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Ask Slashdot: Hacking Urban Noise? 474

Posted by Soulskill
from the simply-remove-eardrums dept.
b1tbkt writes "I live at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in my city (pop. 350k). Although I've replaced all windows, insulated, and caulked every square inch of the place, the fire trucks and cars with obnoxious stereos still regularly intrude on my home office. Most of the noise comes in through the windows. I'm considering mounting an oblong parabolic reflector in the ceiling above the windows with a steady feed of white or brownian noise directed into it (e.g., via a small speaker placed within the reflector) to create a 'wall' of sound that would act as a buffer to the outside world. Active noise cancellation would be nice, too, but that's probably more than I want to take on. I don't see any products on the market for this sort of thing. Does anyone have any experiences to share with similar homebrew noise remediation efforts?"
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Ask Slashdot: Hacking Urban Noise?

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  • Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:35AM (#41499383)

    Quit being a downtown hipster and move to a nice house on a quiet street.
    • by Frankie70 (803801) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:38AM (#41499407)

      The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

      • by jhoegl (638955) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:42AM (#41499455)
        My adaption to fart mufflers and loud base was a sound detector and a machine gun. If the passing car got too loud, it would track and fire.
        I havent built it yet, but one day...
        I wouldnt shed a tear for these obnoxious people. They disturb hundreds of people daily, so fuck em.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:12PM (#41499677)

          My adaption to fart mufflers and loud base was a sound detector and a machine gun. If the passing car got too loud, it would track and fire.

          I havent built it yet, but one day...

          I wouldnt shed a tear for these obnoxious people. They disturb hundreds of people daily, so fuck em.

          And the motorcycles.

          It's all about our narcissistic society. "Hey look at me! I'm special!"

          • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:23PM (#41499767)

            Motorcycles aren't about narcissism, they're about freedom. With the exception of Harley Davidson bikes, which are deliberately tuned badly to make noise, most of the good bikes (think Honda orr BMW) are actually pretty quiet, and, especially among older motorcycle drivers, they are far and above the most courteous drivers on the road, which seems kind of counter to the notion that they're narcissistic.

            • by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @02:39PM (#41500949)

              Motorcycles aren't about narcissism, they're about freedom. With the exception of Harley Davidson bikes, which are deliberately tuned badly to make noise, most of the good bikes (think Honda orr BMW) are actually pretty quiet, and, especially among older motorcycle drivers, they are far and above the most courteous drivers on the road, which seems kind of counter to the notion that they're narcissistic.

              If Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is anything to go on, they're not narcissistic, they're philosophers who go insane when they come to the conclusion that quality is synonymous with the Tao.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @02:52PM (#41501039)

              I disagree. I ride, and standing next to a harley with loud pipes is crazy. They're ridiculous, such that you can't even talk over them at a stop light. "Hey, you wanna turn left up there or keep going?" has to get done half with hand signals. And yes, the "loud pipes save lives" thing is total bullshit. Anywhere over 25mph, everyone merges into you anyway... they just don't hear you.

              Quick experiment, next time you see a cruiser coming up behind you, certainly keep your eye on them, but turn your stereo off and see if you can hear them. You'll see.

              That said, half mile away, you can only hear squids. I live near two highways, and that awful, high pitched whine they make travels right into your living room. It does not help that those kids travel in packs.

              So if your neighbor has a loud cruiser and regularly comes home at 1am every night, that could be annoying. If you live anywhere near a busy street, you learn to hate sport bike riders. The good part is they ride like morons, so over the course of a riding season it's an ever-diminishing population.

              • by Seumas (6865) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @03:37PM (#41501329)

                I disagree. I ride, and standing next to a harley with loud pipes is crazy. They're ridiculous, such that you can't even talk over them at a stop light.

                Such that you can't even talk over them at a stop light? Dude, you can't even talk over them from a mile away in your own home. These mother fuckers are so god damn fucking loud that, even in the comfort of your own quiet home, you have to pause the conversation for 30+ seconds while they finish arriving from a mile or two away and then get a mile or two away to the other side and out of ear-shot. This shit is so ungodly loud that it should not only be a fucking ticketable (and patrolled-for) offense, but a fucking jailable one.

            • by Seumas (6865) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @03:32PM (#41501281)

              Motorcycles aren't about narcissism, they're about freedom.

              Bullshit. I don't need to hear your "freedom" in a residential neighborhood at 3am on a Saturday morning from five miles away.

          • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:24PM (#41499769) Homepage

            And the motorcycles.

            It's all about our narcissistic society. "Hey look at me! I'm special!"

            Yep. South Park did an episode on it [southparkstudios.com], and nailed it as usual.

        • by joocemann (1273720) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @03:46PM (#41501389)

          I've come to accept the loud bass ---- when you were a teen and you enjoyed it in your own car, or your friends' car, you basically asked for it.

          When I hear the loud annoying bass cars go by, I get frustrated, and then I reflect on the youth, including my youth, and I sympathize with their carelessness and then forgive.

          Reflect on your own foolish crap with honesty. You'll understand that you, too, used to piss off a lot of people doing something you thought was fun. And then maybe some tolerance and understanding can help...

        • by Paracelcus (151056) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @05:31PM (#41502017) Journal

          I lived in slums for the first twenty five years of my life and as a very quiet person (apparently the only one) in uptown Chicago, I had many altercations with assholes who thought that I wanted to listen to their bullshit music at top volume at one AM and later!

          I tried working two jobs to keep me away from it and finally moved into what should have been a quiet bldg, it wasn't down the hall was a drunk named Julio who owned a stereo with an automatic changer, and one 45 RPM record that he looped all night with his door open!

          The landlord, yelling, nothing helped! One night when Julio was passed out (with his door open) I walked in, oped his window and threw his stereo down six stories to the ally below!

          The best part was nobody saw me, and the little shit accused me and made the mistake of attacking me in front of witnesses! Oh joy! He had to move out after he was released from the hospital!

          I HATE noise makers!

      • Unfortunately, although it is generally good to the World to have many people attempting to accomplish highly unlikely deeds, because some of them may prevail, to most of the people in question it is an ungrateful road to pain with no rewards.
      • by blue_teeth (83171)
        In ancient times, there was a king who wanted a carpet rolled out for him wherever he went.  The cities, the jungles, the villages.  His wiseman advised --- wear velvet slippers.

    • by RotateLeftByte (797477) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:41AM (#41499435)

      I used to live right on the A10 highway into London. I move about 400 yds away and the traffic noise was a distant hum. I know that for some /. readers 400yds is beyond the pale when it comes to walking but around here parking spaces were like gold dust so people walk to the top of the street and take the bus, another 200yds there was the train station. 5 mins on the bus took you to a Tube Station.
      Many of my neighbours at that time didn't have a car. They didn't need one.

      More fool you for choosing to live where you do.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BenoitRen (998927)

        400 yards? More like 365,76 metres.

        • by bmo (77928)

          >More like 365,76 metres.

          More like 18 chains and 18.2 links

          --
          BMO

          ps: 1 chain = 100 links = 4 rods

          • More like 1.818 Furlongs. We're in London, after all.

            • by bmo (77928)

              Gee, there must be a reason why 18.18 chains is 1.818 furlongs...

              *snert*
              --
              BMO

            • We're in London, after all.

              Yes, capital of a country which, except for miles and pints, went metric around 1970.

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by citizenr (871508)

                We're in London, after all.

                Yes, capital of a country which, except for miles and pints, went metric around 1970.

                Dont know about that, they still count money in pounds.

                • The effort I had to put in at school in the 1950s learning to add, multiple and divide pounds, shillings and pence was totally wasted. We actually had a maths teacher who thought metrication was a Bad Thing because it would reduce the ability to do mental arithmetic. What he didn't see was that you only really need the ability to do mental arithmetic if you have to use a dysfunctional system of weights and measures.
      • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:35PM (#41500431)
        I moved 110 miles away and the loudest noise was the surf on the beach. But most of the neighbors were near death...Too quiet. I now live a mere 120 miles from that apartment on the A41, in a village, and the loudest noise is the sparrows in the hedge that separates our drive from our neighbors. One day I might shoot the noisy little bastards.

        Back OT, however, the answer is triple glazing and lining the outside wall with Noisekiller - which is a polymer foam/lead/foam composite which can silence the sound of a marine Diesel engine in a steel enclosure.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Quit being a downtown hipster and move to a nice house on a quiet street.

      Expense of moving house trumps expense of decent soundproofing.

      (plus soundproofing increases the resale value)

      • Re:Move (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rob the Bold (788862) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:16PM (#41499699)

        (plus soundproofing increases the resale value)

        Unfortunately, I've discovered (to my annoyance) that practical home improvements like insulation, thermal windows, high efficiency HVAC and appliances, etc., etc. just don't impress the average buyer nearly as much as painting all the walls beige and replacing the hardware with something in brushed nickel or, my personal bete noire: "oil-rubbed bronze."

        • You mean the 5 bedroom 6.5 bath house with a 30 gallon electric min code water heater and the 30 gallon min code well tank but a few k in stone counter tops has is priorities wrong?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think the problem is that you've only focused on the building. It's more effective to stop it before it even gets to the building.

  • Heavy drape (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:40AM (#41499417)

    Have curtains made from the kind of heavy drape they use in studios. Check out how people deal with acoustic treatment in home studio builds. For instance the gearslutz.com "studio building/acoustics" subforum has many threads to geek out on.

  • Do not line the walls with ordinary egg-crate foam. Whatever you put on the walls should be fire-rated. Yeah, it's more expensive, but you get what you pay for.

    Egg crate foam has a tendency to burn like gasoline.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Station_nightclub_fire [wikipedia.org]

    --
    BMO

  • Mass (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:43AM (#41499459)

    Although there are dozens of vendors selling what sound like promising solutions, there is only one solution that really works: more mass. Think of it as a physics problem.. sound waves energy transmitted through the air that cause parts of the structure (including the structure above and below) and environment (e.g. the air around you) to vibrate at a particular resonance. The only way to stop the noise is to stop the vibration. A popular option is to use double drywall with something like rockwool insulation between the studs. You can get away with either 2 x 1/2" drywall or 2 x 5/8" drywall with a small furring strip in between without sacrificing too much living space. Look into Green Glue as an additional way to dampen vibrations in that setup. You can also go for a detached wall or "room within a room," but that starts to get expensive to do right.

    If you want to look at a "serious" solution ($$$$), you should try to find a sound mitigation contractor in your area. They can survey the room during different times of day and determine what the best solution is for your situation.

    • by fermion (181285)
      And because the issue appears to be the window, perhaps multipane windows will solve the problem. I have seen this work with friends that live near railroad tracks. This along with acoustic insulation should solve the problem. Of course, is the reason there is so much noise is because the window is open, then nothing is going to solve the problem.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What you need are multiple layers of different acoustical impedance; that is, hard and soft materials layered. Whenever there's an impedance mismatch, radiation gets reflected. An optical analog is a dielectric mirror. However, the really low frequencies are always a problem, and that's where more mass will help.

    • there is only one solution that really works: more mass

      Except that's not a solution that works. I think you mean, more sound dampening material. I could easily build a 12" thick concrete wall that would transmit sound better than a 4" cavity filled with old jeans. One of them has significantly more mass than the other...
    • Which would be why one particularly effective soundproofing product is called "Mass Loaded Vinyl". It's not the cheapest thing in the world, and it's heavy, but you can probably just drape it over the window like a blackout curtain and have it seal around the frame for a reasonable attenuation.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:46AM (#41499501)

    It's the bass that really pisses me off. It's like legalized assault on my ears.

  • More details needed (Score:5, Informative)

    by arth1 (260657) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:46AM (#41499505) Homepage Journal

    How and what, exactly, have you insulated, and where is your domicile in relation to the street?

    Do you have sound dampening mats on the ceiling? If not, bear in mind that most houses and apartments are above street level, and most of the sound will be reflected off the ceiling. A layer of sound dampening material there should have the largest effect.

    If you live low to the ground, sound insulating the walls that can see the street, rather than just outside walls would have a similar effect.

    A few strategically placed plants or sound dividers - think cubicle walls but far less intrusive - can also help.

    If you must go with a noise generator (which I don't recommend), try pink noise instead of white. The sounds from the street you try to mask out are going to be mostly low frequency, and white noise will mainly add more sound energy in the higher end of the spectrum.

    • Indeed good windows and plants can help, but since it is the low frequencies and they are easier to reflect, a reflecting hard angled flange all around a full window width flower box will help bounce sound waves away before reaching the window. This works best assuming you are living on at least the 2nd floor or better, the 3rd floor.

      If a flower box is not allowed, an angled sheet of clear polycarbonate can be safely anchored and used to deflect low frequency sound waves effectively. You can mock it up wi

    • by davegravy (1019182) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @03:02PM (#41501109)

      How and what, exactly, have you insulated, and where is your domicile in relation to the street?

      Do you have sound dampening mats on the ceiling? If not, bear in mind that most houses and apartments are above street level, and most of the sound will be reflected off the ceiling. A layer of sound dampening material there should have the largest effect.

      If you live low to the ground, sound insulating the walls that can see the street, rather than just outside walls would have a similar effect.

      There are two components to the noise intrusion - the direct field and the reverberant field. Adding absorptive finishes to the room will help reduce the reverberant field, which in a best case scenario will buy you 3dB (i.e a barely noticeable improvement). Short improving the isolation (i.e windows and exterior partition construction) there isn't anything you can do about the direct field.

      A few strategically placed plants or sound dividers - think cubicle walls but far less intrusive - can also help.

      Massive barriers can help in outdoor noise propagation scenarios. In this type of situation, the outdoor noise is impacting the exterior facade, causing it to vibrate, and is re-radiating sound in the interior of the OP's space. This means that the source of sound is a large area, not a point source. The sound is effectively coming from "everywhere", and so you don't get the same kind of path length difference attenuation from barriers like you do when you have a point source that is far from the receiver. This is exascerbated by the fact that the intrusion is low frequency which diffracts around corners far more than higher frequency sound.

      Plants are not massive enough to be of any significant help. To put things into perspective, a dense forest that's 100m in depth will only attenuate sound 2-3dB, and that's mostly a high frequency reduction.

      If you must go with a noise generator (which I don't recommend), try pink noise instead of white. The sounds from the street you try to mask out are going to be mostly low frequency, and white noise will mainly add more sound energy in the higher end of the spectrum.

      White noise will add equal sound energy across the spectrum. Pink noise will add more energy in the lower frequencies. We don't typically recommend noise masking for low frequency intrusions into offices and other facilities we consult on because the masking is generally perceived to be more annoying than the original problem. It's best used when there is a speech privacy problem in large open offices because there isn't ENOUGH background noise.

      Upgrading your window would typically be recommended, but will only do a little for low frequency. Note that in glazed assemblies, the framing is the weak point. STC 35 is where most frames will top out (even though the glazing will advertise higher STCs into the 50s). If you want a really solid window construction you need an isolated frame assembly which is two frames in series that do not touch each other and which are isolated from the surrounding structure using 3mm thick neoprene gaskets. Each frame supports a separate pane of glass. The inside perimeter should be lined with glass-fibre to prevent standing waves in the cavity.
      Overall thickness of the glazing might be 2-3"

  • by whennegan (2741885) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:48AM (#41499523)
    • A guy I knew in college had this problem in his dorm. His roommate was a music major, and he had some PA equipment that he used for shows. Just a half stack probably, it was a dorm after all, but it was more than enough to blast this [youtube.com] louder than any dorm room stereo could hope to keep up with.
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:48AM (#41499525)

    Although I've replaced all windows, insulated, and caulked every square inch of the place,

    I've been in houses on a busy streets where the street noise stops at the walls and windows. So, possibly, you did not go far enough. For example, there are windows and there are sound-reducing windows. [soundproofwindows.com]

    Maybe you need to re-evaluate what you did to keep the noise out before you embark upon a project to reduce or mask the noise inside the room.

  • Build another wall (Score:5, Informative)

    by microcars (708223) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:52AM (#41499559) Homepage
    inside with a window that is separated from the "real" outside wall by a few inches.
    You will be surprised at how effective this is while leaving the original "look and feel" of the room.
    • by bmo (77928)

      This is the actual solution right here.

      Most construction handbooks will recommend a double wall between the sections of a duplex, for example.

      --
      BMO

  • move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:53AM (#41499561)
    "I live at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in my city "

    Why? If you value peace and quiet and fresh air, move to the countryside and you won't have to insulate yourself from your surroundings. A city of 350,000 can't be that big that you would have a long commute when you needed to get into the city.

  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:57AM (#41499587)

    One of the last things I've ever bought from Sony were their ultra-expensive MDR-NC500D digital noise canceling headphones. I can't speak for other noice canceling headphones, but can definitely not recommend the ones by Sony. Don't get fooled by the advertisements, the actual noise canceling is pretty weak, does not have any effect on car noise, and is only noticable when you listen to music. (You can't use them just for canceling outside noise.) Moreover, they need power all the time in order to work at all. In my opinion, they are definitely not worth the money.

    • Noise cancelling headphones suck. I have a pair of the Shure SE530s in-ear headphones and find that they're an almost impervious wall against outside sounds. I loooove them. They don't do noise cancellation at all, they're simple a good pair of earplugs with really, really good speakers in them. I've never been remotely impressed with over the ear solutions as far as noise isolation goes.

  • then you may want to experiment with constrained layer damping [sciencebuddies.org]

    You'll need to find some clear viscoelastic adhesive in tape or sheet form - something similar to the stuff used to stick credit cards to the paper info sheets they're affixed to when they're mailed out. Then have a sheet of glass cut to the size of a window pane. Cover the window pane with the viscoelastic layer, (complete coverage with no gaps is required), and then apply the sheet of glass.(Clear sheet plastic may also work, but AFAIK optimum

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:00PM (#41499605) Homepage

    You won't be able to cancel out road noise for an entire room. Noise cancelling basically only works with headphones and in certain controlled industrial environments. For a room with road noise coming from different directions from moving sources with a moving listener it just won't work.

    I'm afraid you are basically screwed. The only option is to move.

  • Short of moving, the only way you're gonna get the sound level down is more insulation, even though you've already done some. Can't hurt to deaden the surfaces inside to damp the noise that does get in: carpet, soft wall coverings or hangings. Heavy (or heavier) drapes on the windows.

    Of course, all of this will change the aesthetics of your place in other ways, too. And not necessarily to your liking.

  • by Chalnoth (1334923) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:08PM (#41499647)
    It will do literally nothing. Sound waves simply add. You can't get rid of sound waves by adding a bunch of random sound waves. The sound waves you don't want will pass right through. Now, if you simply have a white noise generator in your house, so that the ambient volume is higher, that may make it so that your ears have a harder time picking out specific sounds, which will, in turn, make it easier to ignore them.

    Barring that, noise cancelling headphones or double-pane windows, as others have mentioned, are going to be your best bets. And double-pane windows are good for heating/cooling anyway.

    As an aside, I'm also rather skeptical that noise cancellation for the entire apartment could ever be practical. The problem is the waveform bouncing off the various walls and other features of the apartment is going to be too complex to accurately measure or cancel. And then what about the sounds you do want to hear?
  • Sounds like you are doing it wrong. Contact a local contractor for an estimate or to simply chat about your options since you are a DIY kinda guy. Just realize the solution will not be cheap (time and/or money wise).
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:13PM (#41499681) Homepage
    When I was young I used to drive a car that made an annoying sound. I would simply crank up the radio, and the problem went away!
  • by RNLockwood (224353) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:13PM (#41499685) Homepage

    Crank up the sound level on your stereo to really high levels and use it constantly to mask street noises. Magically, after a while, you won't need it any more.

    • by cdp0 (1979036)

      Crank up the sound level on your stereo to really high levels and use it constantly to mask street noises. Magically, after a while, you won't need it any more.

      There is nothing magical about (partial) deafness.

  • It won't be cheap, but you can do better. Double paned glass helps. Did you insulate the floor? Did you double wall insulate the rooms? There's about a million things that can be done, but it has to be done right or you won't get anywhere. Look into a book called Home Recording Studio: Build it Like The Pros [amazon.com]. It's a little over the top, and not quite 100% applicable to this purpose, but if you follow that, and you still have issues, than you have to move, but I highly doubt that you'll still have issu
  • Er ... why, if the noise bothers you??

    When I choose somewhere to live, right at the top of my list is that it must be somewhere where nobody will have any reason to drive past unless they live in the same street.

  • I used to live in a townhouse about 50ft from a 6-lane highway, with no protective soundwall. The noise from the highway was a constant buzz coming into the house, with occasional spikes (big rig trucks and straight-pipe Harleys).

    Installing dual-pane windows solved the general problem of the constant higher noise level. Only the truck/Harley noise came through. Note that after a rain, car tires make more noise, and THAT still came through the windows a bit.

    In your case, you need more help. Maximize your dea

  • The 2nd 'false' wall is the best idea I've read here. Over-insulate it, before sheetrocking staple a layer of thick plastic. Put 2 layers of sheetrock for extra soundproofing. The window is a weak point, it needs to be triple layer glass. And, if you build the stud wall a few inches away from the wall, this would allow for extra insulating material. And since it will be sealed between walls, you could use that egg carton foam or any sound deadening material, such as thick house siding foam boards. The
  • by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertourist@xmsnet . n l> on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:31PM (#41499827)

    Basically, all soundproofing is about weight. More weight=less noise gets through. To reduce the noise coming in through the windows you need to increase the thickness of the panes or their number. Double or triple glazing, or even two double-glazed panes in series with an air gap of ~15 cm in between. You'll also need to look at the window frames. Old steel or aluminium frames are excellent sound conductors.

    You can go pretty far with this; my father did some consulting on a housing project near an air force base. They managed to get sufficient soundproofing that living next to F-16s taking off wasn't aggravating any more, but they spent as much on the soundproofing as the houses had cost to build.

  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:35PM (#41499867)
    Did you buy the place?
    Did you know it was noisy?
    Are we a little sensitive?
    Is this your homework assignment?
    Why do you find yourself living at that place?
    Have you considered other places?
    With a population of 350K,(try 5M people for noise), what city is it?

    Do you know of the personal impact of living in an area under constant noise generation?
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @12:47PM (#41499995)
    Soundproof drywall - 1 sheet is equal to between 8 and 16 sheets of regular drywall. Put it up, 2 sheets thick and no noise will come through your walls at all. Then build yourself a picture frame larger than your window. Back it with the soundproof drywall, put some random picture you like in it, and hang it over the window. If you want to move it to see out the window on occasion, hang it from tracks so it can slide back and forth, or put it on hinges.

    Sirens and the like, are specifically designed to pierce through background noise. White noise works when blocking out conversations and other ambient noise... but sirens are a whole other animal.
  • by ctrl-alt-canc (977108) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:17PM (#41500275)
    First you must measure how many decibel of attenuation you need. For this you need a sound level meter [bksv.com]: If you don't have one at hand, a microphone + PC sound card + Audacity [sourceforge.net] can be used as well (many apps for Android/Ipad are also available for this). Measure two sound spectra at your location: the first one with traffic noise present, the second one when you feel that background noise level is comfortable for you. The difference between the two spectra will tell you how much attenuation you need, and which frequencies need to be attenuated more.

    Next compare the attenuation offered by each possible solutions (noise attenuationg windows, wall insulation, etc.) against the attenuation you need to achieve. If it isn't enough, move away, otherwise try installing the best solution you can afford.

    Noise should be stopped before it enters the walls of your home: Once it is there, it can follow unsuspected paths to reach your ears (pipes, wall joints, etc.). The best way to stop it is to increase the acoustic impedance [unsw.edu.au] of external walls and windows.

    Attenuation could be increased using viscoelastic materials like rubber: however they are best for attenuating high frequencies.
  • by Loosifur (954968) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @01:55PM (#41500607)

    I mean, obviously, moving is your best option. Cities are loud places. Although a city with 350k is pretty small, if you're living in the center of the place, you're going to have to deal with noise. If you haven't gotten used to it yet (which is kind of surprising, really), your long-term solution is to save up some money until you can afford to move to the 'burbs, or out to the country. Or to a smaller town.

    That said, I lived in a bigger city (600k or so) in a bad neighborhood (so there were cars and sirens all night) for a little while. Heavy drapes help, with the added benefit that people can't see in your windows. Sirens are made to be heard, so you might have a hard time really insulating yourself from them, but as for just general road noise and city sounds, I'd move your office into an internal room, i.e. one that doesn't have any windows, and that preferably has rooms with doors between it and the outside. As others have said, you could certainly install double- or triple-pane windows, but at that point you're better off spending the money on a down payment on a house or condo somewhere other than the busiest part of the city. Plants, bookshelves, basically stuff to get in the way and create more surfaces between the windows and you seem to be somewhat effective in reducing sound. Also, since you won't be able to get rid of the sound, you might try doing stuff like leaving the tv or radio on in the background, just as a low-cost "white-noise" alternative.

    But, really, the core issue here is not how thick your windows need to be to live in the middle of an urban area and not hear anything. It's why you would locate yourself somewhere that you're not going to be able to work, or, the way it sounds, live comfortably. I don't know what you do for a living, but, if cost is an issue, a long-term solution might be to relocate to a cheaper area nearby, where you're still close enough to meet with clients in the city if need be, but you're not in a noisy area. Based on where you're posting and what you're posting, I'm assuming you're not a glass blower or a mime or anything, so I'd also point out that the wonder of telecommuting is that you can do it from quite far away...

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday September 29, 2012 @02:25PM (#41500843) Homepage Journal
    Broadcast studios always have double windows, but the panes are at an angle to each other. Placing them parallel to each other makes them more likely to resonate with each other.
  • by Onymous Coward (97719) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @02:25PM (#41500845) Homepage

    I'm considering mounting an oblong parabolic reflector in the ceiling above the windows with a steady feed of white or brownian noise directed into it (e.g., via a small speaker placed within the reflector) to create a 'wall' of sound that would act as a buffer to the outside world.

    Wait... would that actually do anything?

    Are you saying that a curtain of sound (perhaps not even directed so that you can hear it) inhibits the passage of other sounds through it? I don't know anything about acoustics, but this seems untrue.

  • by cardpuncher (713057) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:52AM (#41504889)

    Although they're less effective against things like engine noise, I found shutters helpful for reducing the nighttime intrusion of city centre noise. If you've got some reasonably dense timber board, try covering your window openings with it (inside or outside depending on which is more suitable) and see what difference it makes (you get an additional air gap before the glazing plus the sound absorbency of the board). I don't suggest you board up your windows for good (though, this being Slashdot, I don't discount it as an option), but if it makes a substantial difference you can install something more permanently that hinges and folds to give you access to daylight when required.

    Also, if you live on the top floor, noise may be coming in through the roof so insulation above the ceiling may help.

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