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Tech Roundup: Acoustics and Sound Masking 2023

The sound characteristics of modern meeting rooms, auditoriums, and other presentation and performance spaces are often considered a given while the sound system operates not in support of the room, but in spite of it. Even the most advanced immersive sound system, to work at its best, requires as neutral an acoustic slate as possible on which to be installed. In the midst of new pocket recorders, phone hacks and ever more sophisticated eavesdropping technology, sound masking system designers have answered the call for previously teleworking staff to return to the office in a more secure and less stressful conversational environment. The products surveyed here illustrate these trends.

Improving the sound of a room can be a creative experience with Acoustical Fulfillment Fulfill Panels. The core is made of 6-7 pcf fiberglass and this is covered in fabric from Guilford of Maine Acoustic in an endless range of colors and patterns to suit any room. Custom sizes and shapes are available up to 4ft. x 12ft. and the edges can be square, beveled, or reverse-mitered for corner mount pieces. All components have a Class A rating per ASTM E84. For wall mounting there are impaling clips and for ceiling solutions there are painted pucks, T-Grid mounting brackets, cloud rings, Rotofast Cloud Anchors, and, Rotofast Snap-On Anchors.

The GeerFab Acoustics MultiZorber OC703DR sound absorption panels are perfectly comfortable any place in a room. They are equally effective when used as wall panels, ceiling mounted clouds, or corner bass traps. Class A fire rated and weighing under six pounds, these absorbers are made of a 2in. thick Owens Corning 703 substrate wrapped in an acoustically transparent envelope of Guilford FR701 fabric and nylon sailcloth. A D-ring mounting system makes it simple to wall-mount them vertically or horizontally with a pair of nails. Four hooks allow it to hang as a cloud and two hooks hold it in place as a corner bass trap.

The best way to get acoustical treatment popularized and used is to make it quick and easy. The Acoustical Geometry Aco-U-Stick mini panels come in 6-pack and 12- pack options and they are available in a wide variety of colors. A good acoustic environment doesn’t have to be dull looking. These panels can really liven up a room and make it a fun place to be while providing accurate broadband sound absorption. Class A fire rated, the panels are 1in. or 1/2in. thick and they are attached with the included fast-tabs. With this type of mounting, the panels can be moved whenever rearrangement or relocation is needed.

The Revolution Acoustics Ubiqui-T360 prevents a lot of headaches when ceiling speakers and suspended ceilings meet. The Ubiqui-T360 Ceiling Tile Adaptor panel attaches to an existing ceiling tile and fits one SSP6 Multiducer that can replace up to nine conventional sound masking emitters. Native impedance is 8 ohms but the system is also 70/100V compatible. Enclosed, the SSP6 can handle 15W continuous power and unenclosed it can take 24W power. The broad 100-150Hz to 20KHz frequency response can carry full-bodied sound throughout the room or building which it calls home. A simple three-step process completes the whole installation.

Acoustical Surfaces CFAB Cellulose Panels are perfect for those who would prefer an alternative to synthetic or fiberglass soundproofing materials. The panels maximize sound isolation and minimize sound transmission from one area to another. They help to isolate adjacent rooms and prevent outside noise from leaking through walls. Made from renewable and recycled cellulose materials, the panels are easy to install or remove and they do not contain any petroleum products. These products are not only green materials but they also require less energy to produce than conventional panels. They can be ordered in ½-inch, 1-inch, or 2-inch thickness. Standard size is 24x48in. but additional sizes are available.

The Primacoustic TeleScapes Fabric Track System enables a substantial aesthetic upgrade to any area in addition to its substantial acoustical improvement. Constructed of high-density glass wool or eco-friendly TelaFill PET panels, the Broadband Raw filler panels provide acoustic absorption. A modular track system allows precise placement on many types of surface while an assortment of stretch fabric styles is available in a wide range of colors. There are perimeter tracks for outside panel surfaces and Mid-Wall tracks to join panel sections together. The track is built from recyclable PVC or recycled uPVC, and can be cut to the size needed as well as color-matched to the panel surfaces.

ASI Architectural Microperf ceiling and wall panels are impact resistant and accomplish the job of making a room more sound-friendly without creating a soundproof chamber look. Appearing as standard millwork panels, the Microperf sections use a fiberglass core and they are available in wood veneer or vinyl. They can also be painted or stained to match the specific room color. By virtue of their rigidity, the panels exhibit low reactivity to seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. Each is fixed in place using either z-clips or installed on the HD T-Bar grid. Surface finishes include a clear lacquer top coat and Class-A varnish.

Not only the sound but the entire look of a room can be transformed using Snowsound Baffle Direct sound absorbing panels. On the inside is polyester padding while the exterior is a polyester covering Trevira CS fabric. Designed for direct attachment to ceilings and walls, the 8.5in. and 17.3in. panels are 1/4in. thick and fixed in place by a patented attachment system. The tackable, double-sided surface is pleasing to the ears and eyes as it absorbs 94 percent of human speech frequencies. These are available in an assortment of grays, greens, tans and other fabric shades.

Facility operators seeking some refuge from an increasingly raucous outside world frequently rely on Acoustics First Composite Foam for that sound shield. The material is just as effective when used to isolate noisy equipment rooms from office spaces. It consists of BlockAid Vinyl Sound Barrier, Polyurethane or FireFlex foam, and a 1/4in. foam/barrier decoupler. The product comes in 24x48in. sheets and it can have either Mylar (Reflective) or Tuftane (Grey or Black) surfaces. With foam only, the panel thickness is 1in. but the foam/barrier/foam version is 1 3/8in. thick. The FireFlex Foam Absorbers have a Class 1 fire rating and they are often used independently to reduce room reverberation, prevent comb filtering, and reduce destructive reflections.

For those who think that getting into acoustic room treatment might open a bigger can of worms than intended, the ProSoCoustic Standard Series panels make it easy. A Rockwool Rockboard 40 stone wool absorption core with a durable Lauan backing do the work beneath acoustic grade fabric that comes in a variety of colors. There are also premium fabric options and even hi-res image printing that allows users to put their custom mark on it. There are no worries with mold or bacteria. A single Z-clip attaches to the back of the panel and another to the wall, then the panel easily slides into place.

It’s possible to adjust frequency absorption range from 80Hz to 20kHz with the GIK Acoustics 244 Bass Trap using its featured Flexrange Technology. By adding or removing a membrane in each unit, a sound area can get a surprisingly tailored acoustic response. Absorption, diffusion and scattering can be adjusted to complement each other. Without the membrane the system provides the Full Range configuration with a broadband absorption while the Range Limiter setup leaves higher frequencies alone and traps a desired LF range.

Control of excess mid and high frequency reflections has a very attractive solution with the Auralex Acoustics ProPanel ProKit-2. Composed of Class A fire-rated, fabric wrapped, fiberglass ProPanels, the kit has 2in. x 2ft. x 4ft. beveled wall panels and reverse, mitered corner bass traps. The whole product is suitable for rooms from 13ft. x 15ft. to 15ft. x 18ft. The SonoSuede fabric choices include Red, Black, Tan and Brown, as well as the standard fabric colors, Sandstone and Obsidian. The panels are attached to walls using impaling clips but snapon anchors can be used for flush mounting.

Acoustical Solutions AlphaSorb Series 200 Polyester Acoustic felt wall tiles can be purchased in any of five shapes and five colors (Black, Beige, Charcoal, Slate Grey, White) to match the room décor. They are attached to walls using pre-applied 1in. double-sided tape. Each panel is made of 100% Polyethylene Terephthalate and contains no Formaldehyde or VOC. They are antifungal [AATCC 30 – 2013 (BTRA)] and anti-bacterial. Each piece is Class A fire rated per ASTM E-84 and it is 10mm thick. The characteristic absorption peaks around 1000Hz. Design kits are available for coverage of large areas.

Blending zone control, precise tuning, paging/ background music capability, and networked control, the LogiSon Sound Masking System can create a sound environment that fits its home like a glove. Capable of sound masking zones down to just three speakers, the system uses TARGET tuning to reduce tuning time and configure the response to the desired sound masking spectrum. Programmable keypads and remotes allow paging and music to be digitally zone assigned through the same speakers that are used for sound masking. Settings for a single speaker, zone, or campus can be configured from a control panel or from a PC equipped with Acoustic Network Manager software.

The Yamaha VSP-2 Speech Privacy System uses 2in. x 2in. micro speakers and a very user-friendly control unit to reduce human voice intelligibility for the unintended listener. Connected to the speakers by wire, the control unit can be table top mounted. In addition to the function of its speech sound masker the unit can play environmental sounds such as a forest, murmuring brook, urban sounds, and various others. Sound effects include guitar, piano and other musical instruments. These are easily selected on front panel knobs and LEDs indicate the active mode.

With the debut of the Meyer Sound Constellation system, a revolution in acoustics and immersive sound was unleashed on a global audience. The system uses an intricate array of microphones, speakers, and processors to transport room listeners from a small lecture room to a concert hall and anywhere in between, with the push of a button or click of a mouse. Recording studios, theaters, schools and outdoor venues have also been configured with customized sound response. The system’s foundation is a digital sound platform, with 96 kHz audio and advanced acoustic algorithms. With workers returning to the office environment and privacy concerns rising, sound masking systems are coming to the forefront. The Soft dB smartSMS-NET sound masking system can be based on different controllers and the rack mounted RL96-8 is one of them. Handling eight zones, each with up to 12 speakers, the RL96-8 has internal amplifiers for direct control. This unit as well as its companion model, the RLCTL2-8, features an intuitive touch-screen interface for quick adjustments. smartSMS-NET consists of many physical units including speakers, control processors, and control panels, all of which can be mixed and matched to tailor the system.

One of the more creativity-enabling innovations to emerge is the d&b audiotechnik Soundscape system that is described as a sound designer toolkit. Its foundation is the DS 100 Signal Engine, a network-controlled and Dante-enabled DSP platform with comprehensive signal management. On top of this hardware base two software modules are used. The En-Scene sound object positioning tool lets the designer match the audible site of a sound source with its corresponding visual spot in the immersive system. This enables the listener to sense the sound from its naturally expected direction. Then the En-Space in-line room emulation tool allows the selection of a reverberation signature drawn from some of the world’s most prestigious venues. With one mouse click the room acoustics can go from a classroom to a concert hall.

Among sound masking system controllers there is also the Cambridge Qt X 805/805D control module third-octave band equalizer and amplifier from Biamp. Eight independently adjustable amplified output speaker/emitters handle masking, aux audio levels and spectra. There is full compatibility with Biamp’s SageVue system management software. Each unit can be integrated with others into a larger sound masking system and multiple Qt X 805D’s can be used in a single system with the capability of sharing their audio inputs across all controllers via AVB or Dante. Separate inputs on each unit accept paging or music and a contact closure integrates with fire alarm systems.



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