Rowing is an excellent way to keep fit and, compared to running on a treadmill (read our article on quiet treadmills if you prefer running to rowing), it is a relatively quiet form of exercise.
However if you live in a small apartment with thin stud walls then some rowing machines may be too noisy to be a real option.
Your flatmates/partner/children won't thank you for waking them up in the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the evening.
If you want to get rowing without causing conflict in your home then you need a rowing machine which is quiet.
Noise from rowing machines is caused by a few key things:
Before we go any further it is important to establish how noisy is too noisy.
The Concept 2 rower is by far the most popular rowing machine across the world.
If you don't plan on training at super high levels of intensity then you can probably get away with investing in a Concept 2.
Lets be clear about what we mean by different intensity levels, the paces below are a rough guide, if you are an experienced rower then your intensity levels may look different to this but for most people of reasonable fitness levels the speeds below are a good rough guide:
I've used the Concept 2 countless times at numerous different intensities and can testify that the faster you go the more sound it makes.
The Concept 2 in action.
If you are doing max effort 500m sprints then yes are very likely to disturb your flatmates.
However if you are doing slow, low-intensity rowing over longer distances then you can probably get away with using a Concept 2 without upsetting anyone, putting your treadmill on a purpose made treadmill or rowing machine mat will also help further reduce any noise.
Edwin at Rowingmachineking.com did a few tests where he had his brother stand in different rooms while he rowed his Concept 2 at different intensity levels.
What he found was that the noise could only be heard through the ceiling or the walls when he was rowing at high or very high-intensity levels, and the volume of the noise was only likely to wake someone who was a particularly light sleeper.
So if you live with deep sleepers then go ahead and get a Concept 2...
..if that isn't the case then read on to find out what the best quiet rowing machines available are.
The movement of air is what creates most noise on most rowers so the best quiet rowing machines are not air based they are either..magnet based or water based!
Magnetic rowing machines work by having a range of electromagnets inside their flywheel. As the flywheel spins around the magnets attempt to resist the flywheels movement magnetically. The higher the setting you use the greater the electromagnetic resistance.
Magnetic rowers feel very different to air rowers as rowing faster doesn't increase the intensity in the same way.
With an air rower going faster means you are forcing more air through the flywheel at a quicker pace therby increasing the intensity.
With a magnetic rowing machine this isn't the case, the magnetic resistance will stay the same as there is no additional friction generated.
But that doesn't mean you can't get a great workout on one, it will feel different but you will soon get used to it!
With a water-based rowing machine the flywheel is completely enclosed and submerged in water.
Because the flywheel has to be 100% watertight very little sound escapes.
This means that you don't get the same volume 'whooshing' noise that you do with an air-based rower,
The Goplus is a popular magnetic rower that won't break the bank.
At less than 1/3rd the price of a Concept 2 it is a great option for anyone looking to build a quiet home gym on a budget.
Silence is built into the very essence of this rower with a nylon strap instead of a chain, the moving parts are far less noisy than metal chain based parts would be and there is the added benefit of not requiring any lubrication to keep it usable.
As previously mentioned it is a magnetic rower, this means you can row at high intensities without generating a big 'whooshing' noise that air based rowers make. The only sound will come from the seat sliding on the rail.
The Goplus is finished in a black anti-rust paint which promises complete corrosion resistance.
This will help prevent wear and tear to the steel frame which otherwise over time could make the sliding seat mechanism get a lot noisier.
Being a budget rower the Goplus isn't brimming with features such as a programmable ergometer, preset workouts or a countdown but it does do the basics well and is very easy to use.
It shows stroke count at the top and time or calorie expenditure at the bottom, there is also a function which will rotate the metrics shown every few seconds so that you can keep track of strokes, time and calories without having to press any buttons.
Putting it all together is very simple as most of it comes pre-assembled, all that is required is for you to attach the rail to the flywheel, fit the seat, stands and pedals all of which can easily be done in less than 20 minutes.
Maintenance is very simple, as there is no chain no oiling is required, the only thing you need to do is periodically check that all the bolts are well tightened.
The Driftwood WaterRower relies on water instead of air to create resistance when you row.
It works in much the same way as a air rower except the flywheel has to displace water rather than air.
As with an air rower the harder and faster you pull the greater the resistance and the more calories you will expend.
The water is sealed in a completely enclosed tank meaning that the sound is muffled compared to air rowers.
The video below shows exactly how loud the WaterRower gets, it maxes out at 73dB which compares favourably to the Concept 2's 103 dB:
Be aware though the video doesn't give any idea of what intensity they are rowing at, though it is fair to presume that each rower was tested at a similar stroke rate/intensity level.
The WaterRower definitely makes more noise than the GoPlus Magnetic Rower (and indeed most magnetic rowers) however it is a good option if you are looking for a similar rowing experience to an Air Rower just with less noise.
One of the benefits of a water rower over an air rower is that it actually feels like you are rowing in water.
WaterRowers also make a more soothing noise than air rowers which fades into the background easily.
The Driftwood WaterRower is a work of art, crafted from Ash hardwood with a driftwood finish it features adjustable resistance levels, a backlit S4 monitor which shows calorie expenditure, meters travelled, speed and plenty of other useful metrics.
The American made rower needs pretty minimal maintenance as no lubrication is needed.
One chlorine tablet should be added to the water every 6 months to keep it clean and you should also regularly check that nuts and bolts are tight.
GoPlus are a brand which has aligned itself with the home gym market. With prices that won't break the bank and machine volume levels something that they take seriously you can be certain the a GoPlus rower is a good choice.
The main reason why you would choose this rower over the Driftwood WaterRower is the price. It may not look as stylish but at less than half the price it's a whole lot more affordable.
Built specifically for home gyms the GoPlus offers an authentic rowing experience which feels like you are rowing in water, which even at high intensities is fairly quiet.
Resistance can easily be increased simply by adding more water to the tank so you can keep your workout challenging no matter how fit you get!
It features a useful LCD screen which monitors your stroke count, calories, and distances travelled as well as having the same feature that the magnet GoPlus rower has where it can cycle through all of these so you can keep your eye on everything as you go.
It also comes with a heart rate monitor which can connect to the screen..and, unlike most rowers, it can connect with your phone and allow you to upload data onto your chosen fitness tracker app.
Made from steel it is solid and should last a long time, it also folds and can be pushed about on its wheels up for quick and convenient storage.
Hydraulic piston rowing machines are another type of rowing machine which can be very quiet.
They use sealed hydraulic cylinders which are attached to the handles.
When the handles are pulled the cylinders compress the air or fluid inside them creating resistance.
They can be incredibly quiet...however we wouldn't recommend using them.
Certainly not if you are serious about your fitness anyway.
Here are the main reasons why we don't recommend getting one:
Instead we recommend you opt for a water rower...yes they're more expensive but they will last far longer and give you a significantly better workout without being too noisy.