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For learning purposes i want to play around with a sound meter. Are the smartphone sound meter apps (have a droid 2) that accurate? Is a $30 hand held sound meter usually going to be more accurate?

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The key difference is calibration: a hand held sound meter, even a cheap one, has been calibrated in the factory. Your app and phone (microphone, internal preamp, dac) aren't. If you find a way to calibrate your app - most apps have a calibration setting - using a reference sound source or a calibrated SPL meter, you can improve the usefulness of those apps.

Both a cheap meter and a calibrated app will not be 100% accurate, so take the readings with an uncertainty of at least ± 1 dB, and increase that uncertainty for very high or very low frequencies.

  • After reading your comment I looked at the sound meter apps again and some of them say they have actually calibrated the app for specific phone models. The developers publish a list of phone models the app has been calibrated for- unfortunately my phone wasn't on it :( – user1028270 Sep 30 '14 at 14:05
  • Even if the app makers did a calibration for specific models, the tolerances between individual phones mean a calibration for your specific unit is still needed. – EMV Oct 1 '14 at 10:58

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