January 2016: Let’s Get Weird Volume III

This volume of our series on acoustical phenomena throughout the world has us take a peek inside our version of the Guinness Book of Acoustical Records. Although there are countless top seeds in every acoustical discipline, today we are taking a look at three spaces that have undoubtedly made a mark on the acoustical landscape.

Record 1: Scotland – The Reverberation Nation.
Reverberation time is defined as the time it takes a sound to decay 60 decibels. It is dependent on the room volume and the amount of acoustically absorptive materials in the space. It describes how “live” or “dead” a room is. We get a lot of calls asking for help with Inchindown.Oil.Tanksreverberation time issues. More often than not, a space suffers from a reverberation time that is too long. Some spaces have extreme reverberation times that require a lot of corrective sound absorbing materials. The space detailed below easily beats anything we’ve seen.

The underground series of Inchindown Oil Tanks in Scotland features one tank that has a reverberation time of 30 seconds, destroying the previous record of 15 seconds (also set in Scotland). To put that in perspective, even large cathedrals emphasizing organ music usually operate below 3-5 seconds. The oil tanks were built as a reserve oil supply during World War II. In 2014, an acoustician fired a starter pistol in the tank to take the measurement, the rest is history.

Record 2: Minneapolis Oasis?
For anybody looking for the quietist place on Earth, we’ve got you covered; although, be careful what you wish for. Orfield Labs in Orfield.LabsMinneapolis is home to the quietest anechoic chamber on the planet. The space has been measured at -9.4 decibels. That’s right, negative decibels are a thing. The room is so quiet that you can hear blood flowing through your veins and some people have reported to have hallucinations. The longest anyone has been able to stay in the chamber is 45 minutes.

Record 3: The world’s largest instrument is hidden where?Wanamaker.Pipes

You heard it, in Philadelphia, also the home of Metropolitan Acoustics and many of our clients. The largest operational musical instrument in the world is the Wanamaker Organ located in the downtown Macy’s. The organ operates throughout seven stories and has 28,604 pipes in 463 ranks. The Philadelphia Chapter of the Acoustical Society of America was fortunate enough to take a special inside look at the organ last year. At first thought an organ may not seem like much of an acoustical phenomenon, but you may change your mind after you have spent the better part of an evening walking inside it. The organ is played twice daily, so stop by and check out Philadelphia’s hidden “little” gem if you get the opportunity.

That’s all for this edition. If you’re up for breaking an acoustical record, take a trip to the quietest place on Earth and try to last for more the 45 minutes. If you do, tell us about it (and your hallucinations) and maybe you can make it into the next edition of Let’s Get Weird.

February 2016: The Alphabet Soup of Office Acoustics
December 2015: The Acoustics of Sleeping Beauty