Room Acoustics for Headphones?

This is a topic to discuss any and all passive background noise reduction techniques that benefit headphone users. Maybe “room acoustics” is the wrong term but I can’t think of a better one.

Here’s my problem: it gets hot here in Phoenix, AZ. That means my A/C runs a lot. And the return vent is right outside my office. And my office is where I listen to headphones. It’s really all I can do to close the office door in the summer, even then I’m still getting close to 60db of background noise when the A/C is running. Oh and I greatly prefer open back headphones too because I prefer the sound and they don’t make my ears sweat (seriously, that’s an issue here).

So what’s a headphone enthusiast to do? I figured I might be able to rig some kind of isolation box to cut down on the supply vent noise but it would be ugly and wouldn’t have any effect on my ceiling fan noise. So then I wondered if an acoustic panel on the wall behind me would noticeably help. Or maybe I need to make an acoustic panel “cave” for me and my listening chair. Man cave indeed! It would look like *bleep* though.

Then I started looking at balloon chairs:
Orren Ellis Taneyville

You get the idea. The problem with these chairs is that they are relatively expensive and the comfort looks ok at best. Plus I already have an expensive and extremely comfortable lounge chair. Well that and I don’t really have any idea if they will make a difference acoustically, but as a child of the '70s they do look cool to me.

Does anyone have any other ideas?

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Beyond something like this, you’re either going to have to compromise on the open back stance, or suffer without AC.

Something like that except it attaches to the back of my chair and is actually a product I can buy would work. Basically a little noise isolating floor standing cave would be fine with me if I knew of one.

I love that Egg chair with Red! It doesn’t fit the theme of my house but if I ever become a Bond villain, I will have one :wink: @AudioTool


The Orren Ellis Taneyville or the Eero Aarnio Alpha?

I think the Taneyville is my favorite. Of course it is also the most expensive (and out of stock).

Just a tip. Noise and room treatment are two different fields. One deals with vibration and one deals with airborne. Although they share the same physics, they belong to different branches. So, trying to use material meant for treating a room for noise is a foolish thing to do.

source: Foam IS NOT Barrier Technology - - YouTube

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I visited a music store long ago that had literal cones of silence over about a dozen listening stations throughout the store. They were identical to the curved portions below, but just a single dome set about 7-8 feet over the floor. You couldn’t hear a thing from the speaker at the top just a few feet outside the dome.

If you make or buy a box with a window, baffle, or potentially vibrating panel, I strongly recommend sticking automotive sound insulation rubber mats on them. A fairly small square of this stuff will cut the noise transmission potential of a large window, and makes the noise “dead.” This stuff is hidden behind the panels on a lot of cars. It’s very sticky and tough to remove, but comes off glass with a scraper and solvent.


Before mobile phones, Brasil had the orelhão to deal with the ambient noise problem for public phone users.


Very Mid-Century Modern looking :slight_smile:

What kind of AC do you run? That is quite loud for an HVAC, I have a home in the desert too and during the summer the AC is on too cool down from 100 degree weather. In my other home, I have street noise and with the windows open it still does not get that loud.

Perhaps a cardboard box covered with some space age material, then of course you would have to cut out holes to see and/or a snorkel to breath as passing out would pose an alternative problem to the train running outside your office.

Kudos for posing a question that is a bit absurd, and provided me with a good laugh after a long week. Some of these response also have been entertaining

I have a better idea, and must thank @earnmyturns for this. Buy a phone booth

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It’s a central unit on the roof of my single story home. There is one large return vent directly underneath it and just outside my office door. The supply vent for my office is also the closest to the AC, so it gets maximum air flow. Which is good for cooling as my office would otherwise be the hottest in the house. It is bad for noise though because of the sound of the airflow going through the vents. That’s why I was thinking of mitigating the vent noise but I can’t find anything about how to do that. Like I could remove the grill, but then the rest of the house would not get proper circulation.

I assure you I am quite serious and I’d appreciate it if you would be too.

It’s widely accepted that, to a point, lowering the noise floor can contribute to better sound. So why wouldn’t we want to discuss all ways this might be accomplished?

I have one of the original Lee West egg chairs from the 70’s and you’re right,
they are uncomfortable and the sound from the built in speakers is crap.

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Oh that’s interesting! I wasn’t thinking of having speakers in the chair so much as using it for noise isolation.

I remember seeing those egg chairs at (probably) a county fair booth. They were marketed as middle-class novelties and impulse buys – very much a precursor to the old Sharper Image catalog with its 7’ Alien movie sculptures for your home and the like. (It is now bankrupt and converted to a web business, seemingly akin to A Touch of Modern).

Those chairs were described as “meditation pods” or “relaxation pods” but large, weird, and uncomfortable. As a child I thought they were fun and interesting, but today I’d never use one for more than 30 minutes.

For serious noise dampening I’d focus on the noise generation system, the ductwork, any resonating building materials that amplify or transmit sound, and if that doesn’t help I’d add simple sound barriers near me.


Ok. You wanted us to take it seriously, here is my attempt:

1). Dealing with the AC:

  • If this is a home you are planning on staying in for a long time, investigating AC units that have low loise ratings might be worth it, even if you wait until your current unit needs serviced.

  • Checking to make sure that all ducting is well secured and that where possible rubber is placed between bracket, hangers and ducting will pay dividends in rattles. (I am currently ripping up drywall looking for the hot water pipe / wall connection that came loose.)

  • sharp corners and non smooth surfaces would contribute to air noise coming from your AC. I’m not sure that the cost / perfromance ratio would be worth it, but if you can get a HVAC sheet metal company to take you seriously, you may be able to find a craftsman who likes the. challange of making as smooth of returns as possible.

  1. I am assuming you cannot move your headphone rig for serious listening. Because that would be easiest.

  2. Any physical barriers between you and the AC unit are a two edged knife they will both a) reduce noise, and b) reduce airflow, making you hotter. If you run tubes this is especially tricky. You could attempt to manage your personal temperature They sell cooling vests for industrial workers in climates like Phoenix.

  3. Schedule “appointment listening” out side of peak AC hours.


To my ears the source of the noise is the air flowing through the vents rather than any external noise. I’ve been searching the internet for a supply vent grille/diffuser that is designed to be quiet with no luck. All of the information I can find is regarding external noise coming in through the vent rather than the vent itself. I’m going to pull the grille off and see what my meter reads.

An acoustic panel between me and the vent was one of my first thoughts, but the vent is on top of my door so it would need to be quite tall or, well, see balloon chairs above. :grimacing:

I wish I had never seen the red chair with ottoman. I’m really wanting it and it doesn’t look that uncomfortable.

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I’m considering this, although the last time I had it checked out the HVAC tech said the newer units were louder. Besides, I think the bigger issue is the air flowing through the vent itself. Of course I may address the vent noise and then the AC unit noise becomes apparent.

Nope any other areas would be worse for other reasons.

There’s no such thing here in the summer. :disappointed:

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If I could somehow search local brick-and-mortar stores for balloon chairs, I’d go try one out. :sunglasses:

Great idea to pull the vent and re - measure.

you mentioned throwing off the balance in the rest of the house which means you understand that your HVAC is built for a certain load. If it is all vent noise, you could rig a temp cap or plug for when you are listening and depend on the rest of the houses vents to cool your space (just not as well as with the vent open). One less vent shoudln’t make a significant back pressure difference on the HVAC load calc.

If the vent is outside your door, you can also look at sound proofing for your door. Weather-strip, add sweep to bottom edge, and pull the frame and add expanding foam into the gaps, or stuff with rock wool. this will make your office hotter though, as air transfer will be minimized. If the door is hollow core, you could add mass to dampen vibrations. You can also custom make a door by skinning 1x1 with veneer ply with dynamat on one of the interior surfaces to minimize vibrations.

Or, rig a set of curtains to pull around your listening station when you want as silent a situation as possible. Heavy stage type curtains are excellent at reducing noise, and two layers 6 or more inches apart can work wonders for isolation. again, if you do a good job with this you are creating a poaching chamber for yourself however.


With that ball-style one from Amazon, you could pretend to be #2 in ‘The Prisoner’…

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