Can anyone recommend a sound reduction device?
January 13, 2004 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Background Noise Reduction Device

I live about one hundred yards from a major freeway and although the house (and my bedroom) is nicely insulated downstairs, during morning rush hour (and particularly when it rains) upstairs where the home office is located the constant din from the cars passing can be quite annoying. Has anyone every used any of the myriad sound reduction devices available out there? I am not looking for a sleep aid, rather something that works much like those hearing aids that reduce background noise, but is actually for an entire room.
posted by piedrasyluz to Technology (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have an older version of a Brookstone white noise machine. Works for me. The one with a built-in sub-woofer would work even better, I think.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:11 PM on January 13, 2004

Active damping in three dimensions is a very difficult problem; to have any hope of success one would likely need a specially designed room. In short, I don't think you will find such a device that really works as advertised.

Passive damping (soundproofing) is cheaper and more reliable. Masking noise, as suggested by MrMoonPie, is another option.
posted by Galvatron at 3:07 PM on January 13, 2004

(soundproofing) is cheaper and more reliable.
Not having any further info on room. Have you looked into double pain windows? The cost may be a savior in the long run, heat & cooling.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:22 PM on January 13, 2004

Unfortunately I rent, so convincing the landlord to install new windows is probably not an option.

Moonpie, could you describe your experience with the Brookstone device further? How would you describe what you hear when the device is on?
posted by piedrasyluz at 3:34 PM on January 13, 2004

double pain
probably misspelled as I have a similar problem. I have noticed heavier drapery can be a solution too. For a test, hang a blanket then you will know if it will help. Your solution may lie in several things working together, good luck.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:42 PM on January 13, 2004

air conditioner in the summer, humidifier in the winter.

or, vice versa, if you dare.
posted by adampsyche at 3:50 PM on January 13, 2004

You know how, when a stereo signal is way out of phase, there's a dead spot in the middle? I've often wondered why that concept couldn't be used to create an anti-noise machine, where you would tune some sort of wave to cancel the offending sound.

I'm sure some sound engineer type will be along momentarily to explain why it will never work. (Maybe that's what Active damping in three dimensions means.) Or maybe they already exist and I've just never heard of them.

Anyway, to actually attempt to answer the question: Those Leight foam ear plugs are quite comfy, and may be a good alternative to white noise, which just trades one sound for another, presumably less annoying. That said, a large box fan makes a good white noise machine.
posted by sageleaf at 4:12 PM on January 13, 2004

I've often wondered why that concept couldn't be used to create an anti-noise machine, where you would tune some sort of wave to cancel the offending sound.

Because people have two ears and, worse, can move their heads. Sound radiates spherically, so if the sound-cancelling equipment isn't at very nearly the same place as the source of the noise, it will be able to cancel the sound in a very small space because the "spheres of sound" won't overlap much.

Noise-cancelling headsets do work pretty well and are often sold to frequent airplane travelers.
posted by kindall at 4:27 PM on January 13, 2004

Also, adaptive noise cancellation only works well on predictible, repetitive noise, so it's useful for things like the airplane headsets mentioned, as well as silencing automobile exhaust systems and industrial machinery. It will likely never be helpful to eliminate your neighbor's dog barking, for example.

I find that my very noisy computer makes a pretty effective white noise generator. I experimented once with miking the power supply fan and sending it out the speakers but it took too much CPU to leave on all the time.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:09 PM on January 13, 2004

We lived by a freeway offramp in Louisville for a long time. We sort of got used to it over time. Here are some other suggestions:

Those 30db reduction orange foam earplugs. Look in the gun section of WalMart if you can't find the good ones anywhere else.

Grow giant, invasive bamboo around the perimeter of the property. Put each plant in a buried bucket so it doesn't spread too far.

Cut a piece of drywall that fits the window, or make soundproof shutters.

Drill holes in the wall and inject that foaming polyurethane insulation, or some other material that will insulate and deaden the sound. Patch the holes well when you are done.

Think about a white noise machine, in combination with the above.

Spread rumors of a freeway sniper in your area.

Some of those suggestions are impractical, but I offer them in the spirit of brainstorming--they might help you think of something that *will* work for you in your context.

I feel for you. I live in the desert now, and occasionally hear coyotes.
posted by mecran01 at 5:10 PM on January 13, 2004

Too much noise, with added white noise on top, can cause serious hearing problems over time. If you are willing/able to do so remodeling, there are several good soundproofing options. Also, check e-bay for used Acoustical Draperies (curtains, wall hangings, vary your search).
This site is ugly, however it has some useful information, and may be a good starting point for further research.
posted by Grod at 6:38 PM on January 13, 2004

posted by Grod at 6:39 PM on January 13, 2004

Depending on your visual needs, putting Egg Create Foam on your walls and ceiling may help out a ton. Most modern recording studios have this or some variant on the walls, and it helps stop noise quite well. You can probably buy it in bulk from somewhere in town (if your town is large enough to have a freeway, which it is) rather than over the internet and save on shipping cost.
posted by woil at 7:11 PM on January 13, 2004

The egg crate foam won't stop sound from getting into the room; it stops sound from reflecting off the walls. Which can be a problem in itself, of course, but is not usually the main problem.
posted by kindall at 7:17 PM on January 13, 2004

Egg crate foam also presents a considerable fire hazard. (See The Station nightclub fire for more details.)
posted by Dreama at 11:28 PM on January 13, 2004

The white noise machine just puts a louder sound over all the other sounds. There's one setting on mine that's more-or-less just static, the "waterfall" setting. For the others, like the mountain creek and frog meadow and such, my brain picks up on the patterns and I can't sleep. For that reason, you should get an expensive one that doesn't have simple patterns. The Brookstone ones have extra sound cards you can buy, though I haven't done that.

I've had the waterfall on at night, turned up to full volume, and have awoken and thought the machine had been turned off--my brain completely tuned out the noise. Pretty cool.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:28 AM on January 14, 2004

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