The sone (/ˈsn/) is a unit of loudness, the subjective perception of sound pressure. The study of perceived loudness is included in the topic of psychoacoustics and employs methods of psychophysics. Doubling the perceived loudness doubles the sone value. Proposed by Stanley Smith Stevens in 1936, it is not an SI unit.

Example values

DescriptionSound pressureSound pressure levelLoudness
 pascaldB re 20 μPasone
Threshold of pain~ 100~ 134~ 676
Hearing damage during short-term effect~ 20~ 120~ 256
Jet, 100 m away6 ... 200110 ... 140128 ... 1024
Jack hammer, 1 m away / nightclub~ 2~ 100~ 64
Hearing damage during long-term effect~ 6×10−1~ 90~ 32
Major road, 10 m away2×10−1 ... 6×10−180 ... 9016 ... 32
Passenger car, 10 m away2×10−2 ... 2×10−160 ... 804 ... 16
TV set at home level, 1 m away~ 2×10−2~ 60~ 4
Normal talking, 1 m away2×10−3 ... 2×10−240 ... 601 ... 4
Very calm room2×10−4 ... 6×10−420 ... 300.15 ... 0.4
Rustling leaves, calm breathing~ 6×10−5~ 10~ 0.02
Auditory threshold at 1 kHz2×10−500


According to Stevens' definition,[1] a loudness of 1 sone is equivalent to 40 phons (a 1 kHz tone at 40 dB SPL). But phons scale with level in dB, not with loudness, so the sone and phon scales are not proportional. Rather, the loudness in sones is, at least very nearly, a power law function of the signal intensity, with an exponent of 0.3.[2][3] With this exponent, each 10 phon increase (or 10 dB at 1 kHz) produces almost exactly a doubling of the loudness in sones.[4]

sone   1   2   4   8  16  32  64 1282565121024
phon 405060708090100110120130140

At frequencies other than 1 kHz, the loudness level in phons is calibrated according to the frequency response of human hearing, via a set of equal-loudness contours, and then the loudness level in phons is mapped to loudness in sones via the same power law.

Loudness N in sones (for LN > 40 phon):[5]

or loudness level LN in phons (for N > 1 sone):

Corrections are needed at lower levels, near the threshold of hearing.

These formulas are for single-frequency sine waves or narrowband signals. For multi-component or broadband signals, a more elaborate loudness model is required, accounting for critical bands.

To be fully precise, a measurement in sones must be specified in terms of the optional suffix G, which means that the loudness value is calculated from frequency groups, and by one of the two suffixes D (for direct field or free field) or R (for room field or diffuse field).

See also


  1. Stanley Smith Stevens: A scale for the measurement of the psychological magnitude: loudness. See: Psychological Review. 43, Nr. 5,APA Journals, 1936, pp. 405-416
  2. Brian C. J. Moore (2007). Cochlear hearing loss: physiological, psychological and technical issues (2nd ed.). Wiley-Interscience. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-0-470-51633-1.
  3. Irving P. Herman (2007). Physics of The Human Body. Springer. p. 613. ISBN 978-3-540-29603-4.
  4. Eberhard Hänsler, Gerhard Schmidt (2008). Speech and audio processing in adverse environments. Springer. p. 299. ISBN 978-3-540-70601-4.
  5. Hugo Fastl and Eberhard Zwicker (2007). Psychoacoustics: facts and models (3rd ed.). Springer. p. 207. ISBN 978-3-540-23159-2.
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