An App That Helps You Find Venues Quiet Enough for Conversation

Author: David McMillin       

Looking for a restaurant or bar where the noise level won’t get in the way of actually talking to your companions? SoundPrint might be music to your ears.

Whether you’re looking for a restaurant for dinner with a prospective client or searching for a bar to take a few members of your team for celebratory drinks, it’s fairly easy to figure out what to expect from the menu and the service staff. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and more — reviews from your peers are just a few clicks away. However, the collective rankings fail to answer one key question: How easy is it going to be to have a conversation there?

For Gregory Scott, the answer to that question was often “pretty difficult.” Scott, the founder of mobile app SoundPrint, has lost a portion of his hearing, and wrote that he is “sensitive to loud venues and [has] often struggled to hear companions in noisy bars and restaurants.” Scott’s app aims to limit those struggles by helping potential patrons gauge the average noise level before choosing a restaurant, bar, or cafe. I first read about Scott’s invention in The New Yorker, and while he designed it with those who have hearing loss in mind, the app sounded like a perfect companion for anyone who wants to avoid the destinations where sports fan scream, trivia contestants yell, or large groups compete for who can take home the award for most disruptive diners.

Sound check at a hotel restaurant

Sound check at a hotel restaurant


On a recent trip to Minneapolis, I downloaded SoundPrint to get a sense of how the app could help my own sense of sound. To contribute to the SoundPrint list of venues, all I had to do was open the app and take a 15-second recording with my iPhone. An average of under 70 decibels earns a green (good) quiet ranking. As the noise level increases, the color-coded system gradually goes from yellow to a red warning sign that helps quiet-seeking customers avoid ear-piercing places. The Bradstreet Crafthouse, the gastropub on the first floor of the recently opened InterContinental Hotel at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, offered an ideal low level of noise — an average of 61 decibels — after a long day. If I wanted more options away from my hotel, I could have used SoundPrint’s list of confirmed quiet spots in the city.

Like all crowdsourced apps, SoundPrint’s success will rely on, well, a crowd. Launched last April, it’s still in its early stages and will need more users in more places to offer a comprehensive guide to places where you can your fellow diners talk or simply hear yourself think. In some cases, restaurants only have two or three submissions, so the ranking may be skewed by users who were there at particularly loud or quiet times.

Sound check during a conference break

Sound check during a conference break


SoundPrint may be able to leave a footprint outside of restaurants, too, by providing insights to anyone responsible for creating an environment where conversations can happen. Meetings and events face the same challenge that many restaurants and bars must address: Creating a level of energy that gets people excited while still letting those people talk to each other. That’s a tough task. Consider the SoundPrint reading when I captured a 15-second clip during a break at the conference I was attending. “Likely safe for hearing,” it read after recording the Katy Perry soundtrack pumping through the speakers, “but difficult for conversation.”

Interested in more insights about having success with the sounds at your next meeting? Check out the Convene CMP feature, “The Complete Guide to Noise at Meetings.” Download SoundPrint here to contribute to the quiet community.

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