Event Venue Acoustics
When US Bank Stadium opened its doors in 2016, one of the first big events held there was a Metallica concert. It was set to be a great housewarming party. But, if you talked to anyone who attended that concert, they all knew that venue acoustics were going to be a big issue that the stadium was going to be forced to address in the very near future. The show didn’t sound as great as it should have. Planners spent enormous amounts of money creating a state-of-the-art venue, but when poor acoustics threatened to ruin the experiences for tens of thousands of fans each night, they had no choice but to spend millions to remedy the situation.
Venue acoustics are a huge aspect of creating a great experience at your venue, so it’s a crucial piece of planning that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Why are venue acoustics so important?
If you’re wondering why poor venue acoustics turned into a multimillion-dollar problem for US Bank Stadium, you need to understand a little bit about the physics of acoustics.
When we produce sounds, whether they come from instruments or our mouths, we create sound waves projected outward and either get absorbed by or reflected by the surfaces they come into contact with. The way those waves interact with the environment define the acoustics of the space.
If your venue includes wide-open spaces with hard surfaces, those waves can take awhile to reach the surfaces before reflecting back, creating echo. When these sounds build up in the room, the reverberation causes the sounds to amplify or become louder, and people’s voices go up and up to compensate for the increased room noise. It can be the most memorable part of a show, and not for good reasons.
All kinds of audio issues can arise when your venue isn’t set up to handle the sound waves created by the events you are producing. If you don’t address the acoustics and implement some event noise reduction measures, you may find your guests screaming over one another to hear or listen to a performance riddled with audio problems.
How can you improve the acoustics in your venue?
Every different room is going to present a unique acoustical challenge. Factors such as the size and shape of the room, the material makeup of the structure and furnishings, and the type of event that’s typically held there will affect the way you handle audio issues.
In most situations, your primary focus will be to scatter sound waves in some spots and absorb them in others. Your main modes of scattering and absorbing sounds are going to be acoustic panels, sound diffusers, and other furnishings.
Details as simple as setting down a rug or introducing soft furnishings like couches and chairs can noticeably improve the venue acoustics, but incorporating professional acoustical products is a game-changer.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like music. They’re certainly out there, but most of us find some sort of emotional release when we listen to the music that we connect with. The last thing we want to deal with when we go to see our favorite bands is a venue with acoustics issues. That’s why the venues with the best acoustics have always been the gold standard for live shows.
Many concert venues are conceived and created with acoustics in mind. Think of things like theaters, auditoriums, and stadiums. The shape of these venues is predicated on venue acoustics. But not all concert venues were conceptualized in this way. Sometimes we turn a bar, restaurant, or warehouse into a concert venue. In these cases, you will need to spend some time focusing on acoustics before you can host shows that leave people talking.
In a concert venue, you’ve got a primary source of sound waves coming from the musicians on stage. Sure, people are milling about and talking with their friends, but the lion’s share of the sound comes from the band. As it should be.
You’ve also typically got a fairly large room with high ceilings and solid walls. This scenario is a recipe for reverberation. Also, if the sidewalls run parallel to each other, you can find yourself plagued with flutter echoes. These audio intrusions don’t need to be there.
Facing your speakers toward the crowd will not only deliver the purest sound, but it will reduce the intensity by which sound waves bounce off the back wall. If you have the means, raising the speakers by suspending them from the ceiling can give you angles that are acoustically ideal. Facing the speakers down toward the crowd will eliminate many of those direct reflections off the back wall.
For the waves that reach the back wall, having a mix of soft and scattering materials will tremendously help. Placing sound diffusers on the back wall allows those waves to travel around the room. Utilizing acoustical panels allows your walls to absorb waves in the exact spots you want them absorbed.
Throwing up some commercial sound absorbing panels on the side walls is also really helpful. Not only do they help with reverberation issues, but they can help eliminate flutter echoes as well. Print some vintage concert posters on them, and you’ve got an acoustic solution that doubles as decor.
Wedding or corporate event venues
When venues cater to weddings and corporate events, they have a different set of needs. The focus of these events is really on the gathering itself rather than the entertainment. It’s much more important that individual attendees are able to converse comfortably at these types of events. Venues with good acoustics are much more likely to attract repeat business, so it’s essential to make sure yours isn’t driving them away.
Venues dedicated to gatherings are also generally large, open spaces, so you’ll run into some similar issues to concert venues. The main difference here is that the primary source of your sounds is usually the crowd of people chatting it up with one another. You may have a band or DJ, but it’s a much different situation than a concert. Since everyone is talking and facing different directions, you’d do best to treat more areas of the room.
A great way to reduce reverberation in wedding and corporate event venues is to add acoustic panels near the eye level of the average patron. These panels will absorb many of the speech sound waves, reducing the reverberation and amplification of the various conversations. They also look great, adding texture and a pop of color to the walls.
Another excellent solution for this type of room is the installation of acoustical ceiling clouds. They definitely help create a point of interest since the many shapes, patterns, and finishes create eye-popping visuals that take the place of your HVAC and utility hardware. They’ll absorb sounds from the group in the room, but they’ll also minimize noise caused by all that ceiling-mounted hardware. The result is a great-looking space where event guests can stretch comfortable conversations into the night rather than heading home to nurse a headache.
Outdoor event venues
As they pertain to acoustics, outdoor venues present a slightly different set of considerations than indoor venues. The laws of acoustics are still in play, but the room is gone. Presenters need to understand the surrounding landscape in a different way than they do in enclosed spaces.
If the speakers face things like large buildings or rock formations, you will likely experience echo. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to take into consideration. Natural amphitheaters are actually chosen for the natural amplification and echo that occurs within the surrounding landscape.
Since you can’t move buildings and rock formations, the easiest way to create excellent acoustics in an outdoor venue may again be to play with the angle of your speakers. Small changes in the dispersion pattern of sound waves can make all the difference between great sound and chaos. Play with the sound when no patrons are present so you can find the sweet spot before guests arrive.
Some surfaces will give you trouble no matter where your speakers are pointed, so acoustical panels, bass traps, or diffusers will be tremendously helpful here. The more waves you can either trap or scatter, the fewer audio issues you’ll experience with these trouble spots.
Tackling your own venue acoustics issues
Not all venues are so cut and dry. Maybe you have a venue that straddles the line between an indoor and outdoor space. Perhaps you host such a wide variety of events that it’s difficult to pinpoint the solutions for your varied audio issues. Sometimes, getting great sound is more complicated than it seems.
What would you use to create a balanced sound in your venue space? Whether you’ve got a good idea already or need some help, we’ve got the experience and expertise to help you solve any issues you’re having with your venue acoustics.
Your event venue will only be as good as its acoustics will allow it to be. Bad sound can turn a once-in-a-lifetime event into audible chaos and spent vocal cords. You should have an event noise management plan in place to make sure your venue maintains its place on the hot ticket list. We’d love to help you with that.