Report: world's "most irritating instrument" not very irritating

Boing Boing reader Brian won the eBay auction for a device touted as the "World's most irritating musical instrument". He finds it not particularly irritating at all: "an incredible waste of $81.95, but I have no regrets!"

You can't just expect to be an instant expert, Brian! Practice is everything: 10,000 hours, according to Mr. Gladwell.


  1. Rob, this is truly false advertising.  Everyone knows the SAVERT’S WHEEL is the World’s Most Irritating Instrument.  It was created by Bart Hopkin, the man behind Experimental Musical Instruments Magazine and has appeared in his recordings.  (His version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” is iconic.)

    From his website, :  “Savart’s Wheel, designed by Bart Hopkin, is widely acclaimed for the
    fact that it makes the most obtrusive, obnoxious and irritating sound
    ever known. The instrument is made up of a series of disks of graduated
    size mounted on a motorized spindle. The exposed outer edge of each disk
    is lined with ridged material, with ridges spaced about 1/8 inch apart.”

    Bart Hopkin’s “Savert’s Wheel”:

    1. What do you mean irritating? I LOVED it (I mean the Savert’s Wheel)!!! No seriously, I honestly did!

      That box… meh. Intrument… hardly. Nice looking… well, actually yes. But yeah, the expectations quite ruined it.

      My nominee for the most irritating is the already mentioned Theramine… so a +1 from me. It’s something I so dearly _want_ to love. It’s so geeky, so, so lovely as a concept. But holy moly does it sound horrible! Even the best “songs” I’ve heard on it fall barely into the “I’m trying to grin appreciatively” category. The geeky part I got satisfied by trying one myself (aieeee!), so now I can run freely in the other direction. The poor bagpipe has already been beaten to the ground, so I’ll refrain from kicking it.

  2. Perhaps the irritation is not actually caused by the sound the thing makes but rather its failure to live up to expectations.

  3. Well, it did claim to be an irritating instrument — and not an irritating sound. It ties up a whole hand just to set up a beat!

  4. Okay – have to share. You Tube suggested I might like the “Official bagpipe version of Rebecca Black’s Friday.” If you haven’t gotten your irritation quota, you must try this:

      1. I got my irritating instrument as an import for the U.K. Same annoying sound, but it also came with a few extra annoying features the U.S. release doesn’t have. I might sell it on eBay if I can get a friend to convert the sound to MP3s for me.

  5. That looks like it might be an Atari Punk Console:

    Incidentally, they’re available as a kit from the maker shed for $25:

    Or, if you have any previous experience with electronics, you can make one for under $5 worth of parts, or you can scavenge those parts from broken stereos and junk. 

    1. Yea immediately when I heard the sound, I thought “555 IC”. Looks like you purchased a few dollars worth of parts for $82. Isn’t marketing great?

  6. Clearly part of the irritation is meant to be gained from buyer’s remorse. It is not a disappointment, it is merely more thorough than expected!

  7. Hm… the worlds most annoying instrument sounds suspiciously like my TIF8800A Combustible Gas Detector…

  8. If you ask me, all you need to do is go to any Guitar Center around 4:00 PM to hear to world’s most annoying instrument(s).

  9. I was thinking about a grandfathers clock with a bit irregular “tick-tock”… You know, you listen to the sound they make, most of the intervals are regular: ick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock… and suddenly, when you don’t expect, the next “tick” comes a couple milliseconds earlier… Then there are several regular intervals, but after that… suddenly… the next “tock” comes several milliseconds late…

    If you listen to this clock’s “tick-tock” for an hour, you GO COMPLETELY INSANE…

  10. sigh. i could have saved everyone a lot of grief by patenting the instrument I invented as a teenager. 

    I had a crummy AM/FM receiver with no purpose anymore, and an el cheapo mono reverb unit from the local Radio shack. By plugging the speaker in the audio out of the receiver and into the mic input on the reverb unit at the same time, and plugging the audio out from the reverb unit into the receiver, I created a simple feedback loop. The sound that came out of the speaker was horrific. I could alter the sound with the handful of controls on the reverb unit. I dubbed it the Feedback Monster. 

    It was extremely cathartic to use, and right up my alley as I was an art student and very firmly in the Dada camp. It was never the most popular item in my “repertoire” (I subjected my college friends to all manner of sonic torture, records played on the wrong speed, my shouting into a megaphone to the taped accompaniment of my shouting into a megaphone, etc) so the feedback monster was retired some time ago. 

    But it sounds like its honor will need defending. I may have to take to the Youtubes.

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