Standardizing Pickleball Sound Measurement

While there are numerous well defined terms used by those in acoustics to measure sound levels, there is no single defined method for pickleball. When a ball hits a paddle, the paddle vibrates and pushes air back and forth, creating a sound. The ball also vibrates and it produces its own air pressure modulation which we hear as a different pitch sound. We look at these air pressure variations or sounds by using a microphone to capture the event and store it for study.

Then we look at it as time passes (known as amplitude in the time domain) and as a collection of audio components or signals , which we can amplitude in the frequency domain. Here is a recording of a pickleball hit: hyperlink audio. This is the time domain display, known as the “waveform”. If we do the right analysis of the waveform (called a Fourier Transform) we can see the complete “spectrum, which is a plot of amplitude vs frequency.

Here is the waveform and the spectrum of the pickleball sound from above:

  • The waveform

  • The Spectrum

As we know, paddles and balls change the sound,. so waveforms and spectrums differ but not so much that we cannot identify many characteristics. First, note that the complete sound last under 10 milliseconds from start to the last few percentage points of the sound level. So, a pickleball sound has a short duration! That is hardly news. What is important, however, is how do we measure it with a meter?