Posts Tagged diffusion
Posted by Acoustics First in Absorption, Art Galleries, Articles, Auditorium, Broadcast Facilities, Diffusion, Home Entertainment, Home Theater, HOW TO, Industrial Facilities, Media Room, Multipurpose Rooms, Music Rehearsal Spaces, Offices, Product Applications, Recording Facilities, Studio Control Room, Teleconferencing, Theater on April 29, 2022
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.
Cathedrals, mosques, synagogues and temples are often decorated with an abundance of architectural details (deep coffers, arches, columns, sculptures, intricate engravings etc.). These features are not only beautiful to look at, but also serve the vital acoustic purpose of sound diffusion. Large, uninterrupted spans of hard, flat surfaces reflect sound in a singular, specular wave, which creates discrete echoes and comb filtering (In acoustics, comb filtering is when a delayed reflection interferes with, and distorts the original sound wave). These conditions can contribute to an acoustically uncomfortable environment, in which speech is difficult to understand, and music can be hard to perform and enjoy. Irregular surfaces, on the other hand, scatter these reflections, minimizing comb filtering and distracting echoes. In a “diffused” worship environment, speech is intelligible, music is clear and warm, and there is a sense of envelopment which greatly enhances the congregants’ worship experience.
Absorptive treatment can also be used to control echoes and harmful reflections. Instead of redistributing reflections, these “fluffy” materials (drapery, padded pews, acoustic panels etc.) reduce the overall sound energy from the reflections in the room. However, using to too much sound absorption in a room can often make a space sound ‘dry’ or ‘dead’. Determining whether your space needs absorption, diffusion, or a combination of both is dependent upon the acoustic properties of the space, as well as the type of worship service being conducted.
Acoustic Properties of the Worship Space: Reverberation, a principle acoustic factor, is the sound energy that remains in a listening environment as a result of lingering reflections. The dimensions, construction materials, and furnishings of a given worship space determine its reverberation time (RT or RT60). Large halls with reflective materials (glass, wood, concrete) have longer reverb times, while small rooms with absorptive materials (drop acoustic ceiling, carpet, curtains etc.) will have shorter reverb times. Incorporating sound absorptive materials, Such as fabric wrapped acoustic wall panels, is often the best way to reduce the overall reverberation in a room to a suitable level. However, the target reverb time also depends on the nature of the worship service being conducted in a particular space.
Type of Worship Service: Ideal reverb times for worship environments vary widely. Non-musical, spoken-word worship requires a very short reverb time (.5-.8s range), ensuring that speech is intelligible. At the other end of the spectrum, cathedrals can tolerate an extremely long reverb time (2s and above) due to the traditional nature of their liturgy. Choir, organ and plainchant worship will actually benefit from longer reverb times that create a sense of ambience and spaciousness by sustaining musical notes. These spaces will often lack a sound system, and instead utilize the hard surfaces to propagate sound throughout the room.
Traditional worship may be enhanced by long reverb times, but contemporary worship requires a significantly shorter reverb time. In these environments, drums, guitars, bass and other amplified instruments are critical to the high intensity worship experience, but have far different acoustical needs compared to the choir and organ in a more traditional service. Contemporary “high impact” churches require a reverb time in the .8-1.3s range to ensure that the music won’t become too “muddy” and indistinct. Contemporary churches must also be more cognizant of late specular reflections (slap echoes) which can inhibit the timing of musicians and contribute to poor music clarity.
Let’s take a look a few common scenarios when it comes to treating traditional and contemporary worship spaces.
Scenario 1: Conversion from Traditional to Contemporary worship
A growing contemporary church moves into a larger, traditional sanctuary and is confronted by a raucous acoustic environment during their first rehearsal… This “live” space was perfect for traditional music, but is not conducive to a “high impact” contemporary worship service. To reduce the excessive reverberation and distracting echoes, sound absorption should be added to the rear wall (opposite stage) and side walls. Also, if using on-stage monitors, the stage walls should be treated to manage stage volume. Spot diffusive treatment that provides low-frequency absorption would also be beneficial. A good choice for this would be traditional ‘barrel’ diffusers. These are one of the oldest tried and true solutions for controlling bass issues in a performance space. Also, since these units function as both absorbers and diffusers, you get the benefits of both.
Scenario 2: Mix of Traditional and Contemporary worship services.
A worship facility decides to offer a contemporary service in addition to their traditional services… As more absorption is introduced to cut down on distracting reflections, we want to retain the envelopment and spaciousness which benefits congregational singing and traditional worship music. Sound diffusive treatment would be a great way to control echoes and specular reflections, while keeping the energy in the space. A mix of absorption and diffusion is usually best. Multipurpose spaces can also benefit from variable acoustic treatment which allows the room to “adapt” to each service, but that is a subject for another article.
Scenario 3: Poor Music Clarity in Traditional Worship space
A traditional worship space renovates their facility by adding thicker carpet, padded pews and a drop acoustic ceiling… All of a sudden, their once lively space feels “flat” and dull. Acoustic instruments are more anemic, less distinguishable and choirs have a difficult time blending and tuning. To “liven up” the space, replace sound absorptive materials with diffusers. For example, replace 1/3rd of the acoustic ceiling tiles with a combination of gypsum tiles and lay-in diffusers. These days, there are wide variety mid-range quadratic sound diffusers available for drop tile ceiling grids, as well as the more traditional barrel and pyramidal diffusers.
Sound diffusion can often seem a little mysterious compared to sound absorption. This is at least partly because sound diffusion is a more complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon compared to the more easily quantifiable sound absorption. However, sound diffusion is often times the missing piece of an acoustic puzzle: its benefits can help a bad room to sound good, or a good room to sound great!
We often get asked about the functionality of the different diffusers, and one of the frequently asked questions is about the differences between the ArtDiffusor® Model C and ArtDiffusor® Model F. We will cover some of similarities and differences in the design, functionality and use of these two devices.
The Model C and Model F use identical math to come up with their basic structure, they even have angled faces – the main difference between the two is that the Model F elements are ½ of the Model C’s height, length and width – and then it is duplicated 4 times in the same footprint… The Model C is nominally 2’ x 2’ x 4” deep. The Model F is four quadrants that are nominally 1’ x 1’ x 2” deep – like little scaled down Model C’s… This makes them visually similar and aesthetically compatible. This low profile design makes the Model F more desirable for ceiling installs in spaces with very limited headroom – like basement studios that have low ceilings.
Due to the different size of the elements on the two devices, they have very different frequencies at which they are most effective. The Model C is a mid-frequency diffuser by design… having larger elements and deeper wells than the Model F. The Model F is primarily a high-frequency diffuser, due to the small elements and lower profile. Both diffusers are tuned to different frequencies as their “primary range,” and while they do affect lower and higher frequencies than they are designed for – it is to a lesser degree, or the product of absorption.
What does this mean?
The Model C has a primary design range of 1KHz to 4KHz. This is where it is primarily designed to work. It can and does diffuse below 1KHz and over 4KHz – just to a lesser degree than its primary design range.
The Model F has a primary design range of 2KHz to 8KHz, and again, it does diffuse outside of that range, but to a lesser degree.
The angled caps of both the Model C and Model F help to extend their high frequency range by reflecting sound in different directions at higher frequencies – causing the sound to scatter spatially. The different heights of the elements cause sound reflections to be offset “temporally,” or in time. The sound that hits the higher elements is reflected sooner than the sound that hits the lower elements – travelling further before it is reflected. This time offset, changes the “Phase Coherency” of the reflection; the larger the difference in the heights, the greater the offset in time.
The size of the elements matters as well. The shorter wavelengths of high frequencies can diffract and scatter off of the smaller elements of the Model F more readily than low frequencies, which see the Model F as a slightly angled & mostly flat surface. However, the lower frequencies are more affected by the larger and deeper elements of the Model C.
How do these differences help define their use?
The Model C is a great all around diffuser – it covers a wide range of frequencies, throws a very predictable 2D diffusion pattern, and it is tuned to a very musical range.
The Model F is a great high-frequency diffuser. It targets a few very specific, yet important issues. High frequencies are responsible for some nasty problems in rooms. Flutter echoes, ringing, comb filtering, and other artifacts are particularly noticeable in higher frequencies. If your room is otherwise performing well acoustically, the Model F can help tackle that last hurdle to make a good room into a great room.
When Sound & Communications needed some industry perspective on diffusion, they decided to go to the source. Acoustics First has been developing sound diffusers for decades, and has done some of the most comprehensive research on developing testing standards for diffusion and reflected acoustic energy with the ASTM.
Acoustics First’s chief science officer, Jim DeGrandis, covers why diffusion is so much more complex than absorption in the February 2020 edition of Sound & Communications.
Acoustics First would like to remind everyone that it’s the little things that matter…
…remember to wash your hands and stay safe.
Acoustics First® is pleased to announce our latest creation: The Aeolian™ Sound Diffuser. In some ways a simplified version of our popular Art Diffusor® Model D, the Aeolian™ is the latest in our line of ‘Organic Quadratics’. Part of the Aeolian’s™ unique design comes from its use of “implied symmetry”. Although the edges are all asymmetric, the height variations are just subtle enough to create an illusion of symmetry when installed in a standard 15/16” grid, or spaced appropriately on a wall. The lack of a uniform edge also has added acoustical benefits in the way of “randomness”.
The development process for the Aeolian™ was similar to that of our ‘Model D’. Various 3D models were created and refined, after which we ran acoustical simulations. Once we settled on what we considered the optimum design for what we were going for, a full scale 3D model was printed for lab testing. With the ‘real world’ test results in hand, confirming our predicted results, we set about making the final mold, and this new diffuser was born.
The Aeolian™ Diffuser is class A thermoplastic, and 4 lbs. per unit.
Nominal size is 23-3/4” x 23-3/4” with a depth of 5.1”.