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Noise > Instrumentation > Sound Level Meter Selection

Here are details of ALL sound level meter manufacturers; vibration instrumentation is considered elsewhere on this site.  Before reading on, please see our Terms and Conditions.

If we first consider sound level meters, they range in price from around the cost of a good lunch for a sound level "indicator", to more than a small BMW for an "all-singing-all-dancing" plus "bells and whistles" multi-channel laboratory analyser.

For all manner of reasons it would be helpful to be able to use a cheap sound level meter; however, there are two problems. Firstly most measurements of sound are made following some form of standard.  In the UK these include BS.4142 or PPG24 or the Noise at Work Regulations. Most standards require that the instrumentation used conforms with a particular grade of accuracy. For most purposes the sound instrumentation has to conform to "type 1" or "type 2" grades of accuracy. Unfortunately the cheapest meters are neither of these, so cannot be used for most types of measurement.

The second problem is that most standards require a measurement of either the LA90 or LAeq, i.e. some form of analysis, as opposed to a simple instantaneous reading of the sound. Therefore, even type 1 or type 2 instruments have very limited uses, unless they can at least measure the LAeq.

It might be helpful to look at possible instruments for some relatively common tasks. Please note that in the following sections

  • the options have been restricted to hand-held instruments only; there are many and varied PC based options, which we will go into at a later date.
  • the lists are not exhaustive so please e-mail with any errors or omissions
  • there is a great deal of overlap, for example most instruments which are suitable for task "B" could also be used for task "A" and so on. Each entry is probably the minimum specification of instrument, from the manufacturer's range, which is suitable for the task.
  • An appropriate calibrator will also be required.

Task A - General Noise at Work Assessments
Simple measurements in made to determine the risk of hearing damage.  In the UK this would be in accordance with the Noise at Work Regulations. Therefore a type 2 sound level meter, measuring LAeq and LCeq may be of assistance. 

Task B - Attended Environmental Measurements
In most countries the meter required would be a type 1 instrument capable of making and displaying on screen LAeq and LA90/LA95 measurements, down to say 30 dBA.  As the measurements are attended, the meter need not have memory storage. In the UK the measurements would probably be in accordance with BS4142, PPG24 or MPG11.

Task C - Octave Band Analysis (OBA)
There are a number of standards which involve making measurements of noise at various frequencies to assist with Noise Control Selection and Design; or to comply with a particular standard, e.g. MPG11 (BS.5228) and The Noise at Work Regulations in UK; therefore, hand-held octave band analysis of LAeq can be very useful.   Given the number of measurements likely to be made, serial filters which consider each octave band separately, and type 1 would be acceptable.

Task D - Sound Insulation Measurements (RTA & RT60)
Most standards in this area consider at least sixteen third-octaves so real time analysis immediately speeds up the measurement process, by a factor of sixteen!!; however, if sound insulation measurements are carried out infrequently, a meter with serial filters would be acceptable (just).  In addition most standards require the decay of sound to be measured, so the instrument should be capable of storing samples rapidly enough to correctly model Reverberation Times (RT or RT60); where external (PC) software is required for RT analysis the entry "*" appears. 

Selection
Check with the suppliers listed in our directory, if the following instrumentation is suitable for the task you have in mind.

Manufacturer Task A
Workplace
Task B
BS4142
Task C
OBA
Task D
RT60 RTA
Dicesva SC-15c SC-20c SC30 RC-401
Metrosonics dB-2200 -- 2800M --
Sonopan SM - 1 SON 50 IM 10 --
Castle GA214 GA120 GA121 Pro-DX
Rion NL20 NL31 NL27 NA27*
01dB SdB02 SdB01+ SdB01+ SIP95*
Svantek 943 945 945 912A/E*
Quest 2200 1900 1700 --
Terrasonde ATB plus -- ATB plus --
Sencore SP 295 -- SP 295  
Larson Davis 712 814 814 824
Casella CEL 269 440 480 593
Cirrus 272 703B 273 --
Norsonic -- 116 118 110
Bruel & Kjaer 2237A 2238 2236 2260
Cortex - NC10 NC10 NC10
Ono Sokki -- 1240 5111 --
IVIE -- -- -- PC40
ACO 6226 6224 -- --
Extech 407780 - - --
Cygnet -- 2001 2031+3010 --
Delta OHM 9020 -- 9020 9020
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