Transmission loss (duct acoustics)

Sound measurements
 Sound pressure  p, SPL
 Particle velocity  v, SVL
 Particle displacement  δ
 Sound intensity  I, SIL
 Sound power  P, SWL
 Sound energy  W
 Sound energy density  w
 Sound exposure  E, SEL
 Acoustic impedance  Z
 Speed of sound  c
 Audio frequency  AF
 Transmission loss  TL

Transmission loss (TL) in duct acoustics, together with insertion loss (IL), describes the acoustic performances of a muffler like system. It is frequently used in the industry areas such as muffler manufacturers and NVH department of automobile manufacturers. Generally the higher transmission loss of a system it has, the better it will perform in terms of noise cancellation.


Transmission loss (TL) (more specifically in duct acoustics) is defined as the difference between the power incident on a duct acoustic device (muffler) and that transmitted downstream into an anechoic termination. Transmission loss is independent of the source and presumes (or requires) an anechoic termination at the downstream end.[1]

Transmission loss does not involve the source impedance and the radiation impedance inasmuch as it represents the difference between incident acoustic energy and that transmitted into an anechoic environment. Being made independent of the terminations, TL finds favor with researchers who are sometimes interested in finding the acoustic transmission behavior of an element or a set of elements in isolation of the terminations. But measurement of the incident wave in a standing wave acoustic field requires uses of impedance tube technology, may be quite laborious, unless one makes use of the two-microphone method with modern instrumentation.[1]

Mathematical definition

Transmission loss (duct acoustics) definition illustration.

By definition the TL on an acoustic component, for example a muffler, is described as:[1]


Note that cannot be measured directly in isolation from the reflected wave pressure (in the inlet, away from muffler). One has to resort to impedance tube technology or two-microphone method with modern instrumentation.[1] However at the downstream side of the muffler, in view of the anechoic termination, which ensures .

And in most muffler applications, Si and So, the area of the exhaust pipe and tail pipe, are generally made equal, thus we have:

Thus, TL equals 20 times the logarithm (to the base 10) of the ratio of the acoustic pressure associated with the incident wave (in the exhaust pipe) and that of the transmitted wave (in the tail pipe), with the two pipes having the same cross-sectional area and the tail pipe terminating anechoically.[1] However this anechoic condition is normally difficult to meet under practical industry environment, thus it is usually more convenient for the muffler manufacturers to measure insertions loss during their muffler performance tests under working conditions (mounted on an engine).

Also, since the transmitted sound power cannot possibly exceed the incident sound power (or is always larger than ), it is known that TL will never be less than 0 dB.

Transmission matrix description

Transmission loss (duct acoustics) definition illustration with transmission matrix.

The low-frequency approximation implies that each subsystem is an acoustic two-port (or four-pole system) with two (and only two) unknown parameters, the complex amplitudes of two interfering waves travelling in opposite directions. Such a system can be described by its transmission matrix (or four-pole matrix), as follows[2]


where ,, and are the sound pressures and volume velocities at the input and at the output. A, B, C and D are complex numbers. With this representation it can be prove that the transmission loss (TL) of this subsystem can be calculated as,



A simple example

Transmission loss (duct acoustics) calculation - a simple example (one chamber silencer).
Result of transmission loss (duct acoustics) calculation - a simple example (one chamber silencer). c=520m/s at 400°C; l=0.5m; h=1/3.

Considering we have the most simplest reactive silencer with only one expansion chamber (length l and cross-sectional area S2), with inlet and outlet both having cross-sectional area S1). As we know the transmission matrix of a tube (in this case, the expansion chamber) is[2]


Substitute to the equation of TL above, it can be seen that the TL of this simple reactive silencer is

where is the ratio of the cross-sectional areas and is the length of the chamber. is the wave number while is the sound speed. Note that the transmission loss is zero when is a multiple of half a wavelength.

As a simple example, consider a one chamber silencer with h=S1/S2=1/3, at around 400 °C the sound speed is about 520 m/s, with l=0.5 m, one easily calculate the TL result shown on the plot on the right. Note that the TL equals zero when frequency is a multiple of and TL peaks when frequency is .

Also note that the above calculation is only valid for low-frequency range because at low-frequency range the sound wave can be treated as a plane wave. The TL calculation will start losing its accuracy when the frequency goes above the cutoff frequency, which can be calculated as ,[1] where D is diameter of the largest pipe in the structure. In the case above, if for example the muffler body has a diameter of 300mm, then the cut-off frequency is then 1.84*520/pi/0.3=1015 Hz.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Munjal, M.L. (1987). Acoustics of ducts and mufflers with application to exhaust and ventilation system design. New York: Wiley. pp. 58–60. ISBN 0471847380.
  2. 1 2 Jacobsen, Finn (2000). Propagation of sound waves in ducts - DTU. Technical University of Denmark. p. 68.
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