Acoustic panels improve the sound quality of your existing speakers by reducing the number of sound waves bouncing off walls. They can be extremely effective even with multiple panels if placed correctly.
Problem: Too many sound waves
If you’ve ever heard the difference between cheap speakers and even an inexpensive soundbar or surround speaker. You know the impact the right speakers can have. This is one of the best investments you can make in your audio system. But there is one unintended consequence of adding extra speakers: you now have more sound waves to deal with.
Especially if you have chosen a system in which many speakers are directed in different directions. You will have more sound waves flowing through the air than ever before. The only problem is that when sound waves cross other sound waves in the air, they affect those waves, shifting and changing them.
How sound waves interfere with each other
The wave crossing effect is usually very small. After all, if you are talking at the same time with someone else. You can still hear each other and make out the words. But if you add a couple more people, it quickly becomes difficult to understand what’s going on.
In large speaker systems, all the speakers are fired at the same time, so it’s like one person talking. But when all the sound waves keep going, they hit the walls and bounce off. These waves are then reflected back into the room. But the speakers continue to work: as if two people are talking to each other. Then all sounds continue to bounce even more, and the sound quickly becomes a mixture of all reflections.
You can still hear the main sound clearly, but all other sounds bouncing around will degrade the quality. This can put you in a situation where your speaker sounds great at low volume. After all, it has all of these channels – but turning it on degrades the quality and starts to mute.
Likewise, if your goal is to create a quiet space where sounds from your recording of music or dialogue will not be heard. You need to actively manage and absorb that sound to improve the quality of the recording.
How acoustic panels reduce sound waves
We have another article that goes into detail on all the intricacies of acoustic panels, how they work, and everything else you need to know. But for now, here are the basics: acoustic panels are made of foam that traps sound waves. that fall on them. They are usually covered with fabric to make them more aesthetic. Although you may see some bare panels in places like recording studios where makeup is not that important.
Acoustic panels are made from materials such as dense foam, wool, or acoustically useful insulating materials such as fiberglass or denim. It allows sound to pass through inside but not outside. And if you’ve seen bare foam panels before you will notice that some of them have a jagged triangular cut at the top.
These geometric shapes act as a funnel for sound waves, which bounce back and forth from them until they hit the foam itself. When you have acoustic panels strategically placed around your space. They act to absorb sound waves in the air after you’ve heard them, but before they can bounce off the walls.
This is important because when sound waves are not controlled. They bounce all over the place, crashing into other waves as described above.
How effective are acoustic panels?
Acoustic panels are very effective for controlling sound waves. They automatically eliminate this reflected unwanted sound. But there are a few details you need to figure out in order to get the most out of your acoustic panels.
First, you need to get the panels thick enough to pick up all the sounds. Take a look at these two examples: an ATS acoustic panel (on Amazon) consists of panels 2 feet wide, 4 feet high, and 2 inches deep. But another option, ADW Acoustic Panels (also on Amazon), consists of several panels of different sizes, only 1 inch deep.
Ignoring the fact that they have different rectangular dimensions (therefore they have different surface areas). You may notice that the difference in thickness is very large. ADW panels will not have such a good effect with their 1 inch thick. We recommend using panels that are at least 2 “thick to get the most out of your investment.
Then you need to get enough acoustic panels to make a difference. Unfortunately, you don’t need just one, and you probably don’t need just three or four.
To do this right, you will need at least one acoustic panel per speaker, and maybe more. A good rule of thumb is to shoot to cover at least 20% of the exposed wall space. But if you can start with fewer, provided that you put them in the right places. And for studio-quality sound absorption, you have to think about big numbers, like 50-100% coverage, depending on the quality you want.
There are also different types of panels on the market. Large insulated acoustic panels and foam – and we have more information on the differences if you’re interested.
What does it all mean to you?
It is clear that acoustic panels can very effectively control sound waves in your room. They can give you the most out of this advanced stereo system. Make sure your music and audio recordings are crystal clear. But there are a few details that you need to clarify.
You need to make sure that the acoustic panels you receive are thick enough. And that you use them enough to cover all the desired areas according to your setup. And from there, you may need to add a few more to really make sure the acoustics of your space is under control. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but with acoustic panels it usually is.