Acoustic treatment and why its important

Acoustic treatment can mean a few things. But it basically involves the installation of panels or material so that it affects the way sound reacts in a space. Timber is often used to create pleasant sounding reflections and keeping sound energy in a space, but we specialise is sound absorption which removes the sound which creates a quieter listening environment. This is often confused with ‘Sound Proofing’ which is the process of stopping sound from entering or exiting a space.

The whole reason to treat a space (with absorption) is so you can hear things and people more accurately. Whether it’s excessive chatter in a bar, or the sound from your loud speakers bouncing off the walls in a recording studio - you need to hear whats going on. Large, hard surfaces exacerbates sound and are the main cause of this. With proper treatment, this excess noise is absorbed giving the sound source more clarity.

Room setup guide (pro audio)

Often when people treat a room they make the mistake of only targeting the high end of the frequency spectrum leaving the bottom end unaffected and leaving the room sounding unbalanced. Therefor, thicker and denser absorption products are best suited for critical listening spaces such as music and recording studios.

There are a few basic rules for setting up a critical listening space which are listed below. But remember they are just a guide and are not to be followed strictly as every space is different. Learn to experiment with different arrangements and USE YOUR EARS to decide what works best.

  1. Start with an empty room.

  2. Find the shorter wall of the room and place your speakers along it at a typical listening height, say 1.5m. (Distance between speakers will depend on their size, refer to the manufacture recommendation).

  3. Make sure you have some sort of solid material between your speakers and the ground to stop the sound from resonating through the floor. Concrete blocks work well. Foam pads are OK for smaller speakers.

  4. Create an equilateral triangle between you and your two speakers and centre yourself along the wall. The general rule is having the listening position about 40% from the facing wall.

  5. Start with your speakers about 50cm out from the wall (more if you have the space, less if you don’t).

  6. Make sure everything is as symmetrical as possible, this will ensure you get the same results out of each speaker.

  7. Having your speakers upright or on their sides does not particularly matter as long as the tweeters are pointing directly towards your ears (they are more directional than the woofers). Sidewards arrangement is a lot easier to tilt your speakers down towards you if you chose to elevate them.

  8. Choose three or four songs that you know well and that vary in dynamics and style. Listen to them intensely for 10 minutes or so.

  9. Place the speakers on the adjacent wall and do the same thing.

  10. Compare the two and decide which position sits right with you. Think of fullness, clarity and detail.

  11. Now we need to find the distance between you and the speakers. Most speakers will have a suggested listening distance relative to their size. Try changing the size of your triangle (don’t just move closer or further away) to find the optimum positioning. This is called the tip of the flame.

  12. Put all your furniture in your room and try and make it as symmetrical as possible. Any non-symmetrical placement can skewer your stereo image.

  13. Speaker height is important now that we have a table or console in front of it. Try moving the speakers up and down and see what works best. Timber tables often require the speakers to be higher rather than lower to avoid early reflections, but remember to always tilt them directly towards your ears at all times.

Now it's time for acoustic treatment placement. Depending on how many absorption panels you have and if you also have diffusion panels, this process may vary.

  1. Place the first two panels either side of you between you and your speakers.

  2. Place some bass traps in the room corners behind the speaker.

  3. Hang one or two in the same position (between you and the speakers) on the ceiling above you.

  4. Place some directly behind the speakers.

  5. Then some directly behind you.

This will obviously vary depending on how many panels , your positioning and shape of the room. But generally you should prioritise closer surfaces over others before spreading them out around the room. I would also recommend experimenting to see what works for you.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me.