Archive for category DIY
There are many home theaters of note, but rarely is one created (at this scale) by the singular dream and dedication of one man. Ken Fritz involved Acoustics First® early in the project to perform acoustic measurements of the space, and his theater became the first large-scale installation of our newly developed HiPer® Panel. From beginning to end, Ken says that he spent more than 25 years on the realization of his dream – and others have taken notice.
There have been numerous write-ups of Ken’s theater, which was constructed (from the ground up) specifically for this purpose. The walls are hurricane grade block construction, the roof-line is constructed to improve the acoustics, the walls are clad in HiPer® Panels, the bass emanates effortlessly from in-wall enclosures – and just look at those custom built arrays that Ken designed and constructed by hand! This project is more than just a labor of love, it is an obsession with excellence.
This obsession covers every aspect of the room and the system, with everything being either built by hand, customized to his specifications, or simply the best you can get! If there is a “home theater mountain,” Ken built a skyscraper at the summit – but don’t take our word for it…
You can watch the one-hour documentary telling the story behind the dream – in Ken’s own words.
Sound Attenuation Matrix Management
by Acoustics First®
20 Years ago, John W. Gardner developed the ASP™ Panel Technology to maintain optimal acoustic performance of our acoustic absorber product lines – like the Sonora® Wall Panels. Recent developments have been made to augment this earlier technology, and our Research & Development team has evolved this technology into the “information age.”
Meet S.A.M.M.™, the smart way to manage your panel maintenance tasks.
S.A.M.M.™ Panels analyze the acoustic environment and use this information to track their exposure to sound pressure levels. This can be monitored real-time, either directly through the energy efficient OLED screen, or using any device with a web browser.
This technology allows more than just monitoring the acoustic environment. The S.A.M.M.™ Enabled panels have a HAL BIOS which runs a webserver daemon that gives you full-control of your panels and the acoustic environment…
… but this isn’t only for S.A.M.M.™ Enabled Panels!
After a simple firmware upgrade to your ASP™ panels, you will have full control over your entire acoustic environment – from anywhere in the world.
I am flattered that you have taken the time to reevaluate one of my lifetime projects. I owe all of my minimal knowledge… to my first professor… I LIRPA.Dr. John Wesley Gardner
Watch the following video to see the history of the ASP™ panels developed by the irreverent, John W. Gardner, and their evolution into the Sound Attenuation Matrix Management Technology known as… S.A.M.M.™
S.A.M.M.™ is Open Source
Acoustics First® values innovation, and we can all stand on the shoulders of giants. Customers can build their own implementations and create the ideal solution for their environment. While you can use whichever hardware that you have access to, here is the hardware our research team used to develop our in house integration.
Custom 3D Printed Housing (PLA)
SEEEDuino XIAO M0 (MCU)
128×64 OLED (SSD1306)
SD Card Reader (SPI)
Electret MIC w/Adj. Gain (MAX4466)
5 Watt/8 Ohm Speaker
12mm Momentary Switch (Red LED)
Optional – 10000mah USB Battery
(Click the image to enlarge)
The S.A.M.M.™ Source code was written in PlatformIO to be compatible with the Arduino Platform. The MCU is the SEEEDuino XIAO M0 with the ARM Cortex M0 processor.
The libraries used in this project may need to be changed based on your hardware selections.
S.A.M.M.™ Web Console
Experience the S.A.M.M.™ Web Console interface. View the real-time output of the first S.A.M.M.™ unit, installed in the Acoustics First® R&D LAB. You can view the current capacity of the panel, as well as the average sound intensity – and as a bonus – we allow users to PURGE the panel remotely!
Stay up-to-date with cutting edge advances in acoustics with Acoustics First®.
Adding Nouveau™ wood diffusers to a home theater is not as daunting a task as it may seem, and can be done with a little planning and a few tools. This install used an ingenious mounting method to ease the final install. Instead of mounting the z-track to the wall directly, it was mounted to sheets of plywood which were hung with Gorilla/Hercules hooks.
The first task was to pick a stain. You can use the back of a plank to get an idea of how the poplar will respond to the different options. Poplar has a very interesting and varied structure that will take stain differently than some other woods. Darker stains may be more consistent, but don’t reveal the character and variation in the wood. This install chose a Smoke Gray which grayed out soft areas and browned the harder heart wood. A semi-gloss clear coat was used to finish.
While the stain dried, the mounting plywood was cut down to hide behind the planks. Four hanging straps with eye-loops were then added to the top edge of each of the plywood sections, and spaced to avoid studs.
The Z-track that would normally be installed on the wall was installed on the opposite side of the plywood. This will make it easy to hang the Nouveaus onto the sheet after it’s on the wall.
After the Nouveau™ planks are finished with the staining, and left to cure for a few days, they are ready to have the mating Z-bars attached to the back. They are installed with the same spacing as the Z-tracks on the plywood sheets. This will make it easy to align them after the plywood is hung on the wall.
The Gorilla/Hercules Anchor hooks are rated to around 50-60 lbs each. The Nouveau™ planks are roughly 25lbs each (at 48 inches) and each section has 4 hooks supporting 4 planks plus the weight of the 3/8″ plywood. The hooks are installed so that the plywood will hang level – with the weight distributed evenly across all four hooks.
Finally, the Nouveau™ planks are installed into the Z-Tracks on the plywood, and moved into position. Because the z-bars were installed square and level, there is no shifting, and they hang true. The undersized plywood sections disappear behind the planks leaving the impression that the planks are floating slightly off the wall.
While this mounting method may not be ideal for every scenario, this was an effective way to install 8 Nouveau™ planks with only 8 small hook holes in the wall. These can now be installed in apartments or temporary environments with minimal damage to the existing walls – and once you are done, they’re easy to take down and reinstall somewhere else. You just need a level!
Let’s say you need some Sonora® Black scrim ceiling tiles for a home theater project, and you order a few extra – “just in case.” Now that the install is done (and you have a few left) you can do something with them… like making a cool absorber panel with lights!
Everyone will have a different vision, but the basic supplies are…
- Acoustic Absorber Material (ex. Sonora® Black Scrim Ceiling Tiles)
- Wood for frame
- Acoustically transparent material/fabric (This one uses a polyester fabric map)
- Material to enclose the back (fabric scrim)
- Wood to mount lighting (This is a 1″x 4″ with espresso stain)
- Lights (here are custom, black-pipe light fixtures, but use other lights if desired)
- Wiring (Wirenuts, electrical tape, lamp cord, etc.)
- Assorted screws, staples, hanging hardware, PPE and tools.
Note: This is not a detailed DIY, as everyone will have a different set of materials and project goals, but these will show the basic steps to create a panel like the one above…. Here we go!
Cut the wood and make a frame that will hold the acoustic material, and the fabric to enclose it. Make the frame big enough to hold the material, and still be covered by the fabric. Make the frame as rigid as possible. Predrill your holes and make it square. Make it tight enough to hold the acoustic material with friction, but without crushing it.
This design is an old map that was printed on a lightweight, polyester fabric banner material. This one is roughly 4′ x 6′ with extra material around the edge to wrap it around the back of the frame. It’s best to have your starting fabric oversize – the graphics sized to the frame, with a boarder wide enough to wrap to the back for fastening. (In this case we will simply staple it to the back of the frame.)
Lay out the material and attach it to the frame. Be careful when putting the frame on the material. Take care in lining up the graphic to the frame, and keep an eye out for wrinkles and folds.
Fastening doesn’t need to be perfect on the back, but you do want it to be secure. Trim up the excess material if needed, and then flip it around and see what it looks like.
You could just fill it with the material and hang it like this if you didn’t want the lights, but this project is going the extra mile! We will attach a board to the top of the frame and attach the lights to that. This board will support the lights as well as the the frame. The hanging straps and rings will be attached to this as well, so don’t select a board that is too thin or flimsy.
How you mount the lights to the board and run the wires will be different if you are using different fixtures. This was made with 5 custom, black-pipe fixtures, that are basically just a flange, two 90° elbows, some pipe, and a lamp fixture mounted in a 1 1/4″ pipe reducer/coupler. Wire was stranded lamp wire (black and white), and it was left long to assist routing the wiring inside the panel.
The flange on these lights had 3 screw holes. Some washers and wood screws were used to attach them to the frame. The remaining fixtures were then measured and mounted – paying close attention to keeping consistent spacing and orientation of the lamps.
Note: This will vary depending on the type and number of lamps you use.
Now that we have all the fixtures mounted, let’s finish the wiring and put in the material!
(WARNING: If you are not comfortable with wiring – this is the point where you call in a friend, electrician, Wikipedia, or whatever other resource you use to make sure you don’t electrocute yourself, burn down the house, etc. Acoustics First assumes no responsibility for your DIY projects – but we wish you good luck!)
This wiring was all attached to a lamp cord that had a pre-molded plug, and readily recognizable hot (black) and neutral (white) wires. This entire fixture is being controlled by a smart outlet (“Alexa… Turn on the Awesome World Map.”), but could just as easily be hard wired to a junction box, or wired with an inline switch.
This is a good opportunity to test the lights and wiring, before installing the acoustic material and covering the back.
Now we can insert the acoustic material. Sonora® Black Scrim Ceiling tiles are easily trimmed to fit with a sharp knife. They are fiberglass! So… wear gloves minimize exposure to the fibers.
Covering the back of the panel will keep the Sonora® tiles in place, and keep any stray fibers from escaping. This will also make the panel easier to move in the future – without worrying about the tiles falling out or snagging on the wires.
The hardware used to hang the panel will depend on a few different factors – wall construction, stud availability, final panel weight, etc. Make sure you use appropriate hardware for your environment. In this case the final panel weighed less than 30 lbs, and the decision was made to use drywall anchor hooks and industrial hanging eye loops.
Now is a great time to get up and do some creative home improvement projects! Improve the acoustics of your home theater, living room, or home office… and have a cool new focal point for your space.
When RPN magazine needed an article to teach readers how to improve their room acoustics, they turned to Acoustics First® to get the scoop.
YOUR ROOM’S ACOUSTIC SYSTEM – and How to Improve It
Ever wonder why some rooms sound better than others? What components contribute to
perception of sound in a space? What knowledge do you need to solve the sound problems that
When people read the heading “The System,” there will be a great number who assume I am
talking about the “sound system” in a room – the speakers, amplifiers, signal processors, and
other electronic components that generally produce sound in a space. This is only part of the
acoustic system that creates the soundscape we hear when we are exposed to sound in a space.
Yes, sound comes out of speakers, and they are important, but the source of sound isn’t what
gives us a perception of the space we are in – it’s the space itself!
The walls, ceiling, floors, seats, sculptures, drapes, artwork, construction, and even people in the
space are all contributing to how we perceive that sound source in any given acoustic
environment. I’m not saying that the speakers aren’t important – but they are just the source of
If you have a room with a 5-second reverb time, it doesn’t matter what type of speakers you
have, any sound they make is going to continue to be heard for five seconds – as is every sound
What does this mean? Even if you have the best speakers in the world in that room, it will sound
terrible (unless you are listening to Gregorian Chants…then it will sound awesome.)
However, if someone is speaking at a normal rate of speed, it will be unintelligible after the first 2
or 3 words – as those words will continue to bounce around with the sound of the next 15
words…like listening to 15 people all saying different things at the same time.
Your room is an acoustic system – from the sound source, to the ears of the listeners – as well as
everything in, around, and even outside of that room.
Have you ever watched an acoustical consultant begin the analysis of a new space? It’s
fascinating. You will undoubtedly see them walking around the room while making noises –
clapping their hands, snapping their fingers, whistling, even talking loudly, shouting, and singing.
It’s as if they are bats using different sounds to figure out the characteristics of the room they are
in. They are, in fact, analyzing the room’s acoustic system. Where does sound reflect? Are there
echoes or flutter? What is the character of the reverb? They look at the structure, materials,
corners, architectural elements, floors, carpets, walls, windows, doors, ceilings and more.
Note: They begin this analysis WITHOUT using the speakers.
Why? If the room is bad, your speakers will not fix it.
What are they doing? They are listening. That’s it. Nothing fancy here – just listening.
I will say that many acousticians have done this so many times, in so many different spaces, that
they have an idea of what the room is going to sound like, without even making a peep – just by
looking at it. What are they looking for? What are they listening to? What can you learn from this?
Time to Listen
Everyone has a room where they dislike the acoustics. Go in there. Clap your hands. What
happened? Clap again. Snap your fingers. Make some noise – but make sure to listen. Where is
the sound coming from? Turn around, clap again. Walk to another area…clap.
As you walk around, you will hear the sound change. Turn your head. Is the sound coming from
the corner, the ceiling, both? Angle your ears in between two corners. Maybe that’s where it’s
coming from. Is there a large open balcony or a curved wall? Ask yourself these questions as you
walk around and listen.
Are any of the surfaces hard? What about the floor? Is the sound lingering over your head up in
the ceiling? Is there a defined slap off the back wall when you clap your hands? Is there a ringing
noise? Does the echo wash over you and linger?
Sharpen your listening skills. Map the room with your ears.
What Are You Doing in the Room?
This is an important question. For most uses involving speaking and understanding speech, there
are some good general targets. For example, for most rooms over 100m3 (15’ cube), a 0.8 to 1.7
second reverb time is ideal for many different functions.
However, keep in mind, some spaces may have special reverb requirements. If you’re doing
Gregorian Chants, a three to five second reverb time is still great!
Now, How Do You Fix It?
Most rooms are going to benefit from reducing the acoustic energy in the space. Absorption is
the most direct and easy to understand method – add soft stuff.
This sounds overly simple, but the initial experiments on calculating absorption were done by
moving around seat cushions – simple, but effective.
Fabric-wrapped absorber panels are today’s high-tech equivalent to the seat cushions. Curtains,
blankets, carpets, and other soft materials will also help to reduce the acoustic energy of a space.
Treatments like diffusers help to reduce focused acoustic reflections by spreading the energy
around. When sound hits a surface that is not flat, it will cover the entire surface, bending
around the corners and curves, and then bounces off in different directions.
This reduces what we refer to as ‘specular’ reflections – or direct, mirror reflections – which are
responsible for slap echoes, ringing, and flutter.
However, some hard, reflective surfaces in the front of the room can be beneficial to help
reinforce acoustic sound sources, like speaking, singing, or acoustic instruments.
Treating corners with bass traps can help to reduce bass buildup, as well as corner reflections,
which can cause other clarity issues within the listening environment.
Don’t forget…look to the ceiling for rafters and other elements that cause sound to bounce
around and put some absorption up there.