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.
5. Intimus Pro Silentec 26 SC2 CC3 shredder, £275
Those who listen to speech radio - or even familiar music - while working are just dragging-put the process by drastically reducing their concentration, and the din of computers, printers and shredders doesn't help much, either.
A cross-cut shredder with a 26-litre capacity, the 26 CC3 can cut through paper, staples, paper clips, plastic cards and even CDs and DVDs, but it's the sound dampening Silentec - which absorbs vibrations and massively cuts down on noise - that makes it a cut above for a desktop.
6. Philips Wake-Up Light Sunrise Simulation HF3510/01, £100
OK, so light bulbs don't exactly let out a roar each time they're switched-on, but lights that wake you up with bird-song and waves are a great way to make your home restful instead of stressful.
Philips' Wake-Up Light increases the light over 30 minutes to mimic a sunrise, from soft morning red, to orange, to yellow. The same happens at the other end of the day, too, though both timings and exact light levels are entirely customisable.
The light comes with a slowly rising soundtrack of either bird song, birds in a forest, or 'zen garden', but there's also an FM radio if you find Chris Evans shouting a relaxing way to begin the day.
7. Samsung WF0804X8E washing machine, £530
If your washing machine's spin cycle is loud enough to clear the room, it's not broken, it's just badly designed. Those with small flats and open-plan kitchen-diners will thus adore the Samsung WF0804X8E, a washing machine that ditches the usual loud spin for a quiet drive motor that uses no belts or gears, and adds anti-vibration tech.
Such an extensive spin isn't needed because of the WF0804X8E's 'Ecobubble' approach - a bubble generator dissolves the detergent in water before injecting air. Using less hot water, its Super Eco Wash programme washes at just 15°C while promising the results of a 40°C wash.
8. Magimix Cuisine Système 5200 XL, £340
Food processors are routinely the loudest thing in the kitchen, but baking a cake or making a spice mix needn't mean alienating the cat and interrupting the radio.
Using an ultra-quiet induction motor that boasts a stunning 20-year guarantee, the three-in-one Magimix Cuisine Système 5200 XL's Sabatier stainless steel blades are as sharp and powerful as on any mixer, but adjusts power according to what you're mixing to stay as quiet as possible.
9. Russell Hobbs Serenity kettle, £40
A constant pain in the ear, the loud rattle of the kettle can momentarily drive people out of their kitchen, but making a cuppa needn't make your blood boil too.
A great value option to help lessen the noise in one of the loudest rooms in the house is the Serenity kettle from Russell Hobbs. This 1.7-litre capacity, stainless steel kettle features an easy-lift push-button lid, and its 3kW concealed element means a quick, but oh-so-quiet boil.