How do I enjoy my new computer speakers without pissing off the downstairs neighbors?
April 10, 2006 2:26 AM   Subscribe

I love my new 5.1 computer speakers, but my downstairs neighbors don't, which has let to occasionally angry banging coming from downstairs. It's not like I'm blasting sci-fi movies at 2 in the morning, but is there anything I can do with the subwoofer to minimize the impact to them but not emasculate the boom-boominess of my Quake 4 too much. Difficulty: no "turn down your subwoofer". It's already down.
posted by softlord to Technology (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had the same problem, so I put my subwoofer on a towel. Really simple and I haven't heard anyone complain since.
posted by jedrek at 3:01 AM on April 10, 2006


They're overpriced, like most audio things, but the Auralex pad should decouple your sub completely from the building. If you're playing it loud enough, they'll still notice it, but at sane volumes it probably won't carry down to them.

Best of all, it'll sound almost exactly the same to you... you're hearing the air vibrations, which you'll still get. They're hearing the building vibrations, which should be mostly eliminated.
posted by Malor at 3:14 AM on April 10, 2006


Isolating the subwoofer sounds like a good idea, should help with the thumping. An alternative would be to check if your sound card driver allows you to adjust the EQ/Bass settings, and lower the volume on the low frequencies.
posted by empyrean at 3:42 AM on April 10, 2006


Yes, not putting the subwoofer on the floor, or putting something under it to absorb some vibration, will help a lot.

My 2.1 Creative speakers have a separate control for the subwoofer which allows me to turn it off - sounds like yours haven't, which is a shame.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:03 AM on April 10, 2006


Can you suspend the subwoofer, so it is not touching the floor or touching anything that is touching the floor?
posted by mikepop at 5:23 AM on April 10, 2006


Suspension would work, but might muddy up the sound. You do not want a speaker to move and the power of a sub can cause minute movements which are still large enough relative to the movement of the speaker cone to distort the sound. Isolation is the way to go and perhaps the easiest way is with mass and spikes. Mere mass on the floor (like a couple of cinder blocks) may be enough. If not, put some speaker spikes into the bottom of the sub. It concentrates all of the weight on three sharp points (use only three spikes as a tripod is the most stable base) and it is difficult for bass notes to transmit through this structure. Since cinder blocks are ugly, it might be best to cover them with cloth or something. The spikes might also work by themselves without the mass. It pays to experiment. You also want to locate the sub on a structurally stiff portion of the floor rather than in a big resonant section. Just tap around on the floor and avoid locations where you get a resonant note and focus on locations where you get a nice dead clunk.
posted by caddis at 7:23 AM on April 10, 2006


Also, cork makes an excellent sound dampner, sit it on top of an appropriate sized piece of corkboard, the thicker the better.
posted by AllesKlar at 7:39 AM on April 10, 2006


I would also recommend cork or a closed cell foam pad. Maybe one of those pads for kneeling on in the garden would be a good size and a cheap solution.
posted by linklog at 8:36 AM on April 10, 2006


caddis' points are the standard approach for best sound reproduction in your room, but I'm not sure those steps translate to protecting the neighbours.. For example, looking for the dead spot gives you minimal sound reflection in your room, but that can mean maximum sound transmission to other rooms (if the energy isn't reflected it is either damped out or transmitted). Also, I'm not sure how the spikes will effect it.. On one hand, I can see that the spikes won't transmit pressure waves, but I can't see how they isolate the direct mechanical excitation of the floor.

I think you want to sit the sub on some fiberglass insulation, better still, insulation sitting on a cinder block.. It won't give you carte blanch because the sound pressure in your room is still going to excite the walls, but it will eliminate the direct mechanical excitation, which should help.
posted by Chuckles at 11:11 AM on April 10, 2006


... Sitting it on insulation won't be that much different from suspending it, and caddis' point about the speaker moving is fair enough - depending on the amount of motion.

If you do want to try suspending it, make sure you use 3-4 wires. If the wires can slope away from the speaker then even better. The instantaneous motion caused by the driver's reaction force probably isn't significant, but if the speaker can swing.. That might be significant.
posted by Chuckles at 11:27 AM on April 10, 2006


I have my subwoofer sitting on a cardboard box under my desk which seems to do the trick. However, I generally switch to headphones for gaming. Esp. in First Person Shooters, headphones offer better performance for detecting the direction of your foe, and I imagine the gunfire racket is the most annoying of sounds.
posted by Manjusri at 1:37 PM on April 10, 2006


For example, looking for the dead spot gives you minimal sound reflection in your room, but that can mean maximum sound transmission to other rooms (if the energy isn't reflected it is either damped out or transmitted).

When you resonate the floor it enhances sound transmission at the resonant frequency, which just happens to be within the range of the sub for many floors. Putting the sub where the floor is resonant enhances resonation of the floor and therefore enhances transmission of the sound through the floor. A resonating floor is not a damper (at least at the resonant frequency).
posted by caddis at 2:41 PM on April 10, 2006


I'm sure your right caddis.. It isn't transmission and reflection in the sense though.. (and I misread your answer a little too, 'tap around' seems like good advice)

When the sub sits on a resonance in the floor the mechanical energy is being directly coupled into the floor, it isn't becoming air pressure first. There are bound to be spots on the floor that are more easily excited.. I wonder though, the spots which are easily excited in your floor might be different from the spots that are easily excited in their ceiling..
posted by Chuckles at 4:07 PM on April 10, 2006


I have my subwoofer sitting on a two-inch thick foam pad. Simple and easy.
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:03 PM on April 10, 2006


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