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.
“A panel mounted to the wall is a panel mounted to the wall… right?”
This isn’t entirely accurate, and we are going to focus this installment on the often misunderstood Stand off clip.
What makes the Stand off clip different is that it doesn’t hold the panel flush to the wall, but it leaves a gap between the wall and the panel.
Why would you want this?
There are a few very important reasons, both acoustic and aesthetic.
Sound travels around all exposed surfaces, and by raising the panel off the wall, you expose the back surface to sound, more like a baffle, which is a great absorber. Also, sound will pass through a panel into the space behind, bounce off the wall, and then have to pass through the panel again. This transition from panel to air and back changes the medium sound must travel through – this effectively changes impedance, which strips energy from sound. These are just a couple of the acoustic benefits of using a standoff clip – there are others.
Wall mounted Sonora® panels take on a whole new dimension when using Stand off clips – they appear to float in mid air a couple of inches off the wall. This alone adds visual interest to a standard panel, but it can then be further accented by back-lighting the panel – changing the simple panel into a focal point in the lighting scheme.
When Acoustics First® was approached with the ideas for the Main Hall of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage (KCAAH), they needed acoustic materials that would not only work to acoustically tame the large space, but to have some be the focal point for attention – while others needed to blend in.
Aukram Burton of KCAAH wanted to have large portraits of civil rights icons, not only nationally, but paying particular attention to leaders with a connection to Kentucky. He also wanted to have large panels with quotes from these figures. These would be a custom printed Silent Pictures®/Sonora® Baffle Hybrid – with a 1″ Custom printed Silent Pictures® panel on one side, and a grey fabric wrapped Sonora® Baffle on the back. These would maximize sound absorption due to all of the surfaces being exposed to sound – while being aesthetically significant to the space. Their sheer size presented some technical challenges – with the portraits being 4′ x 8′ and the quotes being 4′ x 10′ – creating custom artwork on this scale required many technical consultations, as many photographs were not easily scaled to this size.
They did not want the other treatments to distract from the portraits, so they chose to install large Cloudscape® Baffles in a gray material that closely matched the gray color scheme of the support beams, trusses, and HVAC elements that are exposed and prevalent in the hall. This allowed the large 4′ x 8′ baffles to blend into the background, while still taming the acoustics of the large hall. The acoustics make the hall feel like a much more intimate venue than its imposing size suggests.
To get the full effect of the visual impact of the space, Aukram sent over a video tour of the facility.
Hidden Creek Home Owners Association contacted Acoustics First® to remediate the poor acoustics of their clubhouse meeting hall. Hard surfaces and tall ceilings contributed to excessive reverberation and poor speech intelligibility. The HOA board wanted to address the acoustics of the meeting hall during an upcoming renovation of the space.
Hidden Creek HOA submitted pictures and plans of the clubhouse to design consultant Cameron Girard. After calculating the amount of absorptive treatment needed to obtain an ideal reverb time, he submitted a treatment proposal with Sonora® panels that would ensure a significant acoustic improvement. Cameron provided detailed renderings to the board, allowing them to better visualize the layout of the panels as they reached a final decision on treatment.
A single skilled contractor installed the panels in a few days, leaving Hidden Creek residents with a much more suitable acoustic environment for meetings and small group gatherings.
Students at the Frost School of Music had an “ear-opening” experience when their Computational Psycho-acoustics class was lectured by Jim DeGrandis of Acoustics First last month. The topics ranged from engineering to human perception of ultrasonic frequencies. The students were exposed to concepts and demonstrations of ultrasonic frequencies which have been modified in ways to make them audible, and ultrasonic anomalies affecting the audible range in ways that are very blatant and obvious.
One of the most stark examples of “audible ultrasound” being the demonstration of a Parametric Speaker, which modulates the ultrasonic carrier to produce very directional audible frequencies.
Jim also spoke at the student forum about misconceptions of what it really means to be “in the industry” …and did an encore demo of the Parametric Speaker – which had apparently been such a novel experience for the Psycho-Acoustics class that they ‘demanded’ it be experienced again by a wider audience. (and it was just plain fun!)