Signal-to-noise ratio (abbreviated SNR or S/N) is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. SNR is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power, often expressed in decibels. A ratio higher than 1:1 (greater than 0 dB) indicates more signal than noise.
While SNR is commonly quoted for electrical signals, it can be applied to any form of signal, for example isotope levels in an ice core, biochemical signaling between cells, or financial trading signals.
Signal-to-noise ratio is sometimes used metaphorically to refer to the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange. For example, in online discussion forums and other online communities, off-topic posts and spam are regarded as “noise” that interferes with the “signal” of appropriate discussion.
The signal-to-noise ratio, the bandwidth, and the channel capacity of a communication channel are connected by the Shannon–Hartley theorem.