By chance or by design …

By chance or by design.  What acoustic design can save you from !

Although there’s great risk of me sounding like Kevin McCloud from “Grand designs” continuously banging on about “you should have used an architect” I am, never the less, going to “bang on” about the role of Design when it comes to acoustics.

Acoustics, for most, is the last (if ever) considered and least understood environmental issue affecting us where we live and “play”.   Whether a space, be it a domestic room, audio visual entertainment area, or even a restaurant sounds nice: good for music, entertainment and conversation is generally overlooked and ignored, where all other environmental issues: light, colour, form, texture, temperature and so on have great amounts of thought and design lavished on them. For the relative few that are al least aware of “acoustic quality” there’s the question of “how” ?

By far the easiest route is to pay no attention and hope the finished result sounds ok

More sensible, is to at least make use of one or more of the many manufactured specialist products and finishes available.

Most sensible, is to have, at least an element of design.

Specialist product and finish manufactures (all the way from foam “egg crate” panels to micro-perf materials) are in the main, just that – Manufacturers.   For the most part, the implementation guidelines for their products are likely to be not much more than a “rule of thumb” or “one size fits all” kit of parts.  We are even aware of one such manufacturer that, when sent an enquiry suggested treating  “X% of the total room space” (what ever that means) with no hint of really fundamental questions, such as:  floor covering – carpet V a hard surface making a huge difference to both the acoustic and treatment needs. While it’s unlikely this approach will cause “actual bodily harm” to a space’s acoustic, and very likely to improve matters, it’s not remotely impossible that incorrect placement and implementation of specialist acoustic products can make a space sound much worse.

In relatively recent history I can recall two such episodes:

One with Marks & Spencer, who took advise on one particular space, applying the same treatment methods, ideas and materials in another, completely different space, without any consultation, making an already bad acoustic environment considerably worse.  It initially saved them a design/computation fee, but then cost them an additional 2 days of “unfixing” labour, two days with a commercial space earning no income, and, of course a design fee !.

The second, involves what seems to be unique to music recording studios. That’s the misconceived and misunderstood concept that: parking a lorry load of Rockwool in a room will cure all acoustic problems.  With every conceivable bit of “life” and “breath” sucked out of the acoustic, simply by over treatment, the relatively simple task of removing around a third of the material was made more difficult as once finished decoration and finishes had to be removed and re-instated.

Acoustic design

Design, however, no matter how much or little, will stop all such mistakes in their tracks.  Even the tiniest element of design is better than nothing, while a reasonable amount will even allow for all other design considerations to be taken into account, right from concept stage up to completion, and ensure an acoustic quality “fit for purpose”, an acoustic environment “nice to be in”, an acoustic of sufficient quality to match the space and / or it’s audio equipment.

Also see:  absorber placement

Here are example sound files … they are comparative against each other, not absolute.  They can’t possibly be absolute as the acoustic you are listening to them in may be “worse” and / or “colour” the sound as we recorded it.

The sound of the empty untreated room …


Sound achieved with a manufactures product, implemented by their “rule of thumb” guide …


The result of a designed approach, with the same manufacturers product …