Inaudible ring tone?
June 12, 2006 1:39 PM   Subscribe

NYT story about superhigh frequency ringtones. A new ringtone at a frequency of 17 Khz is supposedly inaudible to most adults, and so highschoolers and others are using it to sneak text messages in school, etc. BUT. An mp3 of the tone is included with the story and I can totally hear it, though it hurts my ears. And I am in my 40s. Can others hear it?
posted by jfwlucy (275 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Many does not equal all.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2006


25....no
posted by slapshot57 at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2006


28, yes.
posted by barnacles at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2006


i can hear it just fine, and i'm 30 years old and have been going to clubs regularly for 12 years. I think this is an urban myth.
posted by empath at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2006


23. Yes, and It's significantly lower than the noise a CRT makes, that gives me the mutant power to detect whether or not a TV or computer is on in my house.
posted by armoured-ant at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2006


32... Yes. Sounds kind of like bats. It was painful to hear, but didn't seem loud.
posted by apiaryist at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2006


29... yes, but it'd be interesting to see if younger folks can hear it at lower volumes than I can.
posted by gurple at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2006


46 and can't hear it. Turned up the volume on my PC at work and played it and no one else could hear it either.
posted by Carbolic at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2006


Weird, I could easily hear it, and my hearing is for shit.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:47 PM on June 12, 2006


Since then, Mr. Morris said his company has received so much attention — none of it profit-making because the ring tone was in effect pirated

They copyrighted a frequency?!
posted by Bugbread at 1:47 PM on June 12, 2006


23, I can hear it. When I was a kid I could hear up to 24khz which is extremely high, but I imagine years of concerts have ruined that. Put the tone at 18-19khz though and a lot of people, especially older people could not hear it audibly.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 1:48 PM on June 12, 2006


I could hear it (age 31), but I'm also wondering about the volume thing...Kids may be able to hear it at lower volumes. As far as unhearable tones being an urban legend, I can vouch for the fact that when I was a kid I could hear if a TV was on, but now I can't.
posted by Bugbread at 1:50 PM on June 12, 2006


36, no.
posted by tristeza at 1:51 PM on June 12, 2006


31, yes I can hear it very clearly. I could go way higher than that, I think, and my hearing isn't perfect anymore due to concerts etc.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:51 PM on June 12, 2006


33- yes, it's annoying; sets my teeth on edge
posted by Rubber Soul at 1:51 PM on June 12, 2006


22, I can hear it really well, but my coworker could not hear it right next to the speaker with the volume all the way up, while my ears were about to start bleeding.

I can also hear when the TV is left on, and when the microwave beeps from any room in the house when my roommates can't.
posted by Sprocket at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2006


28, yeah. But primarily for the first few seconds. It's nauseating, though. One of those noises that despite barely hearing it, I can feel it.
posted by xmutex at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2006


23, and yeah I can easily hear it.
posted by afx237vi at 1:52 PM on June 12, 2006


28. i can hear it, although i could see myself missing it if other people were talking or the room was noisy. and why can't they just use vibrate?
posted by gnutron at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2006


29... yes, but it'd be interesting to see if younger folks can hear it at lower volumes than I can.

Me too: 32 and I could hear it, but I really had to crank the volume.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2006


23 - Yeah, I can hear it really clearly and I have terrible hearing. I can hear when a TV is left on.er

Could someone explain to me why these kids would just use "vibrate" on their phones?
posted by arcticwoman at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2006


35. Can't hear it at all.

Great ... now I'm worried about my hearing.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2006


would not use
posted by arcticwoman at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2006


it feels like the base of my brain is pasta and the tone is a fork winding it all up into a tight little ball of brain pasta. as soon as the tone stops, and the tension is released. really weird.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2006


28. i can hear it, although i could see myself missing it if other people were talking or the room was noisy. and why can't they just use vibrate?

If it vibrated, the teachers could hear it, and be able to confiscate the phones, which can't be used in class.
posted by zabuni at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2006


Vibrate is pretty noisy.
posted by Bugbread at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2006


28, and I can hear it. I can actually whistle at this pitch, which really freaks out cats and dogs.
posted by mullingitover at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2006


30 and can hear it just fine. Wasn't all that pleasant though. I can almost assure you if I heard this being used in public I would grab the phone it was coming from and throw it into the the nearest pond, busy intersection or sewer.
posted by paxton at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2006


If I turn up the volume I can hear I perfectly clearly. I'm of the teachers age or older.

Turn up the frequency you 'ung ones.
posted by jouke at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2006


43 and I can hear it.
posted by Elim at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2006


30, shitty hearing, and I could hear it. It's totally annoying.

Funny, I downloaded it and stuck it in iTunes, and it sounds much louder, and way more audible; much lower.
posted by interrobang at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2006


45 and I can hear it, with ears that have heard hundreds of live bands. It is obnoxious though; definitely something I could see being used to disperse people.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2006


The principle behind it is a biological reality that hearing experts refer to as presbycusis, or aging ear. While Miss Musorofiti (28) is not likely to have it, most adults over 40 or 50 seem to have some symptoms, scientists say.

So what good is it if many of the kids' parents (under 40y/o) can hear it anyway?
posted by arcticwoman at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2006


This is just an FBI plot to find out the ages of all the MetaFilter members.

< have to come up with conspiracy theories since WebSense blocks all MP3 downloads. :( >
posted by BaxterG4 at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2006


31 can only hear it with volume up VERY high
posted by YAMWAK at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2006


32, and I can hear it loud and painfully clear. I can also hear when a TV is on, FWIW.
posted by TonyRobots at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2006


I've come across this before, and remeber reading some speculation there was dependence on the quality of the speaker to get the effect. Cheaper, nastier speakers could make it otherwise audible because the specific frequencies involved 'leaked' into other frequencies or rattled the equipment.

I am not a sound engineer however.
posted by Sparx at 1:58 PM on June 12, 2006


Middle-aged, and I can hear 22KHz tones just fine.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2006


bugbread writes "As far as unhearable tones being an urban legend, I can vouch for the fact that when I was a kid I could hear if a TV was on, but now I can't."

I don't think anyone's arguing that people don't tend to lose the ability to hear high frequencies as they age; that's a well established piece of medical science. The urban legend part is as to whether this phenomenon forms such a stark division between teenagers and adults so as to be useful. With the ring tone, for instance, a good percentage of teachers under 50 would be able to hear it easily, rendering it useless except for very selective application. With the "teenager deterrent", stores would also be driving away a good chunk of that desirable 18-35 demographic....
posted by mr_roboto at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2006


Also, it is well known among acousticians and hearing scientists that men lose high frequency hearing faster than women, so gender might be a relevant factor here.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2006


37, listening on studio reference monitors...I hear it loud 'n clear. Maybe those of you who can't hear it are playing it through laptop speakers?
posted by eatyourlunch at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2006


45 and I can't hear it, but my dog's ears went up and she started looking around like "What the hell is that?!"
posted by wsg at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2006


41, can't hear it over the tinnitus. Seriously.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:02 PM on June 12, 2006


50, can't hear a thing. Poor speakers or old ears?
posted by lathrop at 2:02 PM on June 12, 2006


Which ringtone has the frequency that makes people lose control of their bowels?
posted by NationalKato at 2:02 PM on June 12, 2006


These phones... they don't vibrate?
posted by ninjew at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


29. That hurts. If a student in my class used that, I'd punch them.
posted by papakwanz at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2006


32, M, yes, even at lower volumes. Here's hoping someone will chart this data after all the responses are in!
posted by Mapes at 2:04 PM on June 12, 2006


42, but what was the question?

I can hear it loud and clear, even on the crappy speakers of my Powerbook.
posted by kika at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2006


35, and yes I hear it -- and I've been in metal bands since I was 20. It's easy to hear it start, but hard to hear when it ends, however.

It's probably quiet enough, though that I wouldn't notice it unless I knew to listen for it.

Damn kids and their interweb ipods...
posted by LordSludge at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2006


38, heard it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2006


20, and I can hear it at loud volumes, while at low volumes it just makes my head hurt. I am using very cheap speakers right now, so the audible noise at loud volumes could be an effect of that.

There definitely can be a huge difference between people even of the same age. We were building audio amplifiers and part of this involves putting sine waves through them - as frequency rose my hearing dropped off before other people's, and they would feel pain at frequencies where I noticed no effect.

Interestingly, one guy I know who was very sensitive to the high frequency sound is also very sensitive to monitors with low refresh rates, whereas I can use 60 Hz with no problem.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2006


39. Ow.
posted by bonehead at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2006


32, No. Drummer for years, not surprising.
posted by djseafood at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2006


40, yes I can hear it. Husband, 42, can't.
posted by agentmitten at 2:08 PM on June 12, 2006


Yep. I'm 32 and probably have diminished hearing in both ears thanks to playing in bands, but I could hear the tone just fine. Much more pronounced than the telltale "is there a TV on somewhere?" frequency, which I've noticed doesn't register with me as often as it used to.

Sometimes I swear I can hear either disk activity or maybe even the graphics chip on my Mac start working...
posted by emelenjr at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2006


32, can hear it just fine.
posted by glider at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2006


39, and I heard something but I don't know if I'm hearing the tone, as much as I'm just hearing a noise that made me want to clench my jaw and grimace.

I'm not in favor of wholesale bans of cell phones in schools (I think they serve a purpose, sadly, in a post-Columbine/post-9/11 world) but I think any kid found using this particular tone should receive some serious punishment because it serves no purpose but to allow the circumvention of rules regarding phone use in classes and other proscribed areas.
posted by Dreama at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2006


27. Painful in my right ear; audible but noticeably less so in the left, due to a physical deformity in the external canal. It sounds almost exactly the pitch of my tinnitus.
posted by ijoshua at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2006


38. I can hear the start of it but I lose it after about 1/2 a second. I have significant hearing loss (mostly in the mid-range).
posted by m@ at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2006


HA!!!! I'm the oldest so far (strangely proud of that).... suffice it to say I beat everyone brave enough to state their age..

Couldn't hear it on the computer (powerbook) speakers...plugged it into the Klipsch speakers attached to the ipod dock and it hurt my ears..but had to crank it up a bit to hear it.
posted by HuronBob at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2006


30, no problem hearing it at all, and I have bad hearing (according to my wife).
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2006


33. Yep. Hear it.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2006


24, ouch turned it off. pain mostly in my right ear, don't know that says something about me or my speakers. yeesh, even if you can hear that, who wants to? let alone, several times a day...
posted by jann at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2006


40, female, can hear the first few seconds, more so I can feel it, like how you can tell when a TV is on when you walk by someone's house.

This is just a ploy to find out how old we all are, isn't it?
posted by matildaben at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2006


39, can hear it. Different audio players do different things with high frequency sounds, too. Anti-aliasing filters, upsampling, etc. Don't like it, though.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2006


26, can hear it. Whatever happened to vibrate or putting it on silent and, I don't know, looking at the phone?

*shakes fists, ushers children off the lawn*
posted by sugarfish at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2006


26 yes.

If one were to pulsate the tone, would that allow more people to distinguish it from background noise?
posted by thefreek at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2006


22, can hear it, and it sucks.
posted by virga at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2006


35 - barely. Similar to the high pitched whining from my Palm's screen.
posted by signal at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2006


26, heard it. Make it go away now.

I was under the impression that the speakers on cell phones couldn't generate frequencies that high...
posted by rand at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2006


I had no idea there were so many thirtysomethings here at metafilter.
posted by pwb503 at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2006


40 - Nope.

My wife is 33, and she constantly complains about the magnetic theft devices in most bookstores and such, so I'm guessing she will completely be able to hear it.
posted by smallerdemon at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2006


I kept hearing this story on my local news radio channel today, but couldn't hear the tone.

So I found this post at work and cranked my speakers:

Me, 45, and could barely hear it cranked. The 41 year old in the cube across from me couldn't hear it.

The 22 year old across the room had to put her hands over her ears.

Go figure.
posted by Raymond Marble at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2006


33 - totally heard it. Not painful, but I would definitely know something was going on if my students kept receiving messages.
posted by NationalKato at 2:21 PM on June 12, 2006


35 - didn't hear it at first, but after turning the volume all the way up, I could hear it fine. I don't think I would pick it out from the other background electrical hums in my office unless the volume was cranked up, but I'd probably be able to hear it in a classroom.
posted by ga$money at 2:28 PM on June 12, 2006


There are definitely better ways to know if you've gotten a text message during class. It seems like even if the teacher couldn't hear it, he or she would notice every time half the class cringed and then someone stole a look at a phone.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2006


46, yes. Kinda hurt. Thanks, though.
posted by e40 at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2006


One of the other coders here brought it up today, played it for the four of us in my group. He (early 30s) couldn't hear it at all, another guy (late 20s) could hear it if he got close to the speakers but not at a distance, and myself and one other (mid-30s) could hear it clearly.
posted by weston at 2:34 PM on June 12, 2006


If one were to pulsate the tone, would that allow more people to distinguish it from background noise?

I first heard about this on NPR a couple of weeks back. They'd interviewed the inventor of the teenager-repellant "Mosquito" device. He said that the tone in his device did pulse in such a way that made it excruciating after a few moments of listening. (For those who could hear it, that is.)
posted by ijoshua at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2006


35 - dead silence. However, my hearing is generally lousy so not really representative. Judging by the upthread comments about electronic hum, maybe bum ears are a blessing.

I don't get why the little buggers would be excited about rendering their ringer silent to the over-30 crowd. Doesn't, uh, YAMMERING into their phones tend to give away their little secret anyway?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:36 PM on June 12, 2006


50 - didn't hear it at all, and I'm a musician (acoustic instruments....) But then, I don't hear my own cell phone from the other room or when it is in my bag, while my girlfriend does. On the other hand - when I play violin in the highest positions, I am less self-critical of my own tone, and play more fluidly than I used to.
posted by zaelic at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2006


13, and I can hear it. I often hear frequncies much higher than this in stores and in public, when most poeple can't hear anything.
posted by Suparnova at 2:38 PM on June 12, 2006


Doesn't MP3 strip out everything above 15kHz?
...
Yes, the peak on this is 15011Hz, not 17000.
posted by queen zixi at 2:38 PM on June 12, 2006


Those of you who hear, or used to hear, the TV on in another room even when the sound was off, were hearing flyback, the mechanism involved with tracing the raster image on the screen. ~15kHz. Not far off from this ringtone.

When I listen to the mp3 of this ringtone, it strikes me as not pure, as if it might contain harmonics lower than 17kHz.
posted by Pliskie at 2:40 PM on June 12, 2006


43, and I didn't hear anything. My ten-year-old, in the next room, grabbed her ears and said "what's that beeping!?!?" I played it again and she did a spit take, all over my wife's jacket. She couldn't hear it either, but no she's annoyed at all of you for making me try to hear it!
posted by mmahaffie at 2:42 PM on June 12, 2006


32 - yes
posted by ramix at 2:42 PM on June 12, 2006


26 - Yes and my head is killing me. It's been a few minutes and I still feel pressure behind my eyeballs and eardrums. Ow.

I'm not in favor of wholesale bans of cell phones in schools (I think they serve a purpose, sadly, in a post-Columbine/post-9/11 world) but I think any kid found using this particular tone should receive some serious punishment because it serves no purpose but to allow the circumvention of rules regarding phone use in classes and other proscribed areas.
posted by Dreama

Narc!

posted by danny the boy at 2:43 PM on June 12, 2006


30, and I can hear it. Can't these crafty little teenagers just set their phones on vibrate?
posted by jefbla at 2:44 PM on June 12, 2006


48, You damn kids get off my yard with your inaudible ringtones!!!

My daughter, 15, complained about how loud and unpleasant it was. I played it three times and heard nothing the first two times but when I played it a third time I was farther from the computer and I could just hear it. Wife, 47, thinks we're nuts and making it all up.
posted by Mcable at 2:44 PM on June 12, 2006


shenanigans. boing boing offers this link in response, which points out that cellphone speakers cap out aroun 10khz. there is some ensuing discussion (warning: pdf) that suggests that the speakers can playback much higher frequencies, but my experience with audio content on cellphones is that the compression used in the ringtones bandlimits the frequency well below the 17khz that this dude is pushing.
posted by casconed at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2006


sorry, didn't read all the comments up thread, ignore my vibrate comment
posted by jefbla at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2006


I don't get why the little buggers would be excited about rendering their ringer silent to the over-30 crowd. Doesn't, uh, YAMMERING into their phones tend to give away their little secret anyway?
posted by nakedcodemonkey


(According to the article) the kids these days are mostly using it as a text message alert, grandpa.

Kidding!
posted by danny the boy at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2006


33/f/L.A.

Taurus
posted by Kloryne at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2006


also: original bb post
posted by casconed at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2006


25 - I can barely hear it, and only if I concentrate. Certainly wouldn't notice it in a classroom setting.
posted by rockabilly_pete at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2006


40, can hear it just fine.
posted by nicwolff at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2006


39 with a lifetime of ear infections and I can hear it just fine. The funny part is I stopped noticing CRT whine a few years ago, so I'm wondering if my crappy laptop speakers are distorting things enough to make it audible.

If I had to listen to it every time I got a msg I'd burn the phone.
posted by Opposite George at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2006


42. Nope.

*sigh*
posted by Quiplash at 2:51 PM on June 12, 2006


30, and that was definitely 'ouch'. Then I realised the muted TV was making a similar tone (but quieter), and had to turn it off too. It used to drive me crazy as a kid that my parents couldn't hear that noise, and would get annoyed when I went round unplugging TV's until I found the one doing it.

Do you guys get annoyed by CRT's at 60Hz too? The flickering on those gives me a headache very quickly, I don't know how people stand it.

Oddly enough, I find I have much more trouble with lower frequencies, including voice. I really struggle on telephones sometimes.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2006


Nakedcodemonkey:"I don't get why the little buggers would be excited about rendering their ringer silent to the over-30 crowd. Doesn't, uh, YAMMERING into their phones tend to give away their little secret anyway?"

The little buggers are all into pulling one over on the over-30's. it doesn't matter if it's practical, it's all about screwing around with us old people.
posted by Mcable at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2006


OK, I did it:



Now, don't let the observer effect bother you.
posted by Mapes at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I can hear it, but I don't know if I'd be able to identify it as a ringtone; it's a similar noise to exceptionally noisy fluorescent bulbs, or TVs on the 'video' setting.

In any case, it's annoying.
posted by Electric Elf at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2006


Also, I also never knew there were so many 30something and 40something folks on MeFi.

But, yeah, I'd guess this has to go up another 2 or 3 khz to actually circumvent the majority of teachers.
posted by Bugbread at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2006


36, yes I can hear it. But I call bullshit. No phone can make a sound like that.
posted by fungible at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2006


I can hear it and I am thrilled to learn that I'm not the only person in the world who can tell when a TV or monitor is on even when the sound is off... if I have my windows open, I can tell when my neighbors turn their TV's on too...

And don't even get me started on flourescent lights...
posted by WhipSmart at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2006


Mapes, you rock.
posted by Bugbread at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2006


and, oh yeah, I'm 33
posted by WhipSmart at 2:58 PM on June 12, 2006


43 - heard it & it made me about jump out of my skin. Yuck! My ears still hurt.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:02 PM on June 12, 2006


69-very hard of hearing both ears and I can hear it perfectly?????????At lowest possible volume level.????
posted by notreally at 3:03 PM on June 12, 2006


my girlfriend, 28, could hear it quite clearly (i think via headphones). I, 29 could not hear it via the built-in speaker in my laptop (sony TR3A), but when i hooked a pair of generally crappy, but larger harman/kardon desktop PC speakers, i could hear it reasonably well (particularly at the beginning), but it just sounded like a high-pitched beep.

It's interesting that the speakers in the average cell phone are better than the internal speaker in a less than 3 year old laptop. Speaker quality may be a major factor in who can and can-not hear the tone.
posted by jba at 3:03 PM on June 12, 2006


43. Heard it at max volume through the laptop speakers - despite the evils of my misspent youth.

When you play it backwards you can hear "John is Dead" loud and clear.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 PM on June 12, 2006


25, hear it, hurts like a bitch.
posted by stenseng at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2006


48 - yes.

hey, great way to get everybody to tell their ages.
posted by 3.2.3 at 3:06 PM on June 12, 2006


43, I have a good strong case of tinnitus, and I can hear it.

Damn whippersnappers won't be using no tones on MY lawn.
posted by disclaimer at 3:07 PM on June 12, 2006


34, can hear it loud and clear.
posted by Foosnark at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2006


but I don't own a lawn so its kind of a null anyway
posted by disclaimer at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2006


Just moved the mp3 over to my phone and much to my suprise, that same damn noise came out of my phone as did my computer.
posted by rand at 3:09 PM on June 12, 2006


21, and I've been diagnosed with high-frequency hearing loss. I can still hear it.
posted by H-Bar at 3:09 PM on June 12, 2006


31. I can hear it very clearly, but at a low volume. A few more years before it will give me a headache?
posted by ed at 3:09 PM on June 12, 2006


26, can hear it perfectly well. There's a (somewhat) related hearing test here that's interesting. Pliskie, didn't know that about flyback, thanks. It's always bugged me a little while I'm using the computer.
posted by EarBucket at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Maybe those of you who can't hear it are playing it through laptop speakers?

Yup: I listened to it again through my home PC with good external speakers and it was definitely much louder and clearer. Pissed my cat right off too.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2006


44 and can't hear a thing. I find this strangely disconcerting.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2006


> remeber reading some speculation there was dependence on the quality of the
> speaker to get the effect. Cheaper, nastier speakers could make it otherwise audible
> because the specific frequencies involved 'leaked' into other frequencies or rattled
> the equipment.

My soundcard audio out goes straight to my regular stereo line in. It's no $25K audiophile system but it ain't PC speakers either. Anyhow, I hear the little zeeeeeeee loud and clear. My ears are 56.

P.S it looks very strange in Winamp's frequency analyzer plugin.
posted by jfuller at 3:20 PM on June 12, 2006


27 and I can hear it on my old Ti Powerbook, I can't hear it on my girlfriend's Macbook, and I can hear it on my Nokia 6682.

This must have something to do with the speaker quality.
posted by splatta at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2006


24, and the tone was clear as crystal. I can hear televisions that are on blank screens from other rooms though, so I'm probably an anomalous data point. My hearing is particularly sensitive to high frequencies.

If I was teaching a class (which I might be diong soon), I'd probably just tell students that yes, I can hear it, and that they shouldn't assume everything they read is true. Maybe give an impromptu lesson on frequencies that can be detected by the human ear.

Either that or just have a laptop blaring it at all times to keep everybody in a state of high-strung cat-like readiness.
posted by truex at 3:23 PM on June 12, 2006


33, can hear it fine.
posted by delfuego at 3:26 PM on June 12, 2006


(That's on three different computers, all with high-quality speakers that likely reproduce it faithfully.)
posted by delfuego at 3:26 PM on June 12, 2006


25. Hear it. It hurts. I've never been a big guy, but if anyone had used this when I was in high school there would've been an immediate beatdown.

In NYC, where I live, and where the school cell phone ban has been a big issue of late, I can see this taking off. The funny thing is, most NYC teachers are in their early to mid-twenties, and all the ones I know are tech-savvy. I really don't see this working very well.

Oh, and NationalKato is right. This would make a kick-ass ringtone, provided it didn't affect me personally.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:27 PM on June 12, 2006


Oh, and if it actually worked. And was audible.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:28 PM on June 12, 2006


Navelgazer said... And was audible.

You could just use the fact that everybody around you has either spontaneously evacuated their bowles or is running towards a restroom as a call indicator.
posted by truex at 3:31 PM on June 12, 2006


What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

Heard it fine. But I almost have to sleep in a sensory deprivation chamber. I hear grass growing.

What’s the tone that can shatter glass?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:34 PM on June 12, 2006


my biz partner, 52, hears it just fine
(when i played it over studio speakers, he got really annoyed).

hurt my ears...
posted by fisherKing at 3:35 PM on June 12, 2006


34, and I heard it. Still hear it. Damn thing made my ears ring!
posted by msali at 3:35 PM on June 12, 2006


Nice way to get our ages...

I'm 39.
I can hear it fine.
Don't like it.
Turn it off.
Thank you.
posted by Rashomon at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2006


33, and I had to gradually turn it up till I could hear it, and then (I think) only cos I was listening for it. But I have crap hearing and I know it.
posted by everichon at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2006


19, and even at the lowest volume it gives me this horrible sickening headache as soon it starts to play. Turned up louder, it was just about unbearable. See also this for the flip side of younger people generally being more sensitive to high-frequency tones.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2006


31, could hear it, couldn't dance to it.
posted by unixrat at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2006


39, can sorta hear it, but it's more "wow...that gives me a headache". Seems to mildly annoy the cats as well.
posted by kjs3 at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2006


30, could hear it fine, started barking and howling...
posted by Mr. Six at 3:48 PM on June 12, 2006


35, heard it. Gee, "ringtones" just get more and more annoying.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:53 PM on June 12, 2006


36 and yes, though some 40-somethings in the room could not hear it.
posted by joeblough at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2006


For additional fun - here's a breakdown of different frequencies to try. I can't hear it properly above about 15khz - there's an indication something's playing I'm taking as speaker artificats, but I can't say it's a high pitched 'Squee' once I hit 16
posted by Sparx at 3:55 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


31, don't hear it. (But I have some known neurological problems that can affect hearing, so I'm not surprised.)
posted by Soliloquy at 3:55 PM on June 12, 2006


Folks listening to this in Winamp: turn the EQ off. Mine, anyway, drops a lot of crap into lower freq ranges which might confuse the issue.

After turning the EQ off and doing a quickie freq analysis (Winamp->WAV file->AnalFreq (heh heh heh) ) it looks like it's up about 60-65dB around 15kHz, with nothing else to speak of above 150Hz or so. So the file at least looks legit.* Of course, this totally evades the question of what the speakers are doing.

*Assuming I'm using reasonably reliable tools here, which I really can't guarantee but whatever...
posted by Opposite George at 3:56 PM on June 12, 2006


27, I have tinnitus in my right ear, I'm on my work laptop and I can still hear it with no problems.

I always thought that humans could hear up to 20khz on average anyway (barring hearing damage or old age).
posted by Sandor Clegane at 3:56 PM on June 12, 2006


32 1/2. Eeeeeeeeeeee.

Yes, I can hear the TV whine when left on with no feed.
posted by linux at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2006


27, I can hear it - in fact I can still hear it now it's finished, and it hurts.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2006


27, I can hear it - in fact I can still hear it now it's finished, and it hurts. Didn't have to turn the volume up either.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2006


33 and yes it hurt very much.
posted by aaronscool at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2006


38: it is VERY loud and annoying. It has static or something in it, too.... it sort of crackles, for lack of a better word.

Judging from memory, I'm not sure this ringtone is actually 17khz. I don't think it's high enough.

I always used to be able to hear TVs as a young person, and can't anymore. I tested my hearing at the Exploratorium and could hear up to about 28.5 khz at age 18ish.... maybe I could have gone farther, but that was the max the machine would do. It wasn't loud, it was just a whisper by 28khz, but I could hear it. By age 25, I couldn't max the machine anymore. I believe my upper limit by then was about 24k. (I'm assuming the machine was still working properly: it had been there a long time by then.)

This ringtone doesn't sound ANYTHING like the ultrasonic stuff I could hear as a kid... so I rather wonder if it's not knocked down a number of notches so we adults get an idea of what it sounds like?
posted by Malor at 3:58 PM on June 12, 2006


damnit
posted by altolinguistic at 3:59 PM on June 12, 2006


23 and it's almost a painful noise for me... Even at low volume.
posted by smitt at 4:01 PM on June 12, 2006


Ok, after testing those links... the ring tone in the original article is not 17khz. I can just barely kinda hear 16khz from Sparkx's link.

I think the original article's frequency is probably about 14k.
posted by Malor at 4:02 PM on June 12, 2006


30, I can hear it and it's very irritating indeed. My wife is 26 and she can hear it but she doesn't think it's that bad...
posted by ob at 4:02 PM on June 12, 2006


Can anyone make an audio file (WAV?) that actually is 17khz so we can see what that really sounds like?
posted by smitt at 4:03 PM on June 12, 2006


37, 36, 5, and 10 year old cat. We can all hear it at full volume on my laptop speakers. Everyone except the 36 year old can hear it at half volume.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2006


29. Mother of god that was painful. Ripped the headphones off immediately.
posted by synapse at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2006


Through the midget speaker in my laptop - nada. However, when plugged into a Tivoli radio - oooohhhh, that is an annoying whine. I am significantly older than 18, but I bet the tone is a lot louder for a teen than it is for me.
posted by caddis at 4:05 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


40. Heard it only after I turned my speakers waaay up. Made my sinuses ache, thank you. My four yr old heard it easily with the volume set very low.
posted by maryh at 4:07 PM on June 12, 2006


Malor,

You're close (do you have a trained ear?) I'm measuring a very sharp peak centered at 15kHz, down about 60dB when you go up and down about 300Hz (eyeballing here, thus the "abouts.")
posted by Opposite George at 4:08 PM on June 12, 2006


smitt - try the link to ochenk posted by Sparx, above. I could hear everything up to (and not including) 19000.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:09 PM on June 12, 2006


An mp3 is not the right way to evaluate a 17 kHz tone - mp3's don't put out much above 14 kHz.

The speakers you're using matter a lot, too. Not all speakers will reproduce such a tone with fidelity.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2006


52, hear it, it fades, notice it going off. I just didn't think it was good for my ears.
posted by pointilist at 4:11 PM on June 12, 2006


27 here. I can hear it clearly and find it extremely unpleasant.
posted by Goblindegook at 4:13 PM on June 12, 2006


From quick testing with Foobar and its (limited) frequency visualizer, the test sound in the article is only about 13.5Khz. It definitely sounds lower to me than the 14khz test tone from Sparx's link does. Visually, it's centered somewhat lower as well.

Opposite George's testing may be better than mine. I'm assuming that Sparx's test tones are accurate... I'm not using real equipment or anything. But based on his test tones, the one in the original article looks to be about 13.5Khz.

OG: no training, just genetics. :)
posted by Malor at 4:14 PM on June 12, 2006


42, heard it with the volume turned up, but I am in a small room with a loud computer and a window fan. In a quieter surrounding, I would have heard it at normal volume. Don't know if I'd catch it if I were in a loud, busy public space, but I'd hear it in a mostly silent classroom.
posted by briank at 4:15 PM on June 12, 2006


22, I can hear it, and no pain or anything. I can hear CRTs, too.

I have ridiculously crappy headphones, but later on I'll try Sparx's link again and see if I can hear all the way up to 20khz.
posted by blacklite at 4:19 PM on June 12, 2006


Opposite George's testing may be better than mine.

No clue. I'm working with a program (AnalFreq) that I hadn't heard of more than an hour ago, whose main selling point was its freeosity. On top of that I'm doing a conversion step in between.

The results smelled good since the graph I get peaks exactly at 15k and its down 60dB or so everywhere else, but I really can't stand behind any of this.
posted by Opposite George at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2006


28 - I can hear it just fine.
posted by special-k at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2006


er, it's, dammit.
posted by Opposite George at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2006


41 and could hear nothing on my crappy desktop speakers.
I loaded it on to my phone and could just about hear it.
I can see some fun coming though on the tube during school kicking out time...
posted by darksmiler at 4:28 PM on June 12, 2006


41 and hear it clearly at medium volume on the iMac speakers.

When my hearing was tested as a teen I had extremely high hearing -- well above 20kHz but I don't remember exactly how much -- I could hear higher freqs than anyone else in my radio broadcasting class, though.

About 5 years ago I was tested again and while I don't remember the kHz reading, I supposedly tested pretty high again despite all the years of loud rock music.

Now I think I have finally started to lose the high end, but this doesn't sound all that high to me.
posted by litlnemo at 4:35 PM on June 12, 2006


Pardon? Sue per huge frog Quincey binge foam?

(29, couldn't hear a thing. But then I do spend most conversations saying 'Sorrywhatdidyousay?' Bloody nightclubs.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:35 PM on June 12, 2006


28, I heard it, but my husband (26) and friend (25) seemed to hear it more strongly. Or at least have less patience of for listening to it than I do.

It is faint, and somewhat white noise like. I might hear it and not even realise if I weren't listening for it.

As for the vibrate issue: back pocket, sit on it, no one else can hear it. Not that I would be sending text messages in silent libraries to test this or anything. Place with white noise is better than truely quiet stacks. In a classroom, a phone on vibrate would not be heard, provided it's under your bum.
posted by jb at 4:36 PM on June 12, 2006


The equipment being used will have a huge effect on whether you can hear it. Speakers, amplifier, sound card, could start to roll off anywhere between 10kHz and 20kHz - only fairly serious equipment would go higher.

Some important things to consider:
  • The frequencies you see listed in specifications are where the roll off begins. If a device is specified at 15kHz there will normally be at least some discernable signal left at 30kHz. It depends on a lot of things though..
  • High frequencies are highly directional, they roll off quickly in air, and they reflect off almost everything. In practice, I find that these factors mean that very minor head motion (pointing direction or position) will change the perceived volume radically. I also find that such very high pitched sounds can be very hard to localise (which may appear to contradict the claim of directionality, but I don't think it actually does, for all kinds of reasons).
  • Hearing is logarithmic in frequency and amplitude. There is very little difference between 15kHz and 17kHz (two notes?).
posted by Chuckles at 4:37 PM on June 12, 2006


33, and only when the volume of my laptop was up all the way. I've got a 30% hearing loss in my left ear, so I don't think I would normally hear it.

It make something in the back of my throat hurt though. Weird.
posted by obeetaybee at 4:43 PM on June 12, 2006


24 and HOLY DOG, if someone played that near me, I'd smack them into next week.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2006


Malor,

I just ran an analysis on Sparx's 15kHz tone. The spectrum is different enough to the Times' file that I could understand if a set of good ears hears them as different pitches.

BTW, my ears are bad enough that all I get out of either file is "squee." Also, IANA acoustician, so maybe I'm completely full of crap.

Anyway, Sparx's tone seems to have a richer, more regular (eyballing again) distribution of lower freqs. The Times' file has a more random, spiky distribution, with the bumps less well defined over the floor.
posted by Opposite George at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2006


By playing a test tone along with the mp3 you can match the frequency very closely. Once you are in the ball park listen for volume fluctuation (the beat frequency). When the fluctuation becomes very slow or stops, you have a match. For me, that occurs at 14993kHz+/- 1kHz.
posted by Chuckles at 4:51 PM on June 12, 2006


38, hearing damaged in the high frequencies thanks to an industrial accident, and I can still hear it. Not only can I hear it, but it makes my head feel like it's splitting in half.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2006


Also, both sharply centered at 15kHz.
posted by Opposite George at 4:53 PM on June 12, 2006


Oh, and I forgot to mention, now I have a headache.. I should have fired up MATLAB, ala grapefruitmoon
posted by Chuckles at 4:54 PM on June 12, 2006


I also find that such very high pitched sounds can be very hard to localise (which may appear to contradict the claim of directionality, but I don't think it actually does, for all kinds of reasons).

Indeed. Locating the source of a high-pitched pure-ish tone can be maddening. I once spent a long fifteen minutes trying to figure out just what piece of equipment in an unfamiliar 10'x10' video room was uttering a horrific ~12kHz sine wave. Ick.

A small battery powered device blasting this sort of tone would be a great (that is, terrible) way to torture a cubedweller/homeowner/cardriver you dislike.
posted by cortex at 4:54 PM on June 12, 2006


33, heard it in headphones, am now going to kill the neighbors' dog as per the underlying messages encoded in that hell-tone.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:04 PM on June 12, 2006


Here is a quick frequency analysis of the ringtone:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
posted by Sangermaine at 5:05 PM on June 12, 2006


cortex : "I once spent a long fifteen minutes trying to figure out just what piece of equipment in an unfamiliar 10'x10' video room was uttering a horrific ~12kHz sine wave. Ick."

I'm in a 50' by 50' or so room (maybe more) with I estimate 100 computers or more, all of different makes and models, pointing in different directions. Welcome to my high pitched, impossible to locate, squee-ing hell.
posted by Bugbread at 5:31 PM on June 12, 2006


25 and could hear up to the 18kHz tone in Sparx's link. I wouldn't think the fact that it's an mp3 should be too much of an issue since it is only a single tone being encoded.

However, for regular (music) audio mp3's you wouldn't tend to get much output above 16kHz. This is because the mp3 algorithm essentially discards frequencies if they are masked by louder frequencies in close proximity. This is what's known as the ear's critical band response. As noted by chuckles, hearing is logarithmic in nature and therefore the higher critical bands cover much greater ranges of frequency and therefore tend to get masked more.

(Oh and while we can't discern actual pitch above about 4000 Hz the difference between 15kHz and 17kHz would be equivalent to between 2 and 3 semitones)
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:40 PM on June 12, 2006


34, yes, happily - b/c I thought my hearing was getting worse, I guess it is, but not that frequency range yet.

It's now my ringtone. :P
posted by tomplus2 at 5:49 PM on June 12, 2006


I think my sound card or speakers must be broken on this computer. I can hear the 25,000 hz frequency better than the 15,000 hz, and it seems like a lower frequency. Why is this? I will have to get out the headphones and try again.
posted by caddis at 5:56 PM on June 12, 2006


It's the sound card distorting. I had the help of a thirteen year old and some high fidelity headphones to confirm that the sounds started getting lower in frequency after about 16-17,000 hz. That can only be harmonics or other distortion coming from the sound card. In other words, just because you can hear the tone does not mean you are hearing the frequency.
posted by caddis at 6:06 PM on June 12, 2006


32, decent but not great speakers on a desktop system, and that was fairly obnoxious. But I don't know how faithful the speakers are – I tested Sparx's links, and I can hear up to 19kHz if the speakers were right.
posted by furiousthought at 6:07 PM on June 12, 2006


Actually the tones in that link are sampled at 44.1kHz (they were probably generated at higher sampling rates but most likely encoded for mp3 at 44.1kHz) and therefore couldn't present tones any higher than 22050 Hz (known as the Nyquist rate). What you are probably getting caddis is aliasing, which essentially is distortion caused by the Digital to Analogue conversion, trying to recreate frequencies that weren't there originally, but that it thinks are there due to sampling at too low a frequency
posted by TwoWordReview at 6:15 PM on June 12, 2006


I'm 34, and I can definitely hear it. It does remind me of a TV left on in the next room...
posted by MythMaker at 6:20 PM on June 12, 2006




Here is a good tone generator to test your hearing.

NCH Tone Generator
posted by Capt. Bligh at 6:34 PM on June 12, 2006


42, just barely (on a notebook)
posted by pmurray63 at 6:36 PM on June 12, 2006


39 and I heard it. And I'm not happy about it either.
posted by helcat at 6:36 PM on June 12, 2006


I can only hear it in my left ear, oddly enough.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:36 PM on June 12, 2006


35. Can't hear it at all.

Great ... now I'm worried about my hearing.
posted by pardonyou? at 4:55 PM EST on June 12 [+fave] [!]


That was at work. I just tried it at home and could hear it.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:43 PM on June 12, 2006


23, male, Ow Ow Ow, make it stop.

I have the aforementioned mutant ability to walk into a house and know if TVs or CRT monitors are on.

Sparx gave a link to a series of mp3s, and it seems my hearing caps out at 20kHz.
posted by Jerub at 6:50 PM on June 12, 2006


I'm 38, a musician and total music fiend and I could hear it...

It was was really annoying though.

Kooky kidz...
posted by black8 at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2006


30. I can hear it perfectly on my laptop, but it didn't bother me at all or give me a headache.
posted by Penks at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2006


50. I can't hear it, but I can feel my right ear drum vibrate about halfway through the tone.
posted by sixpack at 6:57 PM on June 12, 2006


45. I only hear a very quiet hmmmm, with the speakers turned up to 11. I assume that's not what I'm supposed to be hearing.
posted by yhbc at 6:58 PM on June 12, 2006


Weird, I tried Sparx's link, and with the volume all the way up I could hear 21kHz, but not 19 kHz.

17 kHz I could hear just fine at lower volumes.
posted by Penks at 7:00 PM on June 12, 2006


60, volume up, desktop crappy speakers.
Blown eardrum, years back, and some sound on noise problems ever since. A lot of tinnitus.

Had to crank it, but I can hear it, and these speakers don't have a lot of power.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:05 PM on June 12, 2006


Ok, so I tried the one on the actual link, and I could hear it. Hunh. I couldn't hear a couple of other samples that I found earlier. I'm 40, btw. (I mentioned earlier that I couldn't hear it, but it does depend.)
posted by smallerdemon at 7:12 PM on June 12, 2006


26, loud and clear.
posted by knave at 7:14 PM on June 12, 2006


34, yes
posted by Karmakaze at 7:21 PM on June 12, 2006


42, Yup, loud and annoyingly clear
posted by area45 at 7:29 PM on June 12, 2006


35, I can hear it in my right ear but not my left.

I have chronic ear wax issues that probably explain the left ear - TMI I'm sure.
posted by photoslob at 7:33 PM on June 12, 2006


39, and nothing. Tried it all the way up too and put the speaker right up to my ear.
posted by UseyurBrain at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2006


33, just barely at mid-volume, clearly at max volume.
posted by Ritchie at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2006


24... could hear no higher than 17kHz on Sparx's link. It's weird how they were all coming in loud and clear-- maybe a tiny dip in volume between 16 and 17kHz -- then, at 18, silence. Blissful, blissful silence.
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2006


36, sounds like a faint annoying buzz to me, with my laptop sound cranked all the way up. There is no way I would hear this if I were teaching in a classroom. Apparently my hearing sucks, since I had no clue people could hear a TV without the sound on.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2006


33. Jeepers, that was awful!
posted by moonbird at 7:48 PM on June 12, 2006


I couldn't hear it on my ibook, but it got my dog disgruntled and made her woof from 2 rooms away. Sigh. 47.
posted by janicea at 7:52 PM on June 12, 2006


And just because we need a few more comments:
21, and yes.
posted by ztdavis at 7:54 PM on June 12, 2006


Yes, makes me wish I couldn't. At one time I could also hear part of the alarm system at the Metroplitan, though only in some rooms ... it made an even more annoying sound than the ringtone.
posted by BlueMetal at 8:23 PM on June 12, 2006


39

Voices of Civil War generals urging abstinence are clearly audible.
posted by docpops at 8:25 PM on June 12, 2006


22, can hear it just fine. Capt. Bligh's tone generator seems to do a better job with higher frequencies than do the MP3 links, and my hearing seems to crap out between 21 and 22K.

Also, I am now convinced that I have tinnitus, since acutely listening for high-pitched sounds has led me to continue hearing high pitched sounds after the fact.

You kids, my lawn, etc. etc.
posted by Mayor West at 9:01 PM on June 12, 2006


50, and I can just hear it on the crap speakers on my iBook. (Cranked.)

(It's not as loud as the voices in my head, though....)

I used to be really annoyed by the flyback tone on tv sets; in recent years, not so much, although I still hear enough of it that I can still tell as soon as I enter a room if a tv is on or not.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:23 PM on June 12, 2006


48, heard it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:30 PM on June 12, 2006


This is silly. I'm not about to read 222 comments to see if someone else has already said this, but chances are that the 17 kHz audio being played back is being distorted by A) the mp3 compression process and B) the audio circuitry in your crappy ass sound card and peecee speakers, and so what you're hearing in your speakers is not at all pure 17 kHz -- it's 17 kHz plus lots of harmonics and other distortions, at least that's what I'm hearing. In short, hardly a real test. Meh.

Oh and damn teenagers, collapse of civilized society, public education woes, et cetera.
posted by intermod at 9:30 PM on June 12, 2006


24 - Can hear it clear as hell.
posted by cellphone at 9:44 PM on June 12, 2006


There sounds like there's a few distinct tones here, not just one. One that's definitely lower than the 17khz, and others that I can't guess off the top of my head, that are definitely higher.
posted by cellphone at 9:45 PM on June 12, 2006


Ok, from Sparx's link, I can just barely hear 17khz. And that's it. THANKS A LOT SUNNO)))
posted by cellphone at 9:47 PM on June 12, 2006


intermod,
a) yes
b) no (sound chips)
c) yes (speakers)

Anyone want to try a 16 Hz tone :)
posted by ryoshu at 9:57 PM on June 12, 2006


24, yes, and loudly.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 10:07 PM on June 12, 2006


Yes, 33. Sounds like that occur pretty frequently in my music.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:19 PM on June 12, 2006


Intermod speaks truth. When I played sparx's link with xmms, I could hear them all with perfect clarity... but the fact is, they didn't even sound particularlly high-pitched. Clearly an issue with the alsa driver support for my sound card; they were giving me some low-end harmonic rather than the actual tones.

On a mac with quicktime the results were more credible. The thing is, PC sound cards, speakers and MP3 decoding software aren't going to perform to any standard at these frequencies. (Or any other, really.) I wonder how many of the above are really hearing what they think they are.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:35 PM on June 12, 2006


28, jesus christ that hurt
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 11:03 PM on June 12, 2006


I heard it and I'm as old as the hills.
posted by homunculus at 11:45 PM on June 12, 2006


27, female, with mild congenital low frequency hearing loss (believed to be due to bone conductivity issues, not nerve damage issues). Could hear it okay, didn't like it.

Husband (27) and cat (4) sitting in the next room heard it loud and clear and didn't like that racket one bit, no sir.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:50 PM on June 12, 2006


31, female, heard the mp3 linked in the article clearly. On Sparx's link I could hear everything up to 20,000Hz but nothing above.
posted by LeeJay at 12:44 AM on June 13, 2006


Huh. 22 and thus far I'm the youngest of this crowd that can't hear it. And a music teacher, at that.

Well, this is definitely unnerving.
posted by honeydew at 1:43 AM on June 13, 2006


33, I heard it but pretty faintly. Very annoying, it truly felt like my brain was twitching.
posted by zardoz at 2:02 AM on June 13, 2006


...and it was quite staticy. Anyone else hear background noise or is it just me? Or just my crappy speakers?
posted by zardoz at 2:05 AM on June 13, 2006


26, heard it on both the speaker sets and all four headphones in our living room. I'm probably in the the lowest ten percent in terms of lifetime exposure to loud sounds here. Wife, 34, couldn't hear it at all, and is probably in the highest. Gerbils went fucking bezerk, and TVs drive me insane.

Hooked up some high-end Sennheiser cans to a good amp, and got 23KHz on Sparx test.
posted by Ryvar at 3:03 AM on June 13, 2006


Boing Boing had this story 3 weeks ago. I thought about posting it, but I'm 28 and I can hear the sound just fine, so it seemed kind of dumb. Why would kids risk using this ringtone, which some adults CAN hear, when they could just put it on silent and look at the phone every once in a while? I call shenanigans on this whole story!
posted by antifuse at 3:44 AM on June 13, 2006


33, it hurts but I can hear it
posted by kudzu at 4:52 AM on June 13, 2006


I assume that the whole reason for sneaking a ringtone into a classroom in the first place is so one can read one's messages. Otherwise, you're still waiting until class is over.

If all the kids have the same ringtone, wouldn't they ALL try to sneak a look at their phones at the same time when the tone goes off? That would end up pretty obvious. If I were a teacher, I think I'd institute a "phone-bucket" for voluntary surrrender during the class period.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 5:05 AM on June 13, 2006


Mayor West : "Also, I am now convinced that I have tinnitus, since acutely listening for high-pitched sounds has led me to continue hearing high pitched sounds after the fact."

Ah, it's not just me, then. I could hear when it started clear as a bell, but the sound continued even after I hit the "stop" button.

antifuse : "Why would kids risk using this ringtone, which some adults CAN hear, when they could just put it on silent and look at the phone every once in a while?"

Because kids are dumb (apologies to any kids on here. Adults are dumb, too). Which is why I really, really hope this catches on, as kid after dumbfounded kid gets busted by teachers even though, "hey, you're not supposed to be able to hear that, you're an adult!"
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 AM on June 13, 2006


27. Strapped into a signal generator at work and got as far as 16250 Hz with headphones on. I CRANKED the volume at 17 kHz and it felt like my zygomatic arches were being crushed. While I couldn't hear the tone, my ears definitely knew something LOUD and possibly damaging was going on. If I couldn't hear 17 kHz before, I sure as hell can't now.
posted by quite unimportant at 5:31 AM on June 13, 2006


39, and yes, I heard it. And it was horrible. Ow, ow, ow, indeed.
posted by ninthart at 5:31 AM on June 13, 2006


So far (finer lines indicate results from each additional forty responses):


posted by Mapes at 5:38 AM on June 13, 2006


24, and I can clearly hear it, although I'm wondering if I can if I put this as my ringtone and I walk into a crowded place. Heck, I can't hear my phone going off half the time, and I have a Fort Minor mp3 as my ringtone.
posted by the cydonian at 5:56 AM on June 13, 2006


38, faint electronic whine. Had to crank the speakers up halfway, though full volume, it was somewhat irritating. I wouldn't have noticed it at all if I were outdoors or in a busy area.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:17 AM on June 13, 2006


The sound I get matches the 3 kHz tone from the hearing test linked by EarBucket. On that test, the 16kHz tone sounds lower than the 12 kHz tone, at the loud end.

I have a new Logitech speaker set (their top surround system) playing on a Soundblaster Audigy 2zs. Isn't this supposed to be 'good'? Clearly, the sound isn't reproduced with any faith. I'd plug in my Fostex headphones, but I'm lazy.
posted by Goofyy at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2006


50. Didn't hear it played through Zinf. I opened it in Magix Audio Cleaning Lab, didn't change a thing, and heard it loud and clear. Saved it without changing, and could hear the new mp3 in Zinf; original still inaudible. Something screwy here. Used another program to convert the mp3 to wav, and heard that loud and clear as well.

I don't know which disturbs me more: That I can't hear the original squeal, or that my own software seems to be converting the frequency when I run the tone through it. It makes me wonder what it's doing to the music I thought I was preserving!
posted by Seabird at 6:41 AM on June 13, 2006


And just as an idea, this should be easily defeated using the same technology used to detect high frequency bat calls.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2006


Me-->52: not a thing on my laptop
Daughter --> 16: "What's that noise?"
posted by cccorlew at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2006


32 and OUCH. Yes, I can hear it. And now my coworkers know I am susceptible to higher frequencies and are torturing me with it.
posted by grubi at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2006


in my 30's and i can hear it; i have always been able to hear a TV being turned on and such so i suppose this just confirms that not only is TV my friend but i am still stuck at 15 as all my friends and co-workers keep telling me


now back to fart jokes and beer bongs.
posted by duality at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2006


I just moved the file over to my phone. The sound the phone makes is completely different from that my computer made. On the phone, it sounds pretty much just like a CRT or mosquito on speed. On the computer, it was much lower and "dirty" -- not a pure tone. I was skeptical at first, but after hearing it on the phone I can totally see how this could work.

Oh, and I'm 34.
posted by ewagoner at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2006


damn. 44, can't hear a thing.
posted by lester at 8:40 AM on June 13, 2006


51 - Heard it through (pretty good) built-in laptop speakers. It didn't bother me at all so I plugged in my head phones: heard it much better and it still didn't bother me. I haven't owned a TV in years. 2 cats, ages 5 and 2, can hear it.
posted by taosbat at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2006


45 here. Couldn't hear it.
And for those of you scoring at home, on Sparx's link, I could hear up to 13K. Then at 14K, could hear it in my right ear, but not the left, then 15K, nothing.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2006


35, male. I hear it fine even on low volumes, but don't find it annoying.

On Sparx's link, I could hear up to 15K even at low volumes. 16K I could hear only with the volume all the way up, and even then only in my right ear, and only faintly. (No surprise there, as I've previously been diagnosed with a bit of high-frequency hearing loss in my left ear.) 17K I couldn't hear at all.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:25 AM on June 13, 2006


163 years old, male. I could hear it in my right ear, despite the immense forest of hair growing there. Lost my left ear in a sword fight years ago, so I couldn't hear it on that side.
posted by nlindstrom at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2006


And for those of you scoring at home, on Sparx's link, I could hear up to 13K. Then at 14K, could hear it in my right ear, but not the left, then 15K, nothing.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan


Thanks, I'd missed that link. I can hear the demos fine up to 15,000 Hz but nothing at 16K & beyond.
posted by taosbat at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2006


Fantastically interesting.
At least, for the fantastically bored and procrastinating.
Of course, I'm talking about age distribution of mefites here.

Anyway, I'm thinking that the majority of people that reported they can't hear it actually would be able to with the right setup. On this work computer for example: Quicktime has made itself the the default handler of mp3s, so when I initially clicked on it, it went to a blank page with a little embedded Quicktime player and played it... with just a hiss of noise. After seeing the comments I figured there had to be something wrong, so I opened it up in Winamp and fb2k and of course immediately got the earsplitting pain that so many people reported. <-- That's just the software side; as is probably obvious and lots have mentioned, speakers can make all the difference in the world when trying to reproduce frequencies outside the popular range.

From using both the files on the blog link and the software link I figure my hearing tops off somewhere between 19.5-20KHz.

Oh yeah--almost forgot.
male/22/scorpio
posted by ryran at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2006


29. I hear it clear as a bell. A bell that marks the passing of the flight of supersonic demons and makes eyeballs bleed and ears rupture. The forty-somethings in my office can't hear it.

My old office mates used to annoy me by bouncing hard drive platters off each other, I was the only one who could hear it, and it gave me piercing headaches.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:33 PM on June 13, 2006


I can't hear a single, solitary thing. Rats.

female/39/virgo
posted by Space Kitty at 1:38 PM on June 13, 2006


I heard this just fine. Count me with the TV In The Other Room crowd too. I wouldn't mind one of my kids using this in class. I'm not saying it's not annoying, but at my school the kids have no shame about their phones ringing as loud as they go. This at least you could teach over. If I hear that damn Peanut Butter Jelly Time ringtone one more time....
posted by krakedhalo at 3:04 PM on June 13, 2006


35, can hear it just fine.

Since i was bored on my lunch break i decided to have some fun. Using Audacity, i generated a series of tones, i started at 19k then dropped the frequency by 1k every five seconds till i got to 14k.

i then played said file for my co-workers. It was easy to spot who could hear it as it crossed from 18k (no one could hear it) to 17k many could hear it and flinched.

Played from a G3 iBook, office mate ages ranged from early twenties to mid-thirties.

Only two people couldn't hear the range at all, one is 21 (and boy was he pissed that we were all able to hear it and he wasn't) the other was an older guy who 'wrecked his hearing in a misspent youth'.
posted by quin at 3:06 PM on June 13, 2006


it's peanut butter jelly time!!!!!
posted by ryran at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2006


32 and I heard it. It's very annoying!
posted by SisterHavana at 8:05 PM on June 13, 2006


50, and I can just hear it on the crap speakers on my iBook. (Cranked.)

(It's not as loud as the voices in my head, though....)

I used to be really annoyed by the flyback tone on tv sets; in recent years, not so much, although I still hear enough of it that I can still tell as soon as I enter a room if a tv is on or not.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:04 PM on June 13, 2006


Hrmm, interesting - with sparx's link, I could hear 17000 fine (although quiet) and then 18000, nothing. I'm convinced that I have tinnitus though - I've got a pretty fierce ring going in my ears right now.
posted by antifuse at 12:34 AM on June 14, 2006


I'm 25 years old, and I heard about this story on NPR a couple of weeks ago. It made me curious, so I started playing around with Audacity (which lets you produce pure tones). Sure enough, I couldn't hear above about 11kHz, although my wife (mid-30's) could. This made me nervous, because I'm a sign language interpreter and my hearing is important to me.

So I made an appointment, and just this very morning I got a hearing test. While my hearing is "borderline normal" (up to 25dB loss is "normal") in the areas where speech is produced, there is a significant drop at 6kHz and above, where my hearing loss is about 70dB (between "moderate" and "severe"). Fortunately speech is not included in that area, but it's amazing to find out that I might be missing things.
posted by etoile at 10:32 AM on June 14, 2006


Totally cool idea, im 20 can't hear it. Might help if I had better speakers idk. :|
posted by willlangford at 10:17 PM on June 14, 2006


48. I took the precaution of turning volume on my laptop to 50% AND setting the volume on my jukebox at 50. YOW. I will not turn the volume up!

I could bring the volume down to where I no longer heard it, shifting the Jukebox only - to below 30.

If somebody used that in my classroom I would not have identified it as a ring tone, but I probably would have interrupted to ask if anybody else could hear the sound that was making me crazy.
posted by jaruwaan at 1:31 AM on June 15, 2006


19 and I can only hear it on full volume. SHAMED.
posted by Amanda B at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2006


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