Why Is Acoustic Panel Placement Important?
Knowing where to place acoustic panels requires an understanding of the sound sources and their reflections. Panels should be placed in the areas where the sound will reflect. Therefore treating these first reflections will have the greatest noise-reducing effect.
Buying and installing acoustic panels is an investment, so naturally, knowing where to place them will ensure your money is spent wisely. If you run a business then placing them correctly will result in an improved look and feel of your workspace. Moreover, it will increase the usability of meeting rooms and effectiveness of office collaborations.
This article will mainly focus on where acoustic panels should be placed so if you need more information on acoustics and the properties of sound, then you may benefit from reading our complete guide to office acoustics first. Or if you simply want to know how to reduce echo in a meeting room then we have an article covering that too.
What Is An Acoustic Panel?
Being a few inches thick, acoustic panels are designed to absorb or diffuse sound waves. They are made from a wide range of materials including polyurethane foam and recycled wool. Fixing options include surfaces like walls and ceilings but there are also hanging or free-standing options.
Acoustic panels can be used in almost any internal space where sound reflections need to be controlled. So, if your office feels too noisy to think straight then help is at hand. However, their effectiveness depends on being used correctly which requires testing the room to see how sound is reflected.
Acoustic Panel Placement Considerations
There are a number of factors which need to be considered prior to installation so it’s important not to rush. The size and shape of the room and position of the sound source all play a part, so testing is vital.
Every space is different which means a different number and configuration of acoustic panels is required. Office spaces mainly require controlling reflections at a certain height remains fairly consistent. However, a recording studio or home cinema might have more sound sources and reflections so more acoustic panels are required.
The main areas which require attention are as follows:
- For maximum effectiveness the panels should be centred within the height of the wall and the source of the sound.
- Although it might be tempting to position them out of eyeline, if placed too high or too low their ability to absorb sound will be greatly reduced.
- By placing them at foot level there is also a risk of being damaged by passers by, so is best avoided.
- Panels should be spaced evenly to give the greatest effect. Importantly, the entire area does not need to be treated in order to control the reverb.
- Placing panels in one position is effective if the sound source is directly in front, such as a video conferencing display. Other spaces may not benefit from such a set up, such as recording studio, due to the multiple directions of sound sources.
- Using varying thicknesses beside each other will help to diffuse the sound energy, so is worth considering.
- Position panels as symmetrically as possible notwithstanding obstructions such as windows, air conditioning units and furniture.
- Try to balance sound absorption with the aesthetics of the room and the size of the wall. Panels should not be grouped together in a corner, for example.
- Parallel walls should be treated as they can create standing waves which either amplify or cancel out, increasing noise. But there is no need to apply panels fully to both walls.
Understanding Acoustic Panel Positioning
There are several techniques which can be utilised to understand how sound reflects in a space.
One of the most straightforward is to use a mirror to see the start and end point of the reflections. Position yourself at the listening point, facing the sound source. Then, by placing the mirror on the side wall and moving it along gradually you can see the points the reflected image of the sound source (eg. a speaker) becomes visible and then disappears again. These start and end points mark the area which requires acoustic treatment.
However, if the room is small enough then simply placing acoustic panels on the opposing wall in relation to the sound source may be effective.
The approach we use at Digital Vision AV is to pop a balloon in the room and detect the resulting reflections using a microphone and some very clever software. From this accurate data we can understand exactly how many panels are needed and where they should be placed.
How Room Types Affect Acoustic Panel Placement
Small meeting room
- As the sound doesn’t have far to travel, adding acoustic panels to one wall, opposite the sound source, may be sufficient to create the desired effect.
Standard Meeting Room
- Acoustically treating the wall behind the listening position is often required. In some cases additional panels will be required on the side walls and ceiling.
- Panels should be placed at the height of the listener, so around 1.5m up if attendees will usually be sitting, and around 2.5m up if standing.
High ceiling meeting room
- There is more space and reflective surfaces for sounds to reflect so more acoustic panels will be required. It will also be challenging to affix acoustic panels to a high ceiling.
Long or wide meeting rooms
- The total reflective area is higher meaning a great number of panels will be required to manage the reflections.
Hopefully his article has given you the information you need to effectively place your acoustic panels. The key is understanding the room size, height, shape, usage, and the position of the sound source and listener.
Digital Vision have a wealth of experience supplying and installing acoustic treatment for organisations in corporate and educational settings. We offer a free site survey and quote and will test your space to ensure the panels we install improve the effectiveness and aesthetics of your workspaces and meeting rooms.
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Digital Vision AV can enhance your organisation’s workspaces with acoustic treatment, so get in touch today for a friendly chat!