Audio

Top 10 reasons to do acoustics

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Acoustics can be a complicated and misunderstood aspect of custom integration, however there are major benefits of getting it right. Anthony Grimani gives 10 reasons why.

One of the questions custom integrators ask me quite frequently is, “Why should I offer acoustic products and services to my clients?” It’s a fair question, as acoustics has garnered an undeserved reputation as some kind of black art.
In truth, acoustics is a highly scientific process that can be as simple or as complex as you care to make it. Past all the bad hype lie some compelling reasons for every custom integrator to get involved in acoustics. My top ten personal favourites – not necessarily in order – are:

1. Acoustics will make your clients happy
Your clients are looking for an exciting, engaging overall home entertainment experience. That’s why they hired you instead of going down to the electronics save-a-lot and stocking up. Acoustical tuning products are just as vital to that experience as projectors, speakers, and seats.

2. Acoustics can make you money
You know there is a margin selling gear and installing equipment. That same margin exists for acoustical products and design services. With a little research and some good supplier contacts, you can add a whole new profit centre to your business.

3. Acoustics improves the frequency response in the room
Home-cinema-sized rooms all have problems with standing wave bass resonances and sound reflections off of wall, floor, and ceiling surfaces. These cause undesirable peaks and dips in the overall frequency response, as well as throwing off the timbre match of the speakers relative to each other and the overall balance of bass, mid, and treble. While it is possible to address some of this with electronic equalisation, many problems of acoustical origin can only be solved at the acoustical level – by treating the source of the problem with the right blend of absorption, diffusion, and bass control.

4. Acoustics improves the time response in the room
This is a very important point. Frequency response is only half the game. A room with good frequency response but poor time response is still a room that sounds bad. All that reflected sound energy bouncing around the room takes time to die down; meanwhile, it’s wreaking havoc on the signal clarity, imaging and soundstaging capabilities of the sound system. This cannot be fixed electronically. Absorption and diffusion are the tools that will help you here.

5. Acoustics improves the sound field integration in the room
Go into a home cinema that is not acoustically treated and you’ll probably come out talking about how good or bad the speakers sounded. Why? Because speakers in untreated rooms tend to sound like just that: speakers in a room. On the other hand, walk into an acoustically-optimised home cinema, and you’ll come out talking about how good the experience sounded. Acoustical treatments enable the speakers to work in harmony to create a seamless, 3D soundfield that is just not possible to achieve in an untreated room.

6. Acoustics improves intelligibility in the room
One of the chief complaints people have against the cinema is poor speech intelligibility. While intelligibility is a challenge in cinemas for various reasons, it doesn’t have to be in small rooms. Acoustically treating the room reduces the amount of reflected sound that your brain must sort through in order to hear the good stuff. There are many benefits to this, such as reduced ear fatigue and the ability to listen at lower volumes, which preserves equipment. But regardless of the volume, people can simply relax and enjoy the movie without having to fight to understand what’s happening.

7. Acoustics keeps good sound in and bad sound out
There is perhaps no more iconic image of family life than parents telling kids to turn their music down. If you think a kid’s stereo is bad, try a multi-thousand-dollar home cinema sound system that is literally trying to convince you it’s blowing the hinges off the door. Acoustics is not just about improving the sound quality in the room; equally important is keeping the tremendous amount of sound generated from leaking into the rest of the house. This is called sound isolation, and it’s our contribution to family unity. Sound isolation has the simultaneous benefit of keeping distracting, extraneous sounds out of the cinema.

8. Acoustics increases a room’s comfort factor
For a moment, let’s consider a home cinema to be just another room in the house. People want their homes to be comfortable and quiet environments where they can eat, sleep, entertain, and enjoy whatever leisure activities suit they fancy. Noise control, which is another facet of acoustics, considers the entire environment of the home cinema – or any room, for that matter – and eliminates all distracting or annoying noises. These are most often caused by things like HVAC, plumbing, and appliances; however, excessive sound reflections and echoes are also unpleasant. You may be surprised to find that your clients want you to treat other rooms in their house for noise and sound reflections once they discover how pleasant their cinema is!

9. Acoustics is a fun, educational experience
If you’re worried that it’s going to take some learning for you to incorporate acoustics into their services, you’re not alone. But consider this: learning can be fun and fulfilling (especially when the result of the “exam” is how much money you make). You’re not the only one who has to learn, though. You must also educate the client. Teaching is also fun and a great way to learn yourself!

10. Acoustics gives you a competitive edge
As I noted in the opening, acoustics is still a wide-open field. There are not a lot of custom integrators offering products and services right now, so you have an opportunity to get ahead of the game. It’s going to take some creativity on your part to figure out how to best sell your knowledge to the clients in your area, so don’t expect results overnight. Keep at it, though, and you’ll reap the benefits in the long run.

Anthony Grimani is president of PMI, Ltd. A leading Home Cinema design consulting firm. Visit www.pmiltd.com or email info@pmiltd.com. Chase Walton contributed to this column.

About Anthony Grimani

Anthony Grimani

Anthony Grimani is president of PMI, Ltd., a home cinema engineering firm, and MSR Acoustics, a manufacturer of fine acoustical tuning systems. MSR is represented in Australia by Wavetrain (www.wavetrain.com.au).

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