Vuvuzela vs Sound Engineer: Has the World Cup Stadium Horn Met Its Match?

By Joseph Calamia | June 15, 2010 1:31 pm

vuvThough these multicolored horns might look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, World Cup followers can attest that the vuvuzela is a loud and droning reality. South Africa’s soccer stadiums are resounding with their buzzing calls, driving TV audiences to distraction and causing many a viewer to reach for the mute button.

Some spectators have called for bans on the instrument, but FIFA has refused. Its president, Sepp Blatter, said via Twitter: “I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?”

But there may be a technological fix, an audio filter meant to cancel out, acoustically, the collective roar of the plastic horns.

The Telegraph reports that German recording and mixing engineer Clemence Schlieweis believes that viewers can cancel out the sounds blaring from their televisions by playing his 45-minute track of an “inverse” sound wave. He made the sound by manipulating a recording from a match broadcast, and compares his technique to ones commonly used by sound engineers to improve recordings’ quality, to remove the buzz of an air conditioner from an interview, for example.

But some acoustics experts are skeptical, given that the vuvuzela’s sounds are anything but uniform. Trevor Cox at the University of Salford, told The Telegraph:

“I can’t see how it could work. The vuvuzela chorus may come across as a single sound on television, but it is actually hundreds of instruments being blown at different times.”

But if Schlieweis’s recording can’t beat the vuvuzela, another technology is allowing spectators to join the chorus. The vuvuzela iPhone app is the number one downloaded free iPhone app in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, UK, and South Africa, with reportedly over one million downloads.

Related content:
80beats: Just Kick The Ball: The Scientific Secret to World Cup Penalty Shots
80beats: 3D TV Will Kick Off With World Cup Match This Summer
Discoblog: Soccer Star Seeks Out Serbian Placenta Massage to Speed Healing
Cosmic Variance: Yet Another World Cup Post

Image: flickr / Dundas Football Club

  • Cathy

    We didn’t even need an app for that. In the assorted detritus of my closet, I found one I had picked up in St Patrick’s Day in Savannah almost a decade ago. Green, plastic, and loud. My husband has been toting it around for the last few days, but he’s only allowed to make noise on it if someone scores a goal.

    Most interestingly, mine says “Made in the USA.”

  • Bob


    Unbelievable, these people are charging for this: for an mp3 that people don’t even know how or where to play? People are playing it through headphones and then complaining about it not working!

    Absurdddd. This is like, carnival walnut shells & marble type scam territory. It comes with some software, too.

    This is more in the right direction:

    Kudos to those guys. Listen to their audio clips!

    You need to get the sound from your television and then get some software that will invert the waveform at the correct frequencies and then play both sound waves **in real time** — the principle behind active noise cancellation depends on the waveforms being matched up as precisely as possible.

    A 45 minute mp3? Wow.

    I can’t believe it is 2010 and the age of Google and you can still sell junk to people. Sad.

    (Rant: A bigger story? This German 29 year old “recording and mixing engineer” diluting the market / talent pool of legit audio engineers. Nowadays a kid with zero skills and zero real world knowledge buys a laptop and a microphone and calls himself an engineer cause he can use the presets on the bundled audio software. People pay these kids for their “services”. It’s really sad.

    Rant off. Sorry.)

  • Hiram

    Someone please stop the horns! I tried to give the World Cup a chance, but I’d even turn off the Superbowl if there was the same annoying background noise.

  • NewsCollective

    “Spain – and South Africa – are champions at the 2010 World Cup: The 2010 Football World Cup hosted by South Africa…


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