Quiet on Demand

These speakers take the edge off noisy travel

2 min read

Portable music and video players such as the iPod allow us to while away otherwise interminable journeys on planes and trains. Unfortunately, planes and trains are pretty noisy places and can drown out quieter music entirely. You’re either left to listen to your rock collection for 4 hours or you have to jack up the volume way past the level that Mozart would have tolerated.

Ballerup, Denmark�based GN Mobile’s Jabra brand has another solution. Its set of lightweight noise-canceling headphones, the Jabra C820s, uses built-in microphones to pick up external sounds. Its little brain then analyzes the incoming waves and generates counterwaves that are exactly out of phase; the waves and counterwaves then cancel each other out. The technology works best on sounds with slowly varying frequencies—unlike, say, voices—but this is exactly what is required to neutralize the drone of an airplane engine or the rumble of a train, while still allowing you to hear the flight attendant ask if you want chicken or beef.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

Keep Reading ↓Show less