Around the world, there are several quiet places for people to escape to. Most of them are in remote corners of the globe, miles, and miles from civilization. However, in nature, there is still a decent amount of uncontrollable sound people hear.
That’s why a 100% controlled room will always be quieter than a “natural” location. It is achieving no audible sound that is the hard part. People use soundproofing techniques all the time for a variety of uses, but what about taking it to the extreme?
There are a few rooms, also labeled as anechoic chambers, that provide decibel levels routinely in the negatives. Anechoic is Latin meaning “no Echo” In fact, one of the biggest companies in the world now has an anechoic chamber that is officially referred to as “the quietest room in the world.”
The Quietest Room in the World
For a company as big as Microsoft, they are constantly working on new technology that will hopefully change the world for the better.
A lot of their testing must happen in near-perfect conditions to allow for pinpoint accuracy. That is the reasoning behind why the quietest room came to be in the first place.
On its Redmon campus, a small room has been built to fine-tune anything that makes a sound. Whether it be headphones or the click of a keyboard, it’s a testing area for engineers to figure out exactly what type of sound customers should experience.
While it has a distinct practical use, many outsiders wonder about what a room this quiet sounds like.
With no outside distractions or echoes from the walls within, those inside the chamber experience the purest forms of sound.
Planning and Building an Anechoic Chamber
What is remarkable about such a small area tucked in the offices in Washington is that it’s just a small 21‘ x 21‘ room. For something so small, Microsoft had to spend about $1.5 million on the room to control the sound as much as possible.
The first thing that Microsoft did is properly plan out what to attach to the walls of the anechoic chamber.
The room is placed within six concrete layers, and they are each around 12 inches thick. This helps to block out any sound that might be coming from the outside world.
It is not enough to do just that, though. The walls, floor, and ceiling all have fiberglass foam that cuts down on any echoes. These two steps in the building process alone seem like enough to make a difference, but Microsoft even went beyond that.
The room might seem like part of the campus, but they isolate it in a lot of different ways.
It floats on vibration damping springs and even has its own foundation slab that separates it from the rest of the building.
It’s a room within a room on campus, and this cuts down on any type of vibrations coming from other parts of the building.
Measurements show that the room can block up to about 120 dB, which means you could barely hear a jet engine or rocket just outside the room.
Anything below that is completely silent, giving engineers something very unique to work with. They can be as precise as possible with all of their measurements.
The Quietest Room in the World Open to the Public
When Microsoft built its quiet room, the plan was to keep it closed off to any outsiders mainly.
It is meant for testing products that they sell, and making advancements in technology in general.
Some make their way inside the chamber to experience it, but it remains fairly top-secret and meant for employees only.
They stole the title of the quietest room in the world from a room in Minnesota, and since then, that location went the opposite direction.
In fact, the quiet room in Minnesota, at the Orfield Laboratories is now considered by many to be a bit of a tourist attraction.
It might not be making people fly in specifically to experience the room, but it is something people are trying out just to hear for themselves what a difference this type of chamber can make.
With a measurement of -2.5 dB, it is a very eerie place for a lot of people.
A lot of the same materials also appear in this room, but they didn’t have quite the same budget as Microsoft. It is still a very different experience for people and something that anyone who is in the Minneapolis area should try out.
Tours are available right now two times a week, and visitors are coming from all over the world. Prices are very affordable, and it is a cool learning experience for everyone involved.
If a person is lucky, there is a chance they visit when there is no one else signed up for the tour. This provides a truly unique experience within the wall.
What is it Like Being in an Anechoic Chamber?
As stated before, it’s hard to accurately describe exactly what goes on in a room. Every person’s situation will be slightly different, and the entire experience is something that most people have never felt before.
Most people who step foot into a silent chamber will test out some basic sounds that people think they know all too well like snapping fingers, clapping, talking, and singing.
All of those noises sound a little different inside the chamber compared to real-world situations. The sounds are very clear, but they die right away.
Many people comment about how their voice sounds strange inside a room like this. That’s because, for the first time, many people hear their voices without any type of room effect.
Even in a super quiet room is going to have some effect on a person’s voice, but this isolates everything and gives feedback in its purest form.
The more time a person spends in the room, the more that every single sound intensifies. Moving a leg or arm might make a noise that no one realized beforehand, but very clear in the room.
Blinking, stomach noises, and more are audible as well. This can cause people to feel A little self-conscious, even if they are the only person in the room.
Most people step into rooms like this and try to relax as much as possible. If they do achieve a good amount of relaxation, the entire body can begin to feel weightless and detached for the rest of the world.
Some people love this feeling, but others worry about the sensations that their body starts to feel. This is only amplified if the room is completely dark, which most chambers do for people who are just visiting.
Some people with experience using drugs have linked the feeling of a room like this as being high. Just like the high of drugs, a person can have a vastly different experience inside a chamber, depending on how their body reacts. Some people will respond in a panic, while others will love the feeling that a quiet room provides them.
What is the Comparison Between the Quietest Rooms in the World and the Quietest Natural Areas in the World?
There are plenty of quiet, peaceful places around the world, but it’s all relative. Nature can only do so much as far as soundproofing goes, whereas a man-made room that is controlled can take things to another level.
Many people who have experienced one of the two quietest rooms listed above have also been to very quiet places around the globe. It’s an unfair comparison, as the room just takes everything to a different level.
These rooms make silence into an uncomfortable feeling, instead of simply escaping from the hustle and bustle. Every single noise sounds differently, and there are no natural noises that keep people feeling sane.
Of course, the trade-off for a little bit more noise is a ton of visual stimulation. Most of the quiet rooms are also designed to be experienced with no lights on whatsoever.
This helps out a lot to take the user experience to another level. It’s not like there would be much to look at anyway inside a room, but complete darkness and silence messes with the mind of a lot of people.
How do People React When Inside an anechoic chamber?
Every new person who enters the room is adequately warned about what they might expect from the very beginning. Still, it is something that is simply indescribable in many cases.
People react to this type of silence in many different ways, but according to those familiar with these rooms, no person has been able to stand more than 45 minutes in the Microsoft room at one time.
One of the first things that a lot of people notice is simple sensory deprivation. Everything sounds just a little bit different, and even the slightest noise is amplified.
Some people can’t deal with the loudness of their breathing, or even their eyes blinking while inside the room.
Some people will obsess over these sounds their not use to hear. The mind will also start to wander around a bit with nothing to stimulate it.
It’s a good thing If a person is capable of blocking all of this out. But if their not, they’ll be begging to come out in no time!
What are the Technical Uses of These Rooms?
Testing different levels of audio come in handy in a lot of ways with acoustic anechoic chambers like these. With even the littlest bit of distraction, a test can come back inconclusive for companies.
It seems like a very tedious project to test sound. Pitch, loudness, timbre, and texture become a lot clearer in this type of setting.
There are also radio-frequency anechoic chambers, which are used to test things such as antennas and radars. The main difference with these chambers is that the inside is covered with radiation absorbent material.
How Does this Level of Quiet Compare to Perceived Silence?
Throughout life, many people will say that it’s very quiet and almost entirely silent at times. What many people perceive as complete silence has a decent amount of sound going on. For example, ambient noise registers at about 30 dB.
These quiet rooms will consistently register in the negatives, but it doesn’t matter about the number at that point. Anything below zero is not going to be backed up by human ears, but it is still useful for testing.
There is a very good chance that an average person has never experienced silence quite like these rooms, even for a second or two.
It is just extremely difficult to replicate this type of silence without a lot of work to set up the right surroundings.
Are There Any Safety Concerns Regarding Anechoic Chambers?
For audio anechoic chambers, there are no safety concerns for people to be worried about.
These quiet rooms do drive some people crazy, but they don’t cause any long-term issues for people to have to deal with.
As for radio-frequency anechoic chambers, there are radiation and fire risks involved. In most cases, personnel can’t go inside the chamber during testing.
The Rise of Anechoic Chambers Around the World
With the popularity and intrigue of anechoic chambers listed above, there are more and more popping up all around the world.
Some people want to experience what it sounds like, while others understand just how valuable they are when trying to focus solely on sound.
A lot of musicians love using these chambers to get some of the best sound possible. It is not essential to recording, but some well-known musicians will pay a lot of money to record in these chambers and get that pure sound that just sounds a little crisper.
There’s also a lot of people who just want to know what it feels like to spend significant time in a chamber. Not all of them are up to the same standards as the two listed above, but they still provide some amazingly quiet time for people to experience.
Building a chamber ranges in price significantly, depending on just how much sound needs blocking.
Probably no one will be spending $1.5 million like Microsoft. A quality chamber that’s just a step below can cost significantly less to build.