Acoustic treatment is essential in both professional and recreational listening rooms. Because the cost of hiring professionals can be expensive, many folks resort to DIY measures but are often confused about how many of these acoustic panels are required in a room.
The number of soundproof panels that a standard room will need will range from about 8 panels to as much as 25, depending on the purpose of the space. Consideration will also be given to the purpose of the panels because soundproofing will require more materials than sound treatment.
In this article, we will look at the basics of acoustic treatment, which will invariably lead us to properly address the issue of the number of acoustic panels that a room will require. We shall also look at how the purpose of the room will affect the number of acoustic panels (and maybe other materials) that will be required.
How To Determine the Number of Soundproof Panels That a Room Needs
The number of soundproof panels that will be required in a room will differ from room to room. It will also be based on other factors, which I’ll elaborate on later in this article.
You will find several online calculators provided by manufacturers of acoustic panels that are supposed to help you determine the number of soundproof panels you will require. While these online acoustic panel room calculators can be helpful, they are usually based on the properties of the manufacturer’s products.
To provide a more generalized answer and guide, I’ll address three general scenarios in which acoustic panels may be required. For this guide, the panel size I’ll use as a reference will be 1-inch x 2 feet x 2 feet. This is a pretty common single panel that you’ll find.
The three scenarios we’ll be looking at are:
- General Spaces
- TV Rooms and Home Theaters
- Professional Listening Environments
General spaces like offices, restaurants and the like do not require a lot of technical calculations as all you simply want to do is reduce reverberations. Since the sound sources will not be fixed, you can randomly position panels in vertical pairs around the space. This will give you a 2 feet x 4 feet coverage at each point.
You can follow this guide for the placement:
- Private offices – Assuming the office has four walls, place two rows of 2 feet x 4 feet panels (two panels) on each wall with a space of between 2 to 4 feet between them. If this is only possible on three walls (because of windows and doors), ensure you have two rows behind your sitting area and opposite you where possible. You’ll need between 12 to 16 panels.
- Public offices and spaces – Position 2 feet x 4 feet panels randomly on the walls. Focus on solid walls where sound can easily be reflected. If you have a lot of open, solid wall space, you can place these panels at 2 to 4 feet intervals.
The panels should always be placed at a level where sound from standing and seated individuals can hit them. Decorative panels are best suited for spaces like these.
GIK Acoustics has created a video guide to help you with the placement of acoustic panels in your office or general space. You can watch it here:
TV Rooms and Home Theaters
Placing soundproof panels can be quite tricky in a TV room or home theater. Soundproof panels are just one of the different acoustic materials required to create the right acoustic environment in a home theater setup.
With the above said, and since our focus in this article is soundproof panels, we shall discuss some tips that will guide your placement of panels. These tips will also give you an idea of the number of panels you will require.
There are two essential rules to note:
- Place the panels to absorb early reflections – To achieve this, position panels on the wall(s) facing your main front speakers or close to them so that the sound from these speakers will be aimed at them.
- Panels should be centered at ear level while seated – Your ears should be approximately at the mid-point of the panels while you are seated.
By observing the two rules above, you will be able to determine the minimum number of soundproof panels you should have based on your sound configuration.
For a general sitting room or TV room, place panels at ear level spaced about two to four feet apart. This will, of course, depend on the wall space available. Decorative acoustic panels were made just for applications like these.
You can watch this DIY video for setting up acoustic panels in your home theater:
Professional Listening Environments
In a professional listening environment like a music recording studio, mixing and mastering studios, and other environments where precise audio reproduction is required, there are essential points where panels should be placed.
For a recording studio where editing and mixing may also take place, the following are important points:
- The sound sources – Panels should be placed behind the monitors (speakers), the walls opposite the speakers, behind the singer’s position, above the singer’s position, and the wall facing the singer’s position. Note that I am assuming that there is no dedicated singing booth.
- The listening area – The listening area refers to the position where the recording engineer or producer will be seated in front of the monitors. Panels should be placed above the listening area and on the walls on both sides of the listening area.
With the clarification made above and using a panel size of 1-inch x 2 feet x 2 feet, we will have the following distribution:
- 2 panels behind each speaker, totaling 4 panels.
- At least 4 panels are placed on the wall opposite the speakers. This should be split into two groups of two panels each and positioned at the point where the sound from the speakers will hit.
- The singing area should have at least 4 panels above, 2 panels behind, and 2 panels on the wall facing the singing area. This gives a total of 8 panels.
- The listening area should have 4 panels above and 2 panels on each side, totaling 8 panels.
The total we have from the above is 24 units of 1-inch x 2 feet x 2 feet soundproof panels. It’s important to restate here that this is a highly simplified guide. Some other factors will need to be taken into consideration.
For example, absorbent surfaces (like a rug) will need to be placed on the floor at both the singing and listening areas. In many cases, bass traps and diffusers will also be employed to complete the acoustic treatment. This is simply a basic setup for acoustic treatment and not for sound isolation or proofing.
You can watch this video by Auralex, one of the leading manufacturers of acoustic materials, to see a visual guide on mounting panels and other acoustic materials in your studio:
Factors That Affect the Number of Soundproof Panels a Room Will Need
Discussing this topic in detail will require that the correct terminologies in the acoustic field be employed. This will remove any confusion that may arise from using the wrong terminologies while shedding more light on the different acoustic uses and purposes to which these panels can be put.
From all we’ve discussed so far, it is clear that certain essential clarifications have to be made to enable us to determine how many soundproofing panels any space will require. To help us with this, I’ll explain some basic terminologies that will guide us.
The two important terminologies to be clarified are:
- Acoustic Treatment
Acoustic treatment is a general term used to describe specific acoustic procedures. These aim to create a listening environment that allows us to hear the sound transmitted or generated in a room without the sound of the room altering it significantly.
This is achieved by reducing flutter echoes that muddle up the sound with multiple reflections of the sound (mainly in the high and mid-frequency range) and eliminating standing waves that exaggerate the lower frequencies of the sound.
To reduce these flutter echoes, acoustic panels are placed strategically in the room where they will absorb the primary reflections. These primary reflections would have otherwise reflected on other surfaces to become the second, third, fourth, etc. reflections, becoming known as flutter echoes.
In this case, the number of acoustic panels the room will require will depend, among other things, on the size of the room, the number of sound sources, and the listening position(s). The issue of standing waves will be solved with other acoustic materials like the bass trap.
Soundproofing or isolation is a different aspect of acoustics that deals entirely with preventing sound transmission between barriers. Soundproofing in a room will aim to prevent sound from being transmitted from or into the room.
This is different from acoustic treatment as the latter does not prevent sound from being transmitted out of or into a room. While the soundproofing panels will mainly absorb sound, preventing reflections, a different type of material will be required to achieve soundproofing and isolation.
The ideal material for soundproofing will be able to prevent sound transmission. This type of material will either deflect any sound that hits it or be able to absorb all of the sound such that none transmits through to the other end. Given the above, soundproofing will require a lot more soundproof panels.
Purpose – What Is the Room For?
The first thing that will determine the type of acoustic material and quantity of the material to be used in any situation is the room’s purpose. This is because the room’s purpose will determine if it needs to be soundproofed, acoustically treated, or both.
Needless to say, the more complex your acoustic task is, the more types of materials you will need. And you will likely need a higher quantity of those materials as well.
This is a more obvious factor that must be considered when deciding on the number of acoustic materials required for a project. The size of a room will undoubtedly determine how many acoustic panels will be required to achieve either soundproofing or acoustic treatment.
At the risk of stating the obvious, larger spaces will require more acoustic panels, while smaller spaces will require fewer panels.
The shape of a room can also affect the number of panels the room will require for proofing or acoustic treatment. Irregular-shaped rooms may require a bit more panels than rooms with regular shapes. It will all depend on the objective of the project.
Material Used for Room Boundaries and Surfaces
The materials the surfaces and boundaries in a room are made of will play a very significant role in the reflectivity and absorptivity of the room. This will, in turn, affect the number of soundproofing panels required to achieve any acoustic goal.
Generally, hard surfaces will reflect sound a lot more than softer surfaces and will therefore require more acoustic treatment. Therefore, more soundproofing panels will be required for rooms with tiled floors and walls made of brick and mortar than those with wooden floors and drywall for wall boundaries.
Panel Size and Density
Again, this is a pretty obvious factor that has to be taken into consideration. In their single unit, acoustic panels usually come in a 1inch x 2 feet x 2 feet dimension. This basic unit can be used to form larger blocks.
You will, of course, also find these panels in different dimensions and even densities. The denser a panel is, the more sound it can absorb.
These factors, among others listed above, will affect the final number of panels that will be required for a given space.
Acoustic or soundproof panels are an essential aspect of acoustic treatment that can drastically improve any space’s acoustics when used correctly. We’ve taken some time to look at different scenarios where soundproof panels are used and how we can determine the number of panels that will be required in these scenarios.
Hopefully you have a better grasp on acoustic and acoustic panels after reading this article. You should therefore be in a better position to make an informed decision regarding the number of soundproof panels your space will require.
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