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Sound pressure

Sound pressure p (or acoustic pressure) is the measurement in pascals of the root mean square (RMS) pressure deviation (from atmospheric pressure) caused by a sound wave passing through a fixed point. The symbol for pressure is the lower case p. (The upper case P is the symbol for power. This is often misprinted.)

The amplitude of sound pressure from a point source decreases in the free field (direct field) proportional to the inverse of the distance from that source. Sound pressure level is a decibel scale based on a reference sound pressure of 20 Pa (micropascals), calculated in dB as:

Sound pressure level calculated in dB

This is written "dB (SPL)".

p0: Reference sound pressure of 2 10-5 Pa = 20 Pa

Sound pressure p in N/m2 or Pa is:

Sound pressure p in N/m2 or Pa

Z: acoustic impedance, sound impedance, or characteristic impedance, in Pas/m
v: particle velocity in m/s
J: acoustic intensity or sound intensity, in W/m2

Sound pressure p is connected to particle displacement (or particle amplitude) ξ, in m, by:

Sound pressure p is connected to particle displacement (or particle amplitude) ξ, in m

Sound pressure p:

Sound pressure p

normally in units of N/m2 = Pa.


p: sound pressure, in N/m2 = Pa
f: frequency, in Hz
ρ: density of air, in kg/m3
c: speed of sound, in m/s
v: sound velocity, in m/s
ω: angular frequency = 2πf
ξ: particle displacement (particle amplitude), in m
Z: acoustic impedance (characteristic impedance) = c ρ, in Pas/m
a: particle acceleration, in m/s2
E or w sound energy density, in J/m
Pac sound power or acoustic power, in W
A area, in m2

Note: The often used term "intensity of sound pressure" is not correct. Use "magnitude", "strength", "amplitude", or "level" instead. "Sound intensity" is sound power per unit area, while "pressure" is a measure of force per unit area. Intensity is not equivalent to pressure.

Sound measurements

  • Sound power
  • Sound power level (SWL)
  • Sound pressure
  • Sound pressure level (SPL)
  • Sound intensity
  • Sound intensity level (SIL)
  • Particle velocity
  • Particle velocity level (sometimes called Sound velocity level) (SVL)
  • Sound energy flux
  • Acoustic impedance
  • Speed of sound

[This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article: Sound Pressure.]


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