There's a reason for the explosion in popularity of headphones, and it's got nothing to do with Dr Dre. Our offices, homes and city streets are getting louder as we fill-up our lives with more and more machinery, electronics, traffic and constantly beeping gadgets.
Forced to don headphones, we're quickly retreating into world of our own, but there could be light at the end of the, err, ear canal. Silent-running gadgets are beginning to emerge that are as functional as before, only better designed.
Until recently 'low-noise' has been a claim found only on expensive products, but now it's a characteristic starting to filter to all areas of the market. With a new awards scheme from Quiet Mark to help, we unveil some of the new generation of gadgets, domestic appliances and vehicles that make the world a more relaxing place to live.
1. Lexus CT 200h hybrid luxury compact car, £22,000
Ah, the car; the bane of all city dwellers forced to endure their incessant noise. Most drivers probably don't care if they offend the ears of pedestrians, but Lexus clearly does - its high-end, sporty CT 200h is one of the quietest around.
It does 'quiet' using the magic of electricity, of course - the CT 200h is one of the first full hybrid luxury compact cars - but the interior is designed to create an environment that's also totally sealed-off from other drivers.
A Mark Levinson audio system fills the car with enveloping 'concert hall' sound while its climate control system filters-out pollen and diesel fumes and dirt from the surround melee. Put it into Electric Vehicle mode, however, and the CT 200h earns its status and runs almost completely silently.
2. Yamaha Silent Guitar SLG130NW, £600
Great for both practice and home recording and easy to travel with, this futuristic-looking guitar from Yamaha puts an end to complaints or cringing from neighbours, flatmates and siblings.
If you're into funk/disco/jazz-style percussive body slaps, forget it - there's zero acoustic amplification here - but the SLG130NW will suit most guitar players happy with the electric sound.
Featuring a good, low, classical string height and wide bridge spacing, the SLG130NW sounds great plugged-in, and although there's a more electric-like sustain, especially from the lower strings, you can see why numerous players actually use these guitars live.
The EQ is basic but effective, and the effects are usable, especially the two reverbs and echo. Read our full review of the Yamaha Silent Guitar SLG130NW.
3. Nofan CR-95C Copper IcePipe Fanless CPU Cooler
Noisy CPU fans are pretty annoying, especially if you've sat down at your desk to do some work. The whole idea of a fan is a bit 19th century, if you ask us, so it was about time someone invented the… thermal heatpipe.
Used here as part of Nofan's IcePipe tech, the CR-95C cools the computer's processor using sealed-in liquid convection cooling, and it works as well with Intel or AMD CPUs, remaining both dust-free and utterly silent.
The CR-95C comes as a single part for DIYers happy to upgrade their own motherboard, or as a key component of Nofan's configurable Quiet PC IcePipe Silent Workstation.
4. Sennheiser PXC310 BT £200
Sennheiser's NoiseGuard 2.0 tech is a thing of wonder, cleverly cancelling out 90% of ambient noise, and it's our choice when about and about.
However, though Sennheiser's compact and multitalented PXC310 BTs are great for frequent flyers, too, their key other feature - Bluetooth - is less useful at 40,000ft where wireless tech is illegal. Still, the detachable phono cable makes is an easy choice, and for sheer sound quality there are few better options.
One of the more comfortable options around and far smaller than most noise-cancelling headphones, the only slightly painful characteristic for travellers is the need to recharge using a miniUSB cable when batteries would have sufficed.