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Active Noise-Canceling Headsets In Server Rooms?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the earplugs-on-steroids dept.


An anonymous reader asks: "Recently I co-located our computer room to a temporary hosting facility. It's a big shop, with everything you could want, along with quite a high dB of background noise. I've no desire to wear those silly little yellow earplugs for several hours when I'm on site there, and standard headsets are such non-IT apparel. Given that technology is the cure to many of todays evils I was wondering if any people had experimented with active noise canceling headphones and has something to say about them. Does anyone use any active noise canceling headsets in a computer room or data facility, and if so how good are they?"

cancel ×


I use... (5, Informative)

casualsax3 (875131) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795366)

... this set at my datacenter: g-Headphones/dp/B0007N55OQ/sr=8-1/qid=1163179023/r ef=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-1893536-4549558?ie=UTF8&s=elect ronics []

The customer reviews pretty much sum them up - I've even got one in there. They do a FANTASTIC job at filtering out our 500 servers, with or without playing music.

Re:I use... (3, Funny)

szembek (948327) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795584)

Plugging a sony product on slashdot? You're asking for trouble!

Re:I use... (1)

casualsax3 (875131) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795672)

Haha, that's the first thing I thought when I posted that link :)

Re:I use... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16796506)

From the Amazon page:

Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 10.0 x 8.0 inches ; 4.0 pounds
Shipping Weight: 2.00 pounds

Those are pretty fantastic!

Re:I use... (1)

Rekolitus (899752) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796964)

You know when you're a geek when you look at that and think "Well duh, they ship them compressed."

Re:I use... (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796738)

I wear glasses and the sony's suck. They pinch my ear into the arm of the glasses. I use the Bose (first gen) and they work quite nicely in the lab. We have a lot of other noise producers (aside from tons of fans) like these: [] that basically sound like an air jet non-stop. They sometimes whistle too (that sucks).

Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (-1)

yellowbkpk (890493) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795382)

Active noise canceling works by playing the exact "opposite" of the sound that is heard directly outside of the earmuff so that the sound cancels out. Even if it cancels out the background noise at 90dB or whatever, it still has to shove 90dB-loud sound into your ear to do it.

If you're trying to get around hearing loss, it won't help. Ear plugs work by reducing the amplitude of the sound that gets to your inner ear, preventing your inner ear from the severe vibrations that cause hearing loss.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (2, Informative)

D4rk Fx (862399) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795450)

Um, No it doesn't. By playing the exact opposite wave, it Destroys the original wave, meaning there is now less intensity.
You obviously have never heard of destructive and constructive interference.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

Ponder (3878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795490)

In principle true, except no system is perfect and you will still get high amplitude spikes and beat frequencies.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

D4rk Fx (862399) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795580)

But these systems are specifically designed to do the best job they can do to reduce amplitude as much as possible everywhere in the normal sound spectrum. If you've ever used an expensive pair of noise cancelling headphones, the first time it is incredibly surprising how much sound is destroyed. There is a significant amount of engineering that goes into these.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

gwait (179005) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795946)

Except that you would HEAR this (and you don't hear any spikes). I tried a friend's Bose canceling headphones and they worked amazingly well. No loud spikes or beat frequencies.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16795482)


Sorta the same way -90 doesn't cancel out +90.

Oh, wait...

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

Djupblue (780563) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795488)

Same goes for sound, if you send out a sound with the same volume and "shape" as the background noise but phase-inverted, you get silence.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

Proud like a god (656928) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795496)

If the sound cancels out, then that's because the amplitude is reduced as each peak from the source fills the trough of the cancellation, and vice versa. Low net amplitude is low net dBs, low energy, low power, not damaging.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

timster (32400) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795516)

I'm by no means an expert, but if I'm not hearing any sound, doesn't that mean that my inner ear isn't vibrating? Unless there is some kind of inaudible high or low-frequency sound in the source noise, it seems like cancelling the pressure changes would be effective. I'd worry that the system might fail for some reason though.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (2, Informative)

TA (14109) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795934)

You are absolutely correct. If you don't hear it, the sound isn't activating your inner ear. End of story. The original parent simply got the physics wrong. Even the reply that talked about "spikes" still coming through is wrong, if spikes were coming through you would hear them. Simple as that. And, having used noise cancelling headphones for years now, I can tell you that this simply doesn't happen. When being in noisy environments for a number of hours (say, a 15+ hour flight (well, flights), or in a particularly noisy computer room for a couple of days, I would (in the past) always end up with buzzing ears for days and sometimes a week afterwards (I have a small hearing damage in one of my ears because of an accident when I was young). This problem has gone away after I started using the noise cancelling headphones. (My set is a Sennheiser set, I would love to test Bose but they're hard to get buy (little or no retail), and expensive - so I don't know how good they are. Probably at least as good as Sennheiser, but the latter is the only type I've tried.)

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796760)

I didn't want to buy the Bose without listening to them, but on one of my trips I found that Bose runs a kiosk in the Denver airport. I was able to try them out with my own iPod, so for me it was a good test - that's what I'm driving them with on trips, and I got to check them with the music I listen to rather than somebody else's selection. My wife prefers the Sennheisers, I prefer the Bose. The Sennheisers are lighter and sit on top of your ear, the Bose cover your ear and for me give slightly better noise reduction (although I believe that their new generation is more like the Sennheiser to reduce the weight). I suspect that the different preference is partly due to the different geometry of our ears, so your mileage may vary.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (2, Insightful)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795532)

A positive 90dB wave, plus a "negitive" opposite of it, will add to zero (If the headphones are perfect, but they are not, so add or subtract a few percent).

Review: (1) + (-1) = 0

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (3, Informative)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795586)

If you're trying to cancel a 90dB wave, you generate the same 90dB wave, inverted. This means that every particle that receives a sound vibration in one direction receives an equal sound vibration in the opposite direction, resulting in a net movement of zero.

No vibration of the air means no vibration of the eardrum, which means no sound doing its mechanical damage to the moving pieces in your ear, which means no signal doing its neural damage inside your cochlea. Notably, earplugs do exactly the same thing to a lesser degree: they reduce the total transmission of vibration (that's what reducing the amplitude is, after all) into your ear canal.

In both cases, you haven't changed the total amount of energy reaching your ear, it's just that some portion of the kinetic energy (sound) that can damage your ear is now thermal energy that won't.

(Of course, noise-cancelling headphones have widely varying effectiveness in various regions of the audible sound spectrum, and won't do anything to prevent transmission of vibration from other parts of your body into your inner ear - but then, neither will softies)

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795938)

In both cases, you haven't changed the total amount of energy reaching your ear, it's just that some portion of the kinetic energy (sound) that can damage your ear is now thermal energy that won't.

No, that's not what happens. The sound is simply reflected. The speaker membrane acts as a rock-solid wall to the incoming sound waves because the current through the voice coil is just right to prevent the membrane from moving. Or in a different way: behind the speaker, the incoming wave and emitted wave cancel each other out. But on the opposite side of the speaker, away from you ear, a wave is emitted.

I'd also like to repeat what I mentioned a few weeks ago [] :

The problem is that a headphone typically has a very complicated frequency response resulting from the resonances in de closed volume between the eardrum and the headphone loudspeaker, and the attempts of the headphone designer to compensate for these resonances. (see for example here [] ). The net effect is that the impulse response of the headphone/ear system with respect to electrical signals going into the speaker is about 1.5 ms. That means that even if you have full knowledge of the interaction of the headphone with a particular ear, you need to know what sound wave to cancel 1.5 milliseconds in advance. In this time, the sound can travel about 50 cm, which is obviously more than the 1-2 cm between the headphone speaker and the microphone.

So to make an effective noise-cancellating headphone, you have to compromise on sound quality in order to give it a quicker impulse response. Then you will have to accept that you will never be able to effectively cancel out high frequencies (above 1 kHz or so). Finally, you will still need to build some kind of lowpass filter such that you won't substract the higher frequencies with the wrong phase and thus increase the noise rather than decrease it. With all these constraints, you can be happy if you achieve 10 dB reduction.

Maybe I was a bit too pessimistic about 10 dB reduction. For lower frequencies, like from engines, it can work quite well. But I wouldn't expect miracles when blocking the whitish noise from computer fans.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796140)

No, that's not what happens. The sound is simply reflected. The speaker membrane acts as a rock-solid wall to the incoming sound waves because the current through the voice coil is just right to prevent the membrane from moving. Or in a different way: behind the speaker, the incoming wave and emitted wave cancel each other out. But on the opposite side of the speaker, away from you ear, a wave is emitted.

Huh. That makes perfect sense. I'd always just assumed you ended up with heat, because whenever it looks like energy has been lost, increased heat is a safe bet.

But you're saying that the wave emitted on the "outside" of the speaker, you get a reflected wave that now has all the energy of the incoming wave and the cancellation wave, right? Cool. Thanks for explaining that.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797830)

But you're saying that the wave emitted on the "outside" of the speaker, you get a reflected wave that now has all the energy of the incoming wave and the cancellation wave, right?

No, the outgoing wave carries the same energy as the incoming wave was carrying. As the speaker membrane doesn't move, it doesn't do any mechanical work (force times distance). Of course, there will be some losses because of the resistance of the wires, but as far as the interaction with the sound waves is concerned, there is no energy transfer.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16795640)

Somebody obviously never took physics. Go online and read about constructive and destructive interference and you'll see why you're wrong.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

gwait (179005) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795914)

Rubbish - if you can't hear it, then the canceling has worked - it CANCELED the energy of the sound.
If someone goes to give you a hard shove, and your friend pushes back with the exact same energy at the exact same time (with a slight delay due to reaction time), you don't get shoved.
By your logic the energy of your friend's shove is somehow going to push on you.

Take some basic physics classes.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

Matthew Bafford (43849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797198)

If someone goes to give you a hard shove, and your friend pushes back with the exact same energy at the exact same time (with a slight delay due to reaction time), you don't get shoved. By your logic the energy of your friend's shove is somehow going to push on you.

Except, in your example, the friend's shove WILL push on you. So will that of the asshole who pushed you in the first place. You still have the possibility of bruises from both of them (if they pushed hard enough). The two pushes will just cancel out so that you're not going to go anywhere (assuming they both push equally).

It seems to me that giving an analogy where physical pain is a very possible outcome doesn't really make sense when trying to explain why noise canceling won't hurt you.

Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (1)

gwait (179005) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797906)

Well, I suppose if you don't understand how a (working) set of noise canceling headphones DOES stop any acoustic energy from reaching your ears (otherwise you'd hear something), I can understand why you also don't follow the analogy.
Who said the friend wouldn't brace himself and lean into the push, thereby avoiding pushing on you?
I'll try again:
If the friend doesn't push back, you feel the energy of the unwanted push. If the friend does push the opponent (while bracing himself so you don't get touched) then you feel nothing.


Re:Won't Help w/ Hearing Loss (2, Informative)

jshackney (99735) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795962)

I own several ANC/ENC headsets for use in aircraft. They are abso-friggin-lutely fantastic! The first time I tried one on I was completely sold on it. I was sitting next to a humming Coke machine, flipped the ANC switch, and... silence! My ears have thanked me ever since.

My best headset has a Noise Reduction Rating (passive) of 23 dB, and an active NRR of 20 dB, totalling about 43 dB of noise reduction. To say that you are still being pounded with 90dB of energy sounds implausable given that waves 180 degress out of phase [] with each other would completely destroy each other--drop two pebbles in the water and watch where the waves interfere with each other, the water will be still. Also, here's a bit of a sales pitch [] about ANR/ENC technology.

wear the foam earplugs (2, Informative)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795410)

they work, are cheap, disposable, sanitary, and only take a few days to get used to wearing for hours every day. I worked in a high noise environment for years, and used the "Ears" brand - they're well worth the initial minor discomfort to have continued good hearing.

Re:wear the foam earplugs (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795746)

What's the dB cancellation on those? I've been using Hearos (33 dB attenuation), but if Ears brand is better, I'll gladly switch.

Re:wear the foam earplugs (2, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795860)

32 [] is advertised. The main thing with any safety equipment is to either have the discipline to use it regardless of discomfort, or to find something comfortable enough to make it an acceptably minor hassle to use, all the time. I found the foam ones by far the most comfortable.

Re:wear the foam earplugs (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796212)

Believe me, for my uses, acquiring the discipline to wear them isn't a problem. Firing my Mosin-Nagant M44 is pretty damn loud even when you're wearing softies and over-ear protection. I don't even want to think about what it would sound like without ears on.

(When you can feel the overpressure of the muzzle blast from five feet away, you know it's no good for your ears)

Re:wear the foam earplugs (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795964)

Confession: My ears are very sensitive. (People look at me funny when I claim to be hearing some sound until I take them down the street to show where it's coming from.) I get easily distracted by noises. Earplugs don't work for me. Not because they don't block out sound -- they do block out sound. But then they essentially amplify the sound of my own breathing, which is worse, and more penetrating, because it's coming from within my body.

My brother got me noise-canceling headphones for Christmas one time. They didn't seem to have much of an effect on background noise. It definitely did something different to the sound that simple headphones don't do, but they still weren't very effective. I'll have to save this thread for later to see what the best options are. And if anyone has advice for me, that would be great too ;-)

Re:wear the foam earplugs (2, Funny)

snilloc (470200) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797272)

In college, I once made the mistake of retreating to the bowels of the library were there were about 4 other people on the whole floor. Almost no noise over the vent system. I was still distracted by the shuffling of papers, so I stuck my earplugs in. After a while I started to wonder what the heck I was still hearing.... my eyelids blinking. Jesus that was annoying.

$50 vs. $300 vs. Helicopter headsets (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 7 years ago | (#16799204)

I own a couple of pairs of $50-70 noise-cancelling headsets from about 5 years ago, and they're lightweight and fairly helpful on airplanes. Recently I was at a trade show and won the raffle for a set of ~$300 Bose headsets from a vendor (who had cluefully noticed that 90% of the other vendors who raffled off something better than a t-shirt were doing iPods :-) Didn't buy their product, but the headsets worked very well - I put them on and the room became a lot quieter, just from the foam padding, then I turned on the electronics and it became a lot quieter than that. On the other hand, they're a good bit heavier. Definitely a lot more effective than the low-end sets, and you can still hear people talk.

I've also worn helicopter-pilot headsets - I don't know how they are for audiophile quality, but they did a good job for quieting the helicopeter noise, hearing the pilot talk through the headset, and hearing the dramatic-helicopter-tour-of-the-volcano background muzak. I couldn't head people talking to me who weren't using the microphone system.

Then there's always earplugs PLUS headsets, though that won't help if you're bothered by the sound of your breathing inside.

Re:wear the foam earplugs (3, Insightful)

Schlaegel (28073) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796382)

Yea, the original poster needs to get over it. Standard ear plugs should work great for canceling the noise of the thousands of small fans he or she is hearing. Using noise cancellation headphones will only introduce something new to carry around and something new that can break. Often the best solution is the simplest one.

The original poster said, "I've no desire to wear those silly little yellow earplugs." Well luckily for him or her, the "silly little earplugs" come in more colors than just yellow, they also come in reusable and washable rubber, rather than just disposable foam.

Re:wear the foam earplugs (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796862)

The landfill, and the Texas-sized mat of floating plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean would like to have a word with you over your use of the term 'disposable'.

at best, good (4, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795456)

I've owned and sampled various active noise cancellation headphones. At best, I've found them to be good. At worst I've found them totally ineffective.

To attenuate high dB environments, I'd consider the "good" of headphones I've tried to be less than satisfactory, i.e., my subjective evaluation has been about a 10 dB or so drop in levels, good, but if you're looking to get rid of noise these won't do that. If the room is loud enough, I think they'd only lessen the noise to barely acceptable levels.

You mentioned you don't want to wear the silly yellow ear plugs... there are some available in other silly colors. ;-) On the other hand, you aren't likely to be anymore comfortable with headphones on the whole time, and you're going to look no less silly. I've found earplugs to be quite effective, and they're something you can get used to.

If you're looking to "use" headphones, i.e., listen to music, you might consider various ear-canal headphones. I own a pair of those, and aside from the amazing sound quality of the music, I get about a 30dB attenuation of ambient noise. Two birds with one stone. YMMV.

Good luck!

Re:at best, good (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796174)

I got to use the Bose set on a long flight once. They were great, cancelled out the stewardesses just fine. I could still hear some of the engine noise, but it went from the standard can't ignore level that interfered with listening to music at moderate levels to almost non-existent. I've been thinking about getting a set for work, but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

The ear-canal phones are another nice solution, except the pressure on the inside of the ear annoys me after a while.

Re:at best, good (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797286)

you have annoying stewardesses at work?

I'll second the canalphone rec.. (4, Insightful)

daniel422 (905483) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796634)

I've got to second the in-ear canalphone recommendation. For one, they use less power (and don't require their own batteries) as most noise-cancelling phones do (better for portable player life). They have excellent broad-spectrum attenuation -- typically far superior to noise-cancelling. And if you invest in a decent pair (even the $80 Shure e2c's) they'll sound a heck of a lot better than most any noise-cancelling set. If you really step up to the plate, Shure's E5 series or Etymotic Research has some models that will simply blow you away -- Shure's even has a "push to hear" feature that allows you to hear outside noises clearly without removing the phones. And the sound quality on these higher-end models is right up there with the best -- period. The same can't be said for ANY noise-cancelling phones.
Of course you have to get used to having something stuck in your ear....

Re:I'll second the canalphone rec.. (1)

gwyrdd benyw (233417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798054)

Shure headphones are excellent and better than any "active" noise-cancelling 'phones I've tried. Get the E3c model [] -- the E2 is a little too low-grade for normal use, and the E5 is more than you need (unless you are an audio professional). The foamy sleeves take a few hours to get used to (it feels funny at first to drink or eat with them in, as they really do fill the ear canal), but it's so wonderful to make the rest of the world disappear. Plus the audio quality, right down to the lowest bass, is quite good.

It's the best $200 (US) that I've ever spent on work equipment.

Re:at best, good (1)

Sangbin (743373) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796750)

I couldn't agree more.
Two weeks ago, I went out to a shopping mall, and dropped by at SonyStyle, Bose, Discovery, Brookstone, and SharperImages to try all the noise cancelling headsets they had.
For my ears, in terms of qualtify, Bose QC was the winner(yes, I know it costs x2 for 10% improvement). I eagerly went home with QC2, hoping to block out my roommate's computers' fan noise.
The very next day, I went back to Bose shop to exchange it for QC3, hoping that this one is not toally worthless.
From my experience, QC3 somewhat does the job, but it is nothing near the term "cancellation". You will still hear all the fans, just slightly quieter. I would've probably kept it if it were $100, but it's going back to store since it was $350!

So, my recommendation is that you stick to the earplugs. If they get too annoying, go to a gun store and get a real noise muffling cups.

Re:at best, good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16796996)

I've heard that camera crews at rock concerts use the foam ear plugs AND a headset over that. The plugs attenuate everything, so you can then crank up the headset and get better clarity relative to the ambient sound levels.


SAGE has info on this (4, Interesting)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795464)

Check out the SAGE sysadmin toolbox [] page, and scooch down to "What's the scoop on hearing protectors and noise-cancelling headsets?". (The whole damn page is useful, too...)

Phillip (1)

dlhm (739554) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795474)

I have a set of Phillip Noise Cancelling Headphones, they are only like $25.. it works awsomely..

Several options (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795534)

First, to reduce the sound: 69679 []

These do an excellent job of just reducing the sound across the spectrum, so your 90db server room turns into 70db. In fact, I use these plugs while drumming to be able to hear properly (foam plugs kill the highs). An additional help with these plugs is that speech is still very clear.

I've also used some Sony in-ear headphones, and am thinking of ordering some of the Sennheiser phones. Now, these don't have active cancellation in them, but they do form a good fit (similar to the earplugs above) and can keep ambient noise to a comfortable level - but watch yourself; you may find youself still turning the music up too far to compensate for that little last bit, and cause more damage to your hearing.

I'd say earplugs would be 10x better; and with the earplugs above, you could play some music in the room and hear it properly... only problem there would be bugging others with your choice of music.

Re:Several options (1)

pixr99 (560799) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795800)

Since you mentioned Sennheiser...

I've been wearing a pair of their HD 280 Pro for about a year (whenever I'm in the server room) and they're perfect. I usually hang an iPod off of them. They bring down the ambient noise so much that I listen to the iPod at fairly low levels and hear the music just fine. They're rather comfortable as well. Yesterday I wore them for about six hours with no discomfort. They're an over-the-ear design and I can testify that they don't touch the ear at all.

The only problem with wearing them is that coworkers can, and do, sneak up on me!

Re:Several options (1)

ytseschew (562867) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796166)

I second the recommendation of the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. Even without music they significantly reduce noise. I use them to reduce server noises. I've also used them while mowing the lawn with a gas-powered mower and was able to set the iPod to a fairly low level before starting the mower and still listen to it at that level while running the mower. With normal headphones I have to turn the volume up significantly while mowing. They also have excellent music reproduction.

I do find them a bit heavy to wear all day, every day. But I've tried two noise reduction headphones and they were less comfortable for me.

Re:Several options (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797746)

Here is the manufacturer site []

I have a set of these myself (in blue) and I take them to concerts. They are great because they make a smooth reduction in sound, there are earplugs out there that decrease it more but not that do it so evenly (unless you spend a ton on the etymotic custom ones or something) The one thing that bothers me though is that when its a band that I want to sing (yell) along to it sounds really weird because the earplugs only serve to make your own voice sound louder. Washable and I have no comfort issue with them and at only $12, saving your hearing could never be so easy.

Too much high frequency noise (2, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795566)

My Philips HN100s (admittedly a rather low-end model) do very little as far as noises from a computer (drive whine, cooling fans, etc.) They're excellent against lower bass frequencies (automotive engine noise, airplane engine noise, lawnmower noise).

Also, wearing circumaural ANC headphones is going to be a lot more annoying than almost-invisible earplugs. The in-ear ANC headsets (like the Philips SHN2500s) are absolutely awful compared to good passive-isolating earphones or good earplugs. In fact, my experience with the SHN2500s was that they added more noise than they removed in most environments.

As far as in-ear passive isolating headphones, I have tried the following:
Sony MDR-EXsomethingorother - Silicone rubber earpieces, with rubber hooks that go over your ears. Extremely uncomfortable and not much isolation. $50
JVC HA-FX33 "Marshmallow" headphones - These STILL don't appear on JVC's website anywhere, and I have only seen them at Wal-Mart stores. $20, decent isolation, pretty comfortable, excellent sound.
Radio Shack "NR-1" noise isolating earphones - Great isolation and comfort, not very good bass response. I keep them around for extreme environments where isolation is more important than bass response and sound quality. $40

I haven't used any of the more expensive in-ear monitors. Shure E2cs and E3cs are popular, as are Westone UM1s and UM2s. The UM1/UM2 appear to use the exact same "Comply" tips as the Rat Shack units, so should have the same isolation and comfort, but hopefully better bass response and sound quality due to better drivers.

For the most extreme enviroments, such as the cabin of a Saab 340 turboprop aircraft, my personal favorite is a combo the Rat Shack in-ears connected to an audio source (laptop or iPod) with the Philips HN100s placed over them. Neither of them alone is sufficient for the interior cabin of a turboprop aircraft.

Targus AWM02US (1)

xNoLaNx (653172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795606)

I have a set of Targus AWM02US headphones and I use them in my lab, where my in-lab "desk" is directly next to a rack of Itaniums (loud), and even with the active canceling off the noise reduction is great. Regardless of which brand or model you decide on, if you're in a data center, you'll be glad to have them.

What are you trying to accomplish? (1)

ion++ (134665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795610)

Denpending on what you want to accomplish there are different things to do.

Do you want the illusion of silence so you can concentrate?
Do you want silence to avoid long term damage of your ears?
Do you want to actually talk with other people?

If you dont want to use earplugs get a real hearing protector, they can be had without, with a speaker inside and with speakers and a microphone for talking to others.

Dont damage your ears for appealing looks (you wont pickup or get laid inside the server room anyway).

I do have an old pair of noise canceling earphones, and they do "mute" some sounds, but others are raised, voices go more clearly through, or so i percieve it, but that might be because the background sounds are not percieved by my brain.

Server Room Dress Code (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795618)

Non-IT apparel? Aside from safety considerations, I'm not too concerned with what I wear in a facility. I know that it isn't always possible, but I avoid customer contact on the days I have physical work to do; besides, khakis and polo shirts are required IT wear, aren't they?

Standard hearing protection is a lot cheaper. You can have more than one set, and when you lose one, you're only out about $25. Since I have a motorcycle, I use moldex ear plugs; they work well, are cheap, and pack easily.

in-ear SEALING earbuds (0)

Retardican (1006101) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795626)

Noise canceling headphones won't protect your hearing. I recommend those ear-buds that actually seal your ear canal, like SHURE, or Etymotic ones. Even Sony makes those now. They block out outside noise pretty well, you can still have your music, and protects your hearing to boot (if you don't play it too loudly, that is).

Re:in-ear SEALING earbuds (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795750)

Why exactly won't they protect your hearing? They send an inverted soundwave which cancels out the ambiant soundswaves. Cancelled waves = no damage. They don't cancel everything, but they knock it way down.

Why consumer ANC headphones don't protect... (1)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795972)

Noise canceling headphones do protect your hearing but most civilian models don't afford serious protection at those dB levels. The reason is that, if the headset is capable of generating antinoise that can prevent ear damage, it si equally capable (perhaps more capable) of generating *noise* that can damage your ears. That is a huge liability problem for the mass market.

Given the ease of making consumer models feed back (cup your hands just right over the earphones of a Sharper Image, Panasonic, or even Bose set, and you'll be rewarded with an ear-piercing squeal), I'd rather that the drivers simply not be capable of working with instant-deafness levels of sound pressure.

Military models are different -- the ANC headphones military chopper pilots wear reduce the bone-shaking noise of an open cockpit Huey, to a noise level comparable to a civilian sedan on the freeway (I had the pleasure of experiencing this in the early 1990s, flying recovery for a sounding rocket at White Sands). I imagine that the very best of the civilian models can do that too, but you won't find them in the catalog in your airplane seat-back or at the mall, more like Sporty's Pilot Shop.

Re:Why consumer ANC headphones don't protect... (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796234)

Noise canceling headphones do protect your hearing but most civilian models don't afford serious protection at those dB levels.

I guess that depends on what 'those db levels' are. The original /. question, and concern of many in the forum, was about use in a computer server room. The levels in a server room aren't 'insta-deafening', and won't hurt you in the short term, but over long term (years) of exposure, can have a detrimental effect on your hearing ability. For the application under discussion, consumer grade noise canceling headphones are just fine. Most /. users aren't operating jackhammers all day, or flying military choppers. Consumer grade headphones will do just fine for the majority of us.

Re:Why consumer ANC headphones don't protect... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16796420)

Lots of silly FUD in this thread. The truth: Nothing else matters except how loud something appears to you. If you don't perceive a loud noise, either because you are wearing active-cancellation headphones or because your environment isn't very loud, you are NOT DAMAGING YOUR HEARING. (Sorry for shouting.)

It's true that consumer headphones don't have the ability to cancel all of the noise found in a severe industrial environment. They aren't sold for that purpose. That is why the guys on the airport tarmac don't wear the Sony models sold in the shops on the concourse. However, the question was about dealing with server-room noise. If your server room sounds like an operating jet engine, then you've got a rather atypical situation, no?

Foam_earplugs++ (3, Informative)

trip11 (160832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795650)

You may not like the stupid yellow foam earplugs, but there are better alternitves. Check out .html [] for instance. The idea is that they are both more comforatble and allow you to hear better even while reducing the volume. All of the musicians I have mixed for LOVE them and I've tried them and found them to be much more comfortable than regular foam plugs. In fact, I find having a large headset on, is uncomfortable for long periods and adds strain to your neck. Check them out, they aren't too expensive. (and I have no affilation with this paticular store, it's just the first site I found)

I'm using those headphones (1)

TA (14109) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795778)

I use my Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones in computer rooms and other places with the same kind of noise, e.g. heavy airconditioning machinery. I'll never go anywhere near the noisiest rooms again without my headphones. They reduce the noise maybe 15 dB, it might not sound much but it's the difference of the world, particulary when staying in there for a long period. I bought my headset with airplanes in mind, but they work even better in computer rooms.

Well, I don't trust active noise cancellation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16795808)

I have worked in server rooms and also ride a motorcycle. The noise in a server room is very similar to the wind noise when riding a motorcycle on the freeway. I wear earplugs from Howard Leight, the green disposables. They are very comfortable and very cheap, 200 pair for less than $25, which usually lasts me 2-3 years. I've used them in server rooms and on airplanes. They are very effective and you can hear people talk if they speak loudly. Here's a setup that I've been considering that you may find agreeable. It's a set of in-ear phones from Shure that have twin plugs, one for your music player and one for your cell phone. That way you can take phone calls without removing them. nes/ISeries/us_pa_i2c_content []

To make talking to others easier they have this nifty little PTT device that plugs inline: ories/CasesAdapters/us_pa_PTH_push_to_hear []

Both will cost you less than $200. The fit of the earphones will take some trial and error, but it's a great solution.

nice big protection (1)

tyroney (645227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795836)

Stop by your local hardware store, and get a nice big pair of those headphone/earmuff style hearing protectors. You can find them in a few colors, or cover them with stickers, or mod them with LEDs, etc.

The biggest convenience of those things is being able to take them off easily, and not having to scour your ears daily to avoid having earwax all over. (with the little in-ear plugs) And they'll actually protect your hearing, to boot.

David Clark (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796362)

As far as hearing protection goes, if you're going to be wearing them for any length of time, you owe it to yourself to get ones made by David Clark.

I don't work for them, I'm just a very satisfied customer and user of their products. Second-generation user of their products, actually; I have a set of DC hearing protectors that used to be my father's, that are getting on 40 years old now.

Their list of products are here [] . I have the model 10A, although if you have big ears that stick out, you probably want the 19A. Allegedly the model 27 is "deluxe," although I don't know in what way they're different. The 10A model is the one they've been making since basically the Earth stopped cooling, and I don't think you'd have a problem getting parts for them in the future.

If you want to spend some money, you can get basically the exact same product as the 10A hearing protectors, but made into headphones. These aren't active noise-cancelling, they're just passive noise-reduction, but they're probably the best you're ever going to find. Equipped with microphones, they're very popular for use in helicopters (watch in some movies and about 50% of the time you'll see DC headsets being used in helis). They have a lot of room inside, if your 'buds don't stick out too much I doubt you'd have a problem with this. Although it might be a reason to get the 19A model.

The 10A model has a noise reduction of 23dB, and unlike earplugs, they don't make your breathing echo in your head quite so much. If you got ones with speakers inside (headphones) it would mean you could play music, without having to jack the volume up to dangerous levels. Alternately, if you didn't want to spend the money on DC's headphones you could just wear earbuds and then put the passive protectors on over it.

The really nice thing about DC 'sets, is that they're designed to be worn for long periods. Unlike some cheaper ear protectors that just use a spring-metal band connected to the top of the ear cups (pretty much every set of hardware store or cheap shooting protectors are made like this), resulting in more pressure on your head at the top of the cups than at the bottom, the DC ones are designed so that the pressure of the cups is distributed evenly, so you don't get sore. Also, they adjust using set screws instead of just using friction, so you can adjust them to your head and lock them there; they won't slip around. They have nice replaceable foam ear rings, as well. (When the ones in mine started to break down, I wrote to them and they sent me a set of replacement ones free.)

I use my DC 10As for pistol shooting mostly, and they're hands-down the most comfortable ear protection I've ever worn. (And if you really need a lot of noise reduction, you can combine them with foam plugs for something like 46dB of noise reduction; that's enough to safely do high-power rifle indoors -- you'll feel the pressure in your eyes more than in your ears like that.)

You do get a lot of funny looks wearing them around, but if you're a geek and don't mind looking like a helicopter pilot, I don't think you'll find a better set of passive hearing protectors.

Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1, Interesting)

Banner (17158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795838)

Noise canceling headsets can damage your ears. The sound pressure in a loud environment is still there, even if you can't hear it. If you are in a loud environment, one loud enough to damage your hearing, wear earplugs!!!

So while turning up the power on the headset will make the noise you can hear 'go away' the damage is still being done.

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1)

Banner (17158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795950)

Wow, so much for trying to warn people about ruining their hearing.

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16796094)

So much for making up random nonsense with no basis in reality. Read about how noise-cancelling headphones work before offering an authoritative opinion.

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1)

Banner (17158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798498)

I have. And few work perfectly at this time, so there is an effect on your ears.

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1)

Reverberant (303566) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796138)

The sound pressure in a loud environment is still there, even if you can't hear it.

That's incorrect. Sound is pressure (or more accurately, pressure fluctuations). ANC works by generating negative pressure waves to cancel out the original pressure wave. By definition (in an ideal environment) this reduces the pressure fluctuation to 0.

In other words, if you can't hear it, it's not damaging your hearing.

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1)

BillAtHRST (848238) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796330)

Do either of the above posters have a source reference that they can cite? I know that noise-cancelling phones work by generating sound waves that are out-of-phase with the ambient noise, but it would seem that is simply adding to the sound pressure levels?

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16796526)

interference []

Physics: Learn it. Love it. Live it.

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1)

Admiral Justin (628358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16799100)

Do either of the above posters have a source reference that they can cite? I know that noise-cancelling phones work by generating sound waves that are out-of-phase with the ambient noise, but it would seem that is simply adding to the sound pressure levels?

No need, it's basic wave dynamics.

If you have a sine wave, and add a wave that is out of phase (the more negative, the better), the destructive interference results in a less intense waveform reaching the ears.

Now, before you go "but it isn't a wave, it's a compression and rarefaction of air" keep in mind that the ANC still does the same thing. Add a compression into the rarefaction, and a rarefaction into the compression, and you receive a less intense overall pressure.

The oracle demands a nuclear detonation overpressure capable noise cancellation system. (bonus points for the people that remember where the hell this bit originates)

Re:Warning! The Sound Pressure is still there. (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798988)

There are frequencies towards the edge of the human hearing range that can cause damage. I'll bet ANC headphones don't cancel these out.

Active cancellation and hearing damage. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796548)

I'm not sure if this is true, and despite some Googling I can'f find any substantiation either way. There certainly are a lot of warnings from various people not to try and use active noise-reduction systems as "hearing protection," but I can't tell if that's just the manufacturers of same covering their asses from lawsuits, or if it comes from actual technical deficiencies in the systems.

I think the main problem with trying to use noise-cancellation as hearing protection, is that most systems only 'cancel' noise in a small part of the hearing spectrum, which is not where much of the damaging noise would be. IIRC, the most damaging sounds to your ears are high-pitched ones, and most noise cancellation systems filter out the lower sounds. Hearing protectors, like foam earplugs and circumaural earmuffs, actually filter out more high-pitched sounds than low-pitched ones (if you listen to someone talk, or to music, when wearing most passive suppression systems, it will sound "muffled" "bassy" or "thumpy".)

So the real reason I would be concerned about using active cancellation systems in a high-noise environment, is that they might block out the 'annoying' parts of the noise, but leave in high-SPL, high-frequency components that are still damaging, but easier to ignore. Because the human mind acclimates to sounds, even loud, damaging ones, with relative ease, you could think that you are protecting your hearing with an active system, but still get damage from the sounds your brain is ignoring.

Just to be safe, I would not want to use an active cancellation system, in any environment where the ambient SPL was already over safe levels. I think that their use is more appropriate in situations where the SPL is safe, yet annoying (on aircraft, possibly in a quiet server room, office near HVAC, etc.), or when you have already reduced the ambient SPL to a safe level using a passive system that is known to work. For example, many avionics headsets include active noise cancellation (I've used Bose ones in a helicopter, and played with the noise cancellation), in combination with fairly heavy passive dampening. The passive dampening alone reduces the sound to a safe level, the active suppression pushes it down below what most people find intrusive, so you can get that relaxing near-silence.

Shure E2c (4, Informative)

xee (128376) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795886)

These are the best portable headphones i've ever used. They're not active noise cancelling, because they're so damn good they dont need to be. Put them in and be amazed. I used them extensively in a large (and very loud) server room and was very VERY impressed with their noise cancelling abilities. nes/ESeries/us_pa_E2c_content []

Re:Shure E2c (3, Informative)

justinbach (1002761) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796592)

Seconded. You're dead on, xee...I've had my e2c-ns for about seven months now and I can't imagine ever going back to bulky, over-ear headphones or non-IEC earbuds. These headphones simply blew me away, both in terms of noise reduction, which is about as good as the best earplugs I've ever used, and sound quality, which is sick. I listen to lots of jazz but also music of other genres and have had no complaints about a weak low-end, which is an accusation often leveled at earbuds and IECs. In fact, the bass is perfect; it's crystalline (no distortion at all), and it doesn't overwhelm the midrange or treble.

As an added plus, the E2cs come with about 9 different styles of in-ear attachment you can wear depending on your ear size and comfort level; 3 different materials (foam, soft rubber, harder rubber) x 3 sizes each. Finding a perfect fit was really easy, and I now wear these buds for 8+ hours every day with zero discomfort. Also, I listen to my music much more quietly with these headphones than with others I've had previously, as the noise reduction provides for a much quieter soundstage.

They list for $110, I think, but you can do much better than that via Amazon Marketplace or Ebay (mine were $65 on Amazon).

Alternate Suggestion (1)

Slagged (985600) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795888)

You could take some action to improve the acoustics of the server room itself. For example, sound absorbing ceiling and wall tiles, rugs, and sound deadening panels. Putting the panels on wheels allows you to move them and create quieter work zones inside the datacenter as needed.

Now... how do you TALK in a loud server room? (1)

Rurik (113882) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795916)

We have our own loud server room, and are not only looking for solutions to ease the noise, but to also facilitate communication in it. We have impromptu meetings at time with developers and techs that can last for long periods.

Are there any good headsets that not only cancel out noise, but also allow for a group of 6 people to communicate right next to each other without yelling?

Re:Now... how do you TALK in a loud server room? (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796044)

Er, step out into the hallway or the kitchenette or, maybe call me crazy, but use the conference room?

Re:Now... how do you TALK in a loud server room? (1)

Rurik (113882) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797066)

Which is what most people would do. But, when you have a team of guys who have to work in the server room for hours on end, assessing trouble tickets and fixing equipment, they should be able to hold a conversation without having to walk in and out 10 seconds.

There are better earplugs out there, you know (1)

Xaroth (67516) | more than 7 years ago | (#16795956)

The tried-and-true little yellow foam jobbies are great if you only need them once, and your budget is around $0.03. However, if you're going to be wearing them for longer, or if you are the sort of person that goes to a lot of concerts or clubs, there are better solutions.

One set that I highly, highly recommend are made by Etymotic Research [] , specifically their ER*20 High Fidelity Earplugs [] . They're comfortable, and sound isn't "muffled" by them. That is, going out to a club or a concert, the music sounds as good as it would without the plugs, only it's more comfortable. From experience, I can say that wearing them is literally like just turning down the volume on the world. Two people wearing these can even carry on a normal conversation in a noisy environment, provided they speak up sufficiently; I'd always found that the little yellow jobbies destroyed the sound enough to make conversations difficult at best.

Other earplugs more suited to long-term wear exist from a variety of manufacturers, and some quick google searching can help you find those. It's one of those things that, before I was introduced to these earplugs by an audiologist friend of mine, I would never have suspected existed out there.

headphones (1)

zeronitro (937642) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796196)

I know they are expensive, but the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones are incredible. I use them almost every day to cut out most of the noise of the servers and AC units in the data center. You still hear a bit of the higher pitch noises coming from the fans but its bearable. Once you've had the headphones on for awhile and take them off you realize just how big the difference in sound is. It still surprises me sometimes. The difference from a cheaper set (say the Sony noise-cancelling) and the the Bose is really noticable. Also, the battery life is more then excellent. It goes for about 30+ hours on a 1 hour charge. Plus it comes with a nice case and airplane plug and 1/8" extender. Hell, you don't even have to plug them into anything. Sometime I just put them on when I'm reading and it takes care of the noise of my roommate playing CounterStrike.

Several options... (2, Informative)

Bagheera (71311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796278)

ANC headphones are one solution amongst several. They certainly work, but they're not perfect. Noise cancelation isn't 100%, and depending on model, the range of frequencies they can actually counter may not be effective in your environment. With most of them, you can hear a low volume 'hiss' when they're just canceling noise and not playing music. Also note that the "over the ear" type are more effecive (they provide acoustic as well as active noise cancelation) and usually more comfortable than the less expensive "on the ear" types. Finally, most models have a permenantly connected earphone cable and ALL of them lose some, if not most, effectiveness when the batteries die.

I've tried several sets, and they certainly work at the noise levels and freqs I've encountered in the DC's and computer labs I've had to work in. Also great for air travel - which is what te technology was first developed for.

The cheapest solution are the foam earplugs. They're also generally more effective than ANC at protecting your hearing. They do, however, reduce ALL the sound, so conversation (already difficult) becomes more difficult. "In the ear" headphones (Shure or Etymotic, for example) can give the same level of hearing protection and provide music. Some of them have an external mic you can use to hear people talking. I went to a set of Ety's for air travel and find I can listen to music clearly at very low set volume while blocking out more external noise than the Bose or PlaneQuite active units did.

The "ugly", but possibly best, solution, is a set of over-the-ear hearing protectors as you see on construction sites or shooting ranges. They look kinda silly, but they have great sound attenuation.

Best for you will depend on your needs.

Foams are dirt cheap. Professional grade over the ear types are $20-$50 depending on how nice you want. ANC starts under $20 and goes well over $300. Same with in the ear headphones. Top end Shure units are something like $500.

Figure out what you want to do, and experiment.

I've used generic Radio Shacks, they work great. (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796326)

While fancy Bose or something might do even better, the difference between using my cancellers and just plain earplugs is night and day. They were just $30 Radio Shack specials, yet in the server room, it becomes dead silent. (The difference is so astonishing that if I'm wearing them when I walk in, I just plain don't notice the noise. If I then take them off, or turn them off, it's like I've stepped onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.)

Bose QuiteComfort Headphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16796486)

subject pretty well sums it up... they are AMAZING (albeit expensive...)


ZEM (1)

jbbernar (41291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796638)

I've used Sony noise-cancelling headphones, and found them only marginally helpful. Foam earplugs helped block the fan noise, but, as others have commented, they can make you hyper-conscious of the sound of your breathing and your heartbeat; I also find them painful. The best solution I've found are ZEM [] hearing protectors. They're about $20, lightweight, and work well. They're great for planes, too.

One Option (1)

aphxtwn (702841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16796904)

You could wear ear protection used in gun firing ranges and then put something inside them like earbuds or whatever else. I'm sure those work tons better for sound isolation, which would help the music sound tons better

Passive ear protection from gun stores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16797130)

I use some pretty nice passive ear protectors from a gun store.
Not pretty, and not as high-tech(or expensive) as the active canceling ones; but it works extremely well at turning the near-painful server room into near silence.

Find the right earplug, get good ANR's. (2, Informative)

toybuilder (161045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797168)

I'm sensitive to noise and have been using a combination of noise cancellers (Bose QuietComforts are far better than any others that I've tried) and ear plugs to survive noisy air conditioners, the din of "bull pen" cubicle farms, the hum of multi-hour plane trips, the roar of servers in machine rooms, and the rumble of gardeners at work in the early morning hours. Noise takes a big toll on you if you're exposed to it for a long time.

When my (now) wife moved in with me, she couldn't sleep with my snoring. ): She tried my earplugs which helped with the noise, but was uncomfortable to wear over a long period of time. The problem is that my earplugs were too thick and dense for her much smaller ears. After we shopped around, we found much more comfortable ear plugs for her, and she is a much happier camper.

I went through a whole bunch of earplugs before I settled on the ones that I buy for myself and the ones that I buy for my wife -- you might need to do some searching of your own to find the right combination of noise suppression and long-wearing comfort.

This is the "small" earplug that I get for my wife: =AM%20Safety%20Master&GroupID=13&cookie_test=1 []

This is the "big" earplug that I get for myself for maximum noise suppression; =AM%20Safety%20Master&GroupID=10 []

If you buy noise cancellers, buy good ones. My wife and I tried Sharper Image's $100 ANR folding headphones because they were on sale at 50% off... They were terrible -- they cut the low-frequency noise effectively, but added so much high-frequency hiss that we hated them. The only problem I have with the Bose QC's is they are a bit too fragile for the way I handle portable devices*.

In extreme cases, the ear-plug + ANR combo is great. This is what we do when we're flying across the pond.

* Assurion hates me, heh... :)

Re:Find the right earplug, get good ANR's. (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797788)

If you're "sensitive to noise," then you should quit screwing around with foam earplugs.

Drop some cash ($100-$300) and get custom molded ones. They'll be more comfortable, easier to hear through, and generally better in all ways.

This is what intelligent rock musicians do. The not-so-intelligent ones just go deaf.

Why couldnt you wire the headset into speakers? (0)

stickystyle (799509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797170)

Would it be possible to hack one of those headsets so that they output there inverse wave through larger speakers, say pointed at the back or front of your servers? Wouldn't you get a few db drop in the room by doing that?

Two options (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797568)

If you don't mind having things stuck in your ears, earplugs are the best bet. Either foam ones such as Hearos, or in-ear canalphones such as Etymotics if you want to be able to listen to music.

If you don't like having things stuck in your ears, I favor Sennheiser PXC-150 headphones. They have better active noise canceling than the original Bose QuietComfort (I haven't tried the latest rev), and better sound fidelity for music. They'll also fold up and fit in a pocket, unlike the Bose.

Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797708)

It matters on the noise.

If the noise is some idiot who meanders his way in, a baseball bat is the way to cancel it.

Rewritten question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16797782)

Dear Slashdot: I need to work in a server room for a few hours a day, it's really loud and I value my long term hearing. While I know that this is a solved problem and that ear plugs [] or ear muffs [] are the correct tool to deal with this; I don't like ear plugs and think ear muffs look stupid. Can you suggest a way for me to spend money on something that requires a battery so that I can continue to prop up my own insecurities about how much of a geek I am?

Re:Rewritten question (1)

fief (12961) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798144)

For short term use, or when I need to be able to work with someone else in the machine room, I can't praise highly enough the Etymotic Research high fidelity earplugs [] . They are designed to lower the noise level of everything evenly, thus still allowing you to hear what people are saying. When I am not working with someone else, I usually wear a pair of Etymotic's Isolator 61 earphones [] hooked up to an mp3 player.

For long term use, I use a pair of cheap ear muffs (AO Safety brand purchased from Sears) coupled with the earplugs or earphones mentioned above.

As to active noise-canceling headphones... I have used a bunch. Without a doubt in my mind, the Bose QuietComfort's are the best on the market. Alone (without music playing) they do help in noisy environments like machine rooms. With music they are even better at drowning out the noise. That said, having used a pair of the Quiet Comfort 2's in server rooms (and on planes), I think the passive noise blocking of earphones like Etymotic makes to not only be cheaper but also to be more comfortable (both physically and in the not so definable mental anxiety level from hearing constant white noise).

Note that in earphones like earplugs bother some people. I for one can not eat with them in. Some people I know can't walk around with them in easily. If you are leery of purchasing $100+ in-ear earphones, get a cheap pair of earplugs that use a similar in ear piece and try them out.

Noise cancel a room? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16797824)

I wonder how feasible it would be to noise cancel an entire room. Instead of a tiny speaker on each ear, you have emitters and sensors at many points in the room.

It would have to be drastically more complex, since you'd be aiming to reduce noise throughout the room, rather than one stationary spot. Obviously if a detector across the room from you picks up a sound that originated from something next to you, it will detect less energy than your ears do, and will send an equally low inverted wave back to you, which will take even more loss. With multiple emitters, you could also have problems with over-amplification of the inverted wave, and maybe even feedback problems? The controller would have to be acutely aware of each detector/emitter, and probably even the physical layout of the room.

Or as a security application.. Your co-worker next to you can hear you talking at a normal level, but someone 10 feet away hears silence.... or for the big brothers out there, now you have microphones hidden all over the place.. record everything everywhere.

Sounds like a major PITA, but would be freaking cool if someone was working on this.

Get some custom earplugs (1)

Fonce (635723) | more than 7 years ago | (#16797950)

Speaking as a percussionist of many years, I know firsthand that a good set of cast earplugs will make your day. I've spent countless hours in small, echoey rooms with a dozen high schoolers creating constant sound well beyond the hearing damage range. Marching snares (of the floating head variety) are GOD AWFUL LOUD.

Anyway, my point is this: have a set of earplugs made for you. They'll take a cast of each of your ears and they'll fit perfectly. You'll forget you're wearing them, save for the silence. Many include a little insert that can be pulled out to hear more sound if someone needs to talk to you. These will seriously deaden sound for you and many times I've wondered why I couldn't hear my engine when leaving, they're that comfortable.

Get out of the server room!!! (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798032)

OK, lots of good advice has been put forth here already. One bit of it, I'll even repeat: If you need real ear protection, look at Etymotics.

That said, one of the points of a server room is that you should almost never be in it! Racking and wiring computers can take a while admittedly, but in our fairly large data centre (~10,000 ft^2), we probably have someone in the data centre maybe an hour a day, and that's spread across all groups (Unix, Intel, telecom, networking, backups, and building maintenance). I go down to the server room _maybe_ once a week to swap out a bad drive or something like.

If it's a one-time server room setup and install, I'd probably just suffer with the cheap earplugs. If you're spending that much time in the data centre after it's operational, you should definitely look at your policies and procedures, and see if you can change that.

Almost works.... (1)

AetherBurner (670629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16798102)

I have a set of Philip consumer noice cancelling headphones. They are great at low end sound cancelling, but not at the higher frequencies. They work great when mowing the lawn on weekends or getting rid of motor noise but not at high pitched frequencies that a fan or a wood chipper generates. I was once in a room, not a server room, but a compressor room. The door was posted that you had to put on hearing protection before entering. From having experience with the room before, I had to wear both foam earplugs and over-the-ear hearing protectors to make the sound bearable. The bad part about is was that I would come out physically sore all over from the audio banging on the body. I would stick with the foam ones.

Bose QuietComfort 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16798598)

I'm guessing anything in the Bose QuietComfort series will be what you want if you can afford it. I'm in a server room now with the 2'nd version of these headphones and the sound is tolerable. There are at least 2000+ computers and I work on a cluster with over 11,000 fans.

You want Moulded Earplugs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16799054)

Get those custom moulded earplugs. I've used the vented and filtered variety in a steel manufacturing shop and in the engine room of a ship, my hearing still tests very well. A hearing aid shop, a mobile hearing test service or Google would be good places to inquire, you have to have a mould done so you need a local company. They're usually around $50 and allow easier conversation than foam plugs or the big ear protectors, plus they last around 2 years. Damn good investement in my book.
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