The Essential Audio Upgrade: Acoustic Treatment

Whether you handle House of Worship sound, have a recording studio or post-production suite, run a conference center, or deal with any situation where audio plays an important part, you want the best possible sound quality. Words should be clear, music should sound beautiful, and the audience or congregation should not have to endure listener fatigue.

Although there are many ways to improve sound quality, proper acoustic treatment is so fundamental that it applies to virtually any application involving audio. Different environments have different acoustic needs, because a contained space like a recording studio is easier to treat than a large space like a church. However, regardless of the environment, if the acoustics are awful, there’s no way the sound quality can do justice to the rest of your system.

Let’s look at three typical applications for acoustic treatment: Houses of Worship, conference rooms, and studios (recording, post-production, and broadcast).

Houses of Worship

For large spaces, hiring a professional acoustician or studio design firm may be well worth the investment. They have the experience to identify issues, and the solutions needed to mitigate those issues. However, even with a restricted budget, there are steps you can take to improve the acoustics, and many improvements you can do yourself.

If the fronts of a pair of PA speakers on a stage are parallel to a rear wall, reflections can bounce off the wall, head back toward the speakers, and partially cancel out (or add to) the audio’s waveform. Angling the speakers’ direction even slightly so that they point at a spot in the middle of the room, about ¾ of the way to the back, can help improve the sound. With a single PA speaker, consider setting it a bit to the side of center, and directing sound diagonally across the congregation. Lining the back wall with thick curtains, or other material that absorbs sound, can also make a substantial improvement.

Low-frequency buildups and resonances are one of the biggest problems in audio environments. An uneven low-frequency response can produce a muddy sound that conflicts with the clarity you want to achieve. There are various types of bass traps, but the porous absorber types are easy to set up, effective, and inexpensive. For moderate-sized spaces, the Auralex LENCHA-HP pack of four bass traps provides an economical way to reduce bass resonances; affix the traps to room corners (where bass buildups are most troublesome), using an adhesive spray like Auralex Foamtak. The default color for the Auralex bass traps is charcoal (Fig. 1), but purple and burgundy versions are also available.

Auralex LENCHA-HP LENRD Bass Trap 4-pack In Charcoal
Figure 1: Auralex Lencha bass traps can give a tighter, less boomy low end.

Acoustic drums can be a problem—not just because of the volume levels, but because hard wall surfaces can make high-frequency sounds like cymbals harsh and unpleasant. Fortunately, you have options. Many drummers use a plexiglass shield, like the ClearSonic A2466X6 (Fig. 2), which envelops the drummer in acoustic isolation.

Clearsonic A2466X6 5.5' X 12' 6-Section Clear Acoustic Isolation Panel
Figure 2: Drum shields help balance drum sounds, particularly in Houses of Worship with praise bands.

You can take this even further with the ClearSonic IPA Drum Shield, a 7 x 9 x 6.5 foot shield that includes a lid to prevent sound from exiting out the top, and enhances the overall amount of isolation. If a shield isn’t an option, consider cymbals like Sabian’s FRX series cymbals, which reduce volume levels while retaining a traditional cymbal sound.

Conference Rooms

Many companies overlook the importance of acoustic treatment in conference rooms. A quieter environment is a calmer environment, but also, many times people giving presentations aren’t public speakers—so they need all the acoustic help they can get. Even relatively small spaces benefit from acoustic treatment by reducing the room reflections and resonances that interfere with intelligibility.

In broadcast or recording, the priority is getting the job done—the look isn’t all that important. But a conference room is different, because aesthetics matter. Companies usually don’t want large slabs of foam on their walls, especially if the colors clash with the existing décor. Fortunately, acoustic treatment requirements are more relaxed than studios; even a little acoustic treatment will help improve the overall meeting or presentation experience.

ClearSonic’s SORBER panels (Fig. 3) are a relatively unobtrusive choice. They’re available in both dark gray and light shades, and although they can be free-standing, in conference room applications you can tack them to the wall. They can even attach with Velcro hooks, should they need to be removed; similarly, you can attach lightweight objects (like signage) to the front of the Sorber panels with Velcro.

Clearsonic S2224 22" X 24"x 1.5" Sorber Acoustic Panel In Dark Grey
Figure 3: Strategically placed SORBER panels can help cut down on room reflections.

When neutral aesthetics are paramount, the Auralex B248SST is an excellent choice—it almost looks like a panel designed to add a decorative touch, with a beautifully textured surface (Fig. 4). These panels are even available in four different colors.

Auralex B248SST 2"x4`x8` Acoustic Panel, Beveled Edge
Figure 4: The Auralex B248SST is aesthetically pleasing, as well as effective in controlling room acoustics.

However, maybe you want to add a more decorative element; in that case, the Auralex B224PET is ideal (Fig. 5). A variety of fabric colors are available, like obsedian, sandstone, suede, and six more, as well as four suede fabrics (red, black, tan, brown). But they don’t just look good, they’ll keep reflections down, and make conferences more pleasant experiences—both in terms of sound and visual appeal.

Auralex B224PET Pro Panel 4'x2'x2" Petoskey Color
Figure 5: The Auralex B224PET panels can add a decorative flair, as well as improve acoustics.

Studios

Whether for recording, podcasting, post-production, or broadcast, acoustic treatment has to deliver more than pleasing acoustics—studios need the flattest possible response, so that those working in the studio know that what they’re hearing is true. Although you can do à la carte acoustic treatment by putting together a custom collection of bass traps, absorbers, and diffusers, that’s a lot of effort. For these environments, turnkey room treatment kits like the Primacoustic London-8 (Fig. 6) are ideal. The London-8 has everything you need to treat rooms up to 100 square feet, which is about right for many broadcast and post-production suites. And if the aesthetics matter, the London-8 is available in black, beige, or gray, so it can fit in with a variety of decors. For larger spaces, the Primacoustic London-12 kit is spec’ed at 120 square feet.

Primacoustic LONDON-12 120 Sq. Ft. Broadway Acoustical Room Kit With 2 Broadway Panels, 8 Control Columns, 12 Scatter Blocks
Figure 6: Acoustic treatment kits like the Primacoustic London-8 save money by bundling various products together, but also save time and trouble by incorporating everything you need (including mounting hardware).

The next step up is a kit like the Primacoustic London-16 (Fig. 7). It comes with 6 broadband panels (which can also serve as bass traps), 12 control columns, and 24 scatter blocks. These blocks help control flutter echoes that interfere with speech and music clarity. 

Primacoustic LONDON-16 Broadway Acoustical Panels Room Kit With 6 Broadway Panels, 12 Control Columns, 24 Scatter Blocks
Figure 7: Primacoustic’s London-16 handles the needs of larger studios and control rooms.

As with any other aspect of audio, there’s a seemingly limitless number of products that can help with acoustics. However, even rudimentary acoustic treatment, like the options mentioned in this article, can help make a space more neutral-sounding. For additional help with your specific needs, and to find out what other acoustic treatments may be applicable to your situation, call Full Compass’s sales professionals—and take advantage of Full Compass’s 40+ years of experience in solving acoustics-related problems.

Leave a Reply