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Should You Be Designing for Sound Diffusion or Sound Absorption?

Should You Be Designing for Sound Diffusion or Sound Absorption?

Sound is a fickle thing, often in the background permeating your mind and body unbeknownst to the underlying effects it may be having on your health. If sound were a visual thing it would certainly be taken more seriously but instead, it lingers, sometimes stressing the body in ways that science is just beginning to recognize as an actual health hazard.

When left alone, sound waves bounce around, creating echoes and uneven sound. In some spaces, such as hospitals, office spaces, traditional classrooms, industrial spaces, hospitality, and residential settings, the noise is best absorbed, to create a more peaceful environment. However, there are some very unique architectural spaces that need a different approach to create an optimal sound environment. This is where a balance of sound diffusion and sound absorption is needed to create a crisp, even, sound quality throughout a performance space, for the audience to feel closer than they actually are, and enjoy a better listening experience. When and where to apply sound diffusion versus absorption is often misunderstood. That is why it is best to hire acoustic engineers as consultants to help get things right, especially for performance spaces.

Only specialized spaces benefit from sound diffusion. For example, a newborn intensive care unit in a hospital needs less noise rather than improved sound quality. However, auditorium spaces, theaters, large presentation-style conference rooms, and music classrooms where clarity of sound matters to an audience need a perfect combination of sound diffusers and absorbers to tune the space.

Sound diffusion helps reflect and spread sound waves out more evenly for a complete hearing experience. Not to be confused with sound absorption, which reduces and may even “deaden” certain sounds, sound diffusion attempts to spread out sound using hard surfaces for a more natural experience. Sound diffusers are often wooden panels with variances in depth and angles to help scatter sound frequencies out into different directions. They are one acoustic component used for tuning an architectural space so when the sound does contact your ears it is a more robust, and full-spectrum experience.

Knowing the secrets of why sound diffusion matters can put you and those around you ahead of the curve in a world where sound is beginning to be just as important as light, color, taste, and so much more.

Sound Diffusion Applications

As mentioned, sound diffusion is different from sound absorption. Although these two need to work together, they each impact sound differently. Placement is key, and when acoustic engineers assess a space, positioning is essential for manipulating and transforming vibrational waves for the audience of the space.

Research from Engineering Acoustics at Lund University in Sweden which was published in the journal ‘Acoustics’ describes some of the mechanisms of sound diffusion, stating “With the diffusers, the energy is conserved, compared to the absorbers where the energy is reduced, explaining why both horizontally oriented and vertically oriented diffusers have similar values in terms of sound strength. A reason for the effect on speech clarity and reverberation time is the scattering of the diffusers” (1).

Applying effective sound diffusion techniques requires a highly trained acoustic engineer with proper sound computer modeling tools if it is a new design and sound detection tools for existing spaces. After construction, a sound diffuser calculator or an acoustic diffuser calculator are used while moving to all the varying positions throughout the space to adjust the sound diffuser panel angles and optimize the sound waves for the audience.

There are many different approaches to the proper placement of diffusers, along with balancing them with the number of sound absorbers being installed to balance out the deep bass sound waves and high pitch sounds. For example, if a home theater is being designed most sound will be coming from the front directly toward the viewer. Diffusers will therefore be set up in the rear of the theatre to re-direct the oncoming sound energy waves while 1D diffusers are placed on the side walls along with sound absorptive panels in the corners of the room to evenly distribute the wide spectrum of sound waves from side speakers.

Some open-faced wood sound diffusion panels even have a sound absorptive material like FSorb on the backside to create a better balance in the frequency of sounds being reflected. The two work together to eliminate any echoing and balance the spectrum of high pitch and low pitch sounds, creating a crisp reflection directed out to the audience.

Noise diffusion and sound absorption installation can be achieved without compromising the original aesthetic atmosphere of your space. More importantly, the combination of our Eco-friendly materials which contain no toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds), chemicals, or fiberglass offers a more healthy space to live and/or work in.

Architectural Considerations

When designing an auditorium space or redesigning a current theater space in which sound quality matters, sound diffusion can be a significant consideration. Creating balanced sound diffusion with sound dampening can bring the personal acoustic experience to the next level, even if those experiencing it don’t even know it is happening. As your brain processes sound it attempts to understand its meaning. When the sound is chaotic, sharp, loud, and scattered it could result in an overload of the senses that may cause responses such as:

  • Headaches

  • Confusion

  • Poor mood

  • Fatigue

  • Poor performance

  • Compromised focus

  • Feelings of mild claustrophobia

By spreading out reflected sound energy through a balance of sound diffusion and absorption, the impression of a larger space could occur. This is advantageous for smaller auditoriums or theaters so as to offer more mind expansion rather than unconscious, systemic stress. Patrons benefit as their experience becomes extra enjoyable due to a calmer more palpable space which in turn means repeat business.

Architects, interior designers, and acoustic engineers can utilize our FSorb panels to create an optimal sound environment. These are affordable, visually pleasing, inconspicuous, wholesome solutions that bring each space to an auditory perfection that surpasses the competition and other subpar atmospheres. FSorb is the healthy building choice for top acoustic performance, durability, enhanced voice absorption, and thermal properties.



At FSorb, we are motivated by improving human health and do so by creating eco-friendly acoustic products. Our mission is to help designers build beautiful spaces that reduce excess ambient noise while calming the human nervous system. With over 25 years in the acoustic business we stand behind FSorb as a durable, environmentally friendly, and low-cost product. If you want an acoustic solution that is safe to human health at an affordable price, then we are your resource.

(844) 313-7672





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