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8 Things you need to know about Acoustic Sound Panels

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In the current world whenever an enclosed space (a room, an auditorium, a recording studio or even a residential apartment) is being constructed, extensive research and emphasis is given on Architectural acoustics. In layman’s term, it is also falsely referred to as Soundproofing. There are various approaches to sound reduction, one of them being Acoustic Sound Panels. These panels are like noise barriers or dampeners that either absorb or reflect the sound energy from the sound waves. The primary purpose of a sound panel is not to eliminate but significantly reduce sound resonance, echo and distortion in a room. Anechoic chambers are rooms equipped with damping equipment that completely absorb the sound without any reflection.

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1. Echo Reduction for proper communication.

Without resistance, sound dissipates and bounces of walls, floors and ceilings in the form of Echo. When this happens, the room cannot encompass all the sounds competing with each other at the same time. Everything one can hear sounds layered, as though a hundred people are talking simultaneously, when in fact, there are only a few in the room. As the wavelength and pitch of each sound is different, the resulting sound is quite irritating and causes ‘ear fatigue’- wherein a person cannot have a simple conversation without having to work really heard while listening as well as speaking. Churches, auditoriums and classrooms are the most common preys of the Echo. The Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) is a parameter that determines the absorptive capabilities of a material. The NRC range is from 0 to 1; 0 indicating total sound reflection (unbearable echoes) while the latter indicates complete sound absorption (no reflection). NRC is similar to the sound absorption coefficient.

2. Solution for the reverberation.

Even though the basic nature of a reverb and an echo is similar, there is a slight distinction that separates the two. An echo can be easily distinguished from the original sound, but a reverb is difficult to recognise. When sound reverberates, the only indication is that there is a sudden uneasiness that is quite unsettling and feels wrong. Acoustic boards used in walls and convoluted foam are some sound absorbing materials preferred by architects. In the case of auditoriums where choirs, orchestras or singers perform, longer trail reverberants are used as they excite the room.

3. Thickness Matters.

Even though the thickness of a sound panel might seem a trivial parameter, it must be considered before installation. When the sound waves travel from the source through air, solids and liquids, they set the particles in motion resulting in generation of heat. So, when a material absorbs sound, it tends to get heated. For balanced sound absorption, the density of the panel must be correctly calculated or else either low frequency sounds will simply pass through or those with high frequencies will get deflected back into the room.

4. Area covered by the absorbers.

Randomly placing the absorption material is not the right way to do things. A single panel in a classroom or gym won’t indicate much of a difference in the sound but cramping the walls or ceilings with the materials will make you feel deaf as the sound will be completely absorbed. Determining the area to be covered and amount of acoustic boards or foams required depends on your preference, application and common sense.

5. Safety- Prevention is better than cure.

Fire safety is no joke. It is a serious matter which requires proper consideration and thorough analysis before the panel installation. Many bodies preside the jurisdiction of safety norms including the local government, state government and local building authorities. Installing any acoustic equipment before consulting these bodies and meeting their mandatory requirements can be fatal for you and your neighbours. In the United States, smoke development and flame spread are verified by the ASTM E 84-05 test. The “05” indicates the flame spread, as it is less than 25, the corresponding smoke development will be under 450 and hence the panel will be approved as Class A (ASTM E 84- Class A).

6. Sound panels aren’t always dull.

Until a few years ago, all acoustic sound panels had a rather monotonous and dull appearance. But, over the years, better and interesting panels have been introduced. Countless colour variants, designs, textures and materials to choose from. Personalised customisations to the panels are also possible. Addition of the panels does not affect the interior and ambience of the room anymore. These panels are available in stencil design, flap, planar, orange peel, bumps, plates, and chrome to name a few.

7. Placement of the panels.

In general, the placement of the panels isn’t crucial. The deciding factor is the desired visual appearance post-installation. The most common strategy is to place more panels in and near corners and fewer panels in the room. Placing the material near the first reflection point will give you the best output. Important thing is to properly accommodate the entire square footage of panels into the room without hampering the appearance and structure.

8. Acoustic Treatment and Soundproofing are different.

Yes! This is rather common misconception that acoustic treatment means soundproofing and vice versa. The truth is nowhere near this understanding as one means controlling the movement of sound waves generated within a room while the latter means minimizing the inflow or outflow of sound from an enclosed space. The main aim of soundproofing is to block sound with the use of heavy and dense building material and making the room airtight by sealing all gaps and windows. Acoustic treatment focuses only on managing the sound reflections that bounce of surfaces within the room.

There are several types of acoustic panels available in the market. Before spending a fortune on acoustic treatment and then repenting, instead, compare various panel materials. Broadway, Melamine, Rock Wool, Urethane and tectum are some of the types of panels, each with its own deficiencies and strengths. Research, planning, analysis and cost estimation are the most important aspects while purchasing and installing acoustic sound panels. In conclusion, to better meet your acoustic needs for a room, acoustic panels are one of the best options to go with.

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