Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Tech Roundup: Acoustics and Sound Masking

While a sound signal is in a wire it can be manipulated in an infinite variety of ways. It can be run through walls, equalized, adjusted to any power level, and literally wrapped around a finger. But once that signal hits a speaker and is changed to sound waves much of that former control is lost. That’s where things get interesting. Acoustic sound waves behave very differently at one end of the audible spectrum than at the other. The devices and systems surveyed here demonstrate how far the effort for acoustic control has progressed between physical components and new systems that blend microphones, processing, speakers, and physical placement of components to completely transform a venue’s immersive sound environment.

The need for acoustical insulation is basic in treating a room for best sound response and the Acoustic Geometry Acoustical Insulation does the job providing absorption across a broad audible spectrum. Composed of eco-friendly recycled bonded acoustical cotton, the panels are very cost effective and they are available in 1in. and 2in. thickness. These panels are useful in applications where they form the interior of an acoustical component such as cabinetry, hanging baffles, and wall interiors. These environments could include control rooms, rehearsal studios, home theaters, and classrooms. The material is Class A fire rated.

The Acoustical Fulfillment Flex-48 Adaptive Treatment System combines a brushed stainless steel Flex-Tray with a laser radius Flex-Shield and a fabric wrapped FulFill Acoustical Panel to allow passive absorption, barrel-type diffusion, and low-frequency control. The nominal size of each panel is 16x48in. and the thickness is 2in. Stock fabric colors include Birch, Graphite, Asteroid, and a Deep Water green. Mounted with Flex-Tray impaling clips, the panels have a high density fiberglass substrate (6-7 PCF) with chemically hardened edges. With the Flex-Shield installed, a barrel type diffusor is created. The higher frequencies scatter evenly throughout the room, retaining liveliness, while the mid and low frequencies continue to pass through to the FulFill panel.

Ceiling tiles can be critical in shaping room acoustics, especially when a ceiling speaker system is installed, and the Acoustical Solutions AlphaSorb wood fiber acoustic ceiling tile can be easily installed for drop-in suspended grid environments. The surface can be made to match room décor by purchase color selection or by painting. The tiles reduce echo and reverberation and they have optional edge designs. There are multiple mounting methods for walls and ceilings. For environmental friendliness they are low in volatile organic compounds. These 1in. thick items are available in two sizes and weigh two pounds per square foot.

For spaces in which there may be obstacles to wall mounted treatments the Acoustical Surfaces Envirocoustic Wood Wool Ceiling Clouds can reduce echo and tame reverberation. Composed of wood fiber, water, and Portland cement, these panels can be suspended to hang independently and they are highly resistant to microbial and fungal growth. Installation extends them downward from 1-1/2in. drywall T-Grid which is inserted into slots factory routed into the panels. Creative touches can combine different colors, shapes, and sizes. The standard sizes are 24x48in. and 14x 96in. with thicknesses of 1-3/8in. and 2in. The edges may be square or beveled.

The Acoustics First Traditional Wedge Acoustical Foam has been a general problem solver for years in a huge variety of installations. Its popularity stems from its ease of installation and simple customization trimming. The foam is used to eliminate comb filtering, standing waves and undesirable specular artifacts in sound critical environments while attenuating sound pressure build-up. The open cell polyurethane foam has a structural density of two pounds per cubic foot, tensile strength of 20psi, and the flammability rating meets UL94HF-1. The 2x4ft. sheets are available in five thicknesses from 1in. to 4in. and the color is charcoal.

ASI Architectural StrandTec wood fiber ceiling and wall panels can turn a drab room into a spectacular space while its wood fiber construction provides thermal insulation and sound absorption. The fire resistant panels can be ordered in a huge range of styles, sizes, colors, and edge shapes. There are three choices of thickness to suit sound or thermal needs and all are rated Class A per ASTM E-84. To reduce light reflectivity the surfaces can be painted any darker color whether they are used on walls or as lay-in ceiling applications.

Rather than adding a sound masking system onto an existing paging and background (BGM) music setup the AtlasIED Z4-B offers a four-zone all-in-one solution. Each zone has a 70V output and all hardware and wiring is located behind the controller’s front p a n e l . This eliminates the need for an additional secure cabinet or other housing scheme. End users can easily program and adjust system configuration on the front panel using the nav button and LCD screen. To make it even easier there are pre-programmed presets for initial use that can be modified as needed for the specific acoustic environment.

Fire rated UL 94 HF-1 Auralex Acoustics SonoFlat panels absorb mid to high frequencies in sizes of 1x1ft. and 2x2ft. with 2in. thickness. Beveled edges and color variety provide a professional appearance and allow the panels to be mounted in creative patterns. They can be mounted using Foamtak and Tubetak Pro adhesives or EZ-Stick Pro tabs. This enables the user to mount them on a range of surfaces for improved acoustics. The panels are constructed of Studiofoam and all Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam products have flame retardant properties.

Completely functional as a sound masking generator, controller, third-octave band equalizer and amplifier, the Biamp Systems Cambridge Qt X 600/600D control module features two auxiliary audio inputs to allow for distribution of audio from existing paging controllers and/or background music players. The unit is capable of controlling up to six zones of Qt standard or active emitters in installations of up to 72,000 square feet. Each of these zones can be set up for masking, aux audio levels, and spectra. The system is fully configurable with Biamp’s SageVue system management software.

The d&b audiotechnik Soundscape system is anchored on the DS100 Signal Engine with its 64×64 Dante enabled signal matrix. Offering extensive signal processing with delay and level control for all crosspoints, the DS100 uses the d&b R1 remote control software to group parameters in remote views and store scenes in snapshots. The system includes the d&b enScene sound object positioning tool for individual placement of up to 64 sound objects. The d&b enSpace in-line room emulation tool creates and modifies reverberation signatures. These are emulations made from acoustic measurements taken in seven of the world’s top performance venues. This enables the space acoustics to be switched at will for a completely different response.

Acoustic control partners with high style in the GeerFab Acoustics ProZorber acoustic panels. In 1in. and 2in. sizes, the panels are composed of fabric-wrapped 6-7 pcf rigid fiberglass with a scrim backer featuring square edges. They are installed using the included impaling clips and for more bass absorption, there are optional offset impaling clips. The Class A fire-rated panels come in black, coin, and bone colors along with two sizes from which to choose. There are 24x24in. and 24x48in. panel sizes in all three colors and both thicknesses. The ProZorber panels join a wide variety and varied line of sound treatment materials at GeerFab.

Regardless of the studio, monitoring, or performance area design, the GIK Acoustics Impression Pro Series has a size, shape, and decorative pattern that will look right at home there. The bass traps, acoustic diffuser/absorbers are made of rigid fiberglass absorption material in a range of color fabric wraps. These are topped with a plate displaying a decorative pattern that adds additional scattering and diffusion. There are also foam panels available in 23x23in sizes with a selection of 12 patterns and five finishes. One can also choose the Corner Bass Trap for low frequency control in room spots that can accentuate and color bass response.

The Logison Acoustic Network can be invisibly installed in a suspended ceiling or set up in a high ceiling environment where it works just as well. The zones can be as small as one to three speakers with 100 volume steps in 0.5 dBA increments and 1/3-octave frequency control to enable customization in differing rooms and offices. The Target tuning process quickly configures each zone in fine detail. The system’s controller can be mounted on a wall or in a closet and connects to programmable keypads and remotes to manage settings for a single speaker, group, or a whole campus with Acoustic Network Manager software. Paging and music can be carried over the same speakers.

The heart of every effective sound masking system is the central control unit and the Lowell Manufacturing SMGA-25 sound masking generator has all the control and adjustments built right into the unit. The internal 25W amplifier can connect to 8-ohm or 70V loads and the auxiliary level control adjusts paging and background music levels. Among its other features are a pink noise generator, Post-EQ output spectrum that is adjusted by bass, mid, and treble controls, and a universal power supply. Mounting brackets are also included. The front panel has all interfaces and screwdriver adjustable controls.

A legendary and revolutionary performer, the Meyer Sound Constellation system has to be heard to be believed. The system works on three levels. These are the microphone arrays, the processing, and the precisely located speakers. In performance halls and other sound settings, musicians and vocalists can be acoustically transported instantly from one venue to another. The processing tailors a range of immersive sound parameters including reverberation time and early reflections. System components are also available in a variety of colors to blend visually with the room. Applications include entertainment halls, education, house of worship and corporate spaces.

The Primacoustic London 16 room kit is designed primarily for control rooms, recording studios, and similar spaces up to 200 square feet to transform the acoustic response and provide accurate sound reproduction. Composed of fabric wrapped panels, the kit’s elements work to control primary reflections, flutter echo, standing waves, and excessive bass. Mounting fasteners are included to attach the Broadway panels which are constructed of high-density 6lb per cubic foot fiberglass. The 44 panels in the London 16 kit are available in black, beige, and grey.

Where acoustics are critical and a customized solution is paramount, the Prosocoustic WAVEPro Series of treatment panels deliver absorption and there is a diffusor pattern inside. They have this in a size that can tailor the system to the room. The machine cut internal diffusor pattern deflects sound wave in multiple directions while the Rockwool Rockboard 40 stone wool, a mixture of basalt and steel slag, soaks in sound better than fiberglass or foam. Z-clips 18in. long make installation quick and easy as each panel slides into place. The Big Panel Booster Kit consists of four 48x24in. WAVEPro Big Panels and four sets of Z-clips.

Another critical aspect of any sound masking system is even, consistent room coverage and the Revolution Acoustics SSP6 Multiducer excels here. Installed directly onto a surface with the RevLoc mounting plate, the SSP6 provides a true Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML) without high end directional attenuation or hot sound spots. One SSP6 Multiducer can replace up to nine emitters usually used in such systems and it works best in 70V mode with the Revolution Acoustics RevNet 2140 amplifier. The speaker can handle up to 200W instantaneous peak power and is IP66 Certified water and dust proof.

Born of an idea regarding the shapes and hulls of ships, the award winning Snowsound Bow system of modular sound-absorbing elements consists of two shapes, Hourglass and Shield. Acoustic performance is aided by the formation of an air gap between the panel and the wall. The two shapes can be com – bined in an endless array of artistic shapes and patterns. The panels can be installed as free-standing, ceiling suspended, or wall and ceiling mounted and all mounting hardware is included.

The Soft dB smartSMS-Net sound masking system can be customized through a variety of components such as the MLSeries network ready multi-zone controllers, the RL96 rack mount controller, the RLCTL2, and the SMSCTP 7in. wall mounted centralized control panel in addition to individual sensor and volume adjustment items. All controllers feature independently adjustable output channels, dedicated auxiliary inputs for paging/background music, independent 340 narrow band and 1/3 octave band equalizers, and high power amplifiers along with built-in wireless connectivity and wired Ethernet ports. There are also speakers specially designed to emit a soft, defused, and evenly distributed sound.

It has become much easier for the corporate world to upgrade their meeting facilities for modern privacy requirements with the introduction of the new Yamaha VSP-2 Speech Privacy System. This includes the VSP-CU2 control unit and two, four, or eight VSP-SP2 speakers. This new product uses a sound masking level that is 8dB less than conventional systems, environmental audio with four types of sound that is mixed to the speech sound masker, as well as four types of sound effect audio that are added to unobtrusively distract others from unwanted conversation. There is an assortment of sound effect audio and environmental sounds in addition to volume control in fine increments. The speaker design makes wall or ceiling mounting easy and the number of speakers is selected on the back of the control unit along.


Featured Articles