What’s Pink Noise?

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Pink noise contains all audible frequencies and emphasizes lower frequencies. Its amplitude decreases at a constant rate for each octave. It can be used for sound masking, relaxation, and testing acoustic equipment.

Pink noise is a type of signal that contains all sound frequencies that are within the range of a human’s hearing, from the lowest pitches a person can hear to the highest pitches. A white noise variation is usually created when these audible tones are blended together in exactly the same tempo and density. It is sometimes referred to as 1/f noise or flicker noise.

Distinct from white noise, pink noise emphasizes lower frequencies and its amplitude decreases at a constant rate for each octave, typically three decibels. With pink signals, lower sound frequencies are usually louder and have more power than higher frequencies. In scientific terms, it has a frequency such that its power spectral density is inversely proportional to its frequency. In the spectrum of sound frequencies, pink falls between white noise and red noise, also known as Brownian noise.

To a person’s ears, pink noise is often flat, similar to the hum of an empty television station or the sound of ocean waves. This resonance is due to the noise being based on octaves rather than individual frequencies. Typically, it is created by filtering out white noise. The octaves occurring within the noise hold equal amounts of frequency, which results in a sound wave having the same energy in each octave.

Pink noise can be mixed with other noise to create sound masking programs. For example, pink audio systems can be designed to simulate running water, a fan or the sound of the ocean. Given its calming qualities, some people play it as background noise to help them relax. People who have sleep disorders can even purchase special pink sound sleep machines to help them drift off or sleep through the night.

In particular, this noise is useful for masking low-frequency sounds because it contains lower frequency levels than other types of noise. For example, pink sounds can mask loud cars or noisy industrial plants, so some employers play it in their offices to help their employees focus.

Pink noise has other uses as well, such as measuring the frequency response of acoustic equipment. Some synthesizers contain dedicated pink signal circuits which are used to simulate sounds such as water, gunshots, wind, or explosions. Pink signals are also sometimes used when producing special effects for movies, television shows, and video games. They are often used to test and equalize loudspeakers in rooms and auditoriums.

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