The sound of silence

I like my audio turned down to a low volume. With the K3 I can do that because it has so little noise except coming from the bands. Especially CW lends itself for silent audio. Why keep it quiet? Just because it makes for a more relaxed feeling, and of course to keep my ears from harm by exposure to loud sounds coming from headphones.

The flipside of low volume audio is that local background noise has more chance of causing QRM. And there is plenty of local noise in the shack. Rigs, amplifier and PSU all have fan noise. My PC has an auxiliary fan in the case (frying AMD CPU legacy) that makes much more noise than an ACOM 1000 amplifier. So quite some noise coming from fans alone.

The other source for more random noise is the window. Yes the open window. I have the shack’s window open unless there is rain coming from the North-East which almost never happens, and unless it’s too cold. The problem is that the window passes the sound of vehicles driving by. A car isn’t a problem. A truck might be enough to wipe out an exchange in the contest. But slowly driving tractors and other agricultural engines not only make a lot of noise, they also pass by especially in Summer. Always a gamble in WAE CW: will a tractor drive by during a weak signal QTC session? Life on the countryside 🙂

You might wonder why all this is a problem when wearing headphones? I have a great set of Sennheiser lightweight headphones. I really like these. They fit my head just great and aren’t pushing / crushing the ears or skull after several hours. The problem is: they have a rather ‘open construction’ and every background sound from the outside comes through. If you have the audio set to a low volume, this can become a problem.

A couple of months ago I stumbled across this 3830 posting:

“First time fully satisfied with K3 in pile-ups. AGC-off with the silent secret weapon EX-29 headphones :)”

What is an EX-29? Some research took me here: but it seemed these headphones aren’t easy to find here in EU. I still wanted to tackle the noise problem and started a new online quest about two weeks ago. I found an online eBay store in France specialized in professional audio products. They offered the EX-29 headphones and so I did my very first eBay purchase. The headphones arrived two days later.

First test was IARU this weekend. The headphones really attenuate outside noise very well. There is more pressure on my ears and head compared to the very comfortable Sennheiser model but it does not bother me if this is the price to pay to reduce ambient noises. Even after all these hours in the contest it didn’t hurt my head or ears, and never did I regret buying these so far. All fan noises in the shack are now inaudible and I must admit that I never heard something coming from the outside. For comfort I’d stick with the light and open Sennheiser, but the benefit of cutting ambient noises does make up for some extra weight and pressure. Let’s hope my first impression will last.

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