Acoustical Consultants

Acoustics For Critical Listening Environments

Tavius Aiton, Architectural Acoustics

Guest blogger Tavius Aiton has worked in audio and acoustics for the past decade, from design and sales, to project management. Tavius is owner of Architectural Acoustics in San Jose, CA.

The solution always begins with understanding the problem. Acoustically, client expectations and needs are defined most by the purpose of their space. Obviously, budget and materials finishes factors into the equation as well; but in critical listening environments, acoustics should drive the design and budget.

Acoustics are best handled in the design phase of new construction.  Any critical listening space should first be optimized for shape and size, defined by its intended purpose, speaker orientation and patterns, as well as listening positions. Often, noise must be contained within a space, as well as isolated from outside. Wall, ceiling and floor construction design are important for sound and vibration isolation issues from adjacent spaces.

In rooms with shared walls needing isolation, choosing the proper stud type and configuration are important. Often, more floor space is required as there is greater airspace and less connection points between the walls. Double stud, or staggered stud layouts are often considered along with insulation. Isolation clips can be applied on rails across the studs to further isolation.

CIRCA Art Gallery, photo courtesy of Pinta Acoustics
CIRCA Art Gallery, photo courtesy of Pinta Acoustics

Early incident reflections may be desired in many critical listening spaces, but this needs to be carefully considered, because too much reverberation reduces speech intelligibility and musical clarity.  Ideal reverberation times should be called out by consultants.  Absorptive materials, or porous materials, allowing flow resistance of sound energy, can reduce reflections by frequencies depending upon type of material, thickness and airspace or backing material.

Reflection can be important, especially in larger spaces. Early incident sound reflections can be redirected to listeners prior to the room “coloring” them due to longer reverberation times.  Often, sound energy is redirected specifically based on size, shape, and type of materials placed throughout the room. Diffusion, or even-scattering of sound reflections, can be a necessary consideration in controlling the sound level equality throughout a space and maintain sound integrity.

Critical listening spaces require many considerations.  The earlier an acoustical consultant is brought in on the job, the better.  Often this can avoid acoustical issues that may be difficult, or more challenging, and costly to consider later.  Its also important to have a qualified contractor to implement the consultants design criteria, by properly installing the acoustic treatments, and remaining within budget.

Often budgets include high end equipment, and little to no acoustical treatments.  This is another reason to hire the appropriate consultant from the start: to have all the acoustical requirements laid out and included in your budget.  Ensure the most affective and affordable solutions for your acoustical or noise reduction needs. Make the most of your critical listening space and the investment in time, energy, and capital!

I would be happy to recommend a consultant specific to your needs.

For more information, please contact Tavius Aiton at