By Steve Gubler on 3/26/19 2:00 PM
You’ve dropped a lot of money on a sleek, new meeting room with glass walls and concrete floors. It’s a thing of beauty that catches the eye of every visitor. Problem is—all those modern design features have made the audio in your video and conference calls almost unintelligible. Your dream meeting room is turning into a nightmare, generating support ticket after support ticket as users struggle to be heard.
The good news is that today’s modern meeting rooms can sound as good as they look. But you’ll need to make a few changes to improve the acoustics of the space.
What’s Messing with Your Sound?
Before we dive into remedies, let’s take a minute to understand the main culprit in sound quality issues—hard surfaces. If you throw a rubber ball in a small room filled with hard surfaces like glass, concrete, granite, and marble, the ball will bounce between hard surfaces (if it doesn’t hit you in the face first) until it loses energy and rolls to a stop. When someone speaks in a room the sound reflects or bounces from one hard surface to the next—like the rubber ball—until it fades away.
That reflected sound is often called an echo. Technically speaking, it’s a reverberation, the time it takes for reflected sound to fade away or decay is called reverberation time (RT). The more hard surfaces in your room, the higher the RT. The higher the RT, the lower the sound quality. You’ll sound like you’re talking with your head in a bucket. Consonants blend together, making it difficult to distinguish words. For a more technical discussion about reverberation, check out this article in AV Magazine.
How to Improve Room Acoustics
There is no technology or single product that can eliminate the acoustical effects of echo or reverb, so the ideal way to prevent sound reflections and reverberation is to think about acoustic treatments in the planning stage of your new meeting space. This will allow you to make design changes such as opting for one glass wall instead of four or selecting a wood floor instead of concrete. But if you’re already in an acoustic bind, here are three ways to quickly improve the sound quality in your reverberant rooms.
- Add soft surfaces. Not only is soft furniture more comfortable, it helps absorb sound. By opting for fabric-covered chairs, decorative rugs, curtains, and even leather or cloth placemats for your conference room tables, you can reduce reflections without sacrificing the overall room aesthetic. Your users will appreciate the improved sound and more cozy seating.
- Install acoustic panels. The thought of adding acoustic paneling or ceiling tiles has made more than one architect/designer cringe. But acoustic treatments today are a far cry from the industrial look of yesteryear. They’re now so stylish, they’re actually Pinterest-worthy. From ceiling tiles that look like clouds to artistic wall panels, you have endless options to slow the bouncing ball of sound waves in your room without sacrificing the acoustics of your space.
- Get expert advice. Google can only get you so far. If you’re pressed for time, talk to an audio visual integrator who already knows the difference between sound absorption, sound dampening, and soundproofing and what NRC and STC rating you need.
Ready to Talk Room Acoustics? Get in Touch.
Talk to our team of experts about your project. We can help you map the reverberation in your space and then work with you to create a plan to minimize that reverb to an acceptable level. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 453-6304.
Moving or Renovating? You Need this Guide.
By approaching acoustics as a component of your overall office design, whether a new space or a remodel, you can avoid many of the architectural and design decisions that can be expensive to fix later.