Optimize Your Property’s Acoustics With These 3 Changes

Acoustics determine how sound flows through your home. Noise comes from air molecule vibrations, and acoustic treatment aims to distribute them more pleasingly.

Acoustics also impact what sounds penetrate your property and how you hear internal noises. Improving your acoustics has many benefits as well, including increasing your privacy and entertainment.

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange County with reliable general contractors, we help homeowners navigate their home remodeling projects every day. Get in touch to speak with our experts.

1.     Add Hard Surfaces to Better Disperse Sound

optimize acoustics room

While soft surfaces and panels do a fantastic job absorbing sound, an acoustically optimal property also takes advantage of reflections.

Hard surfaces like wood, tile and glass reflect sound like a pinball bouncing its way through a machine. Like the small ball, you can strategically launch your sound for maximum benefit. You can thank reflective surfaces if you’ve ever gotten full-body chills in a concert hall or felt a bass vibration shake you.

Materials and angles influence where the bounces occur, and incorporating hard surfaces achieves the most satisfying reflection. Ears adapt in untreated places where people live and work. It can help an environment feel more natural and is mimicked by foley artists when producing movie sounds.

Reverberation (reverb) is the name for sound reflection — you’ll often hear it in a studio setting. It is the length of impulse decay by the decibel level in the space and is impacted by bounce and absorption. The size of a room and the amount of furniture in it can significantly affect reverb.

Acoustic optimization involves strategically placing your plush and hard surfaces to get the optimal reflection pattern.

2.     Adjust Your Room Shape

Have you ever wondered why traditional churches tend to have great sound? It’s often due to domed ceilings that can reflect reverberations. The shape of your property can affect its acoustics.

Rounded surfaces provide a convex or concave angle for reflections. In concave surfaces, the sound will bounce off the wall in the same line it arrived. Convex shapes reflect the sound waves in a new pattern between the arrival paths.

Typical rooms in a home or office are symmetrical but aren’t the best at optimizing acoustics. Recording artists prefer irregular rooms since they can create a more natural sound diffusion. It provides many surfaces for the sound to interact with, making it easy to adjust the setup for optimal acoustics.

A symmetrical room bounces sound directly across, creating a standing wave. It’s not great for recording, but it can be useful for editing since it allows you to hear reflections equally between the left and right channels. It also makes it easier to experience the recorded sounds in movie theaters.

Optimize your property’s acoustics by renovating it to match your desired shape. Consult with your contractor when making major changes to your structure to ensure it stays safe.

3.     Use Soft Surfaces to Dampen Sound

optimize acoustics empty room

Plush couches, chairs and tapestries absorb sound waves instead of bouncing them around the room. This is ideal if you want to reduce outside noise.

Soft surfaces can absorb sound and dampen harsh frequencies for a cleaner sound. Placing fabrics too close to the sound source could muffle it — like a pillow on top of a speaker — but putting them around the item can prevent it from bouncing off harder surfaces.

Carpets are an easy way to absorb some sound, particularly between rooms. Various tufts, piles, and individual fibers have different resonant frequencies that absorb sound waves. The longer the length and higher the number of threads, the more shapes they’ll become, absorbing different frequencies.

Some carpets can absorb up to 70% of ambient sounds, and underlays can be specially designed for absorption and work well in recording studios. Three primary factors influence an underlay system’s acoustic rating.

  1. Delta impact insulation class: This is the underlay’s ability to absorb sound compared to a concrete floor.
  2. Impact insulation class: This class measures the system’s resistance to impact sounds like falling objects or footsteps.
  3. Sound transmission class: This rates an underlay system’s ability to block sound in the air, like talking or sound from a device.

While the carpet rests on the floor, you can choose plush couches and chairs to absorb sound waves faster than carpeting alone.

The number of people in a room also impacts sound dampening. Your body adds an element for sound waves to travel around, and your clothing can absorb them.

Sound Absorption Panels

optimize acoustics wall

Sound absorption panels absorb sound waves and can be placed on your walls and ceilings for maximum optimization.

You can choose from various materials, shapes and thickness levels. Recording studios typically use standard two-by-four rectangular panels with 2-inch thickness. However, you can get creative to stylize your space and meet your needs. Material options include foam, fiberglass, recycled polyester, perforated wood and wood fibers.

Fabricated panels have a core of materials and are easy to customize. The fabric is acoustically transparent and does not impact the soundproofing inside. All materials are different photonic crystal fibers (PCF). The higher the number, the better for sound absorption or isolation.

An air gap between the panels can help absorb bass frequencies, which can be especially useful when creating a studio or home theater.

You can purchase panels or build your own to save money. Consult with an acoustic engineer, who can recommend the best placement based on your desires.

Other Tips and Tricks

You can make small changes around your property to improve the acoustics.

1. Add Window Treatments

Windows can be great for reflections, but air passing through can produce excess sounds. Most California homes don’t have basements, making it hard to avoid windows in a recording or entertainment space.

The first option is to block the window. Placing large furniture or speakers in front of the pane can prevent outside sounds and unwanted reflections. You can also create or purchase a custom-fit acoustic panel for your windowsill.

Don’t underestimate the power of curtains. Thick fabrics can sufficiently absorb sounds. You can position them over your windows so some of the glass remains exposed to change the reflection point. You can purchase specialized acoustic curtains or opt for partial or full blackouts, often made from thicker materials. Softer fabrics like velvet and wool can optimize sound absorption.

2. Install Silent Fans

Any room you intend to use for long periods needs airflow to improve your comfort level when watching a movie or producing recordings. However, heating and cooling systems can get loud, and closing vents could be necessary to optimize acoustics.

You can improve airflow by installing a quiet fan. Technology allows manufacturers to produce near-silent fans that won’t affect your recording and editing environment. Place it at an indirect angle that can circulate the air without the stream entering the microphone.

3. Space Panels Equally Apart

Whether you have makeshift or professional sound-dampening panels, place them equally apart when treating a room. Don’t concentrate your paneling in one area if you want to soundproof.

Spacing them at equal intervals allows a balanced absorption level, but you don’t have to fill the room to create an optimal acoustic environment. Speaking with a specialist can help you decide how many panels you need.

Creating the Best Acoustics on Your Property

optimize acoustics speaker

Your property’s acoustics can significantly impact your recording and listening experiences. It can dampen sounds between rooms or make music surround you. Optimizing your acoustics can help you create the best experience for you and your guests.

Finding a contractor on your own can be an involved, long process. Don’t have the time? Let GreatBuildz do all of the hard work for you. Just reach out to us to be matched with one of our trusted, pre-vetted contractors in the Los Angeles and Southern California area. Contact GreatBuildz today at (818.317.3567) or visit our website for more information.

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.
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