The Science of At-Home Acoustics

At-home sound management has many different applications. From home theaters or home studios to acoustic sound dampening panels, acoustics play an essential role in your comfort and focus. They can take a modest home entertainment system and turn it into a behemoth, or they can dissipate some of the rackets you hear from your next-door neighbors. 

Whatever the application may be, it’s essential to understand how sound behaves if you want to learn how to manipulate it to your benefit. This blog discusses the science of acoustics in soundproofing, sound dampening, and sound-absorbing materials. 

It first provides a background for how sound behaves and its physical properties. A better understanding of how sound behaves equips you to create the at-home sound environment you desire. Continue reading if you find yourself plugging your ears in an attempt to drown out the noise from your neighbors or continuously increasing the volume on your at-home entertainment systems. 

What Is Sound?

Sound is a pressure wave produced by a vibrating object that vibrates particles in the air—these vibrations and disturbances in pressure transport energy through a medium (air) into our ears. Our ears register these pressure disturbances as sound. Some are peaceful, some not so much. 

A few things determine a sound’s volume and pitch. The energy a wave produces and how much pressure it displaces determines the sound wave’s amplitude (loudness). The wave’s vibrational speed is also known as its frequency, and it determines the wave’s pitch. Pitch is how high or low you perceive sound. The faster a sound wave vibrates, the higher its pitch. The slower a sound wave vibrates, the lower its pitch. 

What Is Noise? 

Noise is a more broad concept to define than sound. The general definition of noise is any unwanted sound. Merriam-Webster defines noise as any sound that is undesired or that interferes with someone’s hearing. 

What Makes Your Space Noisy? 

No one wants to work or live in a noisy environment. But how do you stop noise from polluting your work and relaxation spaces? The first step is to identify the noise culprit. Often, the materials comprising your walls vibrate in ways that contribute to noise. Materials such as concrete, drywall, wood, and glass all contribute to noise production.  

According to their composition, sounds interact with their environments in different ways. There are four main surface types: transparent, reflective, diffusive, or absorptive. 

Sounds travel through transparent surfaces without any absorption. Reflective surfaces reflect much of the sound into the environment from whence they came. Some examples of reflective surfaces include wood and concrete. Diffusive materials are unevenly distributed. When a sound comes into contact with diffusive surfaces, it diffuses the sound into multiple directions. 

Because they don’t absorb any sound, transparent and reflective surfaces aren’t ideal for sound dampening. Diffusive and absorptive materials are more suitable for sound dampening and sound absorption because of their absorptive properties. Examples of sound dampening or sound-absorbing materials include felt, foam, and acoustic fiberglass. 

What Can I Do to Eliminate the Noise In My Space? 

You can go two routes if you want to eliminate noise from your home spaces. The first requires soundproofing, which is not ideal for the average person. 

Soundproofing requires complex procedures to prevent sound from escaping or entering a room. To achieve the necessary separation level, you usually have to install dense materials in between walls. This process can be costly and invasive, sacrificing your personal preferences and home design. 

While soundproofing isn’t ideal for the average home, it is the only viable option for home recording studios or any environment that can’t afford to lose internal sounds or receive external sounds.

The other possibility is to employ sound dampening or sound-absorbent materials to modify your at-home environments. Absorptive materials use the NRC (noise reduction coefficient) to rank their ability to reduce noise. The scale goes from 0 to 1, ranking materials by a corresponding percentage. For example, if a material has an NRC ranking of 35, it means the material absorbs and reduces 35% noise. 

Devising Acoustic Solutions

Coming up with ways to reduce noise in your home involves diagnosing and identifying the problem. 

Diagnosing Your Acoustics 

Diagnosing your room’s acoustic problems comes down to a few different factors. The most common reasons for your noise pollution are reverberation, sound isolation, background noise, and audio systems. 

The idea behind sound dampening and absorption is to control how sound moves within a room. When you have a highly reverberative room, the sound goes all over the place and creates noise. Learning how to isolate sound, eliminate background noise, and position your speakers in the right locations can reduce noise pollution within your room. 

Understanding Acoustic Problems

Determining how much sound-dampening material you need largely depends on your room’s reverberation time- the amount of time it takes sound to decay by 60 decibels. In rooms with a lot of communication, such as the living or dining room, your reverberation time should be no greater than 1 second because longer reverberation times can distort words. 

You can either measure or estimate your room’s reverberation time. If you don’t have the necessary tools to do measure it, consider the following: 

  • Larger rooms have longer reverberation times.
  • The harder a surface, the more reverberant. 
  • The more reflective a room is, the more sound absorption material is needed to dampen the noise. 

Solving Acoustic Problems 

Once you identify the acoustic shortcomings of your room, it’s time to apply the remedy. Sound dampening material should be thick, dense, and porous. As a material’s mass increases, it absorbs more low-end noise. The reason porous materials absorb more noise is that they trap more air than less porous materials. 

Being able to place sound-dampening anywhere you like is one of its most significant benefits. With these sound dampening materials, you can get creative while accomplishing your objective. 

Understanding Acoustics Can Make Your Home More Enjoyable 

Understanding how acoustics play into your home’s sound environment can help you focus on projects, better enjoy your entertainment, and be more at ease in the comfort of your home. To devise solutions for noise problems, you must understand how sound behaves and what makes some materials more sound absorbent than others. 

Use these tools to diagnose and improve your home’s sound quality. You can also create sound-dampening felt tile designs that reflect your style and creativity. You can use these felt wall tile designs to decorate Zoom meetings or as an appealing decoration.