Your Guide to Improving Sound Quality

Guide to Sound Absorbing Panels

We are inundated with noise in this world.  At work, at home, and in public places.  Improving the acoustics in these places can reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve peoples’ overall experience.

Fortunately, there is a simple technology available called sound absorbing panels, that can improve the acoustics of almost any setting.   Acoustic paneling can improve sound quality and clarity, while reducing noise, echoing, and reverberation.

A common misconception is that sound absorbing panels will “sound proof” a room.  This is not the case.  While acoustical paneling will improve the quality of the acoustics and reduce noise in the space where they are installed, they do not reduce the amount of sound migrating from one room to another.  If you wish to isolate a room from transmitting sound elsewhere, you should additionally consider installing sound proofing insulation into the walls.

Common Applications

  1. Reduce the echo, din, and reverberation of peoples voices in large spaces such as museums, auditoriums, theaters, and halls.
  2. Improve the experience at crowded gathering places like bars and restaurants by preventing the chatter and din of voices.
  3. Increase the clarity and accuracy of sound in listening places like recording studios and mixing rooms.
  4. Improve the accuracy and clarity of sound in home theaters that use surround sound systems for watching BluRay movies, video games, and sporting events.

Sound Absorbing Panels in Home Theaters

The most common application for sound absorbing panels in peoples homes is in the Home Theater.

While many people spend top dollar on high definition televisions, surround sound speaker systems, and theater style furniture, they tend to neglect  the acoustics of the theater room itself.

Many home theaters suffer from echoing, muddled voices, and booming explosions of bass.  Homeowners may wonder why their new system doesn’t match the amazing quality from the electronics store display.

The reason for this is their home theater has not been acoustically tuned like the big box store showrooms have. You will be amazed at the difference in sound quality and clarity after strategic placement of some decorative sound absorbing panels.

AcousticsFREQ has a fantastic guide on where to place acoustic panels in a home theater.The process uses a handheld mirror to identify each place where a speaker will reflect sound to each listening or viewing position. It’s really quite a simple (but genius) method to locate your sound absorbing panels.

Industrial Acoustic Panels

Industrial and commercial sound absorbing foam materials, while extremely effective, are rather expensive for most people, and are typically reserved for professional recording studios and high end theaters.

Another commercially available material is decorative acoustic wood.  Acoustic wood is a much more attractive material, making it popular in the design of modern work spaces, and in public places like museums.  Below is a photo of Union Pacific Harriman Dispatching Center.

Notice the acoustic wood paneling on the ceilings, and the fabric covered sound absorbing panels on the walls.

These state of the art materials can drastically cut down the ambient noise levels, no doubt an important consideration in a place where communication is critical.

industrial sound absorbing panels

Modern Design: Sound absorbing panels and acoustic wood at a busy Union Pacific Dispatch Center.

photo credit: americaspower via photo pin cc

Sound Absorbing Panels in the Workplace

There are so many distracting noises at places of work; clacking keyboards, ringing phones, whirring printers, and the annoying guy jabbering on at the water cooler.  It can make for a toxic mix for anyone who values their attention, concentration, and productivity.

Rather than retreat to a pair of noise cancelling headphones, there are some products commercially available that can take all that ambient noise down a few levels.  If you’re lucky, you might work in a modern building with acoustic wood paneling on the walls and ceiling, like the Union Pacific center we previously discussed.

If not, there are new workspace innovations like sounds absorbing workspace dividers.  They are movable and customizable panels covered in a decorative sound absorbing material.

sound absorbing panels

Sound absorbing panels can double as workspace dividers.

photo credit: svacher via photo pin cc

Making Your Own Acoustic Panels

Yes, there are options to buy finished acoustic panels, but you can make your own panels for your home theater or home studio.

But by making them yourself, you can save a little bit of money, while customizing the size and appearance to fit your home decor.

Check out our guide to DIY Acoustic Panels.  For around $100 or less you can make a set of 6 panels that will dramatically improve the acoustics in your home.  Enjoy!