Theater Acoustics Design Tips
Good theater acoustics often require more than a few wall panels. High school theaters, in particular, can be challenging spaces for acoustical engineers such as ourselves to tackle. That’s because these multipurpose auditoriums are used for plays, lectures, assemblies, musical performances, and more. It’s our job to help the architect achieve the perfect acoustical balance for the space.
How do we do this? Here are a few recommendations:
Location Affects Acoustics
Choose a quiet location for your theater, away from major roads and noisy spaces. Try not to place the auditorium next to music practice rooms, mechanical equipment rooms, etc. Hallways and storage rooms can serve as great “buffer” spaces to acoustically isolate the theater.
Acoustical Treatments for Theaters
Achieving the right balance and placement of sound-reflecting and sound-absorbing materials on theater walls often requires acoustical consultants. They will measure the reverberation time at different frequencies throughout existing auditoriums, or create acoustical models to calculate the results for new construction. Too much reverberation at high frequencies will result in “bright” or “harsh” theater acoustics. At low frequencies, too much reverberation will make the space sound “boomy,” and may be prone to feedback in the sound system. Too little will cause sounds to lack “warmth.”
Depending on the acoustics of your auditorium, a consultant might recommend sound-reflecting and/or sound-absorbing materials on the ceilings, side walls, and rear wall.
Interior Design Tips for Theaters
Hard surfaces reflect sound, so choose fabric-upholstered seats to help control reverb in the theater. Metal or plastic seating may be cheaper, but they can mean disaster for your acoustics. Absorptive seating, on the other hand, helps provide stable reverberation conditions in the auditorium, no matter how many people are in attendance.
Carpet can also significantly affect theater acoustics. We typically do not recommend using carpet under the seating. However, carpeting the aisles will help control footfall noise and high-frequency reverberation.
That’s a Wrap!
Hopefully these theater acoustics tips give you enough to get started. Remember that every project is different. If you run into a problem, just let us know. Experienced acoustical consultants and AV designers around are only a phone call away!
In the meantime, check out some of our recent handiwork on similar spaces by clicking the photos in this post.