Top Three Acoustical Problems for Large Spaces and How to Solve Them

Sound travels and reflects through multiple spaces in a closed space. For instance, it reverberates from the ceilings and the walls, causing an echo too, making it difficult for people to intelligibly understand the sound source.

The acoustics of a larger space are different from smaller rooms, as in a larger space, it’s all about mitigating sound reflections from different spaces, many of which contribute heavily to reverberations.

Sound usually reflects from the walls and ceilings, with increased reverberation times impacting the frequency ranges from 125-4,000 Hz. For instance, when the reverberation times are in excess of 1 second, speech intelligibility becomes a problem.

As a result, architects and interior designers face a number of challenges for controlling the sound in a large space. In this article, we are going to discuss the top three acoustical problems that architects and interior designers face when working with larger spaces, and how to solve them.

1. Managing Reverberation

A major problem with larger spaces is the excessive amount of reverberation, no matter where you sit. A common example is the larger musical halls or older churches that are several decades old.

No matter where exactly you sit, the reverberation times are generally higher, which makes it difficult for people to understand speech intelligibly, making it difficult to hear the person giving the sermon or anyone talking on stage.

Similarly, in a musical venue, you might be able to hear the music properly, but being able to discern the music from the vocals becomes quite difficult due to the higher reverberation times.

The best way to deal with this situation is to use acoustic panels and ceiling clouds. When installed on the walls and the ceiling of a larger space, they help in absorbing the sound and diffusing it throughout the space.

This makes it easier for those in the audience to understand speech and not have to worry about reverberations throughout the space.

Most larger spaces generally have higher ceilings, especially musical venues or open planned areas like churches. When sound waves connect with harder materials, they are simply reflected back in the room, making it more difficult for a person to hear clearly.

These bouncing soundwaves may make it difficult for a person to pay attention to one thing, as the sound often gets muffled and speech becomes unintelligible. Various hard surfaces in larger spaces contribute to the worsening sound effect:

  • Uncovered windows
  • Tall ceilings
  • Wooden furniture
  • Bare walls

How to Manage Reverberations

The best way to manage reverberations in a large space is to use acoustical panels that dampen the sound and diffuse it more efficiently throughout the space.

This makes it easy for everyone within the room to hear without worrying about a flutter echo or excessive reverberation. More importantly, people can sit anywhere without having to worry about a difference in sound quality.

2. Lack of a Proper Sound Stage

In a larger space, reflections from the sidewall generally increase the reverberation times. As a result, it prevents the creation of a sound stage between the speakers, especially if the sound signal is mono.

This fails to create any sense of direction or depth, and just mainly sends the sound out in a straight-line array. Obviously, this fails to coincide with the interior design or structure of the space.

In most cases, speakers can be installed around the room, resulting in several mono sources that project sound outwards in a straight line. This still doesn’t resolve the issue of the lack of a clear sound stage, especially when there are multiple mono sources.

With various mono sources covering a larger space, the radiating sound patters make it easy for everyone to hear what’s being said. However, these mono sources, or speakers, are placed at strategic points to ensure clearer sound, but don’t help with the reverberation times.

How to Fix This Problem

The best way to fix this acoustical problem in larger rooms is to reduce sidewall reflections in the building. This prevents sound from reverberating from the sides of the stage and ensures a more even dispersion throughout the building.

Using 3D acoustical panels that are installed on the back walls of the building as well as around the stage can prevent unnecessary sound loss and improve the reverberation times significantly.

But, this poses another challenge: you ideally want to choose sound panels that are designed to be used in stylish spaces and look really good, since they’re going to be exposed.

3D acoustical panels are an excellent choice, as they can be wrapped in a fabric, and are available in various designs too.

3. Mitigating Background Noise

Another problem when dealing with larger spaces is the excessive background noise that’s caused by air ducts, ventilation systems, or the wiring tracks that run throughout the building.

These sounds can affect the experience and make it more difficult for people within to hear clearly. As such, an important challenge that interior designers and architects face is to not only improve sound from within, but also to take steps and keep out background noise from larger spaces.

How to Mitigate Background Noise

The best way to fix this problem is to use acoustical panels that are suspended from the ceiling as well as from the walls. These panels can easily prevent external noise from entering the space, and help in improving the acoustics of the larger room too.

For instance, the use of convex reflectors which are placed at various heights can help improve resonance within the room, improving the sound quality drastically.

Choose AVL Systems For The Best Acoustic Solutions

If you want acoustic solutions for larger spaces, including aesthetically appealing options like 3D forms and shapes, AVL Systems has you covered. AVL Systems is a specialist in providing acoustic solutions that improve sound absorption, diffusion, and offer greater noise control.

The company is known for its quality of acoustic products and the sheer amount of research that they put into each product, making them a fine choice for architects and interior designers who are looking for interior products that are tailor-made for larger spaces.