1 The Decibel
The decibel is defined as a ratio of two quantities, typically power, voltage, or current. In the field of EMC, the decibel must be understood. Here are the most important points:
Gain and Loss [dB]
Absolute Levels [dBm, dBµV, dBµA]
Unit Conversion [formulas, tables]
Gain [dB] and Loss [dB].
Let's have a look at the amplifier or damping network below.
The power, voltage, and current gain of this network can be expressed in [dB] as [1.1]:
If R1 and R2 are equal (typically 50Ω), then the following term is 0:
And we can write the following for power/voltage/current gain:
Points to remember when it comes to the calculation of gain and loss in decibel:
Amplification. If P2 is bigger than P1, the gain value in [dB] is positive. This means if there is amplification, the power gain in [dB] is positive.
Damping. If P2 is smaller than P1, the gain value in [dB] is negative. This means if there is a power loss, the power gain in [dB] is negative.
Cut-off Frequency. At the cut-off frequency, the output power (P2) is half the input power (P1). And the power/voltage/current gains are all -3dB.
Ratio to [dB]. If power increases by factor 2, the power/voltage/current gains increase by +3dB. If power increases by factor 10, the power/voltage/current gains increase by +10dB. To get an overview, have a look at our power/voltage/current ratios table below.
Absolute Levels [dBm, dBµV, dBµA].
The most common absolute power, voltage and current levels in EMC are [dBm], [dBµV] and [dBµA]. They are calculated like this [1.1]:
The most common absolute power, voltage and current levels in EMC are [dBm], [dBµV] and [dBµA]. They are calculated like this:
For example, a negative dBm-value means that the power level is <1mW. 0dBm = 1mW and a dBm-value bigger than 0 means that the power is higher than 1mW. The same for dBµV and dBµA: 0dBµV = 1µV (0dBµA = 1µA), a negative dBµV-value means <1µV, and a positive dBµV-value means >1µV.
Conversion formulas and tables.
Find below tables and formulas to convert between the different dB-units and from linear ratio values to dB-values and vice versa. In addition, you can download an Excel sheet, which contains conversion calculations and more [1.2].