Consider some sound:

ViolinNote = Sound[SoundNote["G", 1, "Violin"]]

We may plot the periodogram:


enter image description here

The y-axis is the amplitude in dB, while the x-axis is the frequency in Hz. My question is about the meaning of 0 dB: does it mean that everything below 0 dB is not audible, and if yes then how does Mathematica extract it?

I.e., the definition the amplitude in dB, according to the reference, is

$$ \text{Amplitude (dB)} = 10\log\left( \frac{P_{2}}{P_{1}}\right) $$ where $P_{2}$ is the power (just the Fourier coefficient squared) of the given tone $\omega_{2}$. What Mathematica uses for $P_{1}$, i.e., how does Mathematica define it? I have not found the corresponding information in the documentation.

Clearly, 0 dB is not the audibility limit: one may apply the highpass filter

ViolinNoteFiltered = HighpassFilter[ViolinNote, {Quantity[5000, "Hertz"]}, 2000]

where 5000 Hz is the frequency above which the amplitude is below 0 dB, and observe that the sound is still audible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My question is about the meaning of 0 dB: does it mean that everything below 0 dB is not audible Yes. this is from the internet The intensity of energy that these sound waves produce is measured in units called decibels (dB). The lowest hearing decibel level is 0 dB, which indicates nearly total silence and is the softest sound that the human ear can hear. Generally speaking, the louder the sound, the higher the decibel number. $\endgroup$
    – Nasser
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 10:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ But clearly here 0 db does not define the aubible sound. You may verify this by applying HighpassFilter[ViolinNote, {Quantity[5000, "Hertz"]}, 2000] and listening the resulting sound: it is audible. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/dB.htm $\endgroup$
    – Syed
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Syed : what is P1 used in Mathematica? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ p1 = Periodogram[ViolinNote, PlotStyle -> Red] p2 = Periodogram[AudioAmplify[ViolinNote, 1/10]] and finally Show[p1, p2]. It clearly shows that 0dB on a periodogram has a different referencing and is not related to the way the term is used in the audio business. $\endgroup$
    – Syed
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


I couldn't find anything in the documentation, but a bit of experimentation makes things clear. First, make some simple to understand test data:

dc = Table[1, {x, 1, 10000}];

Now, do a linear scale:

Periodogram[dc, PlotRange -> All, 
  ScalingFunctions -> {"Linear", "Absolute"}]

enter image description here

The result is peak at zero frequency, "power" 10000. Try default log scale:

Periodogram[dc, PlotRange -> All]

enter image description hereThis yields a 40 dB peak. Sensible, given the linear result. To check, attenuate by 40 dB:

Periodogram[0.01 dc, PlotRange -> All]

enter image description hereYields a 0 dB peak. So, the dB scale is relative to a signal whose squared samples sum to one.

Total[(0.01 dc)^2]
(* 1. *)

It has nothing to do with sound pressure. Mathematica cannot guess the pressure scale of your sound samples: they are numbers in a computer, not calibrated to pressure.


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