I want it loud... but my neighbours don't!
February 12, 2008 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find the best music solution for my new but badly insulated (UK) flat. I like my music loud - but my downstairs neighbour doesn't.

I've just bought a top floor flat in a converted Victorian house with a nosy and clearly concerned downstairs neighbour.

I don't too much mind headphones as long as the quality (& convenience) doesn't suffer. I also intend to get the best under-carpet-insulation I can afford.
But what else can I do to maximize my pleasure and minimize her annoyance?

- what is the best option WRT really good headphones? (wireless?)
- considering I do like my music blasting how can I make sure she hears as little of it as possible? (soundwoofer on some sort of support, speakers high up & away from walls... what else?)
- are there any cheap tricks I am missing?

Thanks for any help!
posted by ClarissaWAM to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When you say 'really good headphones,' how much do you envision spending? And will you want something that you can take on the train or the airplane or whatever, or a setup that's strictly dedicated to home listening? Will you be sitting and listening, or wandering around the house or exercising or something? Figure that you can get a set of headphones that's cheap, or one that sounds good, or one that's comfortable, or one that's wireless. But if you want one that's all those things, well, there's no such animal. What's most important to you?

(Also, here's a cheap trick: let her know that you enjoy loud music. Request that, if the volume ever bothers her, she speak first with you before involving the landlord or the police. Then ask, politely and in a non-nosy way, whether there are particular times of day that would be especially good, or especially bad, for you to play music.)
posted by box at 1:53 PM on February 12, 2008

What you need is an iPod, or some equivalent device. Forget about running a cable from your stereo to headphones; that's not as good a solution.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:53 PM on February 12, 2008

Seconding what box said. I've usually been on the other side of this equation, as the infuriated, peace-and-quiet-loving downstairs neighbor, and you would not believe what a large proportion of the annoyingness of loud noise is attributable, not to the noise itself, but to the sense I've often got that the person making it just doesn't give a fuck about the annoyance it's causing.

Showing that you do give a fuck, in any way you can, will actually reduce the degree to which your neighbor is bothered, as if you had turned the volume down.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:58 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of my neighbors used to love blaring opera, and he'd always call me up to say "I'd like to blast Tosca for a bit, would you mind?" I thought it was great.

Presently, I live in a converted Victorian house myself, with someone in the attic apartment above me who plays loud music from time to time - and it's no big deal. It's always off by a reasonable hour (say, 10pm) and doesn't occur every day. It does help that they moved their speakers off the floor, and also have them in the living room, which is right above my living room - so I can escape into my bedroom away from most of the noise if I need to.

I would talk to her again, and just explain that you really enjoy listening that music at that volume, but are doing X,Y, and Z to accommodate her desire for quiet. Compromise is good.
posted by Liosliath at 2:00 PM on February 12, 2008

yeah... as the annoyed downstairs neighbor that just doesn't want to hear *anything*, it's the "I don't give a fuck" attitude that is the most frustrating.

Not putting your speakers on the floor, main support walls/beams, etc would go a long way to removing the booming bass (if that's the issue). I've used Bose speakers mounted from the ceiling and it made a huge difference in how loud the rest of the house was.

But having an open dialog about it will so much farther than anything else, if they know that you care but that you just like loud music, you could probably work out some sort of arrangement.

FWIW, I've had neighbors who blared their stereos all night, but I know that if I asked them to turn it down they'd do it with no problem and not be upset. In the end I didn't really care so much because I knew they weren't being pains about it, so it stressed me out less.

I have a friend who loves it loud, and he covered one room of his apartment with that rubber cone-shaped foam; you can turn it up painfully loud and still nobody else hears a thing.

Take pains to avoid passive-aggressive neighbor warfare and all will be well!
posted by EricGjerde at 2:07 PM on February 12, 2008

- what is the best option WRT really good headphones? (wireless?)

I recommend Sennheiser wireless headphones.
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on February 12, 2008

You take up your floorboards and lay a double layer of insulation underneath them, on top of your neighbour's ceiling. Absolutely fill up, stuff, the gap between your floor and her ceiling. That, plus carpet, plus under-carpet insulation will make it a lot quieter, to the point where she shouldn't worry any more.
posted by londongeezer at 2:17 PM on February 12, 2008

BTW -- be sure to check out this previous AskMe: Recommendations for cordless headphones?
posted by ericb at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2008

The combination of 'headphones' and 'I want it loud' always makes me a little nervous. Permanent hearing damage is all too easy to achieve if you aren't careful.

In my experience things like this are better solved through interpersonal means than technical. At my last place I had an audio system that literally shook the walls, and my neighbor had a drum kit. By being sensible about when we got loud and when to turn it down we never had any problems.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:39 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for the responses so far!

Headphone-wise it would totally be dedicated to the flat ONLY. I am a complete nightmare in that I cannot be trusted to travel & move around with anything without breaking it - if there is a cable I can get caught in something I WILL. (hence my preference for wireless even tho the quality may suffer / price may go up)
So the solution would have to be.... I'm not an audiophile but I do require an audio quality that would be sort of equivalent to a standard home stereo system. Thanks ericb, I will check out the link you provided.

Hmmmm londongeezer, I don't even think there's is that much room between my floor and her ceiling tbh. And I don't know if I'm prepared to pay that much more money esp cuz the whole house is kinda crap so it seems mildly disproportionate.

Downstairs neighbour has actually been quite forthcoming so far ("let me know if I'm too loud and I'll let you know if you are") but I want to keep these sorts of arguments down to a minimum (partly due to her nosiness), which is why I'm asking. I have no intention of blasting heavy metal every night at 3am, but I just want to know to what degree I could if I wanted to.

Sure I could tell her "sorry, sometimes I get home late and want to listen to some depressing song really loud, but in turn I'll let you have your screaming grandchildren round next weekend" but I prefer the "keep yourself to yourself" version. *heh*
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:53 PM on February 12, 2008

if you're not willing/able to insulate the house to your neighbor's satisfaction, i think headphones are the best way to go for both courtesy and sanity's sake. a $400 pair of headphones will be a better bargain than $400 of soundproofing, because you can take it with you to your next flat (and/or your parents' house).
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:08 PM on February 12, 2008

Steven C. Den Beste: "What you need is an iPod, or some equivalent device. Forget about running a cable from your stereo to headphones; that's not as good a solution"

Respectfully, this is terrible advice - for the same price as an iPod, you could get decent headphones and a dedicated headphone amp, and won't be listening to compressed files through shitty earbuds, which are worse for your hearing. (The headphone amp might sound like overkill, but the socket on a normal amp is usually a bit of an afterthought, even more so on CD players that have them - the headphone output on my aged-but-quite-decent CD player is only a couple of steps up from a supermarket tannoy.)

As usual with hifi kit, they can be pretty pricey, though. At the cheap end of the spectrum, I've read good things about the Pro-ject Headbox amp, which is £80-ish, with Creek Audio ones a step up at around £200, and I know that Grado do very nice 'phones starting at £100-150. Any half-decent hifi shop will let you try out headphones/amps with your own music, so I'd suggest doing that to see if you think it's worth the outlay.

Of course, headphones don't give you the physical sensation that loud music from speakers does, so it might be worth discreetly noting times when your neighbour regularly goes out, and cranking the volume then (I work from home, so weirdly spend all may days listening to whomping bass-heavy stuff, or noisy music that needs volume, and my evenings with folk, blues, &c. - keeps the neighbours on side, but it still feels awfully topsy-turvy!)
posted by jack_mo at 6:19 PM on February 12, 2008

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