Ten Misconceptions in Acoustic Architecture

We won’t hear the people in the next room if we add sound-absorbing panels

Sound is an acrobat. It travels through open paths and lightweight barriers, and especially through the pores of high-NRC materials - right into that room you were hoping to make quiet. You need a good wall and ceiling design with a mixture of sound absorbing and sound blocking materials to stop sound.

I can just install carpet and my room will be quieter, right?

Only true for high frequencies, and not true for most sound we can hear. Surprisingly, low-pile durable carpet is too shallow to absorb much and should be supplemented with other acoustic applications.


Absorptive material can be sprinkled around a room just like lighting

Lighting can have a small footprint, but acoustics is the result of all of the surfaces of a room. From soft vs hard furniture, to all the ornament and objects that add or subtract from the room’s sound.

Adding a small amount of high-NRC product will fix my room

For audible change you’ll need to add significant surface area. Adding a little acoustic material to a problematic room will not make an audible difference.


Sound masking is the same as noise cancellation - like my headphones?

Sound masking raises background noise by adding white or pink noise to cover sounds. Noise cancellation “listens” to the sound and electronically mutes it.


Noise cancellation is coming to architecture

Not in the way you might hope. Noise cancellation only works for tiny controlled places like the space between headphones and your ear.

Acoustic products tend to be flammable/dangerous

Products suitable for architectural applications are rigorously tested and demonstrate flame resistance. Never use non-architectural materials like packing foam to control sound in a room.

Sound travels upward

It travels everywhere, but when floors are hard and reflective even sound with a downward trajectory will reflect and find its way upward.

Acoustics is an afterthought

Unfortunately, it is under-considered, but so important. The most complained about experience in good restaurants tends to be noise. Every part of the design process matters to sound; design decisions influence the sound of a space from schematic design to finish construction.