Have you ever wondered how acoustic panels actually work? Why can they not only block the sounds but also improve your home studio acoustics or the quality of sound in your home theater? As with almost anything, the answers lay in science, namely physics. In this article, we delve into this topic further and explain how exactly acoustic panels improve sound quality. Intrigued? Then we invite you to read on.
Before we discuss the acoustic panels, we need to lay down some foundation for our discussion. This means explaining sound waves.
Whenever a sound is produced it emits a wave. It consists of two main components:
- Amplitude – the height of the wave, representing sound intensity or loudness. The higher the amplitude, the louder the sound.
- Frequency – measured in Hertz (Hz), it defines the pitch of the sound. Higher frequency is responsible for higher-pitched sounds (e.g. birds chirping) while lower frequency means lower sound (e.g. bass).
The sound waves travel from their source and when they reach an obstacle, two situations may occur:
- The sound wave is reflected.
- The sound wave is absorbed and turned into heat.
What happens depends on the type of surface – for instance, walls are reflective, thus the echo effect in unfurnished rooms. This is why in indoor settings acoustic panels are used – they are created to either be diffusing (reflective) or absorbing, and enable us to modify the way in which sound waves move in a particular space.
How Do Acoustic Panels Improve Sound Quality?
Knowing how sound waves work, we may proceed with explaining the science behind the acoustic panels. This will let you understand where to install acoustic panels to achieve the best sound quality and why to do that. So, how do they work?
How do diffusion acoustic panels improve sound quality? The case here is a bit complicated.
To get the best possible sound, you want the waves to be reflected a limited number of times and in a controlled way. Otherwise, you will suffer from echo and lack of clarity. Diffusion panels are one of the ways to do that.
Walls reflect sound waves irregularly, meaning that it’s hard to predict how the sound will be distributed and that it’s going to be scattered at random. Diffusion panels are used to minimize this risk. They are used to reflect the waves as well, yet they do it in a regular pattern – evenly in every direction. This, on the other hand, reduces the risk of echo and reverb.
These acoustic panels are meant to absorb the sound waves, blocking them from traveling further through the room. They are crucial since too many reflections would create too much of a racket, rather than a fully immersive experience.
However, they need to be placed carefully. An overabundance of such panels leads to the sound not being reflected at all, meaning that the overall acoustic quality will be dissatisfactory.
Not every absorption panel is suitable for every situation and as effective as other ones – it all depends on the materials. Thus, you should pay attention to the two most important metrics:
- Sound Absorption Coefficient – a value between 0 and 1, with the former standing for no absorption and 1 for full noise reduction.
- The frequency – every type of panel differs in effectiveness depending on the frequency of the sound waves, thus it is crucial to consider what type of sound needs to be absorbed.
The Choice Between Absorption and Diffusion
Knowing how acoustic panels improve sound quality, there is yet one question that needs to be answered – should you choose absorption or diffusion panels?
For places like music studios or home theaters, you should opt for both – absorption panels to eliminate unwanted reflection points, and diffusion panels to let the sound flow through the room.
When it comes to gyms, offices, classes, or conference rooms, absorption panels should do the trick. After all, you do not wish the sound to travel but rather to eliminate noise and increase its clarity. Yet, you should always approach this matter individually and see what works best for your space – perhaps one or two diffusion panels may enhance the experiences of your students or employees?
How do acoustic panels improve sound quality? They modify the way in which sound waves flow through a space, either reflecting them equally in different directions or absorbing them. As a result, properly placed acoustic panels may reduce the echo and the reverb while increasing sound clarity. In most cases, the ideal layout should consist of both diffusion and absorption panels, yet for places focused on speech rather than music, it is often sufficient to install the latter.
Did you like this article? We may propose yet another chunk of our knowledge: Acoustic Panels vs. Foam: Which is Better for Soundproofing?