Apr 8, 2010 12:00 PM, By Bob McCarthy
You can tune a guitar or a radio, but you can’t tune a room. The knob is just too darn big! Nonetheless, the term “tuning the room” has been adopted to describe the tools and techniques used to neutralize a listening space and its installed loudspeaker system. The basic concept of room tuning is to remove or modify the types of reflections that leave an overpowering imprint on the material heard there and leave enough reflective properties in the room to prevent the unnatural feeling of being overly dry. The products in our roundup here represent some of the key items of ready-made room-treatment products and the analysis equipment used to measure their effects.
We will divide the acoustical side of our inventory into three basic categories: absorbers, tuned resonators, and diffusers. Many of the vendors in this field cross over between more than one of these categories.
Let’s start with absorbers. This is not the most dynamic sector of manufacturing. Let’s face it: Fiberglass is not going digital any time soon, so don’t expect epoch-changing advances with each passing year. On the positive side, these products are not obsolete upon delivery. There are some interesting recent developments, however, in terms of environmental impact. Acoustic absorption is going green and working to reduce its carbon footprint.
In addition to a wide array of fiberglass panels, the folks at Acoustics First offer highly absorptive quilts. The StratiQuilt fiberglass rolls are 4’x50’ (WxL) that can be edge-bound as needed (with the help of your local quilting club). This lightweight, semiflexible, easy-to-handle material is a vinyl-coated, gray-colored fiberglass-facing cloth quilted to a supporting 2lbs.-per-cubic-foot-density fiberglass. These portable barriers/absorbers can provide up to 21dBA noise reduction. One of the many practical applications for this is hung behind a flying loudspeaker array to control the rear lobes and reduce reverberation.
Returning to our green revolution, we find the Acoustical Solutions’ EcoSorpt acoustical wall panels. These high-performance absorbers, made with recycled cotton products, contain at least 85 percent post-industrial recycled content, making them a natural for LEED-certified projects. The absorption coefficients at 2kHz and below are comparable to traditional fabric-covered fiberglass panels, with lower environmental impact and carbon footprint in their manufacture and superior recyclability when they are no longer in use. These products come in two densities: 3lbs. and 6lbs. per square foot in the 1in. thickness. There is also a 3lb. version at 2in. thickness.
Auralex Acoustics has introduced the fabric-wrapped low-emission ELite ProPanel, manufactured without formaldehyde and phenol and using 35 percent post-consumer recycled material. They emit a lower amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), achieving both Greenguard Indoor Air Quality and Children & School certifications as well as LEED eligibility. These innovations come without sacrificing absorption capability. The standard 1in.- and 2in.-thick Elite ProPanels are available in 2’x2’ and 2’x4’ shapes in a variety of fabric colors (not just green).
RPG has also gone green (and brown) with its Ecose Technology, which has also reduced the amount of petrochemicals traditionally used in this class of absorption products. The absorbent areas of these panels are notable for their distinctive brown colorthe natural color of fiberglass manufactured by the Ecose process. The panels are Greenguard- and LEED-credit-approved and are fabricated so as not to contain phenol, formaldehyde, or acrylics. This new technology is available in RPG’s line of absorber panels and the hybrid diffuser/absorber Binary Amplitude Diffsorbor (BAD) panel product line (see the “Diffusers” section below for more on BAD).
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