Noise canceling technology for a whole apartment?
May 25, 2009 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Any good solutions for canceling out my neighbor's bass from their stereo without headphones? Headphones aren't an option all the time if I need to sleep. Are their nose canceling stereos? How well do they work? What else could I try?

Just moved into a new place and my next door neighbors have about 20 people coming and going during the day, mostly right outside my patio door, and also have a huge bass hooked up to their tv and stereo. I'm a quiet person, and its starting to drive me nuts that I can't spend a day without hours trying to ignore it. I know this is the kind of situation that ends up in people being annoyed, and I'd like to get along with these guys. I'm prone to headaches and sleep day hours, and I don't want this to turn into a brawl. Its to the point I can't even spend time in my living room and I've taken to leaving my apartment altogether to escape the noise.

I see plenty of noise canceling headphones, and speakers for CB's but what I'd like is an audio player (kind of like a white noise machine) that would send opposing sound wave out. Using an old laptop with speakers to accomplish this as well would be doable.

Are there systems out there? How well do they work? Any other non-confrontational, non-passive aggressive ways to deal with this?
posted by gilsonal to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A mild confrontation is probably your best bet. Ask them to keep it down, and if they refuse, take it up with the landlord. Absent that, you might try playing white noise over your speakers (I use Raindrop for this, with sounds from the Buddha Machine) or throwing some sound-deadening material up on the walls.
posted by sinfony at 11:42 AM on May 25, 2009 [7 favorites]

To cancel the bass with the inverse wave, you'd need to a) have speakers powerful enough to produce the same frequency sound, b) position everything (microphone & speakers) precisely, and c) be in exactly the right spot yourself. This is a very difficult (maybe impossible) engineering problem, and if you roll over in bed, you'll roll out of the sweet spot and into the noise again.

Noise-canceling headphones can't really cancel low frequencies. The only technical solution I can think of would be soundproofing material between you and the noise source.
posted by knave at 12:08 PM on May 25, 2009

Can't be done. Listen to sinfony otherwise, though the sound-deadening required for this is likely beyond your budget and lease restrictions.
posted by rhizome at 12:37 PM on May 25, 2009

Low frequencies are a bitch to sound proof against.

Talk to your neighbor, tell him to turn down the bass. If he's a dick, get the landlord involved. If he's still a dick, call the police.
posted by wfrgms at 12:37 PM on May 25, 2009

They aren't really being obnoxious, in the sense that I can't hear their music when I'm outside their windows. I think the music is at quite a reasonable volume, its just the bass that has apparently conducted itself well right to me. I think I might ask them about putting some insulating material under the bass, maybe that would dampen the soundwaves through the ground.
posted by gilsonal at 12:56 PM on May 25, 2009

Just tell them to turn down the bass and/or put their sub in another location in the room.
posted by bengarland at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2009

Ear plugs. They're comfortable when you sleep. Get the soft rubber kind that stick inside your ear; they're really neat and they do stop deep bass. I bought a box of 80 pairs at the hardware store the other day for about $15. I figure it'll last me the rest of my life.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2009

I'm currently dealing with a similar situation with upstairs with the added subtlety that we have both managed to piss each other off (at different times, of course). We have reached two accommodations:

1. I now route all my audio through my DJ mixer which allows me to turn down the worst of the bottom end. I'm not killing it entirely, just diminishing it and, in many cases, improving the overall quality of sound. Yes, you can have too much bass.

2. My big issue with him has been that he cranks the talk radio all day which gets male voices in particular rumbling through the floor. As a solution, I've given him an old sub-wooferless ghetto blaster of mine (it was gathering dust anyway) which delivers all the words he needs to hear and none of the subsonics.
posted by philip-random at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2009

I've had this problem many times. I go to my neighbor and tel them, "it's not that your music is too loud, it's just that the bass is either too loud or maybe too close to my wall." It seems to help to tell people that it's not that they listen to their music too loud in that they respond better.
You shouldn't have to buy new things to deal with something that may be solved by just asking someone to turn down the bass.
posted by ishotjr at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ask them to put their subwoofer on a stand. If it's sitting on the ground or against a wall it's making the structure of the house vibrate. A couple of inches of air makes a big difference; even an empty cardboard box will help.
posted by Nelson at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I bet their subwoofer is actually against your common wall. It's not unreasonable to ask them to relocate it to a non-common wall.
posted by davejay at 4:38 PM on May 25, 2009

Maybe you could use something like this whenever they have the bass up, and it'll re-program their brains to associate pain/nausea with bass and they'll stop...
posted by glider at 8:09 PM on May 25, 2009

I think that this can't be achieved without negotiation or headphones. But your neighbours are the ones who are supposed to put headphones on.
posted by nicolin at 3:24 AM on May 26, 2009

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