A model of the VU (volume-unit) meter, with speech applications

Bryce E. Lobdell, Jont B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Volume-Unit (VU) meter, used in speech research prior to the advent of computers and modern signal processing methods, is described in signal processing terms. There are no known software implementations of this meter, which meet the 1954 ASA standard and provide the instantaneous needle level. Important speech applications will be explored, such as making comparisons of speech levels to earlier classic works, and measuring speech levels using traditional methods on modern computers. It is our intention to make this venerable method of measuring speech levels available once again. The VU meter is simulated and its properties are studied. A 1950s vintage and a recent vintage VU meter are studied by comparing the transient responses to tones and measurement of speech levels. Based on these measurements, a software VU meter (henceforth referred to as VUSOFT) is simulated, and verified. The method for reading the meter is explained, and simulated in software. The VU level for speech is shown to depend on the reading duration. The relationship between the root-mean-squared (rms) level of a signal and the VU level of a signal is determined, as a function of the meter-reading time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-285
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 22 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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