Company Culture

Noise cancelling tech

David Gold

November 26th, 2013

I have a very open workspace with many different teams working in a big, open studio.  Each team makes a lot of noise in turn distracting other teams.  I've heard of noise cancelling technology used in office settings, but nothing specific.  It's also a bit of a challenge researching a low cost solution.  Does anyone out there in the FD world consider distracting noise an issue?  Any office design pioneers out there?

Scott McIntyre MD@COventures.US;;; Chair@Phabriq Development

November 26th, 2013

Hi David, I appreciate your quandary. I recently designed and built out a co-working space, called COspace, here at the Univ of Toledo’s business incubation complex. The space i had (5000sqft) was all uninsulated concrete, steel and glass-highly reflective and amplifying.

So, depending on the size of the space you have to work with, and the distance between individual task desks/cubes, there are solutions that help. Obviously, carpet is the first consideration. Good, rubber backed low-rise carpet squares seem to be popular. You don’t need to do the whole floor for this. Also, there are noise mitigating materials that can be hung from the ceiling, depending again on the space you’ve got. Those can be seen at And lastly, I also had a previous life in music production, so you may find sound insulation foam panels of use. Those can be found many places and even the less expensive work well in volume.

Otherwise, my biggest recommendation is HEADPHONES!

Best of luck.

Ian McLean Developing Startup Grunt, Tech Co-Founder

November 26th, 2013

Hey David, I masquerade as an audio engineer in my spare time and I've spent a lot of time researching various means of preventing reflections and room resonances that create a decibel boost. In a room with a lot of people these boosts can make things sound far louder than they actually are, especially considering that high frequency sounds such as human speech bounce around a lot). 

The cheapest material you can find with the highest absorbency coefficient for sound is called "rock wool". It is made by spinning mineral fibers and easily obtained online or at nearby hardware store. You can buy this along with some 2x4's and some fabric and create affordable sound panels that can be placed on the walls. Two or three on each wall can make a considerable difference. A good tutorial for this can be found here:

I'd second that white noise is probably the cheapest way to make closer conversations easier to hear but if you want to avoid that constant whirring noise in the office.

Best of luck :)

Darian Springer Software Engineer and Social Entrepreneur

November 26th, 2013

Is this needed for all members of your team or just yourself? Sent from my IPhone

John Anderson

November 26th, 2013

I was in a very similar situation and found that Klipsch headphones work well in this type of situation, as well as on plane trips.  They don't use noise-cancelling technology per se, but the design as well as quality components help keep the outside noises where they belong...outside.

Paul Bostwick

November 26th, 2013

check out "the boom" ymmv not cheap but compared to the office suite with lots of doors and carpets it is a bargain. -Paul =================== =================== Paul Bostwick land 510-533-5678 mobile 510-872-8935 skype paulbostwickoakland Developer of PV-Thermal Solar Collectors Hot Hybrids = 3x the power white papers: State of the market for Hybrids (some context) Hot Hybrids (what I am working on) "Future comes by itself, progress does not" -Poul Henningsen =================== ===================

Blake Caldwell

November 26th, 2013

Another option will be to just add white noise to your office. Ever have a tough time hearing someone from a distance when you are near a fan? There are cheap white noise generators out there that can help with this.

Scott also has some good ideas with the carpet and hanging fixtures.


November 26th, 2013

My day job company uses Soundcoat ( for noise suppression in our products. Maybe that'll help?

Mohammad Forouzani CEO at

November 26th, 2013

The best noise cancelling tech is called a dry wall.

If thats not an option, spend a few hundred bucks on a nice set of Bose QC noise cancelling headphones.

Rob Nero Senior Product Designer at Spotify

November 26th, 2013

Sound nerd here... a fan makes pink noise, technically, not white noise. White noise is like static on a TV, more of a hissing sound. Pink noise is lower in pitch. :)

Stephen Packer Lead Developer at Lettuce Box LLC

November 26th, 2013

I'm in the middle of a book "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams" and noise is a huge point so far.  It's worth a read.  From what I've gathered so far, they seem to promote getting "thinker" employees into quiet environments to get the most productivity and creativity out of them.  There's even a chapter about using earphones suggesting it's a partial fix, but even that blocks some brain processing and so the employee is still handicapped compared to one working in a quiet environment.