SAN FRANCISCO — You might call Logitech’s latest peripherals the mice that didn’t roar. Or rather the mice that don’t click or swoosh or make that annoying ratcheting sound that triggers you to fantasize about strangling your fidgety-fingered co-worker.
This new breed of pointing device is as quiet as the proverbial church mouse, without sacrificing precision or tactile “click” — and apparently that’s a bigger deal than you might imagine.
Exterminating mouse-induced misophonia
Logitech’s new Silent Mice take aim at misophonia, a hot-button topic that’s sometimes labeled “soft sound sensitivity syndrome.” According to The New York Times, misophonia can be brought on by “eating sounds, including lip smacking and swallowing; breathing sounds, such as nostril noises and sneezing; and hand sounds, such as typing and pen clicking.”
The definition of “misophonia” from Wikipedia sheds further light on the problem:
Misophonia, literally “hatred of sound,” is a putative disorder of uncertain classification in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds. It is also called “soft sound sensitivity syndrome,” “select sound sensitivity syndrome,” “decreased sound tolerance,” and “sound-rage.”
Wikipedia points out that misophonia “is not recognized as a disorder by standard diagnostic criteria” in the latest versions of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, and that “there is no evidence-based research on its prevalence or treatment.”
But anybody who’s ever shared an office with a noisy eater who slurps and chomps their way through a daily bowl of granola knows that misophonia is real. And that even soft sounds can be excruciatingly annoying.
Logitech Silent Mice to the rescue
One can only imagine how irritating it would be to have a co-worker whose mousing habits caused “sound rage.” Or a workaholic spouse whose late-night point-and-click marathons sent you into a fury.
Luckily for anybody who might find themselves in that type of unfortunate situation, Logitech has an answer.
The company says its new M220 Silent and M330 Silent Plus mice, introduced today, reduce the clicking noise of their identical-looking predecessors by more than 90 percent. And during a recent Logitech demo here, the Silent Mice sounded remarkably quiet.
Maybe even quiet enough to save a marriage, joked Ann Finnie, Logitech’s global PR and social media manager.
Technology behind Logitech Silent Mice
Like Jony Ive’s team employing engineering and materials science to cram a crucial update into an existing form factor, Logitech went to great lengths to produce this unassuming upgrade.
“In computer mice, the sound comes from three distinct sets of components: 1) the feet, when gliding the mouse on a mousepad or table, 2) the wheel module, when scrolling up and down, and especially 3) the switches, when clicking on the left, right or middle button,” writes Logitech in a white paper shared with Cult of Mac.
After identifying the sources of the rage-inducing mouse sounds, Logitech came up with the following technological advancements to ease the pain, according to the white paper.
Vibration-killing rubber switches: The switches in the Silent Mice are made of a rubber actuator that dampens sounds and vibrations. A plastic cap “covers the rubber actuator to improve the switch’s tactile feedback and lengthen its lifespan.” Logitech says they have a lifespan of 5 million cycles.
Silent but satisfying scrolling: For the M330 Silent Plus Mouse, Logitech employed a mechanical encoder rather than an optical module. The mechanical encoder reduces the sound level “while maintaining a satisfying feeling of ratchets when scrolling the wheel up and down.”
Quiet-glide feet: Logitech used plastic lumber material for the gliding feet of the Silent Mice. The company says the new material is quieter and more durable than the unsaturated polyester or polytetrafluoroethylene used in other models.
Eliminating the echo chamber: “Most mice have a large empty cavity under the keyplate,” says Logitech’s white paper. “While it is often necessary to give the mouse a certain volume to achieve the desired comfort level, this empty chamber also amplifies the noise created by the clicking switches, scrolling wheel and gliding feet. To further reduce the noise level, Logitech added plastic ribs within its Silent Mice. Like a noise barrier on the side of the highway, these inner walls dampen the sound and reduce the echo created within the mouse.”
Testing the Silent Mice
To test the effectiveness of these measures, Logitech hired an independent acoustic lab in Suzhou, China.
Microphones were set up, and the new Silent Mice were pitted against a non-silent Logitech mouse, the M170.
The happy outcome:
“The results for the left click as measured by the independent lab show a maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL) of 25 dBA for Logitech M330 Silent Plus and 26.4 dBA for Logitech M220 Silent, while the minimum measurement for the Logitech M170 was 36.1 dBA, which represents a difference of more than 11 dBA in the case of the M330.”
In its white paper, Logitech characterizes a 10 dB deviation as a “massive difference between these levels” when experienced by the human ear.
In other words, misophonia-fighting mission accomplished.
As a result, the mice, which use a USB nano receiver to connect to Mac, Windows, Chrome OS or Linux computers, have been awarded the Quiet Mark seal of approval by the Noise Abatement Society. The Logitech M330 Silent Plus ($29.99) should be available this month. The M220 Silent Mouse ($24.99) is coming in October.
Now, if only Logitech can create a spoon that prevents slurping.