The Best Decibel Sound Meters

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It’s important to take care of ourselves and others in all varieties of ways, but there are some things most of us never even consider — like our eardrums! It’s almost funny how much we take our senses for granted, and very not funny how easy it is to harm them, but luckily enough, there are tools and devices that can be purchased to help protect us from unnecessary damage.

A decibel sound meter is a handy tool that you can use in both professional and casual situations to check the sound levels for your concert, movies, sporting events, or anything else that means loud noises.

When you’re exposed to noise at and above 70dB for a prolonged amount of time, you’re at risk of damaging your hearing, and anything above 120dB can cause immediate damage. Luckily for us, a pair of earplugs will do wonders to protect your ears by absorbing all the harmful waves while allowing you to still hear whatever it is you’re trying to enjoy.

Decibel sound meters easily fit in your hand so you can take it with you wherever you’re working or visiting — you’ll always know when you need to pop in your earplugs.

We’ve compiled a list of five options for you to take a look at that will help you keep your hearing sharp for years to come.

1. Editor’s Pick: VLIKE Sound Level Meter

1. Editor’s Pick: VLIKE Sound Level Meter
  • Uses a 1/2-inch electric condenser microphone for the best clarity in the recording process
  • Comes with a windscreen to block out the unwanted noise
  • Testing readouts auto-update every 40 milliseconds to allow you to see trends
  • May need to be calibrated upon arrival

Key Specs

Measuring Scope: 30 – 130 dB
Product Dimensions: 20.32 x 3.05 x 6.1 cm; 340.19 g

Offering you both dBA and dBC testing for your casual environments and professional settings like concert venues, this highly versatile and incredibly affordable decibel sound meter is all you’ll need. This model complies with IEC651 Type 2 and ANSI S1.4 Type 2, meaning it’s perfect for basic industrial/commercial and residential/recreational use. It’s perfect for monitoring ambient noise as well as specific sounds, and clearly and effectively displays results on the LCD screen.

2. Runner Up: Protmex Digital Sound Level Meter

2. Runner Up: Protmex Digital Sound Level Meter
  • Uses 4 AAA batteries
  • Get information on the sound pressure as well
  • You can choose between A or C weighting and auto or manual ranging
  • Some buyers report factory issues with the power button

Key Specs

Measuring Scope: 30 – 130 dB
Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 6 x 2.9 cm; 120 g

Using a beautiful microphone to read any sound from factory floors and construction sites to your washer and dryer, you’ll get precise and clear four-figure readouts on the large LCD screen. It even gives you two ways of seeing your results: as a decimal number or on a graph that updates every 40 milliseconds for accurate and ever changing information.

3. Best Screen: Mengshen Decibel Meter

3. Best Screen: Mengshen Decibel Meter
  • Tripod mountable
  • An alarm will go off when it detects anything about 130dB
  • Perfect for anything ranging from household appliances to construction sites
  • Buyers report that it struggles to register anything below 33dB

Key Specs

Measuring Scope: 30 – 130 dB
Product Dimensions: 23 x 13 x 5 cm; 200 g

This decibel sound meter is an excellent budget-friendly model that offers just the basics for quick and easy use.

Using an electronic condenser microphone for powered, sensitive listening, you’ll be able to register sound between 30 and 130 decibels on the large LCD screen that only shows you what you need to know. It features a 15 minute auto-off so you don’t have to worry about draining the 9V battery when you’re done testing.

4. Best 9V: Proster Mini Digital Noise Meter

4. Best 9V: Proster Mini Digital Noise Meter
  • Nice and simple, just three buttons to worry about
  • Anti-slip design
  • Fits in the palm of your hand
  • Buyers report it must be calibrated upon arrival, but instructions to do so aren’t available

Key Specs

Measuring Scope: 40 – 130 dB
Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 6.6 x 4.2 cm; 170 g

Don’t worry about learning to navigate menus or play with multiple settings — this decibel sound meter is designed to turn on and go.

With a nice big screen that tells you only the information you need, this electronic condenser microphone-led decibel sound meter offers you 50 hours of use by means of a 9V battery, and with a 15-minute auto-off function, you don't have to worry about it draining on you. With accuracy resting +/- 1.5dB, you can be confident in this very affordable model.

5. Best Budget Pick: LiNKFOR Decibel Meter

5. Best Budget Pick: LiNKFOR Decibel Meter
  • Performs all the same functions as more expensive models
  • Displays the battery level so you know when it will be time to replace
  • Can withstand everything from industrial noise to the sound of you breathing
  • Very basic and feels cheaply constructed

Key Specs

Measuring Scope: 30 – 130 dB
Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 6.4 x 3.8 cm; 160 g

This decibel sound meteor is pocket-sized and it can hold data you need — why spend a lot to get the readings you’re looking for? Ranking as one of the more affordable models on this list, the backlit LCD screen will show you three-figure readouts clearly and accurately within 1.5 dB. It has a measuring scope that matches all competitors on this list but the only thing weighing it down is its use of three AAA batteries. Most of the other models use 9V batteries.

Tips & Tricks: Different Classes for Different Uses

All of the decibel sound meters that have been listed above fall under the Class 2 (or Type 2) certification which means that while they are perfect for the uses described — anything from appliances in your home to out on the job machinery — they aren’t going to be considered an authoritative monitor.

These models are usually restricted just to the basic frequencies, as you may have noticed, picking up anything in the 30 to 130 decibel range. There are distinctions in some where you can choose to pick up dBA or dBC, which essentially means this:

dBA is listening for the levels on the midrange noises, which tend to be the most commonly occurring noises in our everyday, while dBC focuses on the ends of the spectrum, the lower, bass frequencies, as well as all of your highs.

Class 1 decibel sound meters, on the other hand, are your high-end, very professional devices, the likes of which are used by the police and government agencies. They pick up a much broader range of frequencies that your everyday uses simply won’t need.

Devices vs Apps

If you happen to peruse through some of the negative comments on certain models of decibel sound meters, you may see that some buyers, after hating their device itself, opt to buy a $2 app for their smartphone instead, and then claim it works better than the device did. To be fair, I get it, a $2 app is much easier to be happy with than a $50 piece of equipment, but there are a number of reasons you should put your trust in a specifically engineered device over an app.

First and foremost, your smartphone’s microphone may sound good on a phone call or video recording, but it isn't designed to pick up a wide range of frequencies the way a mic on a decibel sound meter is. Technically the two are both condenser microphones, but the difference is one is teeny tiny and meant for very generalized usage, whereas a meter is big enough to get the job at hand done, and accurately.

As well, a decibel sound meter is made to calibrate — either manually or electronically — but either way there are protocols in place to ensure the readings you’re receiving are accurate within a certain window (+/- 1.5dB is the average). Your smartphone app isn’t able to access that much control in order to give you a reliable reading. It may be in the same ballpark, but it’s not playing the same game.

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