Hybrid Acoustic Panels: Room Acoustics for Music



For musicians or music lovers, the most important real-world question is, “What makes a good room for music performance?” Room acoustics is a reasonable although not very useful answer.

To figure this out, we interviewed acoustic specialists and music lovers with acoustical considerations in our built environment.

So to help you get familiar with room acoustics right away, we’ve put together this article.

We’ll be covering:

•  Acoustic Space
•  Musical Experience
•  Acoustic Treatment
•  Acoustic Panels
•  New Acoustic Treatment
•  Hybrid Acoustic Panels

We’ll also be introducing new acoustic treatment (absorption and diffusion) and some benefits to you.

Now let’s get started!


Acoustic Space




“We listen in rooms, so that the room is a part of the sound. There is no way to remove the room, and why would we want to, it’s a great natural amplifier if put in-tune with the music. And in-tune is all about resonance…Think of it as a mini concert hall just for you…The music in sound dampened halls is acoustically dead and lacking natural dynamics. But the concert halls that give to the music, these are the ones that give the magic. The same applies to a room. There is a big difference between using a room as part of the creative process and fighting against a room.”


Have you ever visited a beautiful concert hall? If you have, did you notice how every sound made in them is absolutely incredible? That’s because concert halls are not only designed to look beautiful, they are acoustically designed for non-amplified music (natural sound), so that musicians and audiences can enjoy the created music together. For example, you might find a beautiful acoustic space in these concert halls:

•  Wiener Musikverein (Austria)
•  Konzerthaus Berlin (Germany)
•  Concertgebouw (Netherlands)
•  Boston Symphony Hall (USA)


Sound elements

What else did you notice about the interior of these halls? Did you notice that there are a lot of sound elements integrated into concert halls? What were they? How would the choreographing of the sound and the building have worked in there? Acoustic engineers can assign the right sound elements in the acoustic treatment of the building and set in place their vision of the signature soundscape for that building. The outcome will be to be surrounded by wooden diffusors and suspended overhead reflectors. Diffusors and reflectors are installed on ceilings, walls and balcony fronts to break up sound waves and reduce early sound reflections for loudness. Absorbers are also installed for better reverberation times.


Concert hall experience

When it comes to musical experiences, we can’t just isolate the perception of sound. The satisfying sound experience of the concert hall is also about interaction of all our senses as multi-sensory experience. We can’t measure our tactile experiences, yet, it is strongly hinted that the materials and surfaces in these buildings give an ambience that influences our perception of the music performed within them. The totality of the concert hall experience, from the atmosphere when you enter the hall, to the moment of silence when the performance is finished, results from a collaboration between the musicians presenting their intuition of sound and music and architects presenting the feeling of form and material.


Musical Experience




“It’s an embarrassment for the architect to spend all their effort to only find that what they ended up with was frequencies and not for music…There’s a reason why musical instruments are built to vibrate. They are built to vibrate to create musical notes and harmonic structures. Your room should do the same…I find that most of my clients are transitioning from the acoustically “dead” sound to a much more “lively” musical experience. Their rooms become more interactive like the musical instruments being played.”


Wood is often proposed as a material promoting perfect acoustics. Even in hi-tech application, Sony engineers for example, select Hokkaido maple and Scandinavian birch to create an optimal natural sound. Wood was believed to be responsible for “singing tone” and was/is regularly included in the design of concert halls. Although wood has no magical powers in acoustics , it is often used in the design of rooms for music. Why? Perhaps because of its visual association with the stringed family of instruments gives it emotional linkages to a musician’s creativity and performance. For example, you might find curved wooden elements in these concert halls:

•  Salle Pleyel (France)
•  Helsingborgs Konserthus (Sweden)
•  Gothenburg Concert Hall (Sweden)
•  Danish Radio Concert Hall (Denmark)


Wood paneling

Yet, a concert hall is not a violin. The walls of a violin must be flex to radiate sound out of the body of the instrument into the surrounding air. The walls of a concert hall must contain within their volume a satisfying sound for audience. Wood paneling that is free to flex can absorb low frequency sound and detract from the warm sound of a concert hall. That is why when using wood in concert hall design, it should be used sparingly, and it should be constructed to act as much as possible like concrete by being bonded to more massive materials, rather than attached in some way to have an airspace behind it.


Acoustic intimacy

Our experience is that big rooms generally sound big, and small rooms generally sound small. Some of the qualities that contribute to that experience arise from the respective reverberation levels inherent to rooms of different geometric volumes. However, it is also believed that the early-arriving sound contributes to a sense of acoustic intimacy. By bringing earlier early reflections, acoustic engineers can make a big room sound like a smaller, more intimate one. The problem is that rooms with high-quality acoustics require a lot of space and reflective surfaces. And since most of us don’t have big rooms like a full size concert hall, how can we acoustically and practically mimic the larger spaces.


Acoustic Treatment




“The goal of acoustic treatment (absorption and diffusion) isn’t to remove acoustic defects but to produce an equality in the music….When I first started acoustic work, I tried many acoustic products and while the materials relaxed the highs it did nothing for the low end so I was left with a strange unbalanced sound. If you use absorption you need to try and take into account that it needs to be broadband absorption and you need to be very careful when you target certain frequencies. I’m under the general impression that most systems would benefit from some form of absorption or diffusion.”


Small rooms for music performance are more likely to have acoustic problems than large rooms, primarily flutter echo and standing waves. Flutter echo is a ringing sound you can hear when clapping in a room with two parallel walls while a standing wave is experienced as a boomy sound at low frequencies. Both effects often make musical instruments sound muddy. These acoustic defects are deeply rooted in source-path-receiver geometry and are easily cured through proper surface shaping, surface positioning, and addition of absorbing and/or diffusing materials to a surface.


High-quality acoustics

How can you lessen or even negate the acoustic defects in small rooms to make them sound as if they were big rooms like concert halls? Is it even possible? In part, the latter is true, big rooms generally have better acoustics for high-quality sound reproduction than small rooms. Acoustic specialists are able to handle spatially all of the frequencies by placing the right acoustic treatment in the right place. It is genuinely difficult to design high-quality acoustics for small rooms since there is the inescapable relationship that room acoustics depends on the size of the room and its reflective surfaces. However, with the right combination of both absorption and diffusion, it is possible to transform the acoustics of virtually any room into having high-quality acoustics.


Acoustic Panels




“I am not an acoustic design expert. I am a musician. I play mostly late classical and romantic music which frequently gets down as low as the lowest C on the piano. If I want to optimize the design of the room for sound, it seems to be focused almost entirely on the size of the piano compared to the room. To me this seems to miss the point that the wavelength of the sound is the more important factor in the dimensions of the room than the size of the piano. If the piano produces too much volume, I would always add some acoustic treatments, but I can’t change the size of the room and can’t build a full size concert hall.”


Generally speaking, acoustic panels are great at absorbing mid-high range frequencies. But they aren’t very good at handling the lower (bass) frequencies. How can you make acoustic panels work satisfactorily at the lower range of frequencies? How can you physically fit a long wavelength in small rooms? Why have an airspace behind acoustic panels? With this latter you can improve low frequency absorption. Long wavelengths are trapped in the airspace, bent and folded and have its sound energy reduced. This air gap increases absorption, and also extends absorption to lower frequencies.


Air spacing

The larger the air space behind an acoustic panel, the better absorption of lower frequencies you have. However, this rapidly impacts of the physical size of the room. For example, if you want high-quality acoustics in a 12 ft x 12 ft room, using acoustic panels with an airspace of 11 3/4 in behind them, your physical room is reduced down by 31% of the room without acoustic panels. You basically lose a lot of physical space in exchange for the high-quality acoustics. Is it possible to optimize the design of the room for sound without losing a lot of air spacing for acoustic panels? What if we have flexible acoustic panels that allow us to design any wavy surface, acting as broadband absorbers like a bass traps? With flexible panels, we can balance the physical room and air spacing for acoustic panels.


New Acoustic Treatment




“We see the depth, the smoothness, the softness, the hardness of objects; Cezanne even claimed that we see their odor. If the painter is to express the world, the arrangement of his colors must carry with it this indivisible whole, or else his picture will only hint at things and will not give them in the imperious unity, the presence, the unsurpassable plenitude which is for us the definition of the real.”
– Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945)


Here, we introduce new product that can be considered as flexible wood. What we come up is scientifically tested, wooden surfaces, that are a new type of acoustic treatment; flexible and applicable to the search for high-quality acoustics. It’ll get easily balanced for a wide range of frequencies without acoustic specialists.

•  High-quality acoustics
•  Wooden surfaces
•  Scientifically tested
•  NRC rating of 0.80
•  Balancing frequencies
•  Reduce flutter echo
•  Space-saving design


Flexible acoustic panels

The basic acoustic elements of this material are that it is an acoustically resonant composite paneling with hard reflecting plywood surface. It is a laminated sandwich of plywood and acoustic foam, machined slit alternately in plan and section. Each incision not only transforms the sandwich from stiff to flexible, but also creates openings for sound traveling through plywood and acoustic foam. It becomes a flexible wood surface and acoustic panels at the same time.


Hybrid acoustic panels

The sandwich panel resonates at two frequencies: it creates a sound absorbing effect when there is an interaction between sound traveling through the openings of plywood and acoustic foam. On the other hand, when the incoming sound reflect on a curved, hard surface as plywood, it creates sound diffusion effects. This allows a single flexible panel to create an appropriate balance of sound absorption and sound diffusion at the same time.


Hybrid Acoustic Panels




“Beauty will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and complete body, wherein each member agrees with the other, and all are necessary to compose what you intend to form.”
– Andrea Palladio (1570)


It’s a customizable hybrid acoustic paneling for professional acoustic treatment of interiors. As a flexible paneling, it allows you to create any desired curved element. Room acoustics may be optimized for both absorption and diffusion at the same time. The aim is arrive at a satisfying sound.


WAVY® Acoustic

It uses a combination of diffusion and absorption to treat unwanted reflections and help you obtain balanced room acoustics. If you’re looking to control absorption and diffusion at the same time, hybrid acoustic panels provide some great advantages:

•  Hybrid acoustic panels come with the 3/4 in thickness of flexible materials.
•  Curved surfaces balance a wide range of frequencies.
•  Optimize simultaneously room acoustics for absorption and diffusion.
•  Improves speech intelligibility and the overall listening environment.


OK; it’s your turn!

Be aware, most acoustic panels never work as a single entity; they work depending on the volume of airspace behind the materials.

We believe in honest approach, introducing WAVY® Acoustic, that exploits for airspace in acoustic foam, reducing reverberation, and is functional and beautiful at the same time.

So, if you feel frustrated by outdated products in room acoustics; call now.