Archive for category Multipurpose Rooms

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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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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Little Safari Day Care – creating peace (and quiet), one pyramid at a time.

Little Safari Daycare Playroom

Daycare facilities are inundated with music, crafts, games, learning, and noise!

With more parents returning to the office, we’ve recently received a handful of treatment requests from day-care facilities dealing with an influx of boisterous children.

Little Safari Day care reached out to us in July 2021 for help with their space. Little Safari’s multi-purpose room is used for play, music, reading, arts/crafts, meals, games etc….. lots of moving and laughing = lots of noise! According to the owner “The noise level is deafening at times to the point you can’t hear anything, just noise”

The fanciful mural on the playroom wall looks great, but when you look closer, that glossy painted surface reflects sound like glass! Luckily, Fireflex Pyramid foam can quiet that down!

Technical consultant Cameron Girard settled on a remediation package that included FireFlex Acoustic Pyramid Foam panels distributed throughout the ceiling of the multi-purpose room. Safe to say, they were very happy with the results!!

Foam on the ceiling

The checkerboard install of the foam helped to distribute the absorption over the loudest areas of the room.

From the owner…..“Cameron, Thank you for all of your help and expertise in sound suppression!!! I have had people tell me upon entering the front door “wow, it’s much quieter in here” Such a noticeable difference. You may have saved my hearing and sanity!!!”

Little Safari Hall

There were even a few panels left to help quiet down the hallway. Note how they oriented the panels and trimmed them to work around obstructions – nice clean install!

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Sonora® Panels @ Vine and Branches

Sometimes you don’t have a large budget for an installation crew, but are in desperate need of acoustic treatment. Also, in complex spaces it helps to have a guide. So, when Acoustics First® was contacted to design a layout for Vine & Branches, our team gave them some extra help.

Sonora® Panel sizes were kept small and advice was given to help work around structural elements.
This gave the flexibility to make small layout adjustments without needing to modify any of the panels in the field.

Having a projector area was also required, and there was concern about having a large section of wall that was untreated. The solution was in install two Ultra-White Sonora® panels at the projection location, and use the panels themselves as a screen – a method that has been used in many environments in the past.

The rough position of the screen was noted to assist the installers.
The final result shows how they were able to complete the installation.

Note: These installers were not professionals, and most of the installation was done by one person – who commented…

Looks pretty much like the CAD drawing you guys did for us. I did 90% of the installation by myself… So, if any of your customers ask about installation, it *can* be done by an untrained person.

With some sound advice and a good guide, any environment can benefit from some acoustic treatment.

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Sonora® LFC – Low-Frequency Control Panel

Bass frequencies are difficult to control… and there is sometimes a tendency to overuse standard, broadband panels to try to absorb everything in order to get rid of that bass. However, this method is unbalanced and has the side-effect of leaving a room sounding muffled and boomy.

Why?

Physics! High frequencies are easier to absorb than low frequencies. So, when you ONLY use broadband absorbers, they easily remove the high frequencies and leave more of the lows. Overusing broadband absorption in a large performance space can be a disaster – leaving an environment lacking energy and feel – many describe this condition as a room sounding “dead.” (Not good!)

So how can you treat the boomy bass without killing your rooms with too much broadband absorption? Can you just take out the bass? Unfortunately, it is impossible to ONLY absorb the bass, but we can LIMIT the amount of high frequency energy that we absorb to balance out the response.

Acoustics First® presents… the Sonora® LFC – Low-Frequency control panel.

Looks like a standard Sonora® panel on the outside, but it’s completely different under that fabric!

The Sonora® LFC looks like a standard Sonora® Wall panel, but looks can be deceiving! At 4-1/8″ thick, it is virtually indistinguishable from a High-Impact Sonora® panel – however the interior structure of the LFC is optimized to attack the bass frequencies and smoothly roll off the high frequencies. Let’s take a closer look at the performance difference between the Sonora® LFC and the standard Sonora® panel.

Standard Sonora® 4″ Panel in red vs. the Sonora® LFC in blue.

When you look at the performance charts, you will notice that the standard 4″ Sonora® panel starts to “roll-off” in the lower frequencies below 125 Hz – it still absorbs them, just to a lesser degree. We designed the Sonora® LFC panel to focus on those frequencies below 125 Hz – while allowing the other treatments to handle the rest! This allows you to use fewer broadband panels, and still have some high-frequency energy for diffusers to spread around – thus creating a more balanced acoustic environment.

The Sonora® LFC is an engineered solution using the same high-performance materials as our other products, but combining them in a way that optimizes them for Low-Frequency Control – hence Sonora® LFC! The magic is in the way those materials are used.

The optimized construction of the Sonora® LFC Panel!

All of the materials used in an acoustic environment have a function – “Diffusers,” “Absorbers,” and “Bass Traps” are all general descriptors of product functions. Some diffusers are also Bass Traps. Some bass traps are also broadband absorbers. Some diffusers use absorption for amplitude grating. By combining a dampened, resonant trap with multi-density fiberglass, the Sonora® LFC focuses on making acoustic spaces more balanced. For controlling the bass without sucking the life out of a room, the LFC Panel is an outstanding tool for refined Low-Frequency Control!

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