Meyer Sound helps MythBusters test ‘fear frequency’

Meyer Sound provided nine modified 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements, and acoustician Dr. Roger Schwenke to Discovery Channel’s MythBusters to test whether 19Hz really is the ‘frequency of fear.’
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Meyer Sound provided nine modified 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements, and acoustician Dr. Roger Schwenke (pictured, center with show hosts Adam Savage, left, and Jamie Hyneman, right) to Discovery Channel’s MythBusters to assist the show in testing for a ‘fear frequency’. It will be Schwenke’s seventh appearance on the programme, having applied his expertise and Meyer Sound technical resources to urban myths associated with movie gunshots and explosions, extinguishing flames with sound, the echo of a duck’s call, a human voice breaking glass, and the infamous “brown note.” For the upcoming Hallowe’en episode, MythBusters set out to test the claim that subaudible low-frequency sounds near 19 Hz can instill feelings of discomfort, dread, and even outright terror. Filming for the ‘fear frequency’ segment took place in and around four abandoned cabins at a secluded forest resort in Northern California. To test the theory, the show enlisted 10 volunteers to spend time in the cabins. “One cabin was subjected to infrasonic sound while the other control cabins had no sound,” said Schwenke. “Although the cabins were essentially identical, the idea was to ask the participants if one cabin seemed more eerie or frightening than the others.” Unbeknownst to the subjects, a U-shaped array of nine modified Meyer Sound 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements was hidden behind one of the cabins to create the ultra-low sounds. “We used the U-shape to get the 1100-LFCs as close together as possible,” explained Schwenke, “and to direct any higher overtones away from the cabin so we could get the infrasonic level as high as possible without anything being audible. We had to be careful with the level because, at around 95 dB, we started rattling the cabin walls. That would have been a dead giveaway.” Schwenke won’t reveal whether this myth was buster or confirmed, but did comment on his own experience in the cabin: “I did feel a sense of unease. You could tell when it was on even though you couldn’t hear anything. It was more of a whole-body, change-in-the-air sensation, an undefined ominous feeling.” The ‘fear frequency’ episode aired on the American Discovery Channel on 28 October. www.meyersound.com

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