Getting to the quietest parts of the US – sound map

Man-made noise is the bane of every field recordist, from the loud exhaust on cars and motorcycles to airplanes and helicopters constantly overhead.

For the past year, I have spent a lot of time outdoors, field recording, and the amount of noise I ignored in the past is pretty incredible. We are bombarded with high DB levels of sound all day every day. We have mostly trained our brains to tune these sounds out, and unless you actively listen, you often won’t notice how annoying it can be. At this point, I hate motorcycles, race-type cars, and large trucks. Planes and helicopters are up there on the list, too, but the amount of noise that is generated just for a “cool” factor is ridiculous and kinda stupid.

So in my quest to find some quiet areas in and around Los Angeles (I know, I know it’s a loud place) I stumbled across a Sound Map on the National Parks Service website. Aside from the map, there is quite a lot of information on natural sound, capturing sound, and the soundscape. It is a really useful part of their website for the budding sound recordist.

While this Sound Map is helpful, and a real eye-opener, I thought it could use a highway overlay to make getting to these quiet places easier.

sound map of sound levels in the USA with highway map overlay

It’s pretty crazy to see where the sound levels are the highest, I thought I had it tough in the Los Angeles area but the interior and East Coast are really saturated.

Bottom line: The more you upgrade your kit the worse the noise pollution problem gets. You can either cave in and just accept the background noise in your recordings or you can actively remove yourself from the noise. I am going to be opting for more of that in the future and this sound map is going to help me get there.

So whether you are trying to find a quiet spot to record some natural sounds, or some loud spots to capture the madness of man, Cheers to hoping this map helps you get there, too.

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