June 17, 2010
Is there a more annoying sound on Earth than those horns you hear people blowing non-stop during the matches of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa?

The horns are called vuvuzelas, and they seem to be getting as much international coverage as the matches themselves.

Despite calls to ban the long plastic trumpets, the racket they make probably isn't going to diminish on TV broadcasts anytime soon.

Complaints about the horns' incessant buzzing are coming from nearly quarter: high-profile players (who can't communicate over the drone), concerns from health experts (who say the loud blaring may affect hearing loss), and claims by World Cup broadcasters that they've stepped up audio filtering to screen out the vuvuzela racket.

Fortunately, TV viewers who can't stand the noise have a few options.

Consumer Reports Blogger Nick K. Mandle recommends skipping the purported vuvuzela "filter." One apparent quick fix getting media attention promises to kill the noise of the vuvuzela using "phase cancellation." The makers of the Anti-Vuvuzela Filter (which costs about $3.50) instruct users to play the downloadable MP3 alongside their TVs speakers.

"Depending on the circumstances" says the sale site, "the resulting sound wave may be so faint as to be inaudible to human ears." CR says in its test, the noise just became twice as irritating.

Mandle says instead, go into your TVs sound settings and turn the treble all the way down. It won't eliminate the vuvuzelas, but it tones down their highest-pitch, buzzsaw-in-the-brain frequencies.

Some TVs with more advanced sound controls have equalizers that let you adjust various sound wave frequencies. Playing with them might bring the vuvuzela decibels down, though perhaps at the expense of hearing the commentators a bit less well.

One of the CR testers found that if the TV is hooked up to a surround sound system, the vuvuzelas could be almost eliminated by lowering the volume of the left and right speakers (which carry crowd noises) and pumping up the volume of the center speaker (which carries the commentators' voices) via the sound system's settings menu.

As a last resort, of course, there's the mute button.

Despite the horrendous sound, many fans have found that concentrating on the game itself makes the vuvuzelas far less of a nuisance.