If you've never heard a "vuvuzela," you haven't been watching the World Cup.
The plastic (sort-of) horns are blown incessantly throughout the games. Every game, not only when South Africa plays. And not only in celebration, or in anger, or when goals are scored, or when there's a good play, or when there's a bad play. But all throughout the game. It sounds very much like a swarm of mosquitoes - loud mosquitoes - buzzing inside your brain. Not exactly the effect I'm after when I kick back to watch some TV.
Many South Africans apparently love the vuvuzela, and consider them an important part of the South African soccer experience. And for all I know, they could be fun-filled and festive in person. On TV? Not so much. Besides the incredibly grating pitch, they drown out all other crowd noise - cheers, groans, chants - that are often (but not always) part of the fun of watching a game.
Surely there must be some technology to help tone down - if not totally filter out - vuvuzela sounds?
Pocket-lint.com offered up a few early suggestions, such as dropping down the 300Hz channel in your TV's equalizer. Or, you could try a 3-euro anti-vuvuzela filter, which allegedly attempts to cancel out the specific sound waves from a vuvuzela (author Chris Hall admits he didn't try that one, although he did endorse the 300Hz lowering idea).
A $3.75 anti-vuvuzela filter sounded compelling, until I read the part about it emitting a continuous anti-vuvuzela sound. The last thing I'm looking for is yet another noise source to add to the din, since I doubt it's quite as exact - or effective - as, say, Bose noise cancelers. Consumer Reports has just weighed in testing the filter, saying "the noise just became twice as irritating." (Aside: Speaking of irritating, the idea of an iPhone app to re-create the vuvuzela sound is the one thing over the last few months that's made me feel good about my smartphone platform not having access to 10,000 available apps.)
Happily, Consumer Reports does offer simple advice on lowering the vuvuzela noise: Turn the treble all the way down on your TV sound. "It won't eliminate the vuvuzelas," says Nick K. Mandle, "but it tones down their highest-pitch, buzzsaw-in-the-brain frequencies."
They've got a couple of other ideas as well, including playing around with your equalizer if you have one; and, for surround sound systems, lowering left and right speakers (which tend to be heavy on crowd noise) and turning up center speaker volume (likely to have commentators).
Lifehacker had pretty good success eliminating vuvuzela noise by filtering out 465Hz and 235HZ from the audio stream using GarageBand on a Mac. And, they point out that any audio software/hardware with the capability of eliminating those frequencies should work. You can hear for yourself here:
ArtsTechnica links to a few other riffs on that concept, such as a Popular Science translation/summary from the German blog Surfpoeten: "a software filter that selectively mutes the particular frequency of the vuvuzela. The horn drones, apparently, at 233 Hz, with harmonic overtones at 466 Hz, 932 Hz, and 1864 Hz." The idea is to create a series of bandpass EQ filters in Logic Express software, and run the TV audio through a Mac. Or, you can find instructions to create a vuvuzela filter on a system running Fedora.
And as several of these pieces note, if all else fails, there's the mute button. That doesn't solve the problem of losing out on other, wanted crowd noise; but it might help you watch the world's premier soccer tournament without being driven to distraction.