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Tech Roundup: Acoustics and Sound Masking

The art and science of acoustics and sound masking has made huge strides in the past decade. The advances in aesthetics, ease of installation and active applications have gone beyond what was previously considered the fringe of practical possibility. New materials and active components now provide the imagination with real world tools to let creativity fly. Passive absorption panels, bass traps and ceiling clouds are being combined into active systems that can reproduce the sound character of a wide range of showplaces all within the same venue. In the office world, sound masking systems have boosted productivity by reducing fatigue and enhancing privacy.

Available in any of the company’s Basic fabrics, Acoustic Geometry’s Pro Room Pack 12 includes eight 2x4ft. wall panels, six fabric wrapped 2x4ft. ceiling clouds, twelve medium curve diffusers and four CornerSorbers. These provide phase-coherent diffusion, low frequency mode mitigation and broadband sound absorption. Fabric options include a wide range of colors and decorative patterns. Hardware packs are included to assist in mounting the components to walls and ceilings. Acoustic Geometry also offers acoustic insulating materials, adhesives and pipe wrap as well as acoustic wall art.

The FulFill Acoustical Panel from Acoustical Fulfillment is designed to control flutter echo, room reflections, slap back and overall reverberation time in rooms fitted with them. Applications can extend from recording studios to videoconferencing facilities with absorption corresponding to panel size and thickness which can range from ½ inch to 4 inches. The fabric wrapped panels are available in sizes up to 4x12ft. and they can be purchased in custom shapes for mounting on walls, ceilings and in corners for bass trapping. Mounting hardware options include impaling clips for walls, Rotorfast Snap-on anchors and corner impaling clips. Panel edges may be square, beveled or reverse mitered. All components have a Class A rating per ASTM E84 and the fabrics may be cleaned with all conventional upholstery cleaning systems.

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Available in standard or custom sizes up to 4×10 feet and thicknesses of 1 or 2inches, Acoustical Solutions AlphaSorb FR701 Acoustic Panels provide sound reduction and reverberation control. These are made to order for broadcast studios, theaters, churches and other facilities requiring acoustics treatment and improvements in speech intelligibility. Thicknesses of 1 and 2in. are standard and custom thicknesses can range from 1/2in. to 4in. Fabric colors cover the entire Guilford fabric FR701 Style 2100 series line with dozens of colors from which to choose. These panels are constructed from a 6-7 pound per cubic foot acoustical fiberglass substrate and their edges can be square, beveled, radius, or mitered.

Acoustical Surfaces has the Echo Eliminator, a unit composed of bonded acoustical cotton that can be surface attached or used as a hanging baffle. Class A fire rated and 100% recyclable, the Echo Eliminator is a low-cost solution that is lightweight, simple to install and relocatable, allowing them to be used again after room renovation or remodeling. There are six standard color options and the standard size is 2ft. x 4ft. but custom sizes include 12in. x 12in., 2ft. x 2ft., 4ft. x 4ft., and 4ft. x 8ft. The panels weigh 2lb. per cubic foot in 1in. thickness and 6lb. per cubic foot in 2in. thickness.

Acoustics First designed their Cutting Wedge Classic Acoustic Foam Panels to reduce reflections and create seamless absorptive walls. Each panel is created with open cell Polyurethane foam with a density of 2lb. per cubic foot and can be installed with construction adhesive approved for foam. The flammability rating meets UL94HF-1, the smoke density is 340 and the tensile strength is 20psi. The panels are available in 1ft. x 1ft. and 2ft. x 4ft. sizes, charcoal color and in thicknesses of 2in., 3in., and 4in.

StrandTec panels from ASI Architectural are composed of Cementitious wood fiber to provide both sound absorption and thermal insulation. The fire-resistant panels can be directly attached to walls using mechanical fasteners, they can be laid into support as ceiling panels or freely hung as sound baffles. They can be purchased in a variety of colors and shapes to add style to their acoustic properties. Each panel is rated Class A per ASTM E-84 and weighs from 2lb. to 4lb. depending on panel thickness. There are a wide range of edge styles.

AtlasIED has a small business sound masking system in the Z2-B 2-Zone High Definition Acoustical System. At the lighter end of the company’s Z Series, the Z2-B also handles paging and background music. With two zones at 70V output, the system can operate in any of several modes. One provides two-zone indirect field sound masking for spaces up to 7000 square feet. Another provides single zone sound masking while in third mode one zone can be used for indirect sound masking and the other for paging and background music.

The Auralex Acoustics ProPanel ProKit-2 acoustical treatment package is composed of ASTM-E84 Class A fire-rated, fabric wrapped, fiberglass ProPanels. Each kit includes twelve 2in. x 2ft. x 4ft. beveled edge wall panels and six reverse mitered corner bass traps. For addressing the particular needs of specific rooms, additional ProPanel Cloud and monitor isolation solutions can be used. Panels are available with fabric coverings in Obsidian, Sandstone, SonoSuede Black, SonoSuede Red, SonoSuede Brown and SonoSuede Tan. The kit is designed to treat rooms up to 15ft. x 18ft.

The Biamp Cambridge DynasoundPRO sound masking system can address each speaker individually on a network for remote tuning and setup. Equipped with eight audio network channels and four internal sound masking generators, the system allows the user to send paging and music to a selected zone, speaker or over the entire system. Configuration is done through the Privacy Manager software and PoE substantially simplifies installation. The system includes speakers, the DS8000 loudspeaker controller, DSPoE24 network switch and a paging and music interface as well as other units for customized space configuration.

d&b Soundscape from d&b audiotechnik combines d&b loudspeaker systems with processing power, object-based mixing and sophisticated room emulation. At the center of the system is the DS100 signal engine with Dante networking and a 64 by 64 level and delay matrix. This can operate with two optional software modules – En-Scene for precise object placement and movement for up to 64 sound objects, and En-Space for room emulation, which can create and modify reverberation signatures. These reverberation signatures are emulations derived from acoustic measurements of seven internationally renowned performance venues and convolved within the audio processor to provide a variety of acoustic space choices.

The GeerFab Acoustics MultiZorber OC703DR can be used as a wall panel, a ceiling-mounted cloud or as a corner bass trap. Composed of 2in. thick Owens Corning 703 fiberglass substrate, enclosed in a bag made of acoustically transparent Guilford FR701 fabric on the front and nylon sailcloth on the back. The D-ring mounting system on the rear surface simplifies installation in any of the panel’s three positioning options. Available in Guilford FR701 Bone, Coin and Black, the 2in. thick items can be purchased in either 24in. x 48in. or 24in. x 24in. size. Each is Class A rated and weighs under 6lbs.

The 2A Alpha Pro Series panel Diffuser/ Absorber from GIK Acoustics is made of rigid fiberglass absorption material that can be wrapped in a wide variety of fabric coverings and these are overlaid with an exterior plate which has a mathematical sequence of slots for either one-dimensional scattering/diffusion or two-dimensional scattering/diffusion. Panels can be selected in square, narrow or rectangle shapes and there are six panels to each box. They are designed to provide absorption and an even decay time between low and high frequencies and the panels are free of formaldehyde or urea formaldehyde.

Lencore designed their i.Net Networked Sound Masking System to handle the needs of sound masking, paging and audio in multiple zones. The system can be centrally accessed and monitored with a Graphic User Interface (GUI) and it is capable of responding to local, remote or infrared control. It is also UL 2572 standard compliant to interface with the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) and shut down or mute the sound masking in the event of a fire emergency. Its open source design allows easy integration with building-wide systems and the zone control has overlap capability. The Music Page Interface (MPI.) can make zone additions, modifications, deletions and other changes to the paging system on the fly.

The LogiSon Acoustic Network provides sound masking with fine control over volume and frequency by using small adjustment zones of one to three speakers. This allows the system to operate in a much more subtle and unobtrusive manner. The TARGET tuning process automatically tunes each zone to the desired sound masking spectrum and it generates a detailed report for performance verification. Run from a panel or from a PC equipped with the Acoustic Network Manager software, the system can also use programmable keypads and remotes to allow individual local room control. Paging and music are operated independently from sound masking setup.

The SMGA-25 Sound Masking Generator from Lowell Manufacturing uses a Pre-EQ and Post-EQ line level (~500mV) pink noise signal from either an 8ohm or 70V output. Local EQ controls allow signal adjustment in bass, mid and treble ranges. Paging and background music can be added through the high impedance auxiliary input with its own level control. The unit includes a power supply with universal input and 24VDC 2.5A output and the SMGA-25 is housed in a tough steel chassis with a black powder epoxy finish and mounting brackets.

Meyer Sound introduced the Constellation system several years back and in that time it has seen wide adoption in a huge variety of venues worldwide. It uses an array of carefully placed microphones and an immersive pattern of speakers. The microphones’ pickup is digitally processed and fed to the speakers in any number of delay configurations to completely tailor the venue’s apparent acoustics and take the acoustic adjustments far beyond what is available by moving stage shells, bass traps and physical absorption panels. The user can simply select the acoustic characteristic desired and push the appropriate button on a touch panel control screen.

For rooms up to 200 sq. ft. Primacoustic can provide the London 16 Room Kit with its high performance fabric wrapped Broadway panels and all required mounting hardware. This includes 48 surface impalers and 16 corner impalers along with drywall anchors and screws. Made of 6lb. per cubic foot fiberglass, the panels exhibit superior absorption. Each set is composed of twenty-four 12in. x 12in. square scatter blocks, twelve 12in. x 48in. control columns and six 24in. x 48in. broadband panels. All panels have beveled edges for an attractive 3-D look when mounted.

Prosocoustic produces their BAT Series baffles in extruded polyester multi-density acoustic fabric and rock wool insulation for both performance and durability. The panels have sewn edges and they can be supplied with two or four grommets for mounting. Depending on the needs of specific rooms, units can be purchased in either 1in. or 2in. thickness and they can be special ordered without internal bracing. The BAT Series panels are available in a wide range of decorative colors to match any room décor. Prosocoustic produces a number of room kits, bass traps and acoustic treatment accessories.

Revolution Acoustics makes ceiling speaker installation easy for background music, paging and sound masking systems with the Ubiqui-T360 Ceiling Tile Adaptor panel. After it has been attached to an existing ceiling tile, the adaptor can house one SSP6 Multiducer. The SSP6 can be used with the RevNet 2140 amplifier which includes a customizable sound masking generator. The Ubiqui-T360 allows the Multiducer to be mounted into an existing ceiling tile so that matching the color and style of the ceiling tiles is not a problem. No tools are required for the installation of the panel.

For the maximum in sound absorption and arrangement flexibility, Snowsound offers the Pli Oversize system of double-sided freestanding acoustic panels. Each panel has polyester internal padding and an outer covering of Trevira CS fabric. The panels provide Class A sound absorption with NRC 1.0 (ISO 354/ASTM C423/ISO 11654) and absorb 97% of human speech frequencies. The tackable 1/4in. thick units are held by a durable powder coated steel base and can be easily moved and rearranged to suit a changing office layout. Pli Oversize panels can be purchased in 47in. square or 47in. x 63in. sizes and they are available in an assortment of colors.

A recent addition to the Soft dB SmartSMS-NET sound masking products line, the single rack space RL96 Masking Controller has eight independently equalized output channels and each of them can drive up to 12 sound masking speakers. Combined on a network, the units can support much larger systems. The output channels use Soft dB’s proprietary technology to provide active volume control of the masking sound in each zone while also supporting background music and paging. When connecting the RL96 to the high power SMS-STR sound masking speakers, they produce up to 7dB sound output per speaker while being controlled through the SmartSMSNET Project Manager software.

Complete with upgraded processor sampling rate, fixed FIR taps, FIR presets and configurable FIR tap settings, Yamaha has introduced its new Active Field Control (AFC) acoustic conditioning system AFC4. The new system has replaced the previous AFC3’s parametric EQ with FIR EQ and it has expanded connectivity options with 32 mic inputs and 96 output channels. Active Field Control systems can use their multi-channel inputs, outputs and processing power to make an acoustic fingerprint of any venue and the tailor the sound of another hall to match the original space’s sound.

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