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Decibel

We’ve all used the term “decibel” hundreds of times, but what does it REALLY mean? A decibel (named for Alexander Graham Bell) is a tenth of a bel, and is used as an expression of power. Here’s where the confusion arises: A decibel isn’t a measure of ANYTHING; it is a ratio of two power levels. Because of the way our ears perceive volume, these ratios follow a logarithmic curve, expressing them as a decibel keeps things easier to deal with. Here are a few convenient decibel figures worth remembering: One decibel is commonly taken as the smallest volume change the human ear can reasonably detect. Doubling the POWER of an amplifier results in a 3 dB increase, which is a “noticeable” volume increase. Doubling the VOLUME of a sound is a 6 dB increase (you may occasionally see 10 dB listed as the “double-volume” figure, 6 dB is the more mathematically correct number). By doing the math, you can see that truly doubling your volume actually requires 4 times the amplifier power! Keep these figures in mind the next time you are comparing the specs of two pieces of equipment…

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