Turning Archive 2005

Subject:
Product review: Noise reduction in the shop.

Mike Schwing from Md.
>As a Christmas gift, my bride gave me a pair of Bose "Noise Cancellation Headphones". I've been lusting after them for a while now. I did not intend them for shop use, but after giving them a try I find myself wearing them every day.

Noise cancellation technology is not new, but it is still pretty expensive. It works by sampling the sound in an environment and producing the opposite sounds of what it considers noise. The opposing sound waves cancel each other to stifle the sound. There are other makers of this stuff in all shapes and sizes - Discovery Store, Sharper Image, Brookstone, all have variants using the same technology (and more inexpensively)

Sound is an important tool to a woodworker. We need to hear motors running for safety as much as to tell when something is wrong or we are loading them excessively. We need to hear the sounds our tools make as they work the wood in order to know when danger is near and/or to judge cutting efficiency. Sometime we just need to hear if something is on. Removing those sounds completely is ineffective and dangerous. You can purchase normal headphones with very good noise reduction ratings, but they muffle these important sounds, too.

The headphones - They appear at first glance to be ordinary headphones, but have an on/off switch. Putting them on with the power turned off muffles sound just a tiny bit. When turned on, in a few seconds all background "noise" disappears and you can hear momentary sounds, like talking, music, or tools cutting wood (even gouges) perfectly clearly. When an air compressor turns on - you momentarily hear it at a muffled level and then a moment later it tones down to just barely noticeable - yet the radio remains clearly audible and you can still hear your gouge cutting clearly.

They also have an input for a radio/mp3/etc player. The nice thing about this is that you don't have to turn the volume up to excessive levels when in the presence of background noise because the background noise is gone. I don't use this in the shop because I don't like the idea of a cable attached to my head near a spinning piece of wood.

They are just as effective at cancelling the noise of a bandsaw, dust collector, screaming shop vac or tablesaw.

You don't really notice just how good a job they were doing until you turn them off or remove them from your head. The world is unbelievably loud!

They are so comfortable as to be nearly unnoticeable, and are an extremely welcome addition to my shop.

I would highly recommend noise reduction of this sort for your shop. Please notice that I did not say "hearing protection" because I do not know if technically this satisfies that requirement. Nothing sounds loud to me with these on, but I don't want to be giving medical advice where not qualified.

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