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Q: How can I filter out the vuvuzela?

Q: "I have been watching the FIFA World Cup on TV (June 2010). I find the sound of the vuvuzela very irritating. Why don't the sound engineers filter it out?"

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The FIFA World Cup of 2010 in South Africa brought a new word to the vocabulary of many fans - vuvuzela.

The vuvuzela is a trumpet-like instrument that South Africans like to take to football matches and blow in support of their team.

Doubtless it would be possible to play the vuvuzela skillfully. However that isn't the point. The point is to play one note as loud as possible.

Although individual fans will need to take breaths, and presumably rest from time to time, the vast numbers of vuvuzelas in the stadium create a sound that is continuous. It starts at the beginning of the match and finishes at the end.

The sound of vuvuzelas has been likened to that of angry hornets and if you have ever been chased by angry hornets I am sure you would agree.

The problem is that many people find the sound of massed vuvuzelas intensely irritating and it spoils their enjoyment of the game.

It was suggested to the UK's British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that they should filter this sound out. However, they said that it would be impossible.

Impossible?

Surely there must be some way to filter out the vuvuzela?

Well one way to do it would be to pull down the faders of all the microphones in the stadium, leaving only the commentators' mics active. They can use lip mics that cut out virtually all background sound.

This would however cut out all of the important background atmosphere and the game would be dull.

Another way might be to filter out the strongest frequencies produced by the vuvuzela.

Here is a demonstration taken from a TV broadcast. We found that the fundamental frequency of the vuvuzela was around 230 Hz so we started filtering around that frequency. Then we added further filters at the harmonic frequencies, which are the whole-number multiples of 230 Hz (as near as we could get with the EQ plug-in used).

 

As you can hear, the sound of the vuvuzela is not filtered completely, particularly the rasping noise that it is capable of making.

Also, the sound of the commentator's voice is affected. In a real-life broadcast situation, obviously the commentator's microphone would not be filtered.

The difference is probably worthwhile, however the annoying aspects of the vuvuzela are not eliminated completely,

Of course, another solution to this problem is to learn to love the vuvuzela. The South Africans do!

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By David Mellor Tuesday June 15, 2010
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