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Active Noise-Canceling Headsets In Server Rooms? 141

Posted by Cliff
from the earplugs-on-steroids dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "Recently I co-located our computer room to a temporary hosting facility. It's a big shop, with everything you could want, along with quite a high dB of background noise. I've no desire to wear those silly little yellow earplugs for several hours when I'm on site there, and standard headsets are such non-IT apparel. Given that technology is the cure to many of todays evils I was wondering if any people had experimented with active noise canceling headphones and has something to say about them. Does anyone use any active noise canceling headsets in a computer room or data facility, and if so how good are they?"
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Active Noise-Canceling Headsets In Server Rooms?

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  • I use... (Score:5, Informative)

    by casualsax3 (875131) on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:18PM (#16795366)
    ... this set at my datacenter:

    http://www.amazon.com/Sony-MDR-NC50-Noise-Cancelin g-Headphones/dp/B0007N55OQ/sr=8-1/qid=1163179023/r ef=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-1893536-4549558?ie=UTF8&s=elect ronics [amazon.com]

    The customer reviews pretty much sum them up - I've even got one in there. They do a FANTASTIC job at filtering out our 500 servers, with or without playing music.

    • Re:I use... (Score:4, Funny)

      by szembek (948327) on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:30PM (#16795584) Homepage
      Plugging a sony product on slashdot? You're asking for trouble!
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      From the Amazon page:

      Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 10.0 x 8.0 inches ; 4.0 pounds
      Shipping Weight: 2.00 pounds


      Those are pretty fantastic!
      • by Rekolitus (899752) *
        You know when you're a geek when you look at that and think "Well duh, they ship them compressed."
    • I wear glasses and the sony's suck. They pinch my ear into the arm of the glasses. I use the Bose (first gen) and they work quite nicely in the lab. We have a lot of other noise producers (aside from tons of fans) like these: http://www.thermonics.com/products/T-2500E.shtml [thermonics.com] that basically sound like an air jet non-stop. They sometimes whistle too (that sucks).
      -nB
    • by wfeick (591200)

      A whole host of options [cabelas.com] for protecting your ears. I have some of the Walker's Game Ears to protect me during shooting, hunting, and other noisy activities. The clip noises at 110db if I remember correctly.

      I use Etymotic [etymotic.com] ear buds around the office to give a 25dB reduction in ambient chatter while mixing music with the various puter noises.

    • by frAme57 (145879)
      The parent poster's headphones may be good but I can say from experience that these [amazon.com] (also a Sony product) suck. Wearing them through a workday felt like having a c-clamp slowly tightened on my head and they filtered out mostly mid- and low-range noise. That left me listening to the high, shrill part of the of the cooling fan noise.

      Maybe its just me but piping white noise into my head was as bad as listening to the server noise - and cost an additional fifty bucks.

  • by thrillseeker (518224) on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:21PM (#16795410)
    they work, are cheap, disposable, sanitary, and only take a few days to get used to wearing for hours every day. I worked in a high noise environment for years, and used the "Ears" brand - they're well worth the initial minor discomfort to have continued good hearing.
    • What's the dB cancellation on those? I've been using Hearos (33 dB attenuation), but if Ears brand is better, I'll gladly switch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thrillseeker (518224)
        32 [webbikeworld.com] is advertised. The main thing with any safety equipment is to either have the discipline to use it regardless of discomfort, or to find something comfortable enough to make it an acceptably minor hassle to use, all the time. I found the foam ones by far the most comfortable.
        • Believe me, for my uses, acquiring the discipline to wear them isn't a problem. Firing my Mosin-Nagant M44 is pretty damn loud even when you're wearing softies and over-ear protection. I don't even want to think about what it would sound like without ears on.

          (When you can feel the overpressure of the muzzle blast from five feet away, you know it's no good for your ears)
    • Confession: My ears are very sensitive. (People look at me funny when I claim to be hearing some sound until I take them down the street to show where it's coming from.) I get easily distracted by noises. Earplugs don't work for me. Not because they don't block out sound -- they do block out sound. But then they essentially amplify the sound of my own breathing, which is worse, and more penetrating, because it's coming from within my body.

      My brother got me noise-canceling headphones for Christmas one t
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by snilloc (470200)
        In college, I once made the mistake of retreating to the bowels of the library were there were about 4 other people on the whole floor. Almost no noise over the vent system. I was still distracted by the shuffling of papers, so I stuck my earplugs in. After a while I started to wonder what the heck I was still hearing.... my eyelids blinking. Jesus that was annoying.
      • I own a couple of pairs of $50-70 noise-cancelling headsets from about 5 years ago, and they're lightweight and fairly helpful on airplanes. Recently I was at a trade show and won the raffle for a set of ~$300 Bose headsets from a vendor (who had cluefully noticed that 90% of the other vendors who raffled off something better than a t-shirt were doing iPods :-) Didn't buy their product, but the headsets worked very well - I put them on and the room became a lot quieter, just from the foam padding, then I
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Schlaegel (28073)
      Yea, the original poster needs to get over it. Standard ear plugs should work great for canceling the noise of the thousands of small fans he or she is hearing. Using noise cancellation headphones will only introduce something new to carry around and something new that can break. Often the best solution is the simplest one.

      The original poster said, "I've no desire to wear those silly little yellow earplugs." Well luckily for him or her, the "silly little earplugs" come in more colors than just yellow, they
    • by Gothmolly (148874)
      The landfill, and the Texas-sized mat of floating plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean would like to have a word with you over your use of the term 'disposable'.
    • Seconded - those little foam ear plugs work the treat when you're in high dB environments. I used to work a lot of rock shows and it doesn't take long to get used to them. Depending on the brand you can get as little as a few (10 or so) dB attenuation. That might be OK if you're working in a noisy server room, but it's no good if you're working under a jet turbine or something.

      Noise cancelling headphones do nothing to prevent the hearing loss. They are designed to make the headphone signal more audible
    • by Bishop (4500)
      Foam earplugs are good.

      There are a number of different brands with different shapes and sizes that all perform roughly the same. If one style in uncomfortable try one of the others. A number of places sell "sampler" packs online.

      My prefered brand is Moldex Pura-fit. The noise protection is excellent and the foam is soft and comfortable. When I was working shift work I used to wear Pura-fit ear plugs to go to sleep.
  • at best, good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:23PM (#16795456) Journal

    I've owned and sampled various active noise cancellation headphones. At best, I've found them to be good. At worst I've found them totally ineffective.

    To attenuate high dB environments, I'd consider the "good" of headphones I've tried to be less than satisfactory, i.e., my subjective evaluation has been about a 10 dB or so drop in levels, good, but if you're looking to get rid of noise these won't do that. If the room is loud enough, I think they'd only lessen the noise to barely acceptable levels.

    You mentioned you don't want to wear the silly yellow ear plugs... there are some available in other silly colors. ;-) On the other hand, you aren't likely to be anymore comfortable with headphones on the whole time, and you're going to look no less silly. I've found earplugs to be quite effective, and they're something you can get used to.

    If you're looking to "use" headphones, i.e., listen to music, you might consider various ear-canal headphones. I own a pair of those, and aside from the amazing sound quality of the music, I get about a 30dB attenuation of ambient noise. Two birds with one stone. YMMV.

    Good luck!

    • by Gr8Apes (679165)
      I got to use the Bose set on a long flight once. They were great, cancelled out the stewardesses just fine. I could still hear some of the engine noise, but it went from the standard can't ignore level that interfered with listening to music at moderate levels to almost non-existent. I've been thinking about getting a set for work, but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

      The ear-canal phones are another nice solution, except the pressure on the inside of the ear annoys me after a while.
    • by daniel422 (905483) on Friday November 10, 2006 @02:47PM (#16796634) Journal
      I've got to second the in-ear canalphone recommendation. For one, they use less power (and don't require their own batteries) as most noise-cancelling phones do (better for portable player life). They have excellent broad-spectrum attenuation -- typically far superior to noise-cancelling. And if you invest in a decent pair (even the $80 Shure e2c's) they'll sound a heck of a lot better than most any noise-cancelling set. If you really step up to the plate, Shure's E5 series or Etymotic Research has some models that will simply blow you away -- Shure's even has a "push to hear" feature that allows you to hear outside noises clearly without removing the phones. And the sound quality on these higher-end models is right up there with the best -- period. The same can't be said for ANY noise-cancelling phones.
      Of course you have to get used to having something stuck in your ear....
      • Shure headphones are excellent and better than any "active" noise-cancelling 'phones I've tried. Get the E3c model [shure.com] -- the E2 is a little too low-grade for normal use, and the E5 is more than you need (unless you are an audio professional). The foamy sleeves take a few hours to get used to (it feels funny at first to drink or eat with them in, as they really do fill the ear canal), but it's so wonderful to make the rest of the world disappear. Plus the audio quality, right down to the lowest bass, is quit
    • by Sangbin (743373)
      I couldn't agree more.
      Two weeks ago, I went out to a shopping mall, and dropped by at SonyStyle, Bose, Discovery, Brookstone, and SharperImages to try all the noise cancelling headsets they had.
      For my ears, in terms of qualtify, Bose QC was the winner(yes, I know it costs x2 for 10% improvement). I eagerly went home with QC2, hoping to block out my roommate's computers' fan noise.
      The very next day, I went back to Bose shop to exchange it for QC3, hoping that this one is not toally worthless.
      From my expe
  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) * on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:23PM (#16795464) Homepage Journal
    Check out the SAGE sysadmin toolbox [sage.org] page, and scooch down to "What's the scoop on hearing protectors and noise-cancelling headsets?". (The whole damn page is useful, too...)
  • First, to reduce the sound:

    http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=40 69679 [jr.com]

    These do an excellent job of just reducing the sound across the spectrum, so your 90db server room turns into 70db. In fact, I use these plugs while drumming to be able to hear properly (foam plugs kill the highs). An additional help with these plugs is that speech is still very clear.

    I've also used some Sony in-ear headphones, and am thinking of ordering some of the Sennheiser phones. Now, these don't have active cancella
    • by pixr99 (560799)
      Since you mentioned Sennheiser...

      I've been wearing a pair of their HD 280 Pro for about a year (whenever I'm in the server room) and they're perfect. I usually hang an iPod off of them. They bring down the ambient noise so much that I listen to the iPod at fairly low levels and hear the music just fine. They're rather comfortable as well. Yesterday I wore them for about six hours with no discomfort. They're an over-the-ear design and I can testify that they don't touch the ear at all.

      The only problem w
      • by ytseschew (562867) *
        I second the recommendation of the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. Even without music they significantly reduce noise. I use them to reduce server noises. I've also used them while mowing the lawn with a gas-powered mower and was able to set the iPod to a fairly low level before starting the mower and still listen to it at that level while running the mower. With normal headphones I have to turn the volume up significantly while mowing. They also have excellent music reproduction.

        I do find them a bit
    • Here is the manufacturer site http://www.etymotic.com/ephp/er20.aspx [etymotic.com]

      I have a set of these myself (in blue) and I take them to concerts. They are great because they make a smooth reduction in sound, there are earplugs out there that decrease it more but not that do it so evenly (unless you spend a ton on the etymotic custom ones or something) The one thing that bothers me though is that when its a band that I want to sing (yell) along to it sounds really weird because the earplugs only serve to make your

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@corne[ ]edu ['ll.' in gap]> on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:29PM (#16795566) Homepage
    My Philips HN100s (admittedly a rather low-end model) do very little as far as noises from a computer (drive whine, cooling fans, etc.) They're excellent against lower bass frequencies (automotive engine noise, airplane engine noise, lawnmower noise).

    Also, wearing circumaural ANC headphones is going to be a lot more annoying than almost-invisible earplugs. The in-ear ANC headsets (like the Philips SHN2500s) are absolutely awful compared to good passive-isolating earphones or good earplugs. In fact, my experience with the SHN2500s was that they added more noise than they removed in most environments.

    As far as in-ear passive isolating headphones, I have tried the following:
    Sony MDR-EXsomethingorother - Silicone rubber earpieces, with rubber hooks that go over your ears. Extremely uncomfortable and not much isolation. $50
    JVC HA-FX33 "Marshmallow" headphones - These STILL don't appear on JVC's website anywhere, and I have only seen them at Wal-Mart stores. $20, decent isolation, pretty comfortable, excellent sound.
    Radio Shack "NR-1" noise isolating earphones - Great isolation and comfort, not very good bass response. I keep them around for extreme environments where isolation is more important than bass response and sound quality. $40

    I haven't used any of the more expensive in-ear monitors. Shure E2cs and E3cs are popular, as are Westone UM1s and UM2s. The UM1/UM2 appear to use the exact same "Comply" tips as the Rat Shack units, so should have the same isolation and comfort, but hopefully better bass response and sound quality due to better drivers.

    For the most extreme enviroments, such as the cabin of a Saab 340 turboprop aircraft, my personal favorite is a combo the Rat Shack in-ears connected to an audio source (laptop or iPod) with the Philips HN100s placed over them. Neither of them alone is sufficient for the interior cabin of a turboprop aircraft.
  • I have a set of Targus AWM02US headphones and I use them in my lab, where my in-lab "desk" is directly next to a rack of Itaniums (loud), and even with the active canceling off the noise reduction is great. Regardless of which brand or model you decide on, if you're in a data center, you'll be glad to have them.
  • Denpending on what you want to accomplish there are different things to do.

    Do you want the illusion of silence so you can concentrate?
    Do you want silence to avoid long term damage of your ears?
    Do you want to actually talk with other people?

    If you dont want to use earplugs get a real hearing protector, they can be had without, with a speaker inside and with speakers and a microphone for talking to others.

    Dont damage your ears for appealing looks (you wont pickup or get laid inside the server room anyway).

    I d
  • Non-IT apparel? Aside from safety considerations, I'm not too concerned with what I wear in a facility. I know that it isn't always possible, but I avoid customer contact on the days I have physical work to do; besides, khakis and polo shirts are required IT wear, aren't they?

    Standard hearing protection is a lot cheaper. You can have more than one set, and when you lose one, you're only out about $25. Since I have a motorcycle, I use moldex ear plugs; they work well, are cheap, and pack easily.
  • Foam_earplugs++ (Score:4, Informative)

    by trip11 (160832) * on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:35PM (#16795650) Homepage
    You may not like the stupid yellow foam earplugs, but there are better alternitves. Check out http://earplugstore.stores.yahoo.net/profmusearpl1 .html [yahoo.net] for instance. The idea is that they are both more comforatble and allow you to hear better even while reducing the volume. All of the musicians I have mixed for LOVE them and I've tried them and found them to be much more comfortable than regular foam plugs. In fact, I find having a large headset on, is uncomfortable for long periods and adds strain to your neck. Check them out, they aren't too expensive. (and I have no affilation with this paticular store, it's just the first site I found)
  • I use my Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones in computer rooms and other places with the same kind of noise, e.g. heavy airconditioning machinery. I'll never go anywhere near the noisiest rooms again without my headphones. They reduce the noise maybe 15 dB, it might not sound much but it's the difference of the world, particulary when staying in there for a long period. I bought my headset with airplanes in mind, but they work even better in computer rooms.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have worked in server rooms and also ride a motorcycle. The noise in a server room is very similar to the wind noise when riding a motorcycle on the freeway. I wear earplugs from Howard Leight, the green disposables. They are very comfortable and very cheap, 200 pair for less than $25, which usually lasts me 2-3 years. I've used them in server rooms and on airplanes. They are very effective and you can hear people talk if they speak loudly. Here's a setup that I've been considering that you may find
  • Stop by your local hardware store, and get a nice big pair of those headphone/earmuff style hearing protectors. You can find them in a few colors, or cover them with stickers, or mod them with LEDs, etc.

    The biggest convenience of those things is being able to take them off easily, and not having to scour your ears daily to avoid having earwax all over. (with the little in-ear plugs) And they'll actually protect your hearing, to boot.
    • As far as hearing protection goes, if you're going to be wearing them for any length of time, you owe it to yourself to get ones made by David Clark.

      I don't work for them, I'm just a very satisfied customer and user of their products. Second-generation user of their products, actually; I have a set of DC hearing protectors that used to be my father's, that are getting on 40 years old now.

      Their list of products are here [davidclark.com]. I have the model 10A, although if you have big ears that stick out, you probably want th
  • Noise canceling headsets can damage your ears. The sound pressure in a loud environment is still there, even if you can't hear it. If you are in a loud environment, one loud enough to damage your hearing, wear earplugs!!!

    So while turning up the power on the headset will make the noise you can hear 'go away' the damage is still being done.
    • by Banner (17158)
      Wow, so much for trying to warn people about ruining their hearing.
    • The sound pressure in a loud environment is still there, even if you can't hear it.

      That's incorrect. Sound is pressure (or more accurately, pressure fluctuations). ANC works by generating negative pressure waves to cancel out the original pressure wave. By definition (in an ideal environment) this reduces the pressure fluctuation to 0.

      In other words, if you can't hear it, it's not damaging your hearing.

      • Do either of the above posters have a source reference that they can cite? I know that noise-cancelling phones work by generating sound waves that are out-of-phase with the ambient noise, but it would seem that is simply adding to the sound pressure levels?
      • There are frequencies towards the edge of the human hearing range that can cause damage. I'll bet ANC headphones don't cancel these out.
        • There are frequencies towards the edge of the human hearing range that can cause damage.

          Umm, no. The frequencies towards the edge of the human hearing range are the frequencies that we are least sensitive to, so they're not going to cause many problems.

    • I'm not sure if this is true, and despite some Googling I can'f find any substantiation either way. There certainly are a lot of warnings from various people not to try and use active noise-reduction systems as "hearing protection," but I can't tell if that's just the manufacturers of same covering their asses from lawsuits, or if it comes from actual technical deficiencies in the systems.

      I think the main problem with trying to use noise-cancellation as hearing protection, is that most systems only 'cancel'
    • by TA (14109)
      >So while turning up the power on the headset will make the noise you can >hear 'go away' the damage is still being done.

      As has been said before already: The above statement is simply utter bullshit. Go learn some elementary physics please, particularly about
      how waves interact.
  • Shure E2c (Score:5, Informative)

    by xee (128376) on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:51PM (#16795886) Journal
    These are the best portable headphones i've ever used. They're not active noise cancelling, because they're so damn good they dont need to be. Put them in and be amazed. I used them extensively in a large (and very loud) server room and was very VERY impressed with their noise cancelling abilities.

    http://www.shure.com/PersonalAudio/Products/Earpho nes/ESeries/us_pa_E2c_content [shure.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by justinbach (1002761)
      Seconded. You're dead on, xee...I've had my e2c-ns for about seven months now and I can't imagine ever going back to bulky, over-ear headphones or non-IEC earbuds. These headphones simply blew me away, both in terms of noise reduction, which is about as good as the best earplugs I've ever used, and sound quality, which is sick. I listen to lots of jazz but also music of other genres and have had no complaints about a weak low-end, which is an accusation often leveled at earbuds and IECs. In fact, the b
  • You could take some action to improve the acoustics of the server room itself. For example, sound absorbing ceiling and wall tiles, rugs, and sound deadening panels. Putting the panels on wheels allows you to move them and create quieter work zones inside the datacenter as needed.
  • We have our own loud server room, and are not only looking for solutions to ease the noise, but to also facilitate communication in it. We have impromptu meetings at time with developers and techs that can last for long periods.

    Are there any good headsets that not only cancel out noise, but also allow for a group of 6 people to communicate right next to each other without yelling?
    • by Speare (84249)

      Er, step out into the hallway or the kitchenette or, maybe call me crazy, but use the conference room?

      • by Rurik (113882)
        Which is what most people would do. But, when you have a team of guys who have to work in the server room for hours on end, assessing trouble tickets and fixing equipment, they should be able to hold a conversation without having to walk in and out 10 seconds.
  • The tried-and-true little yellow foam jobbies are great if you only need them once, and your budget is around $0.03. However, if you're going to be wearing them for longer, or if you are the sort of person that goes to a lot of concerts or clubs, there are better solutions.

    One set that I highly, highly recommend are made by Etymotic Research [etymotic.com], specifically their ER*20 High Fidelity Earplugs [etymotic.com]. They're comfortable, and sound isn't "muffled" by them. That is, going out to a club or a concert, the music sounds
  • I know they are expensive, but the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones are incredible. I use them almost every day to cut out most of the noise of the servers and AC units in the data center. You still hear a bit of the higher pitch noises coming from the fans but its bearable. Once you've had the headphones on for awhile and take them off you realize just how big the difference in sound is. It still surprises me sometimes. The difference from a cheaper set (say the Sony noise-cancelling) and the the Bose is rea
  • Several options... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bagheera (71311) on Friday November 10, 2006 @02:17PM (#16796278) Homepage Journal
    ANC headphones are one solution amongst several. They certainly work, but they're not perfect. Noise cancelation isn't 100%, and depending on model, the range of frequencies they can actually counter may not be effective in your environment. With most of them, you can hear a low volume 'hiss' when they're just canceling noise and not playing music. Also note that the "over the ear" type are more effecive (they provide acoustic as well as active noise cancelation) and usually more comfortable than the less expensive "on the ear" types. Finally, most models have a permenantly connected earphone cable and ALL of them lose some, if not most, effectiveness when the batteries die.

    I've tried several sets, and they certainly work at the noise levels and freqs I've encountered in the DC's and computer labs I've had to work in. Also great for air travel - which is what te technology was first developed for.

    The cheapest solution are the foam earplugs. They're also generally more effective than ANC at protecting your hearing. They do, however, reduce ALL the sound, so conversation (already difficult) becomes more difficult. "In the ear" headphones (Shure or Etymotic, for example) can give the same level of hearing protection and provide music. Some of them have an external mic you can use to hear people talking. I went to a set of Ety's for air travel and find I can listen to music clearly at very low set volume while blocking out more external noise than the Bose or PlaneQuite active units did.

    The "ugly", but possibly best, solution, is a set of over-the-ear hearing protectors as you see on construction sites or shooting ranges. They look kinda silly, but they have great sound attenuation.

    Best for you will depend on your needs.

    Foams are dirt cheap. Professional grade over the ear types are $20-$50 depending on how nice you want. ANC starts under $20 and goes well over $300. Same with in the ear headphones. Top end Shure units are something like $500.

    Figure out what you want to do, and experiment.

  • While fancy Bose or something might do even better, the difference between using my cancellers and just plain earplugs is night and day. They were just $30 Radio Shack specials, yet in the server room, it becomes dead silent. (The difference is so astonishing that if I'm wearing them when I walk in, I just plain don't notice the noise. If I then take them off, or turn them off, it's like I've stepped onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.)
  • by jbbernar (41291)
    I've used Sony noise-cancelling headphones, and found them only marginally helpful. Foam earplugs helped block the fan noise, but, as others have commented, they can make you hyper-conscious of the sound of your breathing and your heartbeat; I also find them painful. The best solution I've found are ZEM [sensgard.com] hearing protectors. They're about $20, lightweight, and work well. They're great for planes, too.
  • You could wear ear protection used in gun firing ranges and then put something inside them like earbuds or whatever else. I'm sure those work tons better for sound isolation, which would help the music sound tons better
  • by toybuilder (161045) on Friday November 10, 2006 @03:23PM (#16797168)
    I'm sensitive to noise and have been using a combination of noise cancellers (Bose QuietComforts are far better than any others that I've tried) and ear plugs to survive noisy air conditioners, the din of "bull pen" cubicle farms, the hum of multi-hour plane trips, the roar of servers in machine rooms, and the rumble of gardeners at work in the early morning hours. Noise takes a big toll on you if you're exposed to it for a long time.

    When my (now) wife moved in with me, she couldn't sleep with my snoring. ): She tried my earplugs which helped with the noise, but was uncomfortable to wear over a long period of time. The problem is that my earplugs were too thick and dense for her much smaller ears. After we shopped around, we found much more comfortable ear plugs for her, and she is a much happier camper.

    I went through a whole bunch of earplugs before I settled on the ones that I buy for myself and the ones that I buy for my wife -- you might need to do some searching of your own to find the right combination of noise suppression and long-wearing comfort.

    This is the "small" earplug that I get for my wife: http://www.am-safety.com/category.asp?catalog_name =AM%20Safety%20Master&GroupID=13&cookie_test=1 [am-safety.com]

    This is the "big" earplug that I get for myself for maximum noise suppression; http://www.am-safety.com/category.asp?catalog_name =AM%20Safety%20Master&GroupID=10 [am-safety.com]

    If you buy noise cancellers, buy good ones. My wife and I tried Sharper Image's $100 ANR folding headphones because they were on sale at 50% off... They were terrible -- they cut the low-frequency noise effectively, but added so much high-frequency hiss that we hated them. The only problem I have with the Bose QC's is they are a bit too fragile for the way I handle portable devices*.

    In extreme cases, the ear-plug + ANR combo is great. This is what we do when we're flying across the pond.

    * Assurion hates me, heh... :)

    • by swordgeek (112599)
      If you're "sensitive to noise," then you should quit screwing around with foam earplugs.

      Drop some cash ($100-$300) and get custom molded ones. They'll be more comfortable, easier to hear through, and generally better in all ways.

      This is what intelligent rock musicians do. The not-so-intelligent ones just go deaf.
  • If you don't mind having things stuck in your ears, earplugs are the best bet. Either foam ones such as Hearos, or in-ear canalphones such as Etymotics if you want to be able to listen to music.

    If you don't like having things stuck in your ears, I favor Sennheiser PXC-150 headphones. They have better active noise canceling than the original Bose QuietComfort (I haven't tried the latest rev), and better sound fidelity for music. They'll also fold up and fit in a pocket, unlike the Bose.
  • by Chacham (981)
    It matters on the noise.

    If the noise is some idiot who meanders his way in, a baseball bat is the way to cancel it.
  • OK, lots of good advice has been put forth here already. One bit of it, I'll even repeat: If you need real ear protection, look at Etymotics.

    That said, one of the points of a server room is that you should almost never be in it! Racking and wiring computers can take a while admittedly, but in our fairly large data centre (~10,000 ft^2), we probably have someone in the data centre maybe an hour a day, and that's spread across all groups (Unix, Intel, telecom, networking, backups, and building maintenance). I
  • I have tried several active noise reduction headsets for use in single engine piston aircraft, and tried the winners in noisier seats on commercial jets and in data centers.

    My biggest lesson relevant to this discussion is the ANR headsets are most effective at low frequencies and relatively ineffective at high frequencies. And my experience with server farms is that the noise is mostly high frequency.

    The three most significant heatsets I have tried were the Bose Aviation X (excellent but overpriced), the Bo
  • At least that's my experience. I went to the local Bose store to try them out, expecting to put them on and hoping to experience instant suppression of surrounding noise and conversation. No such luck. I checked out a pair at Sharper Image, too, and they claim 14 dB reduction. Even if the Bose ones (at $300) do more, 14 dB just isn't enough. Ear plugs are 20 dB+ and cost pennies.

    If you want your music to sound better when there's ambient noise, noise cancelling headsets are probably great. If you want
  • by gr8fulnded (254977) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @08:10AM (#16804336)
    I turn off my hearing aid when I go into my server room.

    No, seriously.

    Being deaf ain't half bad sometimes.

    --Dave
  • Etymotic Researcy (www.etymotic.com) has a number of different ear plugs and noise attenuating headphones which are much nicer than the active noise canceling headphones, imo. The earplugs are very comfortable, and custom molds can be made.
  • I spend at least 8 hours a day in a loud-ass server room. It has phone switches, as well as servers, so it's quite loud. My solution is to crank up the stereo.

    Works pretty well, though people walking by outside can hear it better than I can when I'm on the far side of the room.

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