A Future Universal Noise Declaration & Labeling Standard
The World's acoustic standardization committees seem to have developed great standards for to measure the physical aspect of products' noise emissions, but there are two things that that remain to be invented:
Product noise measurement standards that include sound quality metrics.
An easy to use and understand simplified universal declaration and marking standard to use for all kinds of products to state that noise figures have been obtained and declared according to these international standards.
Sound Quality Standards still Lack
ISO 9296 unfortunately yet doesn't cover all main aspects on how humans perceive sound: ISO 9296 mainly declares the physical aspects of noise. Two computers with extacly the same sound power level figures per ISO 9296 may still sound very different. This because of difference in their sound quality aspects. Out of this come that many IT suppliers that have adopted and mastered the use of ISO 7779 and ISO 9296 for measurement and declaration, realize that while this addresses the regulatory compliance issues, they still end up with PC's that annoy their users:
Invented in the 1930s, the A-weighting filter strange enough still represents the only commonly used little effort in the direction to include sound quality metrics as a parameter in noise declarations: Sound quality metrics are only rudimentary covered with A-weighting.
An approximation is that with ISO 9296 we only reach about three quarters the distance to make it easier for purchasers to in figures make buying decissions according to degree of annoyance caused by unintentionally emitted product sounds.
ISO 9296 states that manufacturers also optionally can provide extra information on the character of the noise: if it contains prominent discrete tones or whether the noise is considered to be impulsive. ISO 9296 also explains that there today isn't any international consensus on objective methods for rating of these subjective characteristics of noise. [1,2].
Important aspects of sound quality are loudness, roughness, pitch, sharpness, spectral balance, tonalness (tonality), impulsiveness and fluctuation strength.
How come we still lack noise measurement, declaration and labeling standards that reflect how average humans commonly perceive different kinds of machine and equipment sounds?
How can it be that regulatory compliance for low-intensity machine and equipment noise, ie noise that doesn't cause auditory health effects, still not completely address its main adverse effect: Distraction?
"Measurements and Judgments of Sound in relation to Human Sound Perception" is a most interesting report by Danish DELTA related to the subject.
The Universal Noise Marking standard
Note that the universal noise label standard outlined below will be made a lot better by the World's leading acousticians: It is just to be seen as a suggestion, that can be much further improved.
It seems possible to establish a simplified way to show that for example ones IT acoustic noise measurement and declaration conform with the ISO 9296 standard (wich include the use of ISO 7779 for measurement):
Two different kinds of values on noise emissions, sound power level and sound pressure level, is one too much for to be simple to use and understand, and six different figures (the ones describing the operating conditions) clearly becomes impossible to use in marketing and marking contexts.
Stating "Declared noise emissions in accordance with ISO 9296:" seems to be a way too long sentence for to be used for easy labeling and marketing of low noise emissions; especially in advertizing where the message must be short but still accurate.
The figures 9296 will by the human thought too easy be mixed up with the B and dB figures; which have to stand on their own as figures for to be as easy as possible to apprehend.
It is a common agreement that sound power level, LWA, in bels or decibels is the most reliable measure for to compare noise emissions between products: This since LWA values don't depend on distance or user position [1,2,3,4,5,7]. Declared single-number noise emission value, Ld, is the sum of a measured noise emission value and the associated uncertainty, rounded to the nearest decibel .
Declared A-weighted sound power level, LWAd, in bels or decibels thus represents the easiest to understand way to label products' noise emissions when intended to make it possible for purchasers to make a buying decission according to level of noise emissions; this since it provides a single-number noise emission sound power level value in bels or decibels. A suggestion is therefore that LWAd will become universally accepted as the measure to use for a future simplified marking of acoustic noise emissions according to any product's specific International noise declaration standard for declaration of noise emissions when in typical operation. The resulting marking could look as easy to use and understand as this:
IEC stands for The International Electrotechnical Commission. The acoustic committees of IEC and ISO represent the World's two most important acoustic standardization organizations. In the example above the thought is that dB ISO or dB IEC regarding information technology would stand for A-weighted decibel values expressing declared sound power level and declaration according to ISO 9296 when in typical operation: The latter because we are talking on information technology equipment, where ISO 9296 is used for declaration (and include the measurement standard to use).
The computer industry have intelligently choosen to use the unit bel for to express sound power level values to avoid confusion between decibels for sound power level and decibels for sound pressure level. However, today the computer industry is the only product group that uses sound power in bels, and if the idea of using dB ISO or dB IEC will come true will they find themselves using decibel (dB) instead of bel (B) values for sound power level as intended in their precious standards. Thus an other maybe better option would be to choose to use "bels ISO", "B ISO", "bels IEC" or "B IEC" for a simplified marking standard: This for to increase the pressure on manufacturers and help purchasers not to mix-up sound power level and sound pressure level. That could look like this:
The same noise marking for any technology
Not only information technology acoustic noise emissions can be labeled this way, but all kinds of technology where noise emissions might be a possible problem. A specific lawn-mower can then for example be labeled 8.6 B ISO (or 8.6 B IEC), a dishwasher 4.0 B ISO, a shawer 3.3 B ISO and a PC intended for home use 1.8 B ISO. Since everyone knows that a lawn-mower is a lawn-mower, a dishwasher a dishwasher, a shawer a shawer and a PC a PC; and the ISO and IEC standards aren't competing with each other, will the simple words B ISO or B IEC tell that declared values have been obtained according to the product-specific standards for measurement and declaration when in typical operation.
Industry can also aggree upon a quality-label that informs when products are noise declared according to their necessary international standards. This label can include the single value as said above, but would also show that the product is completely noise declared in its documentation.
To include sound quality parameters
For the moment humanity hasn't invented a noise declaration standard that includes sound quality aspects, but when this issue is solved, would the sound quality aspect of course also have to be included in a simple to use manner. An idea is to add one to three plus-marks on the right hand side of the noise figures. Three plus-marks would stand for the best sound quality aspects. That could look like this:
Since there are many different sound quality aspects, an other, maybe even more clever idea would be to use an "A, B, C, D-scale" for them. Here "A" could mean maximal comfort for this particular aspect of sound quality. It could look like this for a product with superb acoustic comfort:
A possible objection to simplify product noise labeling this far could be that all standards are updated regularly, and that one could feel insecure about what manufacturers are stating with the words dB ISO, B ISO, B IEC or bels IEC, but the thought is not that this new notion would make more precise noise declarations reduntant: These shortings should just be seen as a complementary addition for to simplify noise marking of products and for to use in advertisments for products, making it easier for customers to compare products in this aspect; and make a buying decission also according to level of noise emissions. Manufacturers using dB ISO, B ISO, dB IEC or B IEC could still be asked to enclose their full noise declaration with their products, and it is belived that they would want to, because the cost for a complete measurement and declaration would be the same for the simplified as for the complete declaration. Lastly the society awareness that a simplified noise marking would generate would work for complete noise declarations.
If the use of a simplified universal product noise labeling standard is established would the World's governments and the Industry have to agree upon to only permit use of the words ISO or IEC like in dB ISO, B ISO, dB IEC or B IEC if it is for to declare a product's acoustic noise emissions according to the established product-specific noise declaration standards; where the declaration standard should state that if dB ISO, B ISO, dB IEC or B IEC is used for simplified noise marking should it stand for the use of LwAd acording to the product specific declaration standard when in typical use.
A historical objection regarding declaration of noise emissions stating only sound power level measures is that customers desire sound pressure level measures [1,2]. It isn't known what customers desire for sound pressure levels, but it seems quite possible that they fast will learn to use sound power levels as soon as they are informed that they can benefit of them.
ISO and the consumer
dB ISO or B ISO could fit in well in an ISO statement on the consumer:
"In today's increasingly global manufacturing and trading environment, consumers expect to benefit from access to a wider choice of goods and services, lower prices and more information on which to base their choices."
Standardization - not obligation
It is worth noting that establishing a product marking standard isn't the same as obligation to use it. It has nothing to do with government regulations and directives. An easy to understand marking standard for unwanted acoustic emissions only makes it easier for the manufacturers interested in this issue to reach their customers; thus providing the basis for open competition on minimizing technology acoustic noise emissions. It will then, as in all open competition, be up to the market to decide whether it is interested in low noise emissions or not. Establishment of a standardized easy to understand marking of technology noise emissions provides freedom, and may at the same time help the experts now trying to find out what is an acceptable level of low-intensity acoustic noise emissions to reach consensus.
Like ISO 9296 will also a dB ISO, dB IEC, B ISO or B IEC standard comply with the "One Standard - One Test, Supplier's Declaration of Conformity" (1-1SDoC or 11SDoC) concept ; something all involved participants - governments, manufacturers and their customers - benefits of.
With a simplified universal product noise marking standard will the World for the first time in history have provided itself with an easy understandable but still accurate possibility to label acoustic noise emissions for any kind of technology product group.
A voluntary universal easy to understand marking standard for products' acoustic noise emissions, paired with marketing of its existense, would represent a sustainable effort of the modern free society to provide acoustic comfort not only to the wealthiest and/or the most technically interested, but to all people prepared to pay for it.
Making it easier for anyone to make buying decissions according to all products' acoustic aspects will most possible make acoustic comfort an even more profitable product differentiator.
Food Content & Unwanted Sound
A parable of making it possible for interested manufacturers and purchasers to meet utilizing a universal simple to use, but still accurate product marking standard for levels of unintentional and distracting sound, can be the fact that most people also regard it natural to be able to find the ingredients, calories, fat and protein content, and country of origin labeled on their food and drinking before buying. People capable of reading are here free to choose what food and drinking they regard tasty and healthy.
The United States of America
EPA, United States Environment Protection Agency, did in 1979 establish a noise label program. At their history pages you can read this:
"EPA Establishes New Noise Label Program
A program designed to provide consumers with information about the noise characteristics of new products through a labeling system has been established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle has approved a new regulation which will require manufacturers to affix labels to products that produce noise capable of adversely affecting public health or welfare and products that are sold to reduce noise."
The EPA noise label program was based on the US Noise Control Act of 1972:
"The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States
to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that
jeopardizes their health or welfare. To that end, it is the purpose of
this Act to establish a means for effective coordination of Federal
research and activities in noise control, to authorize the establishment
of Federal noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce,
and to provide information to the public respecting the noise emission
and noise reduction characteristics of such products."
The Reagan administration closed the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Noise Abatement and Control in 1982. The U.S. Congress has not rescinded the Noise Control Act of 1972: It has been left intact but without authorization to carry out any new activities or funding for any old activities.
The Acoustical Society of America has undertaken an initiative to write and publish an
American National Standard concerning "Declaration and Verification of Noise Emission Values
of Machinery and Equipment." In the first drafts of this comming ANSI version of ISO 4871  they included "relative noisiness" as a new most interesting and simple to use metric intended for consumer product labeling. The relative noisiness metric will, however, due to negative comments be left out in the next drafts of this standard. For the moment it isn't known what these negative comments where, and from where they came.
The primary difference between ISO 4871 and this comming US standard is that it attempts to avoid confusing purchasers of products by specifying the use of one metric (declared maximum noise emission values), whereas, ISO 4871 permits the use of two metrics (either declared maximum noise emission values or average noise emission values and an uncertainty). In addition, this standard provides more
guidance to manufacturers in determining declared noise emission values than ISO 4871 does. Manufacturers following the procedures and guidelines contained in this standard will be able to meet the requirements of ISO 4871.
Here are two references for those of you who want to learn more on the relative noisiness metric:
Schomer, Paul D., "The Case for a Simple Metric for Consumer Product Labeling", Noise/News International, p. 57-58, June, 2000.
Schomer, Paul D., "The use of a simple metric for consumer product labeling", 144th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Newport Beach, California, December, 2000.
ANSI S12.61-200X "Declaration and Verification of Noise Emission Values of Machinery and Equipment" is the name of the comming American version of ISO 4871. It is now named BSR S12.61. Anyone that is interested in obtaining a copy of the current draft can e-mail Standards Manager Susan B. Blaeser, ASA (ASC S1), Acoustical Society of America Standards Secretariat.
Comment: A major part (about 34%) of the visitors to The Silent PC web site come from the US. The US manifests its thoughts on freedom, freedom of choice and freedom of competition regarding products' acoustic aspects, in that some of its most important IT manufacturers now provide comparable data according to ISO 9296 for their products. It is hoped that ISO 4871 soon will be updated to include the intelligent decissions found in the drafts for The United States of America's ANSI S12.61-200X.
Product Noise Labeling Standards - Draft - Background Document for Product Noise Labeling General Provisions - A document from the EPA Office of Noise Abatement and Control.
ARI, The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute - Technical Committee on Sound White Paper: Product Labeling and International Standards - Implications and Benefits of an ARI "Labeling" Procedure
Noise Labeling and the Acoustical Consultant - The Importance of Standardization
TABD: "The Transatlantic Business Dialogue offers an effective framework for enhanced cooperation between the transatlantic business community and the governments of the European Union (EU) and United States (US)."
United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Public Citizen - " Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts."