My Trip to the World’s Quietest Room

April 2nd, 2013 • Sound Science

Worlds-Quietest-Room-Orfield-Labs

My girlfriend Maia, also an audio nerd, gave me one of the best birthday presents ever – a tour of the “World’s Quietest Room”! The Guinness Book of World Records bestowed this title on the anechoic chamber at Orfield Labs in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

So what makes this chamber incredibly quiet?

  • The entire room is suspended to avoid vibrations from the outside (trucks driving by, air conditioners, etc.)
  • Giant wedges all around the room help trap sound waves. Notice we’re standing on chickenwire with more wedges below us.
  • The room is lined with fiberglass, which is incredibly sound-absorbent. According to our tour guide, the fiberglass is much more important than the wedge design in preventing sound reflections.

Anechoic, as we learned, means the room is echo-free. The weirdest thing to hear in that room is a clap. What we think of as a “clapping” sound mostly comes from the sounds bouncing off walls. But in an anechoic chamber, you only hear the quick, weak slap coming straight from your hands.

Office CubiclesIt was also interesting learning about the office sound designing they do at Orfield Labs. You would think a quieter office space is always better, right? Not the case. If you’re in a cubicle and there’s no background noise, you’re going to hear everything going on next door with complete clarity. That’s why many offices pipe in specially-generated noise to mask human speech.

Our tour guide explained one of Orfield’s coolest forms of speech-masking, for times when you really need to keep a phone conversation private. Their system asks you to first record yourself saying a series of nonsense syllables. Then those audio bits get layered and played back, making your real phone conversation totally unintelligible to your cubicle neighbor.

Thanks for visiting! If you’re a podcast listener interested in songwriting and composing, I humbly invite you to give my podcast Composer Quest a listen.

@CharlieMcCarron

 

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§ 30 Responses to My Trip to the World’s Quietest Room"

  • Shilpa says:

    Hi,
    I live in Minneapolis, MN. I want to visit this lab but I cannot find much information on the internet. Can you please let me know the open hours and how much does it take for the tour/visit??

    Thanks!

  • Donny says:

    Did you see how long you could last in the room?!

  • emily says:

    where in the world is this located?

  • Kalin says:

    I would like to go for the record, how do I?

  • Mark says:

    Hi

    How much does it cost to go there?
    And how long can you be in that room?

    Thank you

  • Bria says:

    how do you go about scheduling a tour?

  • evan crocker says:

    What materials would I need to build my own, and how would I be able to go about doing that? Are there any blue prints for sale or something?

    • This guy went all out. What are you using it for? If you’re just going to use it for music or voiceover recording, no need to go that extreme. For my vocal recordings, I just use my closet, which is filled with clothes and blankets to help trap echoes. The main goal is to eliminate any smooth walls, which can make for some ugly reflections in recordings, especially in a small space like a closet. Good luck!

  • Skylar Shoap says:

    Hi, I’m Skylar. I am 14 years old and I believe I can handle being in this room for more than 45 minutes. You see, I don’t really enjoy loud things, and sometimes I need to retreat and be by myself, but that rarely ever happens. I’m also claustrophobic and a lot of people scare me, although I appear to be calm for at least an hour, I eventually freak out on everyone. I’m seriously thinking about one day–when I’m older– coming to this room and being in it. I honestly think I can do it. And I’m wondering if I could have the exact address of this room so someday I can journey on over and visit. Thank you, have a nice day.

  • evan crocker says:

    I just want to build it and beat the record, if it turns out that traveling there will be cheaper then I’ll do that instead

  • Sam Tanng says:

    Hey, I just wanted to ask the same questions asked above for the fourth time. Just kidding! I hope to visit that place one day.

  • Michael Edwards says:

    I heard you could hear your own blood flow in the room, is this true?

  • Brian Page says:

    If I lived nearby, I’d sure as hell try it. The record is supposedly only 45 minutes? That sounds pretty weak. I’d be willing to bet that I could go, at the very least, a few hours.

  • I think a lot of people would want to go for the record but it would be really naive to think it’d be easy. I wonder how much is costs to build one of these. Personally I’d love to what the results or experiences would be of someone meditating in the room.

  • Amp says:

    I know you weren’t in there for very long but, if you went is there any way you can try and stay in the room? He did it for forty-five minutes! I wish I could try…

  • Freakazoid says:

    Hi,

    is it really possible to visit this room and stay there as long as possible? I would love to do it. :D

  • Amber Terry says:

    Hey this might be a silly question but I was wondering how long you were actually allowed to stay in the room, like do they just let you stay until you can’t handle it. Thanks for answering my weird question. :)

  • Rachel says:

    So I wanted to go to this for my birthday also. It’s 20$ food shelf food and you get a tour, at least that’s what you’ve said above. You also said you didn’t get to stay in the room. How long is the tour? And do you get the option to stay in the room?

    • Hi Rachel, I would suggest calling them (612-721-2455). Their tour policies may have changed since I went there. It was about a 30 minute tour, and we didn’t get an option to stay in the room longer than 5 minutes or so. It’s well worth the visit though if you’re around Minneapolis!

  • Mia says:

    Can u hear yourself

  • Van says:

    Would such a room affect a Deaf individual?

  • Srividya says:

    Hello! First of all a big thank you! You have provided a lot of details about tour timings and the cost etc… We live in Mumbai, India and background noise is a very big problem here (maybe so in most big cities)! We always wonder what it would be like to experience complete silence.. and yes, I too thought that I could last more than 45 mins in an anechoic chamber till I read Jad Abumrad’s description. Sounds like a fun trip nonetheless! Thanks

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