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I live in an apartment, in which the doorbell emits an unreasonably loud tone (kind of square-wave-y) continuously and at constant volume for as long as someone has the button depressed. Since people buzzing me from the complex's front door have no feedback that the bell is actually working, they tend to press it multiple times and for a long time; this gets to be very annoying.

I would like to figure out a way to dampen the bell's sound. Since I do not own the property, I cannot replace or alter the bell in any way, so I'm looking for non-invasive ways of quieting it down. I'm not really concerned about aesthetics; if I need to make the thing look like a Lovecraftian horror to quiet it down, so be it.

My first instinct is to purchase some acoustic foam (like this) and tape it over the speaker; does that seem like the kind of thing that would work?

Here is a photograph of the thing for reference:

an ear-torture device in a mundane disguise

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    It's likely that you don't even need special acoustic foam - plain old duct tape will dampen the sound considerably. Try it just over the speaker area first, then across the whole louvered front piece if that's not enough dampening. I know you said you don't care about aesthetics, but you might try taking out those two screws and see if you can put the tape on the inside of the plastic faceplate. The drawback is that dampening the speaker also dampens your voice and the visitor's voice when you try to talk to them. – Johnny Nov 13 '14 at 2:38
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    A Cthulu plushie somewhat larger than the speaker panel hung over it - you could lift to speak and hear clearly once the visitor lets off the bell button. Might as well have a tasteful and functional Lovecraftian horror... If less ambitious, a Cthulu potholder would probably do just as well for function. – Ecnerwal Nov 13 '14 at 3:31
  • @Johnny, I wouldn't recommend duct tape since it has a habit of leaving sticky gunk when it's been left on too long. But I agree, a layer of tape will probably do the trick. Just stick with masking or painters tape. – diceless Nov 13 '14 at 5:35
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    Even painter's tape becomes permanent after months in place - I'm still trying to scrape it off a baseboard that I forgot to untape after repainting last year. – Johnny Nov 13 '14 at 15:56
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You can get some wide white gaffer tape and cover the speaker grille. If you did it neatly, you would barely be able to tell it is there. Gaffer tape looks similar to duct tape, but it sticks better and leaves much less sticky residue when it is removed. That way your modification would be completely reversible.

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It's always debatable what exactly you can alter and can't. A lot of times, as long as the process is reversible, the landlord can't stop you. Plus you can always ask for permission.

If you wanted to reduce the volume electronically, you could place a resistor in parallel to the speaker. A resistor of the same impedance of the speaker (usually 6 or 8 ohms) would cut in half the power (not volume) to the speaker.

You need a resistor large enough to handle the power of the speaker, a few watts probably - a standard 1/2 or 1/4 watt resistor isn't likely going to do it. And you might need to play around with resistor values to get the ideal volume level.

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Drive to your local craft store and pick up some felt and hot glue. You can glue a few pieces of felt over the cover, and it will dampen the sound so it is not as shrill or loud, and it may even look nicer than foam!

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