Archive for category Home Entertainment

The HiPer® Panel and Ken Fritz’s Dream

Ken Fritz completes his dream theater, and behind the scenes is the HiPer® Panel by Acoustics First®

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.

Ken’s vision had a scale that is rarely seen in home theaters.

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.

Even a custom-designed and hand-built turntable feeds Ken’s dream environment.

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.

Watch the documentary of what has been called “The Best Stereo System in the World.”

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DIY – Custom Absorber using Sonora® Black Tiles

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!

With some DIY knowledge, you can make an absorber masterpiece!

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.

Cutting frame material using a miter box.

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.)

This is the printed fabric material that will be the face of the absorber.

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.

Put the face material face down.

Lay the frame onto the fabric, wrap the fabric to the back, and staple it to the frame.

Make the corners as neat as you can. Don’t spend too much time, this will be covered.

 

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.

Now that you’ve attached it to the frame, let’s focus on the lights!

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.

Clamp a piece of wood to the top, like a mantle, and screw it to the frame.

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.

Mark the fixture location and drill a hole for the wire. Run the wire through the hole.

Orient the fixture and attach.

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.

Measure for the next fixture and repeat until all the fixtures are installed.

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!)

Flip the panel around to get at the wiring… hopefully you remembered to use long pieces!

Using wire nuts and electrical tape, wire all the black wires together and all the white wires together.

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.

Test the lights then insert the acoustic material into the frame (Sonora® Black Scrim ceiling tiles) and organize your wires.

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.

Trim the excess off. It doesn’t need to be pretty back here, remember this will be up against the wall.

Cover the back of the panel with material and staple it into place.

Spin the map around…

…and enjoy the glow…

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.

Making sure the panel is level, and hang it on the wall! Then, sit back and enjoy the great looks and improved acoustics!

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.

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Demystifying Acoustic Data: Part 2 – Test Material Mounting

For anyone new to the world of acoustics, there is a multitude of terms, coefficients and numbers that are thrown around.  This flood of information can seem intimidating, especially to beginners. In this series, acoustician Cameron Girard of Acoustics First® hopes to help you distinguish between what’s useful and what’s not.

Part 2: How Mounting in Testing Affects Sound Absorption Data

As I discussed in my previous article, the best way to compare the performance of sound absorbing panels is by referencing the Sound Absorption Coefficient (SAC) and Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). However, these coefficients are often used as marketing tools. Be on the lookout for companies that list absorption coefficients and NRCs without mention of a particular testing standard or mounting method. It’s vital to check for this information, as direct comparisons to competitors and other materials can only be made if their testing procedures are the same.

The sound absorption of a material that covers a flat surface not only depends on the physical qualities of the material but also on how the material is mounted during installation. The mountings specified in laboratory tests are intended to simulate conditions that exist in normal use, such as direct wall mounting and installation into a ceiling grid.

Many materials for treatment of walls or ceiling are tested using what is called Type ”A” mounting. Type ”A” mounting means the test specimen was placed directly on the test surface of the reverberation chamber. Lay-in ceiling tiles, on the other hand, are often tested using ”E400” mounting. The ”E” designates a sealed air space behind the specimen (simulating  the air gap between a dropped tile ceiling and the structural ceiling) and the number after the ”E” is the depth of the airspace in millimeters. The airspace behind the acoustic material affects the sound absorption by acting as a bass trap. The deeper the cavity behind the panels is, the lower the fundamental of the “trapped” frequencies will be.

To see what this look like in terms of actual numbers, let’s take a look at how different mounting methods effect the sound absorption coefficients of Acoustics First’s HiPer® Panel (a low-profile, composite absorber/diffuser panel).

Since the HiPer® Panel can be used effectively in multiple applications; we had it tested in accordance to the two most-common mounting procedures, Type E-400 and Type A. The results of the laboratory tests are as follows:

Product Info

Sound Absorption Coefficients

Product Name Thickness Mounting 125Hz 250Hz 500Hz 1kHz 2kHz 4kHz

NRC

1″ HiPer® Panel 1″ E-400 0.43 0.28 0.51 0.76 0.99 1.10 0.65
1″ HiPer® Panel 1″ A 0.09 0.28 0.78 0.75 0.94 0.85 0.70

 

As you can see from the chart, the sound absorption coefficient at 125 Hz varies greatly between E-400 mounting (SAC of .43) and Type-A mounting (SAC of .09). If mounting the HiPer® Panel in a ceiling grid, with a sizable airspace, you can expect significant low-frequency absorption, but mounting it on a wall (Type-A) will result in much less absorption at 125Hz.

Other mounting methods are available, but are not used as frequently. Here are some of the basic mounting designations (See ASTM E795 for more information.)

Type A mounting – Test specimen laid directly against the test surface (wall panel on drywall).

Type B mounting – Test specimen cemented directly against the test surface. Type B mounting is intended to simulate acoustical ceiling tiles or other sound-absorptive products adhered to a hard surface with an adhesive.

Type C Mounting—Test specimen comprising sound-absorptive material behind a perforated, expanded, open facing or other porous material.

Type D Mounting—Test specimen mounted on wood furring strips.

Type E Mounting—Test specimen mounted with an air space behind it (dropped tile ceiling).

As we’ve discussed, acoustical data can vary greatly depending on the mounting method used during testing. Acoustics First tries to include as much information about testing procedures as possible, because we feel an informed client makes the best client.

Contact Acoustics First for your all your sound control needs!

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DIY – Back Wall Diffuser Array/Bass Trap: Revisited

DIY - Diffuser Array/Bass Trap

DIY – Diffuser Array/Bass Trap

bass trap foam diffuser - sideThis month we thought we’d share a few Real-Life pictures of an idea we first introduced back in summer of 2013: The “Back Wall Diffuser Array/Bass Trap”.

Isolation Hanger

Isolation Hanger

This is the DIY project which incorporates our Art Diffusors®, Cutting Wedge® foam and a couple of isolation hangers into one large free-floating unit, which is acoustically decoupled from the wall.

This particular array was put together by a music producer/bass player for his home. As you can tell from the pics, the construction of this unit was executed beautifully and it’s very close to the original concept drawings.

It’s never too late to get started on your own DIY project.

Real World - DIY

Real World – DIY

Visit the Original DIY page to find out how to make your own. 

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Acoustic Treatment for your Home Theater or Listening Room

Any good theater or listening is acoustically treated to ensure the sound coming from the speakers is what arrives at the listener’s ears. Conditions common in small/medium rooms, such as flutter echo and comb filtering, degrade the clarity of music and speech. Here are some tricks to get a full and accurate sound out of your home theater or listening room. For those visually inclined individuals, the accompanying video shows how a critical listening space would ideally be treated.

Bass Traps – low-end control
Low frequency problems are common to almost any room, regardless of size.  The good news is that most of the time the solution is simple. By installing bass traps in the corners of the room you can prevent the excessive bass build-up. If bass frequencies are allowed to build in the corners, it causes the bass frequencies to become muddy and undefined. The more corners you cover with a good trap, the better bass response you get from the room.

Having bass traps in all corners is best. That said, if you only have budget for two, having bass traps in the front corners of the room should be the highest priority. Fabric wrapped absorbers look as good as they sound, and Geometrix™ by Acoustics First, fit the corners like a glove.

Broadband Absorption – tame the ring.
To control the flutter echo caused by reflective parallel walls, it’s vital that the first refection points are treated with broadband absorption (wall panels). More than likely, your TV and/or sound system is in a fixed position, and your listening position will be relatively fixed as well. This should make the early reflection surfaces easy to locate. Sound travels in all directions from the speaker, including behind it, so put absorbers behind it on the wall. Don’t forget the floors, ceiling, and the wall behind you – sound will bounce off those as well.

Hang broadband absorbers over all the early reflection points – left, right, front and back so they are centered at ear height.  Placement is the first key to getting this reflection free zone.  The second is the right choice of absorber. To match your fabric wrapped bass traps, the simple choice is get some more panels wrapped in fabric. The Sonora® line of broadband absorbing panels coordinate with the bass traps, and come in a plethora of sizes and mounting options to work in your space.

Diffusers – put life back into your space.
Diffusion will give us something we couldn’t attain through absorption – a sense of open space.  Even after treating with absorbers, there are still areas of the room where sound waves will sit, because your room is a fixed box with fixed speakers.  Diffusers scatter the energy, creating ambiance with residual energy. This simple step does not remove energy from your room, but redistributes it into a soundscape that can make you forget you are in a room at all. In order of priority, the rear walls, front wall and ceiling are the most important surfaces to install diffusers.

There are many ways to diffuse the sound and coordinate with your room, from the fabric covered HiPer™ Panel and Double Duty Diffusers™, to the striking line of Art Diffusors® like the Model C, which can be painted to match your décor.

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