It’s a common problem: you have a bathroom with thin walls and/or a flimsy door adjacent to a living room or other common area. Whenever someone uses the toilet, everyone can hear the person doing their thing.
My condo has that problem. It’s embarrassing for the person using the bathroom and awkward for everyone else.
So, to mask the sound, I’d turn on the TV. Or sometimes, guests would flush first, do their thing, then flush again. Or, let the faucet run. Not good in Southern California which is going through a drought.
Some Rejected Solutions
My first instinct was to install a bathroom fan to mask the noise, but that seemed like a big hassle, and furthermore, many modern fans are pretty quiet. It could be a lot of work and it might not even solve the problem!
Next, I did some experiments to try to dampen and isolate the sound. I hung drapes on the walls and door, which actually did help somewhat, but it was impractical and cluttered up my tiny bathroom. I didn’t want a bunch of drapes hanging in it.
Enter the Motion-Controlled Sound Player
I thought there had to be a better solution, but amazingly, no one on the Internet had any great ideas. Then one day I stumbled upon a product that I thought might do the trick: a motion-controlled sound player. I found the Smart Sound (also called Sierra Tech) Motion Activated Audio Player on Amazon for $49.99:
The idea was, I’d put it in my bathroom. When it detected motion as someone walked in, it would play a sound file to mask the sounds, just like a bathroom fan would.
The marketing for this product didn’t mention the bathroom application. Instead, it was intended “to assist elderly with daily activities”, or to be used as a door greeter, in point of sale advertising, as a safety reminder or in escape rooms. I crossed my fingers that it would do the trick in my bathroom, and I went ahead and ordered it.
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What You Get
When it arrived, it was smaller than I expected, which is a good thing.
The unit came with mounting screws, an optional ball-joint mounting bracket, and Velcro stickers, so there are a variety of mounting options. The micro SD card and adapter were also included, as was the USB power adapter. I was happy that everything I needed to make this work was included!
How it Works
I inserted the micro SD card into the adapter, put it into my computer, and loaded an MP3 file of ocean sounds that I found online. The SD card works with Windows or Mac, as long as you have an SD card reader.
I plugged the micro SD card into the unit, connected power, and turned it on. Voila! When I waved my hand in front of it it played the ocean sounds! I moved it to my bathroom and tested it there. When I walked in, the sound file started playing! It worked!! The volume seemed to be more than enough to mask objectionable bathroom noises.
My bathroom has a window, so I was worried that the unit would trigger when someone walked by outside. But, so far, no false triggers!
Sound Quality and Other Features
I added a music file to the micro SD card to test the sound quality. To be sure, the sound quality was pretty bad: no bass, rolled-off high-end, and way too much mid; worse than a cell phone speaker. It sucks at playing music, but that’s not what it was made for. It’s fine for playing ocean sounds and is definitely loud enough!
If you really want better sound quality, you can use the 1/8″ output to send the sound to a better amplifier/speaker.
The unit has a few modes. It can play one file, all files one after the other, or all files randomly. I quickly tested and these modes seemed to work. I also tested files at 128kbps and 192kbps and both played fine.
It has a rechargeable battery which is useless to me. I just leave it plugged in all of the time.
The paper instructions that came with the unit had an error, but they emailed me a corrected version after I purchased it on Amazon.
My MP3 Sound File
As I mentioned, I originally used the sound of ocean waves as my sound file. This was okay but I felt like it might not mask out high-frequency sounds of, um, liquid hitting the water in the toilet bowl, so I added some tropical bird sounds. You can download my MP3 sound file here or listen to it below:
Attribution: The rainforest sounds are by Alexander from this site under the Creative Commons license. The ocean waves sounds are by Mike Koenig from this site under the Attribution 3.0 license. I mixed these two together to create my sound file.
I don’t recommend using music because the sound quality of this unit just isn’t up to it. Also, music might not do as good a job at masking the bathroom sounds. And, there are cases where it might be inappropriate or weird to have music start playing unexpectedly.
Verdict: It Does the Job!
So now I’m really happy with this solution! It is way less hassle than installing a fan or sound absorbing material (and cheaper). The sound quality is not great, but it’s more more than loud enough to mask the sound when someone is doing their business in the bathroom!!
One minor improvement: I used a shorter old USB cable that I had lying around to minimize the clutter (this shorter cable is not included).
So, try it out and let me know what you think! It’s the best solution I’ve found to mask embarrassing bathroom noise!!! Finally!! – Brian