Silent CD (& MP3s)
What is this?
A CD of silence. (Strictly not a CD of silence, of course, but
of silence which one can burn to a CD-R to make a CD of silence.)
The tracks are of 2, 4, 8, 16 & 32 seconds and 1, 2,
4, 8, 16 & 32
minutes duration so they can be combined using the play list feature of
normal compact disk player to give any duration (in even numbers of
from 2 s to an hour (well, up to 1 h 4 min 2 s, to be pedantic).
- Novelty item: This is the
main reason I made it. Surreal,
silly or stupid depending on your sense of humour.
- Inserting blanks: Sometimes
one wants gaps between tracks
(for example so that one can run between a CD player & a dance
one is both dance teacher & DJ, as I have been at times, using
system without a remote control) and to have a track break marker
gap and music track (so that one can skip the blank if needed). To do
just insert one of these silent tracks between each music track before
recording. I've had reports of these silent tracks being used for
styles as varied as folk dancing, clubbing, zumba & yoga.
- Shutting up an irritating jukebox:
If one wants peace
& quiet but someone else keeps playing CDs on a jukebox or a CD
which you have access, replace their CD with this one. It can similarly
to shut up some irritating mobile telephones by converting a silent
track to an
MP3 and installing it as the ringtone.
- CD player noise test: It can
be used to test a CD player,
amplifier & speakers for background noise. As there is no sound
recording, any noise one hears from the system when playing this is
by the playing equipment.
- Practical joke: I had not
intended it as a practical joke
but found that one of my friends to whom I gave a silent CD tried
playing it in
a PC and assumed that the computer was failing when it gave no sound
(despite the CD being clearly labelled 'Silences'). He was going to
in a futile attempt to debug his music playing software.
- To silence a CD player when using it as an
amplifier (e.g. converting a car CD player to aux-in): If one needs to use a CD player as a amplifier for an auxiliary input, such as from an MP3 player, but the amplifier only works with a CD playing then this can be used as a dummy CD to keep the CD player happy without producing unwanted sounds. (This use was invented by a reader of this site, Kane Zhu, who used it to fit an MP3 player to a car stereo system in addition to a CD player when the stereo's only external input was a dedicated CD player one. Years later another reader told me that my silent CDs had become widely used when modding car CD players to add aux-in.)
- To silence a smart phone when using it to output sound from apps:
Several years later another reader similarly found that an iPhone would
only push sound from a satnav application to a car hands-free speaker system when it was playing music and
hence used a silent track as the music.
- To silence noise cancelling headphones:
Another reader told me that he had got noise cancelling headphones for quietness, not music, but found that they needed to be Bluetooth paired to an audio signal source to operate. Hence he likewise used a silent track from here.
- To see music
player program animations uninfluenced by
Some music playing computer programs display decorative animations that
adapt to the music. To see what they look like when active but
free-running without music to control them, play a silent track. Some
can look very different to their normal appearance and may even be more
- To skip music
player first track:
A reader of this site reported a music player with a bug in its random
shuffle - it only shuffled after it started playing so the first track
was always the same. The solution was to put a short silent track at
the start of the playlist to sacrificially take up that unwanted slot
virtually unnoticeably. (The reader left no return address so I can't
credit them here.)
- As a random timer: The same
reader used a random playlist of silent tracks plus an alarm track as a
substitute for a lost random timer of a board game.
- For timing theatre sound effects: A reader told me of using them in a theatre both to time sound effects.
- For timing : That reader also used them theatrically to prevent accidental running into the next manually timed sound effect on forgetting to press pause. It was particularly of use lest the sound effects system was accidentally left on during the interval.
If you burn the tracks to a audio CD formatted to play in a
audio CD player then there are 2 restrictions imposed by the original
- All tracks must be >=2 s long. Therefore the 1 s
second track must be
omitted. (I've included it in the download for completeness anyway
- Although one need not have gaps between the tracks on a
CD, it does
require a 2 s gap before the first track. This will add about 2 s to
timing of silence when playing in a conventional CD player (but the
time adds to that as well).
Additionally I have come across (just) one CD player that
reported that the whole CD was of zero length. Maybe it tried to
skip the silences!
CD Burning Advice
- Set the gap between tracks to zero seconds.
- Use 'Disk at once' mode rather than 'Track at once' mode
(the former is
probably the default anyway on simple to use CD writing programs
anyway) as the
latter does not support gaps between tracks of zero length.
- Turn off any automatic volume equalising/maximising
feature. I don't know
what will happen if your particular CD writing program tries to
zero volume recording to maximum (zero divided by zero is
indeterminate). It should spot the impossibility & so either
normalisation or complain. However it might produce noise, might give a
constant DC offset (poor speakers!) or might crash if badly programmed.
- Some CD burning software might not cope with a totally silent CD image. Problems have been reported with K3b (I have tested in version 2.0.2 & found the same problem). I have had success with Nero & ImgBurn on MS Windows and Brasero on Linux.
- Burn to CD-R not CD-RW as some audio CD players
(particular those made
before CD-RW was invented, of course) cannot read CD-RW. CD-RW uses
change colour reversibly whereas CD-R uses irreversibly burnt holes
much more like the original CD stamped holes.
If using the ready-made image rather than individual WAVs,
then only the CD-R not CD-RW is
relevant as I have already done the rest in making the image.
Silence losslessly compresses very well. However the common
compression algorithms are not designed for pathological cases like
hundred million identical zero bytes!) so it needed two passes. The
646 MiB of WAV files compressed a thousand-fold to a 640 kiB
Compressing this again reduced it to a minuscule (by CD standards)
3.55 kiB .tar.gz.gz file. This is an
astounding 186 000
to 1 compression
Indeed it compresses better by lossless Gzip or PKzip than
by lossy MP3.
At the lowest quality MP3 encoding that Apple iTunes player offers (16
kibit/s mono), it
to 3.7 MiB, over a thousand times what lossless compression
can do. Although those MP3s can then be zip compressed (as the they mainly consist of just
duplicate block headers), fully lossless is still smaller.
Most audio players however would need lossless audio stored uncompressed & some don't even
handle anything but the old de facto standard of MP3,
I've included the MP3s here as downloads too.
Even better, the 663 MiB CD image compressed down to
2.36 kiB, a 280 000
to 1 compression
It is not often that one can download an hour long CD over a
modem in under half a second!
In trying to hear sound from this CD, one is likely to turn
the volume up
high. Remember to turn it back down to a sensible level before later
I think it is okay for me to give away this silence for free
under Gnu Public Licence). There has been one notorious case of the
J. Cage suing M. Batt for selling a silent recording, Cage having been
garde composer who had previously published a famous silent piece.
was reported that the suing was because Batt had jokingly credited Cage
joint composership of the track without asking permission first
from the publicity of that creditation without paying royalties. The
not merely because it was silent as the general concept of silences in
performances & broadcasts pre-dates both Cage & Batt. Anyway,
it was eventually revealed to have been primarily a publicity stunt
arranged between the two sides.
Furthermore, both Cage's & Batt's silences were both
based on the
specific novelty of being 'performed' on classical musical instruments
the silences downloadable here are purely computer generated (in
Cool Edit) loads of zeros.
My actual inspiration for a joke silent recording came from
'The Return of Reginald Perrin' in 1977. In that humorous story, a
company included in its deliberately useless product range silent vinyl
with titles such as 'Trappist Monastery Chants' & 'Laryngitis
Lands'. It was twenty six years before I got around to making one!
Download silent tracks:
- All 12 individual tracks
(1 s, 2 s,
4 s, 8 s, 16 s, 32 s,
2 min, 4 min, 8 min, 16 min
& 32 min of silence) in WAV format:
- With Gzip lossless compression for Linux: Silence.tar.gz.gz
(just 4 kiB for an hour!).
- With PKzip lossless compression for Microsoft Windows: Silence.zip.zip
(just 4 kiB for an hour!).
- Ready-made silent audio CD image format (suitable for burning from ImgBurn, Brasero, Nero or similar):
- Table of contents & cover (with a blank white square as the cover art) for CD case inlay:
- All the silent tracks in MP3 format:
- Individual tracks under a minute long in MP3 format:
- Individual tracks a minute or more long in MP3 format zipped: