Auditorium acoustics 101 – how to create amazing acoustics for auditoriums and why it matters
If you’re one of the lucky ones who get to see a lot of live music, you know how great auditorium shows sound. They blow places like stadiums and dive bars out of the water.
Auditoriums are popular venues for live music because the way they are constructed is a perfect vehicle for delivering sound waves. Whether you’re dealing with a presentation or a concert, a solid auditorium can deliver flawless sound that takes the event to another level.
But, what good is an auditorium with poor acoustics? It isn’t likely to draw too many events. Auditorium acoustics are as important as the song itself. So, what makes good acoustics?
What are the conditions for good acoustics of an auditorium?
Since good acoustics are such a vital part of any auditorium experience, it’s good to know what you’re looking for. Most importantly, you want your audio to sound natural. That means you don’t want it to sound too “live” or too “dead.” Let’s go over some basic principles of auditorium acoustics.
When the room contains too many hard, reflective surfaces, sound waves are able to reverberate around the room and lead to a sound that is too live. You want some amount of reverberation, but not too much. The sound can vary, sometimes wildly, at different points in the room if you have too many reflective surfaces. To combat this, you need to incorporate acoustic materials to absorb some of the sound waves in your design.
On the other hand, the absorption of too many sound waves will cause issues too. If too many sound waves are absorbed, you end up with what is known as a dead room. This makes the performance hard to hear and can create an unpleasantly quiet natural ambiance in the room.
The key to finding a good balance between live and dead sound is through a combination of reflective surfaces, sound-absorbing materials, and diffusers.
How can I improve my auditorium acoustics?
Acoustic treatment for auditorium and concert hall settings center around high-end sound-absorbing materials and sound diffusing materials. Your acoustic treatment plan may vary based on the shape of the room, but the materials and concepts will remain constant.
To improve the sound in an existing auditorium, it’s important to note where your first reflection points are and any areas of the auditorium that don’t sound as good as the rest of the room. This will give you an excellent roadmap to work from.
Another spot that deserves some attention is the auditorium ceiling. If the ceiling is flat and wasn’t built with acoustics in mind, you may need to add some acoustic treatments. Not only will it help make the room sound better, but they add a splash of elegance that changes the feel of the room into something people are excited to occupy.
Solving your auditorium acoustics issues can be tricky, so it’s always helpful to enlist the help of someone who knows the ropes.
How do you design an auditorium?
If you are designing an auditorium from scratch, you may be wondering about the best auditorium designs. There are three main shapes, and each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. There are visually and sonically beautiful examples of each, so don’t let your decision feel forced in one direction or the other. The most prevalent auditorium shapes are called shoebox (rectangular), fan-shaped, and vineyard (a musical equivalent to a theatre in the round).
Shoebox Style Auditoriums
A shoebox-style auditorium is simply a rectangular room. They often have balconies, but not always. One of the leading acoustic problems we run into with shoebox auditoriums is flutter echoes. This is basically an echo caused by the pressure of the sound energy trapped between parallel walls.
A great way to treat a shoebox-style auditorium is to line the back wall with sound-absorbing materials and add sound diffusing materials to the side walls. The absorption of the back wall will minimize the secondary waves that bounce back to the audience off of it. Adding diffusion to the sidewalls help scatter the sound waves, so you don’t end up with flutter echoes. You can boost your auditorium acoustics by incorporating auditorium acoustic wall panels alongside the diffusers.
If you’re starting with a standard fan shaped auditorium, then you may have a little work to do. The shape of the room is great for seating and viewing the speaker or performance from the front but needs some treatment to be acoustically sound.
The fact that a fan-shaped auditorium lacks some of the acoustic requirements of a good auditorium isn’t a death sentence for the sound in your hall. Hiring qualified professionals can help you get the best sound possible.
Vineyard Style Auditoriums
Unlike shoebox and fan-shaped auditoriums, vineyard-style auditoriums bring the performer or performers into the center of the action. They are more or less surrounded by spectators in this layout. People love them because they are visually interesting and sound great. The superior acoustics achieved by a vineyard-style auditorium are mainly due to the diffusion of sound waves created by the balconies and terraces surrounding the performance area. The main downside is that they are expensive and complicated to build.
What are the three components of acoustics?
When dealing with acoustics in a room, you have to consider more than the obvious. Some of the more apparent issues being things like echo, dead spots, and excessive reverberation.
These issues would fall into the audio/sonic component, which are sounds in the range from 20Hz to 20000Hz. This is the range that is typically perceptible to the human ear.
Similar to the color spectrum, there are frequencies of sound that are just beyond our ability to sense.
The areas just beyond the color spectrum that the human eye can interpret are called ultraviolet and infrared. In the case of sound, those areas are called ultrasonic and infrasonic. Infrasonic sounds are those that fall below 20Hz, and ultrasonic sounds are those above 20kHz.
Although you may not be able to hear these frequencies, they need to be handled to take your auditorium acoustics to the next level. Spend some time identifying problem areas and creative solutions. Reach out and speak with one of our professionals to help you make the most of your fresh design or remodel.