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AudioAcoustics

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Feb 01, 2008

An article in Livesound International discusses the eternal struggle between acoustics and the architects who refuse to take acoustics seriously (you may have to scroll down a bit):

We should all agree that a good sound system cannot fix a bad acoustical space. Neither can a great one. No amount of amplifiers and speakers can “fix” a large room with insufficient acoustical absorption, no matter how loud it plays or well its pattern is controlled. Even with the most exotic line arrays, the room will sound far better if properly treated to optimize the reverberation time relative to performance expectations.

Yet for years American architects have wrongly believed that noise and reverberation problems can be cured with exotic sound reproduction systems. They can’t. There is no $300,000 sound system that sounds good in a tiled restroom. Nor is there a three dollar sound system that does.

One needn’t look very far to understand why it’s difficult to communicate in most modern buildings in the United States- it’s the fault of our architects. Their training is lousy.

Many American architects live exclusively in a visual world. It’s often all about the pretty picture in a magazine and on the web. Many European architects live in a visual and aural world and realize that the design of a facility affects the quality of sound reproduction.

Our architectural schools do not teach the subject properly. One of our more prestigious architectural schools offers a total of 123 total classes in its curriculum. Only one of them, “Design for the Luminous and Sonic Environment” appears to have an emphasis on the aural environment. Even in that one we take a back seat to lighting. Typical.

This is an insightful editorial, and I wish I had more time to write about it. Certainly the argument that architects need to account for “aural” spaces is familiar - Barry Blesser discusses the point at length in his book “Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture.” And there are fire codes that set speech intelligibility criteria for emergency communication systems.

But there are no codes that regulate acoustical comfort under normal conditions. And as a result, we have citizens complaining that they can’t understand their elected representatives at public meetings.

[via Emmaco’s blog]


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Chano Santamaria at Reel 2 Real published a nice breakdown of the frequency range of various musical instruments and how equalization can be used to accentuate a particular characteristic of an instrument.

Equalization often causes more problems then it solves, but it is sometimes unavoidable - if you’re going to use it, you may as well be informed.


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A Scientific American article reports on the use of acoustic fire suppression.


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