Definition: Have you ever heard the terms "white noise" or "pink noise"?

If you've ever heard static on television or radio, that's white (or pink) noise. White and pink noise, to the untrained ear, sound virtually the same.

White noise is a static sound that has equal energy on every frequency. Think about this for a second: every frequency from 20Hz to 20kHz is equally represented at the same velocity; this type of frequency scale is called a "linear" scale. This gives the noise a uniform, static sound that the human ear detects as somewhat harsh and heavy-handed toward the high frequencies. However, white noise represents a very unnatural way of presenting frequency data in terms of how our ears work. Pink noise is similar, except that you have to think in terms of octaves. Pink noise is equal energy per octave, rather than equal energy per frequency. Pink noise has a -3dB per octave slope, which makes the spectrum look completely flat on a logarithmic scale. Pink noise, to the human ear, sounds much more natural -- and the human ear is able to discern frequencies in the low, mid, and high ranges. Pink noise is very useful for tuning audio equipment and calibrating studio monitors, microphones, and speakers. Pink noise versus white noise. “And in this corner…” “Is pink noise the appropriate filtered noise for all sound system setups? If white noise is equal energy at all frequencies shouldn’t that be a better reference signal for testing PA & studio speakers? Even if pink noise is actually white noise filtered to approximate the human ear’s frequency response, shouldn’t the systems be tested with white noise? After all, a human mix engineer will mix to a human ear’s frequency response, right?” My favorite thing is when people ask the same question three different ways trying to make a point. Well, I guess that’s not really my favorite thing, but I do enjoy it. A lot of people are confused about the difference between pink and white noise. Pink noise is the right type of noise to use to calibrate audio equipment (at least if you are using it for equalization calibration). Here’s where everyone gets confused: White noise is equal energy per frequency and pink noise is equal energy per octave. Now, think about how we perceive sound. Think about what an octave is to us. Other than the pitches involved we don’t hear anything more substantial happening when a high note jumps up an octave than we do a low note. It’s the same number of frets on a guitar, or keys on a keyboard either way. But in terms of the actual frequencies being produced the difference is great. Here’s an example. The difference between 100 Hz and 200 Hz is one octave. The difference between 5 kHz and 10 kHz is also one octave. However, in terms of frequencies the difference between 100 Hz and 200 Hz is only 100 Hz, whereas the difference between 5,000 Hz and 10,000 Hz is 5,000 Hz. The relative relationship is the same, but the actual difference mathematically is quite substantial. With white noise

space whooshes. so feel free to consult the archives for more detail. A flat line would signify equal energy at every octave. That is why it is most important to increase our tolerance to these frequencies. Your actual mileage will probably vary. This perception occurs because each successive octave has twice as many frequencies as the one preceding it. The whole point of pink noise is to distribute the energy according to how we hear. but this is not the case. In the next octave (from 200 Hz to 400 Hz). resulting in a noise sound wave that has equal energy at every octave.000 Hz and 10.000 Hz. Each octave is reduced by 6 decibels. White noise can be generated on a sound synthesizer. this means you can run pink noise through your system and set your overall EQ so you get a flat line on a typical RTA display. the measurement accuracy. which is very well grounded in math. Most people perceive this sound as having more high-frequency content than low. surf. from 100 Hz to 200 Hz. white noise White noise is a sound that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing (generally from 20 hertz to 20 kHz) in equal amounts. So it’s not that pink noise is calibrated to the human ear’s frequency response per se. there are one hundred discrete frequencies. Some audio engineers feel that this can produce an unnaturally “bright” sounding system and do an additional rolloff of 3 dB per octave above 4 kHz or so. but the perceived need for it has more to do with the dispersion characteristics of the equipment involved. Since hyperacusis patients are more sensitive to high frequencies. So the pink noise energy between 100 Hz and 200 Hz is the same as between 5. It tends to slow our progress on re-establishing our tolerances because of the high frequency content in white noise. and rumbles. This is done to compensate for the increase in the number of frequencies per octave. with some processing and filtering. to create a multitude of effects such as wind. It’s just calibrated to how we hear. The specific techniques vary. Pink noise is white noise that has been filtered to reduce the volume at each octave. Pink noise closely matches the spectrum of sound that we hear in our everyday world. which is why we calibrate our audio systems to pink noise. From one octave to the next we expect to hear an appropriate amount of sound energy (depending upon the program material). there are two hundred frequencies. white noise is not the sound of choice for therapy. For example. Each time the frequency doubles we hear that as an octave. Or they may just do one 3dB rolloff at some frequency and leave it at that. Sound designers can use this sound. White noise has equal energy to all frequencies. Equal energy per octave.there is a ton more energy in-between 5 kHz and 10 kHz compared to between 100 Hz and 200 Hz because it spans a wider range of frequencies and they all contribute to the overall level per octave. and personal tastes than anything. . Pink noise is a variant of white noise. At a practical level. We’ve done several Tech Tips about how to calibrate your system with noise and an RTA in the past.