I work in a cubicle environment. It's okay that we wear headphones, but after wearing them all day it can get uncomfortable. In addition, occasionally I have to leave my desk and/or hear when someone approaches my cubicle and knocks. The status quo is fine, but I'd love to have a way to modify (or get?) speakers that can be heard clearly by me at a short range (2' or closer even) without being audible to coworkers.

Any ideas on how I could make / get a speaker enclosure or something to accomplish this?

  • Would a door bell attached to a flash work instead of a knock? – Terry Oct 31 '15 at 18:41
up vote 13 down vote accepted

To have speakers audible by you, and not others implies either that you have the volume turned down so that due to sound volume diminishing with distance it blends in before reaching others, or use of active cancellation.

However active cancellation requires to phase shift one of two channels, and when done using speakers wave theory implies that at other spatial points the waves doubles instead of cancelling out...

In short, no speaker arrangement are suitable for use in a cubicle environment without your neighbours accepting to hear your music.

My best suggestion to you would be to invest in better headphones, possibly wireless, which are more comfortable to use over longer time periods. Alternatively have multiple headsets, i.e. some ordinary headphones and some ear buds to alternate between.

Lastly, your ears/brain could most likely benefit from not listening to music the entire day, so having breaks not wearing headphones could do you good.

  • 1
    I like the idea of alternating between multiple sets of headphones. – BrettFromLA Oct 28 '15 at 18:51

Might want to take a look at Bone Conducting Headphones They're basically what you're looking for. I'm very tempted to get a pair for myself.

  • Wow, that's absolutely fascinating! I'm going to keep this one open for the rest of the week. I don't know if it answers the question, per se, but it definitely gets my upvote. – mkingsbu Oct 29 '15 at 20:17
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    True, technically, it's not a lifehack... – Just Do It Oct 29 '15 at 21:05
  • Note that Amazon comments state the sound leakage is bad and people nearby will be able to hear it. Multiple reviewers bought it for use at office but stated that it was too loud and disturbed co-workers. – Ricket Jan 12 '16 at 22:45
  • It's too loud if you raise the volume too much, like any other audio device. I have them now, and no complaints, I can hear my music while not being absorbed by it, and it doesn't bother my coworkers, and the closest one is right in front of me. This device is for situations like the one described by OP, device being too loud it's a misuse and misunderstanding of the device's purpose from part of the users. @Ricket – Just Do It Jan 12 '16 at 22:49

It is possible to focus ultrasound so that non-linear effects make audible sound at the focal point. These speakers are used in retail advertisement, museums, libraries etc. where limiting the range of sound is important.

So theoretically, it would be possible to have localized sound without headphones, but practically the sound is far from high fidelity and the equipment is expensive. It would be more practical to buy comfortable, open-back headphones that do not block external sound.

Just came across this website after reading this thread http://www.browninnovations.com/Products/SoundDome/

I also remember a friend talking about the US Navy working on a similar project for sonar stations aboard submarines.

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    Post some info of the Link. Links tend to die and get unusable – Alex Mar 27 '16 at 18:16

What I would most likely do in this situation would be this:

DUCT TAPE a pair of wireless speakers to the back of your chair near your head. Then you can connect your phone or computer or whatever and keep the volume low but close by. You can get these speakers for pretty cheap online (like $40 for some models). Alternatively you can use an old pair of computer speakers, but then you have to worry about cords and you can't spin in your chair.

Honestly if I were you I would either turn up the volume and let my coworkers worry about themselves, or DUCT TAPE some speakers to my chair. Really, DUCT TAPE fixes everything (even a light bulb, but I won't go into that).

  • Please limit your answer to just one method. By having multiple methods in one answer, if your answer is marked as accepted, the rest of us have no way to know which method was the one that worked. Lifehacks Manifesto – Adam Zuckerman Oct 30 '15 at 16:05
  • I will edit this. – Daniel Oct 30 '15 at 19:26

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