Michael Grotticelli /
06.25.2010 09:42 AM
Filtering out the sounds of the World Cup for TV viewers

Even before the World Cup broadcasts began, there was worry about the sound of the vuvuzelas. After repeated efforts failed to ban the loud crowd-favored horns, television audio technicians went into high gear trying to select microphones that would reduce their obnoxious sound.

However, at up to 131db, the vuvuzelas won out, becoming an audio backdrop for every game. Apparently, the vuvuzelas don't just bother television viewers, they also annoy the players. Argentina's Lionel Messi complained to "The Times of London," saying that it was hard to communicate with his teammates over the loud sounds.

Vuvuzelas, also called stadium horns, are about 2ft long and produce a distinctive monotone sound. They are a staple at soccer matches in South Africa, even though hearing them at close range can lead to permanent hearing loss for unprotected ears. A prominent South African sportswriter once described the vuvuzela as "an instrument from hell."

With a global broadcast so large, entrepreneurs went to work to deal with the vuvuzela problem. For 3 euros, one created Anti-Vuvuzela Filter, a specialized noise-cancellation application that's supposed to cancel out the sound of the horn. However, "Consumer Reports" noted that the filter doesn't do anything except make the sound of the vuvuzelas even louder.

A German sound engineer has offered a 45-minute MP3 download that he claimed will cancel out the noise of the vuvuzelas during broadcast television matches by means of active noise control. Several scientific commentators said it doesn't work either.

Free solutions include lowering the treble control on television receivers. While this method will not completely remove the sound of the vuvuzelas, it does lower their presence during games because of the high-pitched frequencies.

For those with more sophisticated television sound systems, recommendations are to use an equalizer, which allows viewers to modify how the speakers play back specific audio frequencies. The instrument produces notes around the 235Hz and 465Hz frequencies, and filtering these frequencies helps limit the noise in broadcasts.

For viewers with surround sound systems, recommendations are to lower the volume of the left and right channels while leaving the center channel at full volume. The left and right channels carry the sounds of the crowds while the center channel carries the sound of the commentators. This, many viewers said, almost eliminates the vuvuzela sound.

Another solution is to simply hit the mute button and watch the games in silence.

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