Medical Mysteries of Music

This headphone-tuning room is so quiet no one can stand to be inside for more than 45 minutes.

Ever tried a sensory deprivation tank? You float there in the dark with just your thoughts, something that can be a little terrifying. Some people even report having hallucinations as quiet allows the mind to tune into things that are normally drowned out by everyday life.

If that sounds frightening, stay away from Microsoft’s new
anechoic chamber, a US$1.5 million structure built to study all things audio at their campus in Redmond, Washington.

It’s a 441 sq ft room built within six layers of concrete and on top of 68 vibration-reducing springs that float on a concrete slab that’s isolated from the rest of the building. The walls are covered with wedges of fiberglass foam that absorb sound and break up any soundwaves so there aren’t any echoes. If a Guns N’ Roses were playing at full volume outside the doors, you wouldn’t hear them.

Why go through all the trouble? Microsoft says that they’re serious about audio and sonics. It’s the only way, for example, to determine exactly what a mouse click sounds like. Microsoft also uses the room for tuning headphones and speakers.

The room is now considered to be the quietest spot on earth with a measure SPL of MINUS 20.3 decibels.

Anyone who steps inside immediately hears things like blood rushing through their veins–a whooshing sort of sound–ever stomach and bowel gurgle, and the tiniest bit of ringing in the ears. Every sound is amplified exponentially.

It is so quiet that no one has been able to sit inside for more than 45 minutes. Anyone want to try to break that record?

More here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38550 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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