Disappearing Noise

Note: Some headphones and speakers do not have a wide enough frequency range for you to hear this track. Or your ears might be too blown out. Or the volume isn’t up high enough. Play around with it. If it still doesn’t work for you, perhaps, brother, it is not meant to be.

When you click the audio track on don’t expect to hear anything—but don’t turn it off. Let the track finish, let the “silence” play out. What will be playing are frequencies that hover on the upper level of the human aural threshold, frequencies so high that are more easily “sensed” than they are heard. Some may sense these frequencies clearly; others not at all. That’s because the human capacity for hearing high frequencies varies. Usually, the older we get, the less high frequencies we hear.

Though you may not hear anything while playing the track, when it ends you will sense a different kind of silence. Try it on your stereo speakers as well. Turn the volume to LOUD, play the track. Try to listen for when it stops. It’s an indescribable experience. Not necessarily a good experience, just indescribable. A great track for jerks to throw on at a crowded party.

How It Works

The human ear processes frequencies between 20 Hz (low sounds) and 20 kHz (high sounds). Though we cannot hear above around 20 kHz, other animals can. Dogs, for instance, can hear frequencies up to 40 kHz; a mouse can hear up to about 90 kHz. Canine audio trainers and rodent repellents exploit these aural ranges, emitting high frequencies that are silent to humans yet highly annoying to other animals.

While we cannot hear frequencies out of the 20 kHz range, we can sometimes feel them, rather, we can feel their absence. Japanese sound artist Ryoki Ikeda developed such a frequency and featured it on his insane album titled +/-. HighLab audio technicians have created our own version playable below.

WARNING: The following paragraph may be annoyingly over-detailed and too riddled with weak analogies for some of you. Read at your own volition.

What’s a “Hz?” It’s an abbreviation for Hertz, the International System of Units base of frequency, and refers to cycles of sound per second. Think of sound like a vinyl record, your ear as the needle. When you play a record on a turntable at a low speed, the grooves in the record are read by the needle at a slower rate and the music sounds lower in pitch. Alternately, when you play a record at high speed, the needle reads the grooves more quickly and the pitch gets higher. The human ear works in the same way. Instead of record grooves, the ear processes waves of pressure fluctuation. When air pressure in the ear is fluctuating slowly (a slower cycle-per-second, or Hertz) we hear it as lower pitch; when air pressure fluctuates more quickly in our ears we perceive it as a higher pitch. Further, the level of air pressure in our ears—the amplitude—determines how loud we hear the sound.