Sound waves

Acoustical Challenges in Today’s Meeting Spaces

Speak in a typical small meeting space and notice how your voice seems to keep bouncing around. This phenomenon is a common issue in small rooms typically used for conferencing. Modern construction methods make things worse by incorporating hard construction materials like large panes of glass, drywall, wood, and concrete.

Small spaces have different acoustical challenges than larger spaces. Many small rooms suffer from flutter echoes. Flutter echoes are what happens when a sound bounces back and forth between parallel surfaces. If you are ever in a room with parallel surfaces, clap your hands, and you can hear the “flutter” sound. Small rooms also have certain frequencies that are more pronounced than others. These frequencies are a result of the specific room dimensions. You may notice that some rooms have more bass than others even if the same speaker types are used in each room.

Today’s Trend for Meeting Areas

Can you hear meThe trend for meeting areas is moving toward huddle spaces, capable of small, ad hoc meetings and away from traditional, large conference rooms. Participants meeting in these spaces tend to be more tolerant of acoustical issues, except in extreme cases. The sound may bounce around, but, typically, participants can still hear conversations in the room. However, when adding an audio or video conference system to the conferencing environment, you must consider the far-end participants.

“Far-end” refers to the participants on the other end of the call. “Near-end” refers to the local participants. If the room is not properly designed, or not designed with acoustical treatment, the far-end participants will have problems hearing what is being said. Also, amplified sound from the far-end participants may also be a distraction.

Acoustical Design for Meeting Spaces

Hearing presentation contentThe best way to avoid acoustic issues in conferencing spaces is to address them with your architect up front. An architect that works with your AV integrator will design your conferencing space with proper room ratios. Noise-canceling materials will be specified to keep unwanted outside noise from disturbing the meeting. Conference rooms will also need a level of privacy depending on what discussions take place inside the room. The architect will design the room and specify materials needed to blend in acoustic treatment with the room design. If aesthetics are a concern, acoustical planning during the design phase is the preferred method of room treatment.

Occasionally, rooms are repurposed into meeting spaces. The ability to conduct meetings using a laptop as the video conferencing codec is a relatively new concept being used more and more. When Skype and other video codec software were introduced, they were a novelty used for personal conferencing. Today, these solutions supplement, or may completely replace traditional video conferencing appliances. Unless you are in a building that is less than ten to fifteen years old, your small meeting room was probably not acoustically designed for audio/video calls.

Acoustical Misconceptions

There is a misconception that adding carpet to a room with an acoustical issue will solve most of the problems. The thin commercial carpet on concrete does not do a whole lot to solve your issue. Carpet is better than a polished concrete floor, but only for the highest frequencies. Sometimes this will work depending on the room and which frequencies are the most prevalent. Sometimes the wrong frequencies will be absorbed. Ceiling tiles are similar. They will often improve the room acoustics by absorbing reflections. It is best to design the room for the intended purpose instead of using the same materials and construction techniques used in typical office spaces.

Get Help with the Acoustical Design of Your Meeting Space

Unified AV Systems is capable of assisting with the design of your conference space acoustics. Room treatment may be added to problem rooms so that the far-end audio or video participants can clearly hear what is being said. Every video presentation is important, and we want to be sure all participants can understand the presenter. We are happy to work with architects early in the design process to ensure the conferencing space will meet noise and acoustical requirements. Unified AV Systems can propose solutions that will coordinate with the décor and reduce any acoustic issues in your presentation or conference room. We can even customize acoustic treatment with your corporate logo or artwork.

If you are experiencing any acoustic issues or are hearing complaints about the quality of your presentation or audio/video calls, give Unified AV Systems a call, and we will be happy to assess your conferencing environment and provide solutions.

Hal Hawkins

Hal Hawkins

System Design Engineer at Unified AV Systems
In the AV industry since 2004, Hal has been a System Design Engineer with Unified AV Systems for more than 10 years. He is responsible for designing audio, video, and control systems for regional businesses that solve today’s needs and are “future-proof” for tomorrow’s advancements.
Hal Hawkins

Leave a Reply