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Re: Shape of background noise

Hornsby, Benjamin Wade Young wrote:


I’m looking for some basic references showing spectra of “common” background noises (i.e. restaurant, office, outside near a street, etc…). I imagine there is some classic reference that (similar to Pearsons et al., for the speech people) that provides this type of data but I’ve not been able to find it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Much,



I did a study testing identification of thirty different auditory scenes (including restaurants, offices, streets and more) and I looked at various acoustical attributes of the scenes, including spectral slope, spread, centroid etc. I can send you those data if you like. Also there have been a few published studies of ambient sounds. Generally, sounds with a mixture of several different types of sources tend to a 1/f spectrum, although there are of course differences.

Hodgson, M. R., Rempel. R.& Kennedy, S. (1997). “Measurement and prediction of typical speech and background noise levels in university classrooms during lectures,” J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 105(1), 226-233.

De Coensel, B. Botteldooren, D., & De Muer , T. (2003). “1/f Noise in Rural and Urban Soundscapes.” Acta Acust. Un. Acust., 89, 287-295 .

Dick Botteldooren, Bert De Coensel, and Tom De Muer (2002) 1/f dynamics in the urban soundscape (A) J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 112, 2436

H. F. Boersma: Characterization of the natural ambient sound environment: Measurements in open agricultural grassland. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 101 (1997) 2104–2110.


Brian Gygi, Ph.D.
East Bay Institute for Research and Education
Martinez, CA