL app?  Did we simply rush the setup process, or does your experience mirror ours?  Is there one you use and recommend?






President’s wife 🙂 Defacto, that makes her an audio guinea pig, whose only request to the lab is to always run sample products in colors that blend in with the rest of her home!

She considers herself the Audiobyte’s Number 1 fan.

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  • Shawn Stephens
    August 30, 2011 at 11:53 am
    • August 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Yes, we were sure (pardon the mic pun!) the Mic had something to do with our results. The video on that link is really interesting – thank you for sharing!

  • nickbuol
    August 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    What about the regular (non iOS/Android) SPL meters? How do the digital vs. analog ones compare? Seems like Radio Shack hasn’t made the tried and true analog for some time. maybe a topic for a future blog entry?

  • Joe
    August 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I have the same iPad app you show in the picture. One thing I have found is that the app is more accurate if you remove the iPad from the case. I find the the case tends to obstruct the mic somewhat. The app definitely measures differently when the iPad is nekked. I agree about the low frequency lack you pointed out.

    The iPad app seems at least as good as the Rat Shack meter I have and it’s easier to see in the dark : )

  • Ken.C
    September 1, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Amie! Good to hear from you again, even if it is a blog post.

    I have used the Ultimate Ears SPL meter app on my iPhone, which seems to work generally about as well as my RS meter. I’m sure it doesn’t do the bass right, but my RS meter probably doesn’t either. It’s a free app since it’s advertising for Ultimate Ears–and darned if I know how you use an SPL meter with in-ear monitors!


    • September 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Hi Ken! Long time!!

      Great to know about that app. I’m surrounded by iPhone users so we’ll have to check that one out for our next round of testing. Unbelievable all the apps that are out there now, isn’t it?


  • ThenCameNow
    July 20, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I just compared the iOS UE SPL app from Ultimate Ears / Logitech with my Radio Shack analog SPL meter. I calibrated each speaker with Bob Katz’ pink noise at 83db for a total of 86db combined for the cinema monitoring standard using the Radio Shack SPL meter. When I placed the iPhone 5 at the same position as the Radio Shack SPL meter, the iPhone read 88db for each speaker.

    The 5db difference freaked me out. I don’t think I’ll be trusting the iPhone app for anything other than amusing myself at concerts or sitting under the flight path at an airport.

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