Acoustical Treatments: When Selecting Panels, Look to Absorption

When comparing 20 Hz and 20 kHz (the top and bottom limit of human hearing), the waveform for 20 Hz is near 56 feet long, while a 20 kHz wave is only 0.6 inches long.

Acoustical Treatments: When Selecting Panels, Look to Absorption
A depiction of an anechoic chamber. Anechoic chambers are rooms in which there are ideally no reflections.
Credit: Trevor Cox

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Acoustical Treatments: When Selecting Panels, Look to Absorption

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All of these, though, have only addressed absorption. Direct reflections (sometimes called slapback, or echo) are harder to handle. To deal with these direct reflections, you can absorb them, but you can also diffuse them. A Diffuser (named by the guy that named the Toaster) will take the direct sound and scatter/diffuse it, so that the direct reflection is not significant.

The most common type of Diffuser is the Quadratic Residue Diffuser (QRD). They are commonly found two ways. They may have long slats at varying heights, or they may be what people often refer to as a skyline diffuser. This will have many wells at varying heights that resemble a city skyline.

Diffusion is an incredibly useful tool when used appropriately. Overabsorption can take the life out of a room, but by properly diffusing the sound in combination with proper absorption, you can remove the problem areas while keeping the room live. However, this nontechnical summary just scratches the surface on this subject.

Nothing is large and nothing is small… it’s all relative to waveform. This puts treatment into perspective.

Simply buying something to put on the wall may work, but it may not as well. Not every treatment is going to work in solving the problem. While there are tools like membrane absorbers and helmholtz absorbers that can target specific areas, they may not also be the right areas.

Absorption can be one of the most beneficial or most detrimental choices you make in a room. So do the research, call the experts, who can help significantly in having it done right.




More About Tom Noble
Tom Noble received his Bachelor of Science in Acoustics from Columbia College in Chicago. During college, he served as a researcher for the Army Corps of Engineers with a specific focus on Low-Frequency Propagation. After college, he owned his own company working with churches and other AV clients. One of his favorite jobs during that time was being able to design and build a recording studio in downtown Nashville. Shortly after, he worked for an integrator, doing work all over the country, specializing in DSP programming and tuning of rooms for many churches and large corporate clients. He is now the head AV design engineer for Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville. He is married to his beautiful wife with an amazing son and beautiful little daughter.
Get in Touch: tom.noble@lifeway.com    More by Tom Noble

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Worship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.


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