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The current crisis has forced a large portion of the workforce to operate out of their homes. Daily Zoom and Skype meetings have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. For many of us, this shift is only temporary. However, some companies are seeing the benefits of working at home, and are making plans to move employees to permanent remote positions.
I’m sure all of you have been on a conference call in which a team member’s audio is difficult to understand. This could be caused by a microphone or connection issue, but a large number of intelligibility problems are rooted in a room’s acoustics. Let’s take a look at some common acoustic issues in home offices and how they relate to conference call clarity.
Background Noise – Obviously, it’s difficult to understand speech when there is a lot of background noise. It is vital that you isolate yourself from extraneous sound sources as best you can. Some sources (TV, HVAC) are easier to control than others (traffic noise, pets, children etc.). Make sure your office is “closed off” from intruding noise. Remember, sound is a little like water; it will “pour in” through any openings, such as gaps around doors. If possible, install full perimeter seals and door sweeps to improve sound isolation in your office. If you have sound transmitting through a wall, ceiling or floor, you can consider adding a layer of mass loaded vinyl to the assembly in order to help block unwanted air-borne noise. You can then cover the mass loaded vinyl with SoundChannels® like in this blog.
Reverberation – In simple terms, reverberation is the sound energy that remains in a listening environment as a result of lingering reflections. The reverberation time (RT or RT60) quantifies how quickly an impulse sound decays in a space. Reverberation time is dependent upon the volume and surface materials of a given room. Large spaces with hard materials (tile, drywall etc.) have longer reverberation times, while small rooms furnished with “softer” materials (carpet, drapes etc.) sound more much more “dead”. Speaker phone conversations require a very short reverb time, for optimal clarity, somewhere in the .5s range (half of a second). You can reduce reverberation in your home office with the addition of “fluffy” or irregular furnishings, acoustic panels, rugs, curtains and plants.
Flutter Echoes – Flutter echo, which can be heard as an annoying “ringing sound”, is caused by parallel reflective surfaces. In certain critical listing environments, sound diffusers are used to alleviate flutter echo. Flutter echoes can greatly degrade conference call clarity. This phenomenon can occur between two walls or floor-to-ceiling. To control flutter echoes in your office, you should break up any parallel surfaces with furnishings and/or sound absorptive treatment.
Reach out to Acoustics First® for a treatment recommendation for your home office!
Sometimes a simple solution is the best solution. That is the guiding philosophy behind our new Sonora® Corner Bass Trap. Take one 4” thick, 6-7pcf sound absorbing fiberglass panel, back bevel to fit in a corner, front bevel for a nice finished look, throw in a few corner clips for mounting, and done!
The Sonora® Corner Bass Trap was born.
This bass trap lives up to the design aesthetic and functionality of the Geometrix® Quarter Round unit, but at a lower price point with reduced weight for an easy installation. Available in widths of 24” or 18”, standard length is 4’ with custom lengths available.
The Sonora® Corner Bass Trap is a great option for studios, theaters, or any critical listening environment where broadband absorption with enhanced low frequency control is desired.
Here are a few new pics, courtesy of one of our longtime associates in New York. For this facility, they installed several arrays of our Sonora Ceiling Clouds, some of them in custom trapezoidal shapes! Sonora Ceiling clouds are often a great option in facilities with high ceilings, but limited wall space.
Renovating a broadcast studio is a daunting task – technically, financially, and logistically. Amidst the chaos, it is possible for certain things to fall through the cracks – even important things. As the student run station at NC State University began their renovation, they were focused on doing it right, and not letting important elements go unaddressed.
When Jamie Lynn Gilbert, the Associate Director of Student Media and Adviser to WKNC 88.1, contacted Acoustics First they were finishing up an extensive renovation of the HD-2 studio and were looking for some Sonora® Acoustic Panels as the “final touch.” The end result was the frosting on the cake of this renovation, and the impact, both acoustically and aesthetically, was quite evident – even to their consulting engineer on the project.
So evident, in fact, that just a month later, Jamie was back in contact with Acoustics First® to get nearly identical treatment for their production studio as they completed its renovation as well…
There are many situations in which it is valuable to use ceiling treatments to control sound in a space, and after ceiling tiles, two other popular options are either Sonora® ceiling clouds or Sonora® ceiling baffles. What is the difference between these two, and when is it desirable to use one over the other?
It may help if we first define the physical characteristics of the two treatments. The similarities are in materials, and the differences are in implementation. Both are fiberglass core substrates covered in an acoustically transparent fabric; however, a baffle is completely wrapped in the fabric, while the ceiling cloud is often left uncovered on the back – to assist with mounting.
The main difference between the Sonora® baffle and the Sonora® ceiling cloud is the hanging orientation. A baffle is hung from its edge in a vertical orientation, while the cloud is hung horizontally, often parallel to the ceiling. The major benefit of both of these products is that neither is directly mounted to the surface, allowing all of the surfaces of the absorptive material to be exposed to sound – this makes them extremely effective at mediating airborne sound.
If they are both so similar, why do some situations benefit from one over the other?
Due to the horizontal orientation of the cloud, they are great at removing hard reflections off of the ceiling – say over a mixing position, in a listening room, or between the ceiling and a large conference table. They can be used to make a false ceiling by hanging them below a high ceiling – creating some intimacy in the space, both aesthetically and acoustically. By leaving space between the clouds, sound can travel up and around them, losing energy as it travels up to the hard ceiling, bounces off, and passes back through the absorbent substrate. This makes them very effective at deadening the hard first reflections and helping to reduce reverb times by removing the energy early. They require some skill in hanging, as they have multiple mounting points on the rear, and can be difficult to level – but the aesthetics are worth the extra effort.
The ceiling baffles hang vertically, which generally changes their implementation. First, they require higher ceilings, but this also means that they are very effective in larger spaces, because they hang down lower. Also, hanging a large array of baffles is a quick and easy process, with many only having 2 mounting points. They are great for controlling reverb in large spaces where sound could be coming from many different locations in the room – like a gymnasium, multi-purpose space, or cafeteria. Due to their vertical orientation, it is not likely that objects (volleyballs, basketballs, kickballs, etc.) will get stuck on top of them, which is more plausible with the clouds. Sonora® Baffles lower the reverb time by addressing the sound pressures up in the ceiling area, and create labyrinth for sound to run through. A large grid of baffles will increase speech intelligibility substantially in larger spaces by trapping the sound that usually bounces around in the rafters – an ideal use for the humble baffle.
So, those are some of the similarities and differences between the Sonora® ceiling baffle and the Sonora® ceiling cloud, and while they are very similar in their construction, they do have different scenarios where their strengths shine.
If you have questions about which treatments would work best in your space, contact us today for a free assessment and consultation.