Decade (log scale)

One decade is a unit for measuring frequency ratios on a logarithmic scale, with one decade corresponding to a ratio of 10 between two frequencies. It is especially useful when describing frequency response of electronic systems, such as audio amplifiers and filters.


The factor-of-ten in a decade can be in either direction: so one decade up from 100 Hz is 1000 Hz, and one decade down is 10 Hz. The factor-of-ten is what is important, not the unit used, so 3.14 rad/s is one decade down from 31.4 rad/s.
To determine the number of decades between two frequencies, use the logarithm of the ratio of the two values:
or, using natural logarithms:
To find out what frequency is a certain number of decades from the original frequency, multiply by appropriate powers of 10:
To find out the size of a step for a certain number of frequencies per decade, raise 10 to the power of the inverse of the number of steps:

Graphical representation and analysis

Decades on a logarithmic scale, rather than unit steps or other linear scale, are commonly used on the horizontal axis when representing the frequency response of electronic circuits in graphical form, such as in Bode plots, since depicting large frequency ranges on a linear scale is often not practical. For example, an audio amplifier will usually have a frequency band ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and representing the entire band using a decade log scale is very convenient. Typically the graph for such a representation would begin at 1 Hz and go up to perhaps 100 kHz, to comfortably include the full audio band in a standard-sized graph paper, as shown below. Whereas in the same distance on a linear scale, with 10 as the major step-size, you might only get from 0 to 50.
showing the concept of a decade: each major division on the horizontal axis is one decade
Electronic frequency responses are often described in terms of "per decade". The example Bode plot shows a slope of −20 dB/dec in the stopband, which means that for every factor-of-ten increase in frequency, the gain decreases by 20 dB.