If you are driving a powerful multi-channel stereo system, trying to control too loud sound in a public restaurant or office, or producing high-quality audio or music recordings, you should use acoustic panels.
There are a few other edge cases where you might need acoustic panels, and even in the broad examples above, there are different ways to deploy acoustic panels for the best results. Let’s dive into the details so you can be sure of the correct installation of the acoustic panels. (Pros and Cons of Acoustic Panel)
Different scenarios for using acoustic panels
Acoustic treatments come in a variety of sizes and shapes. From smaller 1ft by 1ft square foam panels like TANDD Blue and Black Studio Panels (on Amazon) to 2ft by 4ft wall panels like these ATS acoustic panels in ivory (also on Amazon), there are many options. And there are differences because there are many ways to use acoustic panels.
Don’t forget to pay attention to what you are looking at and consider whether you need an acoustic panel or acoustic foam. And these size differences can be really serious, leading to different problems or solutions for you
Depending on your situation, you will need panels of different sizes and shapes, and you may even want to completely customize and build panels according to your unique needs.
Multi-channel stereo control
One situation in which acoustic panels can be critical to sound quality is when operating a multi-channel stereo system. You may have a system that is designed to listen to sounds, such as a turntable and a hi-fi system. Or you might have something with a lot of channels, like a home theater system. In which the use of acoustic panels is especially important.
In any case, you will need to think about the different audio channels and how your space can affect them. The sound will continue after you hear it. And the sound waves that pass through your space will bounce off the walls and even off the ceiling. This can complicate loudspeakers as sound is usually generated at high volumes.
So these powerful sound waves bounce off the walls and then continue to bounce. They stay in space, ricocheting and affecting other waves in the air, affecting the overall sound quality. In this situation, even a simple two-channel audio system with stereo (left and right) may be out of place.
And especially in the case of a home theater system with a large multi-channel system, sound waves overwhelm the sound quality very quickly. The 7.1-channel system consists of seven speakers directed in different directions and scattering waves in space. Not to mention the subwoofer.
All of these waves need to be driven by acoustic panels to get the sound quality you pay for with such a large system. This problem can be tricky to solve,
Public sound control
If you’ve ever been to a restaurant or office where it was noisy. Then you know what kind of public place I’m talking about. Sound waves bounce, including the sounds people make when talking to each other in person or on the phone.
Especially in offices and restaurants, but also in large meeting rooms, the sound waves emanating from everyone who speaks to each other can become overwhelming. Then there is a feedback loop where everyone starts talking a little louder. So they can be heard better, and more powerful sound waves with a higher volume are reflected just as strongly.
The problem gets worse and worse as everyone speaks out to be heard. In this case, acoustic panels are one of the best solutions to the problem of sound propagation. While in an office setting, panels can be placed around the perimeter of a room at about head height to try to absorb sounds as they are created before they are reflected.
In large rooms or where there is a lot of space between the walls, hanging panels from the ceiling is also a viable solution. Start looking up when you’re in large restaurants. And you’ll probably start to see panels that fall like this, with patterns and customized fabric coverings to disguise them in their surroundings. This space may require more panels, depending on its size
Improving sound quality in a recording studio
There are several different cases where you might want to control the sound quality for recordings. At the quiet end, you can record a podcast or other audio content at low volume. Low volume prevents sound waves from bouncing too much, but you may still need to pinpoint the space.
For example, if you are recording at a desk. You may want the wall directly in front of the speaker, or a wall nearby if you are in a corner, be treated acoustically so that sound does not bounce off nearby walls.
However, if you are recording at the louder end of the spectrum. Such as when recording musical instruments, then the situation is a little more complicated. The large volume and confined space mean you have to machine a lot more flat surfaces.
Generally, if you are having trouble recording quality music. You need to be in a room that is as acoustically processed as possible. This means that walls, ceilings, and even floors must be treated to absorb all sound, giving you maximum control over your room sound.
When not to use acoustic panels
Acoustic panels seem so easy to use that you might find yourself on the other end of the spectrum. Not asking how many panels you can get away with, but asking when else can I use acoustic panels? Maybe you can just post them at my house to keep it quieter? Will this have an effect?
While “bigger” almost always means “better” for acoustic panels, it is really only when you are solving a specific problem. If you have a high-end audio system that needs control, use panels. But if you have a quieter speaker that doesn’t have sound quality issues, you don’t have to put in a bunch of panels.
In a very large room, especially with high ceilings that allow sound waves to diffuse before they bounce too much, you may not need acoustic panels. And when it comes to just arranging them around the house, willy-nilly, this is not necessary. Your wall insulation will already be picking up some sound. Especially if it is acoustically sensitive wall insulation like Acoustimac Acoustic Insulation (on Amazon)
Basically, you don’t need acoustic panels unless you hear the problem. If you notice that the space is too loud. If you notice that the sound waves are not reaching your ear, then you need acoustic panels. No sooner than.