You might have noticed those wall panels in a recording studio, or the unusual shapes suspended from the ceiling at a restaurant and wondered about their purpose. These are elements of acoustic treatment, a crucial aspect that greatly influences the quality of sound in a space. 

Acoustic treatment controls sound waves, reducing unwanted echoes, reverberation, and background noise. This not only enhances the listening experience by providing clearer, more defined sound but also contributes to a more comfortable and pleasant environment. Whether you are recording music, having a conversation, or simply enjoying a meal, the right acoustic treatment can make a significant difference. But does it really work? 

The short answer is Yes. However, there are several factors that demonstrate this. It is a scientific fact that acoustic treatment can reduce echoes, reverberation, standing waves, and background noise, resulting in improved sound quality of a room. But how does it make a difference and where can it be used to make a difference? 

Where Does It Make a Difference?

A recording studio, particularly a live room, can be a very lively place for soundwaves to interact with their environment with multiple sound sources and obstacles in their way. Acoustic panels, diffusers and bass traps can absorb, diffuse, and trap the undesirable characteristics that these interactions can create.  

These solutions do not stop the sound interacting with its environment, but they do help you control what you hear when they interact as your recording still needs to sound natural. 

However, the control room of a recording studio requires more treatment because it needs to be a ‘dead’ space as there are normally many more obstacles for the soundwaves to interact with. As well as the desk, you have monitors, walls, and windows that the soundwaves can reflect and reverberate off.  

The soundwaves emitting from monitors for example produce a lot of bass frequencies which require bass traps between the pair (for more accurate stereo imaging) and on the corners of the room. This will allow you to control what you hear in the mix. 

Today’s modern open plan offices do not consider that with less obstacles for sound to interact with, sound or noise has much more space to occupy and linger in. Whether that is phone calls, meetings, or colleagues having a conversation it stays there throughout the day. This is also true of commercial spaces such as shopping centres, lobbies, and restaurants. 

Why Do We Need It to Make a Difference?

This build-up of sound can start to affect our ability to listen as our ears are trying to process everything we hear, and over time this sensory overload can cause listening fatigue. This can often manifest itself as tiredness and irritability causing people with disabilities, mental health issues and people in general, discomfort and anxiety. 

A biproduct of the build-up of sound can also be less productivity it has been proven in a study by Mehta, Zhu, and Cheema (2012) that mid-level sound/noise of around 70 dB is the optimal level for thinking creatively.  

The study involved subjects performing tasks measuring thinking creatively and open-mindedness. A soundtrack was played at 50 dB, 70 dB and 80 dB for each group with a fourth having no soundtrack at all. The 70 dB group performed better than those without the soundtrack. For comparison 70 dB is around the level of a busy restaurant or the sound of a shower. 

How Does It Make A Difference?

The main characteristics of an office space are hard, floors, ceilings, and desks which are all very reverberant. The acoustic panels in the StudioATK-60 Acoustic Treatment Kit by Imperative Audio will absorb some of this reverb and reduce the reflections from the hard surfaces.