What Is Acoustic Treatment? Understanding Acoustics

What Is Acoustic Treatment? Understanding Acoustics
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What Is Acoustic Treatment? Understanding Acoustics

 

Sound is integral to our daily lives; it can be as subtle as the inner workings of your home, as blatant as a busy office, or can affect your chances of getting that perfect take in the studio. The quality of this sound can impact the way we perceive and interact with the world around us and is the basis for the study of Acoustics.  

Sometimes, we need to hear specific details of a sound, hear more of an important conversation, or be able to switch off and relax at home. This is when Acoustic Treatment becomes so important as it changes the characteristics of the sound you are hearing. It can dampen and absorb sound, making it easier to hear what you need to and reduce the stress on your hearing. 

What are Acoustics? 

Acoustics is the science behind how sound is produced, how it travels and how it interacts within certain environments. It allows us to study, measure, and control how loud or quiet a sound is, how echoes occur in a room, and how sound might be distorted or enhanced by different surfaces or objects. It is used in music, architecture, engineering and to measure the health of your hearing.  

Ultimately, it is about creating better sounding environments and experiences for people. 

What is Acoustic Treatment? 

Acoustic Treatment is the process of controlling the way sound behaves in a room, to make the sound in that space sound better for recording, mixing, and reducing noise in homes, offices, and commercial spaces. This is achieved by using materials that reduce, absorb, and dampen unwanted noise, echoes, reflections, reverberation, standing waves and leakage

The most common materials used in acoustic treatment are foam, fibreglass, PET, and rockwool. These are then formed into products such as sound-absorbing panels, diffusers, and bass traps

In a recording studio, microphones can pick up echoes, standing waves and lower frequencies that can spoil recordings and mixes. Acoustic Panels can be used to absorb, diffuse, and trap some of these unwanted attributes to create a more professional sound.  

In offices or commercial spaces, the build-up of noise can affect your ability to hear a phone call or what is being said in a meeting. Acoustic Panels, baffles and ceiling clouds can help to absorb and diffuse some of the sound of people talking or moving around. This can aid privacy in an office meeting or can help you clearly hear what is being said in commercial spaces such as cinemas and restaurants. 

Often what is happening in each of these situations is your ears are getting tired from all the different sounds you are hearing, also known as listening fatigue, this can stop you from hearing what you need to in a recording or a mix or in a meeting.  

Is Acoustic Treatment and Sound Proofing the same? 

No! It is a common misconception that acoustic treatment of a room and soundproofing a room are the same. They both concern sound management and control but in vastly separate ways. The aim of acoustic treatment is to improve the quality of the sound in a recording studios, cinemas, and home theatres, whereas the aim of soundproofing is to prevent sound from entering or leaving a room in a home close to loud noise such as traffic or a venue in a residential area. 

What Are the Most Common types of Acoustic Treatment? 

As mentioned above, the most common types of acoustic treatment are sound absorption, sound diffusion or bass trapping. 

Sound absorption materials are usually formed into products such as the StudioPANEL Single Acoustic Panel which can absorb sound starting from 100 Hz, lessen reflection time up to 0.12ms and reduce noise up to 6dB. These are place on walls and ceilings which are the first reflection points.  

 

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Sound diffusion materials are usually formed into products such as the Universal Acoustics Mercury Diffuser which aim to diffuse or scatter sound characteristics such as echoes and reverberations, placed on back walls to make smaller rooms sound larger and more alive. 

 

 

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Bass trap materials are usually formed into box like products such as the Corner Trap Cube which absorb the low end or low frequencies of a sound which can often be found in corners and around the edges of recording studios when recording or mixing. 

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What to Consider When Acoustic Treating Your Space

Size and shape of the room 

A larger room will typically require more acoustic treatment to account for the longer room reverb and potential for build-up of standing waves. A smaller room will naturally require less treatment but may require certain treatments such as bass traps to be thicker or larger to counteract the proximity effect of the room.  

Positioning

As a rule of thumb for a mix or tracking position, working length ways in a room yields the best results. Avoid being too close to corners, walls, and reflective surfaces such as windows or mirrors. Finding the best sounding position in a room with no treatment will in turn help to then get the most out of the acoustic treatment you add.   

Type of treatment

Acoustic treatment usually falls into 3 categories – Absorption, Diffusion and Bass trapping. Absorption as the name suggests will absorb sound within the room and reduce reflections (ambience/reverb) with the thickness of the panel determining which frequencies will be absorbed sufficiently (thicker the panel the lower frequency it will absorb). Diffusion often takes the form of a reflective panel in an irregular shape; this is designed to break up and disperse frequencies back into the room to dissipate naturally. Diffusion will help to even out the internal sound whilst still leaving the room ambience intact, often used in conjunction with absorption. Bass Traps – see point below.  

Identifying reflection points 

Once the best position has been established the next step is identifying reflection points. Early reflection points will be the surfaces closest to your mix/tracking position (typically to your immediate left/right, above and behind speakers for a mix position). Adding absorption treatment here will immediately focus the sound and improve stereo image as you are now hearing your speakers direct without reflections. Late reflection points are usually found further down the room and are made up of mid/lower frequencies, lower frequencies take longer to form and are slower to travel than higher frequencies, meaning they will form and hit a reflective surface further down the room. You can either add absorption or diffusion (or a mix of both) here depending on how much ambience you wish to keep in the room.   

Bass Traps

Typically bass trapping is utilised in the corners of a room as corners can be hot spots for frequencies to collect and multiply. This collection of frequencies can turn into a resonance or room mode, usually in the form of a bass frequency being amplified, and by utilising thick absorption treatment to absorb these frequencies before they can collect in a corner will prevent excessive bass build up. 

Acoustics is all arounds us and the quality of what we hear can help us push forward in our careers, can help us hear more of what we need to, can help us live more relaxed lives and together keeps us paying more attention to our hearing health.  

There are many solutions to remedy the problems our art, work and everyday lives face when confronted with poor quality sound. Whether its panels, baffles, clouds, or bass traps that is what we can help you plan and put in place with our resident expert who can guide you all the way. 

Remember, poor quality sound can cause hearing fatigue and over time can affect our hearing health that is why it is so important to treat the sound we hear.  

To help you understand more about acoustics we created this simple test of the difference acoustic panels can make to the acoustics of a room. 

 

If you want to know more about the terms we are using throughout this article, check out our Glossary.