In a world where something is always happening, people are always moving, and equipment is always buzzing, most people don't know what silence really is. But in Minnesota, real silence can be found in a room. In fact, the anechoic chamber found at Orfield Laboratories Inc. is the Quietest Place on Earth, as awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records.
How does one achieve The Quietest Place on Earth? Start with a room within a room, within a room: the Orfield Labs six sided anechoic chamber is a small room floating in a pit on I-beams that are on top of springs. A five sided chamber of identical construction surrounds it on the edge of the pit. Both chambers are made of double wall steel-insulation-steel. The anechoic chamber was manufactured by Eckel
, the largest anechoic chamber builder in the country.
Both steel chambers are held within a larger room that was built with solid one foot thick concrete walls and ceiling panels. The smaller room is filled with 3.3 feet thick fiberglass acoustic wedges. This approach led to the anechoic chamber found at Orfield Labs being measured by engineers on January 21st of 2004 at negative 9.4 dB (with A-weighting), thus earning it the title of Quietest Place on Earth. By comparison, the low threshold for human hearing is considered to be 0 dB.
Silence is a truly rare thing. All reverberation is removed? all sounds that aren't coming from your own body disappear. After a few moments in the anechoic chamber, you'll begin to feel a touch jumpy. Hearing your heart beat, your blood pulse, the sound of your own ear buzzing and your body functioning like you've never heard before has a tendency to be a bit unnerving. And in complete silence, you lose all sense of space and surroundings. The absence of reflected sound and reverberation makes "feeling out" the room impossible.
The anechoic chamber is federally certified by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology
) under their NVLAP (National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program
) This certification is the reason that Guinness accepted the claim and it is the only certified anechoic chamber (other than private corporate chambers) in the U.S.
Orfield Labs has a very interesting history beyond the anechoic chamber. They purchased Sound 80, a studio where Bob Dylan once recorded tracks for his comeback album "Blood On the Tracks". Sound 80 went on to become the first multi-track digital recording studio. Orfield Labs is also behind a radical concept called Architectural Dynamics: variable lighting, sound, and temperature that can simulate different moods in the workplace, ideally leading to improved worker efficiency and satisfaction. Orfield Labs has a strong background in acoustic research for a wide range of products, including motorcycles, dishwashers and artificial heart valves.
All this makes Orfield Labs one of the coolest places to stop by in the Minneapolis area, and definitely the quietest.
*Thanks to Steve Orfield of Orfield Labs for providing the information contained in this article.