The Best Location For Acoustic Panel Placement | Overtone Acoustics
Did you know that frequencies above 400Hz are directional sounds in nature? As frequencies get higher, the more directional the sound waves will be. This is why we need to be intentional about acoustic panel placement for each room we provide acoustic treatment services for. It’s simply insufficient to think that you can slap a few sound absorbing wall panels on each wall, throw in a bass trap and a diffuser, and things will turn out well for you. Each room is different in size and default ambiance, so it takes communication between our experts here at Overtone Acoustics and our customers.
Below, we’ll talk about the ideal location for acoustic panel placements within a given environment. We are able to provide you with some general guidelines about best practices, but we need to advise our readers against thinking that one solution will fit every setting. Keep that in mind while gleaning the information we provide below!
Big Picture: The Why
Let’s talk about the why element before we get too far into the weeds here. Whether you are planning on acoustically treating your commercial space, recording studio, home theater, or live venue, there’s little point in purchasing the most high-quality sound equipment if you aren’t going to properly treat the room. Sad as it may be, very few architects consider the sonic atmosphere of a room when designing it, and likewise, very few interior designers take into account how the room’s furnishings will affect how a listener perceives sound.
Thus, some extent of acoustic treatment is almost always vital to bring out the quality in your sound system. But for some reason, optimizing a room with sound absorbing wall panels, diffusers, and bass traps seems to be low on the priority list of many. We aren’t sure where this reluctance comes from, but we are glad you have made your way to Overtone Acoustics — we’ll set you straight.
Generally speaking, the total surface-area coverage of a room that should be covered with acoustic panels is in the range of 20-30 percent. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more. Variables include how naturally “live” or “dead” the room is and the purpose of the room in the first place.
Dead Vs. Live
To touch on the first point, a room that is overly dead isn’t going to need as many sound absorption panels because much of the sound is already being absorbed and dampened by the room’s current setup. Dense carpeting, furniture, and drapery can all contribute to an overly dead room. Conversely, a room that’s too live has a surplus of hard surfaces, such as cement, hardwood floors, brick, or glass windows, which leads to a muddy end-product. When there is too much echo in a room, you might need more sound absorption panels than a typical recording studio or home theater might have.
Acoustic Panel Placement Best Practices
Again, it’s difficult to extrapolate too much because there is a variety of room types that we treat. So we’ll take a look at two examples, a recording studio and a home theater, below.
Acoustic Panels For Mixing Room
No matter how thorough you plan on being, your starting point should always lie in addressing your first reflection points. You need to create something of a sweet spot in your listening position, and you accomplish that by blocking the early reflections from integrating with the direct output of your speakers — something that’s referred to as “comb filtering” in the industry.
If left untreated, the comb filtering will provide you with less clarity and precision as a listener, leaving you unable to pick out acute details. While an Everyday Joe might not be able to discern much of a difference, professionals require the level of control that involves fighting comb filtering.
Determining your reflection points isn’t always straightforward, which is where we come into the picture to provide consulting services, but it is doable with two people, a mirror, and a pencil. The “mirror method” involves one of you sitting in the listening position while the other moves a mirror across the surface of the wall that’s between you and the speakers. Next, mark the points where the speakers are able to be seen in the mirror — both the beginning and the end. Repeat for the other side wall as well. This will tell you where to start with your treatment.
To touch on bass traps, more often than not, your bass traps will be placed in the corner of rooms, where low-end frequencies tend to collect. The other point about the bass of a room that we’ll quickly touch on is that you need to avoid sitting in the halfway point of your room if it is rectangular in shape. The halfway points between surfaces that are parallel cause an unfortunate dip in bass in the center — giving you nightmares if you want to mix from that spot. However, for accurate stereo imaging, it’s vital to be directly halfway between the sidewalls.
Acoustic Panels For Home Theaters
Let’s talk about the live end-dead end approach. No matter if you choose us to be your acoustic treatment panel provider or otherwise, this method is applicable to the majority of home theaters we’ve worked on. The live end-dead end technique is where you place sound absorption wall panels in the front half the room so that they will absorb the early reflections of the direct sound coming from the front stage speakers (the speakers that come from the same direction as the screen). When you place acoustic wall panels on the sides of the front of the room they will catch these reflections, allowing you to experience a clean sound from the main speakers without the muddiness caused by excess reverberation.
The second part of this approach, the dead end, is such that you keep the back half of the room largely untouched in terms of acoustic treatment. This will give you some level of reverb, which is important in the home theater experience. The live end-dead end method’s rationale is to leave you with an appropriate balance between clarity and organic ambiance while watching your favorite shows and movies!
More generally speaking, the average home theater needs around one-third of all surfaces to be acoustically treated.