After going to the Big Day Out last week I started thinking about noise (particularly in relation to what’s left of my hearing). With that in mind, this week I’m looking at Noise Meter, a free decibel measuring app for Android.
There are lots of decibel meters available on the app store, and judging from their reviews some of them are a bit crummy. This one seemed to get a slightly better response than average, so I thought I’d try it out.
As soon as you open the app it does what it promises. It tells you what the noise level is around the phone in big, high-contrast numbers that refresh every second or so. Or with a single tap you can change it to show you a graph of the varying noise level, just in case that’s somehow useful.
There’s also some kind of ‘Event’ thing you can do with it, and I know this because there are some settings you can change for it. But despite playing around with this app for agesI can’t for the life of me figure out quite what this ‘Event’ function is or how to use it.
I’m sure the app makers have a website or something where it’s explained but I’m of the opinion that if something needs instructions then those instructions should be included in the app sitself, and I couldn’t find them in this one. Anyway, ignoring the whole ‘Event’ thing, you still have a decibel-measuring Noise Meter, and it seems to do that just fine.
The problem, though, is a lack of context. If you’re the sort of person who just idly wonders how loud things are, then being told ’52 decibels’ won’t mean all that much. Is that loud? How loud? Louder than a car? Or a sneeze? Do I need earplugs? Nose Meter answers none of these questions.
Or, if you’re the sort of person who knows a lot about decibel measurement and the significance of the numbers, then you probably work in audio engineering or something and you want (and already have) something a bit more accurate than this app on your phone. This app which, it makes a point of telling you, is not meant to be used instead of recognised noise measurement instruments
To sum up – this app is fine for what it is. But including some more information, specifically some explanation of its features and some context for its results, would make it far more useful.