It's all about (blocking out) the bass
March 26, 2021 10:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I noise cancel bass?

There is a lot of advise on noise cancelling in general, but I have a unique noise problem. People like to hang out outside my house with subwoofers and blast the bass. It's loud enough that car alarms are set off by it. There are several reasons why I can't just ask people to not do that - Covid being one and mostly its people in cars who hang out for 10-15 minutes, it's just a lot of cars doing that, so I'd have to hang out and wag my finger at about 20 people a night. I'm also not calling in a noise complaint to the police because of many reasons. I'd prefer to just figure out a way to noise cancel bass so I can sleep at night.

Fans, loud air purifier and noise cancelling headphones don't work - I feel like it is the wrong frequency. So I'd need something that can cover very low frequencies. As an aside, we are about to do a large-scale renovation on our home, so if there is anything we could do to the structure of the house to reduce bass noise, I'm open to it. I'm willing to spend money on this.

I saw this from 2009, and was hoping that technology has developed since then?
posted by Toddles to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My instinct is to make generous use of high density mineral wool insulation in the walls, and to use sound controlling windows. That said, the situation seems like it warrants an acoustic consultant, since you have a unique opportunity to take action.

I only have personal experience addressing more typical city noises, but Rockwool and noise controlling windows worked a treat for that.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 12:50 AM on March 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a Peachtree Audio Deepblue2 Bluetooth speaker in my room that I play a brown noise track from my phone on. I find the frequency of brown noise very effective in nullifying bass.
posted by jason and the garlic knots at 4:53 AM on March 27, 2021

was hoping that technology has developed since then?

Unfortunately, not so much, because your problem is fairly basic physics - sound is waves of vibrating molecules. Air molecules for the most part, but in your case there's also an element of the molecules of your walls and windows vibrating too. Bass sounds are large powerful waves of vibration, so they can move all kinds of molecules you might not expect.

Seconding the idea of an acoustic consultant, because if you're willing to put money into construction you'll need to borrow some recording studio construction techniques. Here's an introductory article from Sound On Sound magazine. (Which notes that bass frequencies are the hardest to deal with.) The short version is that you need as much isolation as you can get between you and the outside, for both air flow and physical vibration of walls and windows. Which means things like double walls with a gap in between, use of mass loaded vinyl and other sound-deadening materials in between the two walls, double layers of drywall, non-standard framing of the inner wall to reduce acoustic coupling and resonant vibrations, double thick windows, so on and so forth.

As you can imagine, this can get real expensive real fast, so you need someone in person to take a look at things and figure out what you can actually accomplish for what budget.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:08 AM on March 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

As an aside, we are about to do a large-scale renovation on our home, so if there is anything we could do to the structure of the house to reduce bass noise, I'm open to it.

This is a buried lede! You can do all kinds of things if you're going to be tearing into the walls, it's just a matter of what walls are being torn up and if you're open to other walls also being peeled back to the studs if necessary.

The first consideration will of course be the wall of the house facing the street, closest to the noise. I would consider staggered studs for this, which is building a new inside wall that doesn't touch the outside:

  |       |       |       |
  |       |       |       |
  |       |       |       |  
  |   |   |   |   |   |   |  
      |       |       |      
Typically this kind of construction is filled with rockwool and there is an assembly for the bottom to decouple the wall from the floor. Ideally you do this to all walls that touch the outside world, not to mention options for the door and windows. There are many other options in general, but this is a big one and good to figure out if this is too far when you know how far things can go. :)
posted by rhizome at 4:09 PM on March 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is what I do when the guy who lives below me plays his music with the bass turned to eleven. I found a Youtube video that plays the whole range of sound frequency (this one for example) and determined the frequency coming up through my floor most often was 100Hz. I then found this goofy video (100Hz​ Super Intelligence Memory Music) which amazingly cancels out anything coming from below, so much so that I don't even notice when he stops playing his music and have to turn the video off to check. I haven't noticed any improvement in my memory or concentration, however I do think about strangling my neighbor a whole lot less.
posted by Carlo at 4:30 PM on March 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

FWIW, I thought I read somewhere that there are devices you can buy in China that you can use a pole to stick up to the ceiling to counter noises from above. However, upon closer reading, it's actually a "floor/ceiling thumper" that's the equivalent of getting a broomstick and angrily ramming the tip on the floor/ceiling.

Apparently one guy had enough of kids running above him and his neighbors ignoring him that he bought and deployed such a device Friday night and left town and turned phone off, only to return Sunday. The device drove the neighbor mad and both apartment management and police were summoned to no avail. The device was finally turned off upon his return on Sunday. No idea if he was punished or did the neighbor learned his lesson. ;)
posted by kschang at 8:21 AM on March 29, 2021

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