Livingroom Echo Problem

John Writes:

I am attaching the questionnaire, found on your website, with my answers as to what we need in our home.

  1. Are you looking to block sound or absorb echo? Absorb sound especially higher frequency.
  2. What are the dimensions of and surfaces in your room? 40′ x 18′ x vaulted ceiling from 10′ to 16′
  3. What is the room used for-what types of sound(s) are you looking to block/absorb? (a high pitch-squeaky sound, voices, low frequency-bass type sound, all of the above) Kitchen with granite counters and island, family, dining room with painted concrete floor, sheet rock walls and ceiling and large view windows.
  4. What are your ideas as to the best way to treat the room, where to put product, or how to approach the situation? I like the idea of hanging curtains or panels because they should do double duty but they should fit the decor.

John,

Residential acoustics are always a little bit tricky because of the aesthetic that a room needs to maintain. Taking the echo out of the room is easy, but making the panel installation look intentional is generally the catch. I will advise you that I’m not an interior designer, I let my wife take care of all things relating to that.

I guess the easiest way for us to proceed is for me to get some product samples to you for your review. Once you see what our panels look like, you might have a better idea as to what may be the best per the look of your room. I have your address and phone number so I will do my best to get the samples and literature out the door this week.

The product that I find most residential customers like the best is the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass acoustical panels. he main advantage to these panels is that the size as well as fabric used as the facing can all be specified by you to fit the room. These panels are all made and wrapped on a per-job basis so there is a LOT of freedom with regards to size and color. Because they are all custom made, the price is going to vary based on the size of the panels, the quantity ordered as well as the fabric used to wrap them with. A ballpark price for the 1″ panel is around $6.50 per square foot. Another thing to consider about the panels is the shipping. Because of the size and weight of the panels along with the fact that they are fairly easy to damage – they almost always have to ship on a pallet, on the back of a semi truck crated in plywood.

A few other products that you might want to consider are the Echo Eliminator panels or the Sound Silencer panels. Both of these options are going to have different pros and cons. All three options have a different absorption rating, aesthetic and cost. The ballpark price for the Echo Eliminator cotton panels is $4.00 per square foot, and the cost for the Sound Silencer is $5.50 per square foot. The Echo Eliminator and the Fabric wrapped fiberglass panels are much more absorbent than the sound silencer. If you want me to go into these further, please let me know. I am not going to get into the difference between a 1″ and a 2″ panel here, but I would suggest for the type of sound that you are looking to absorb, stick with the 1″. The only real advantage to a thicker panel is more low frequency (bass) absorption.

These can be installed on the walls or the ceilings and have the same affect on the room. The critical thing about the panels is getting the correct number of square feet of paneling into the space to meet your needs, which is a little different in nearly every situation. You may have already read my ballpark recommendation as to the number of square feet of paneling needed based on the volume of the room, but in the event that this is new to you, here goes?

Your room is 40′ x 18′ with an average ceiling height of 13′, this room has 9,360 overall cubic volume of space. To come up with a rough estimate as to how many panels to install, I have come up with the following equation(s). Cubic volume x 3% will generally produce the square footage of paneling needed to get the room in question down to about a 1 second reverberation time which most people find quite comfortable. In this case, 9,360 x .03 = 280.8 or around 250-280 square feet of paneling. (Thirty-Five 2′ x 4′ panels or eighteen 4′ x 4′ panels). Again, the size and location of the paneling is totally up to you, but I am pretty comfortable stating that if you install this many square feet of paneling into the room, you are going to be surprised as to the change of the acoustic.


4 Comments

  1. chuck baker

    i already have fiberglass panels homemade wrapped in thin canvas and i believe cotton given to me to use in a band room 22x14x7.5 h im loking to paint them same color as room using flat latx on panels . any wisdom would be very grateful

  2. Ted W

    Hello,

    Unfortunately I have never had much luck with panels being painted – especially fabric-wrapped panels. The difficulty becomes the fact that the paint not only clogs the pours in the fabric, but it also hardens as it dries. A porous, soft surface will absorb sound, or with fabric, it will let it pass through into the acoustical core. Whereas a hard, non-porous surface will reflect sound. If you DO decide to paint these, use as light of a spray as you can.
    Good luck!

  3. Charles

    When you put acoustic panels on a cathedral ceiling is it better to put them lower on the ceiling or up at the peak. Just from a total lay point of view i would think the echo would originate at the lowest part of the ceiling the quickest and less at the top?

  4. Ted W

    Hello Charles,
    Depending on what you are doing in the room, the “best” answer to that may vary a little bit, but generally speaking, if you are just trying to “take the edge off” of the room so that speech is generally easier to understand, the location is not at all critical. Sound travels at ~1160 feet per second – much too quickly for exact location of the panels to make a whole lot of difference in general “echo reduction”. With this in mind, if the room will look better, or if the panels will be more inconspicuous with the panels in a certain location, go for it. A former colleague of mine who was EXTREMELY knowledgeable would profess that whenever vaulted ceilings were presented, that the panels should absolutely be installed on the ceiling – as evenly as possible.

    I can explain this further if you would like, just let me know.
    -Ted

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