Acoustic challenges simplified.

Acoustic quality is most significantly impacted by room size and the amount of hard surfaces contained within. Voluminous spaces, especially those with high ceilings, have the potential for the most obvious acoustic problem – echo. Echo occurs when sound waves bounce off surfaces and return to the listener repeatedly. Similar to large spaces and their inherent echo problem, smaller spaces can also suffer from the related problem of reverberation which deteriorates sound quality without a discernible echo.

In every space, surface hardness has the most direct acoustic impact. Simply put, the more hard surfaces there are in the space, the more sound waves will bounce, the poorer the acoustic quality will be. To a degree, acoustics can be improved by the addition of softer furnishings and finishes such as carpet, furniture, window treatments, etc. But typically there is potential for significant improvement through the addition of materials specifically engineered for sound absorption.

Talking Sound & Acoustics

The science of sound can be a complex topic. As an introduction, here are simple explanations of terms and concepts involved in the evaluation and management of acoustics in the built environment.

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Absorption

The opposite of reflection. When a sound wave encounters resistance, absorption occurs which is measured in sabins.

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Acoustics

The properties or qualities of a room or building that determine how sound is transmitted in it.

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Ambient noise

The pervasive background noise, with the exclusion of the primary sound (i.e. a speaker's voice) within a given environment. Sometimes referred to as noise pollution.

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Ceiling Cloud

An acoustical element suspended from ceiling or roof structure for the purpose of sound absorption.

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Decibel

A unit that measures the intensity of a sound wave. A whisper is typically around 15 db and a hammer hitting a nail is around 125 dB – enough to cause hearing damage.

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Diffusion

The random distribution or scattering of a sound wave after contacting a surface. Effective diffusion results in a well-balanced acoustic environment.

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Echo

A distinctly discernible repetition or reflection of a sound.

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Loudness

Subjective impression of the intensity of a sound.

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Noise

An unwanted sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance.

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Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)

The numeric representation of sound absorption. The NRC scale ranges from 0 which is the measure of perfect reflection to 1 which indicates perfect absorption.

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Reflection

The bouncing of a sound wave off of a surface. Sound, like light, is reflected with an angle of reflection equaling the angle of incidence.

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Reverberation

The persistence of sound in a space after the originating sound has stopped. Reverberation is caused by numerous reflections of a sound arriving at the listener's ear so closely that they are heard as a gradual deterioration of sound quality.

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Reverberation time

The amount of time (seconds) required for a sound at a specific frequency to decay 60 dB after the source is stopped. A room's reverberation time is impacted by frequency, the volume of the space, and the total number of absorption units in the room.

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Sabin

The unit of measure indicating the sound absorption of a surface. One sabin is equal to one square foot of perfectly absorptive material.

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Sound

Energy transmitted by pressure waves in air, water, or solids. This energy is the cause behind hearing.

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Sound Transmission Class (STC)

The number rating system for indicating sound transmission loss of a wall or partition. STC is used to compare the sound transmission characteristics of architectural materials and construction methods.