FireFlex™ Wave – Cloud or Baffle

It’s good to have options in ceiling treatments. Some environments have high ceilings that benefit from vertically-hanging baffles, while other environments have lower ceilings in which clouds are more appropriate. In some cases the aesthetic will dictate which product would be best – but what if there was one product that could do both?

Fireflex™ Waves hung horizontally as clouds

The Fireflex™ Wave has a unique, undulating shape that adds visual interest along with acoustic absorption – but it has another feature which few materials can boast. Due to the Class 1(A) melamine foam construction, the corkscrew mounting hardware can be installed wherever it is needed – including on the edges.

FireFlex™ Waves hung vertically as baffles.

By installing the hardware on the edges instead of the face, you are given the option to also hang the Waves in a vertical orientation as baffles. The wave shape works well aesthetically in either orientation – horizontal or vertical.

In rooms with a lower ceiling, the horizontal orientation of clouds provides more headroom while the undulating shape optimizes the Wave’s surface area for absorption. In larger spaces with high ceilings, you can add more absorptive surface area by hanging the Waves as baffles, and provide a more organic look than you get with flat baffles.

When overhead acoustic absorption is required, turn to Acoustics First®.

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Case Study – St. Francis of Assisi Church

Lofty, vaulted ceilings and tile floors often conflict with the desire to modernize a music program.

Historically, churches relied on an abundance of hard surfaces to propagate sound to the rear of the sanctuary, so they benefited from very long reverb time (upwards of 5s). However, Modern sound systems allow for a much more focused sound and equitable listening environment, so these extreme reverb tails are no longer necessary and can actually degrade the “modern” worship experience. St. Francis of Assisi Church is a prime example of how incorporating sound absorptive treatment in phases can “transition” a purely-traditional worship space into one that can accommodate a wider range of worship services.

Over the years, St. Francis of Assisi has expanded their music program to include more modern instrumentation. Drums and amplified instruments have been added to liturgical piano and choral worship music. St. Francis of Assisi’s sanctuary has a lofty ceiling, tile floors, hard wall and ceiling surfaces. These factors contribute to a exceedingly reverberant worship environment in which contemporary music is hard to perform and enjoy and speech is difficult to understand.

Back in 2013, the church had an acoustic study performed to detail the acoustic characteristics of the space and identify corrective measures. Using this study and on-site reverb tests, Acoustics First provided a treatment plan that focuses on improving speech intelligibility and music clarity. We settled on a “two-phase” approach, starting with treatment of the rear and side wall areas with 2” Sonora wall panels. A second round of treatment focusing on the ceiling would be added, If needed, to further reduce reverberation down closer to ideal levels.

To help facilitate an informed decision, Acoustics First provided reverb prediction charts that showed the expected improvement from each round of treatment. Aesthetics were a top concern, so 3-D renderings were also provided to help visualize exactly what the recommended treatment would look like. Acoustics can be subjective, so there was a chance that the church might be satisfied with just the wall treatment alone and would not need to proceed with the second phase of treatment. However, after hearing the improvement that the wall panels made the church immediately gave the go-ahead for the ceiling treatment. Safe to say, they were happy with the end results.

From Mike Staffan at Lighthouse sound who took reverb measurements before and after “I am very pleased with the final reverb times and how it turned out. I think our measured approach worked well”

From the Deacon – “This is fantastic, exactly what we were looking to accomplish! – Deacon Chris

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Absorption & Diffusion – The Construction Specifier

For the May 2022 edition of “The Construction Specifier,” Acoustics First was asked to illustrate the use of absorption and diffusion in creating optimal acoustic spaces. The article is a great reference for understanding the types of acoustic absorbers and diffusers, as well as some use scenarios like offices, critical listening spaces, and larger communal spaces.

Note: This version has been edited and the advertisements are removed. The full published version of the May 2022 digital edition can be found on The Construction Specifier’s website here.

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“If a tree were to fall … and there was no one to hear it, would there be any sound?”

The philosophical thought experiment of “does something need to be perceived to exist,” has been around since the beginning of time.  This allows for human extrapolation into concepts such as quantum mechanics (Schrödinger’s cat) and advanced Artificial Intelligence principals.  Albert Einstein was effectively “unfriended” for asking the question of his colleague, Abraham Pais,

“Do you really believe that the moon only exists if you look at it?”

Albert Einstein to Abraham Pais

Pais prescribing to “the majority view of the quantum mechanics community then (and arguably to this day) that existence in the absence of an observer is at best a conjecture, a conclusion that can neither be proven nor disproven.”

But the question still exists. “If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Fallen tree in forest in Haukkamäki district, Jyväskylä. The forest is situated between the streets Nuutinkorventie and Koppalankaari. – Tiia Monto (Tiia was not on site when the tree fell and was unable to verify that the tree made a sound.)

The eminently interesting, Dr. Irving Lirpa asked the burning question…

“If observation is proof, can we calculate the Amplification Coefficient of Human Perception upon something that is ‘likely’ into ‘truth’ versus the amplification of ‘hogwash’ – which will always remain ‘hogwash?’  Because if something is able to be perceived, it must exist in some degree, as amplifying the perception of the non-existent is akin to multiplying by zero.”

Dr. I. Lirpa further posited that: “while the observation of sound proves its existence, the lack of observation does not disprove it… it merely has not been amplified by the scrutiny of human perception.” 

He further affirmed that the tree would indeed create sound, but with a much lower intensity due to the Human Perception Amplification Coefficient… henceforth, there would still be sound because it exists – but it would fail to be amplified by human perception.

Seminal work on the Human Perception Amplification Coefficient by Dr. I. Lirpa.

This seminal work calculated a Maximum Reverb Time of only 0.04 @ 1000 Hz “Without Audience” in a full-leafed, deciduous biome common to the vernal mid-temperate zone. Further calculations found that the Human Perception Amplification Coefficient is equivalent to the reverb time being amplified by 42 TIMES per frequency band upon being observed – which coincides exactly with the calculation made by the supercomputer DEEP THOUGHT on the “Ultimate Question.

Coincidence? We think not.

TL:DR
“If a tree was to fall in the forest and there was no one there to hear it, would there be any sound?”
“Yes, but there would be 42 Times more sound if there was someone there to hear it.”

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When it Comes to Glass, Don’t “Glaze-over” Acoustics!

Glass is a universal building material that is attractive to architects and clients, while posing a variety of challenges to acousticians.

Due to its transparent nature, glass creates an open and pleasing atmosphere.  Curtain walls, skylights and windows allow for a view both outward and inward; connecting occupants to the building’s natural or urban setting.  The use of natural light can lower electricity bills, brighten the rooms of a building, boosting the mood of the occupants. Glass is also a renewable building material, with 30% of new glass comprised of recycled materials. For all these reasons and more, glass will continue to play a major role in architecture in the future.

Along with the aesthetic benefits of glass come several drawbacks for the acoustics of a space.

However, glass has a number of acoustical properties that can contribute to a poor occupant experience. To illustrate this, let’s take a closer look at what happens when sound interacts with glass.

When sound encounters a window, the glass converts some energy into thermal and kinetic energy (resonate vibrations), allows some sound to pass through, and reflects the rest back. 

Glass only “absorbs” sound near its resonant frequency (and subsequent harmonics). The resonant frequency of glass is dependent on many factors, including density, thickness and panel size. As is the case with many “hard” building materials, the absorbed sound accounts for only a small fraction of sound energy’s interaction; most sound is either reflected or transmitted through the glass.  Sound reflection and sound transmission are two separate acoustic issues with separate solutions.

Sound Reflection – Reflected acoustic energy from an internal sound source can cause a number of issues for occupants. Large, uninterrupted spans of hard materials like glass and gypsum cause specular reflections (echoes) and contribute to excessive reverberation and noise levels. These conditions can contribute to a poor acoustic environment in which speech is difficult to understand and music clarity suffers.  

Specular reflections are compounded when there are other hard surfaces in the room.  Flutter echo, heard as “ringing”, happens when sound bounces back-and-forth between parallel reflective surfaces (between walls or floor-to-ceiling). Flutter echoes greatly degrade speech intelligibility and music definition. This is a big problem in studios, offices, conference rooms and theater/media rooms. If there is an abundance of reflective surfaces, background “noise” from latent energy will cover up or distort the direct sound.  

Glass can cause significant issues in recording and critical listening environments.

Typically, these issues are corrected with sound absorbing materials. However, we cannot simply “resurface” the glass with sound absorption, like we would with concrete or gypsum, without impacting transparency. Until someone invents invisible acoustic foam or fiberglass, sound reflections off glass will continue to be a challenge that needs accounted for.

Sound absorptive materials like thick curtains or acoustic shades provide adequate sound absorption and coverage flexibility. Other creative solutions include “stand alone” furnishings like tall, leafy plants or translucent perforated plastic sheets mounted over top the window. Essentially, any irregular surface you can introduce in front of the glass will help diffuse sound and break up harmful wall-to-wall reflections.

Sound Transmission – More than 90% of all exterior noise comes in through doors and windows. This can be partially attributed to poor weather stripping. “Leaky” windows will not only cause uncomfortable drafts, but allow sound to more easily work its way into our homes and businesses. Sound is a little like water; it will “pour out” through any gaps in the building assembly.  Improving sound-loss across glass often starts with replacing the weather stripping and properly sealing any joints with non-hardening acoustic caulk.

Air-tight, limp, massive materials are the best at blocking sound. Glass is rigid, and its heft is limited by transparency requirements that keep it thin. Glass transmits a lot of sound energy, particularly at low frequencies. Laminated glass and insulated glazing assemblies both reduce sound transmission through glass by reducing resonance and adding air-space.

Including an acoustic consultant early in the design process will allow architects and owners to make well-informed decisions. An acoustical consultant will best identify potential pitfalls of using glass and recommend glazing systems and construction techniques to minimize future headaches. This measured approach will result in more beautiful looking (and sounding) spaces!

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