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Say What? (WHAT WHat What what at at at...)

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

Hi! I'm back. I know, I know... It's been a while, but here goes.

Put yourself in these shoes: You're out to have a lovely night on the town with your sweetie and you step into your favorite eatery for an intimate dinner. You doff your jacket, settle into your nicely appointed table and look lovingly at your dinner date and she says something loving and despite your best efforts, you can't understand her words because the hubbub is so overwhelming, you can't really hear her. Before the waitstaff can even bring you a glass of freshly filtered water (without ice if you please), you begin to reconsider your choice of venue. By the end of the night, you and your love are no longer speaking because of the shear futility of the exercise.

So much for a romantic evening, right?

We've all been there and it is frustrating as heck. I was reminded of this common scenario this afternoon at lunch with my Norseman office-mates. At points I had to cup my ears to hear the person only 3' away and constantly ask them to repeat themselves. It was irritating. The cruel irony of the whole exercise is we were there to discuss our recent foray into acoustical treatments for spaces like this one. As we were leaving, we asked to speak to the owner about offering our services. As of right now, this restaurant is off our list of places to eat because of the annoying level of noise.

Many a restaurant owner has considered acoustic treatments for their space but often think it is too costly to implement. One of my favorite local breakfast joints recently put some sound absorbing panels up on their ceiling to mitigate the noise in their space and it has helped greatly. There's nothing more expensive than no repeat business due to the atmosphere of a place.

So what's going on, you might ask. Well, it's simple - human beings are noisy critters. As we speak to one another, sound waves leave our mouths and without even asking please, they start to boogie around the air in the room we're in until they hit a hard surface where they begin a joyous bouncing about like so many rubber balls in a spinning clothes dryer. Fun for the sound waves, but not so good if you are having a conversation with someone and these rogue sound waves make a return visit.

"Tell us, oh learned  sound guy... how do we stop this epidemic of sound waves throwing a party wherever they go!"

Well, it's simple really. Sound waves are simply air molecules getting excited and sharing their excitement with the other air particles in their vicinity. Since these excited little devils are being caused by energy, we need to figure out how to slough this energy off and convert it to something else.

Sound waves are easily absorbed into softer media and the energy gets converted into heat. While it's barely measurable, that's how it works. Trust me. I'm a pro. Hard surfaces like tables, brick or sheetrock walls, tin ceilings, glass windows, etc are all good at reflecting sound almost perfectly whereas soft goods like foam, fabric and hair are great at converting sound energy into heat - thus absorbing the echoey little buggers. Take that rogue waves!

"Well, Mr. The-sound-guy, can't I just slap up some egg-crate foam on the walls and  that'll fix it?"

"Please don't."

Ok, to be fair, you're on the right track, but here's the catch - off the shelf foam products are often not properly fire rated for commercial spaces and certainly not recommended for residential spaces either. Imagine a candle or other flame source coming in contact with untreated foam - FOOM! instant fire plus some really toxic gases. If you don't believe me, then revisit the tragic fire at the  Station Nightclub some years back...they used foam that was not fire rated and the place went up like a tinderbox full of dry matches and gasoline vapors.

We are always happy to help people create useful spaces and acoustical treatments are an important step that is often overlooked. There is a vast range of safe products available that will make a huge impact on any space and we have experienced pros to install them for you.

Ok, sales pitch over. In the meantime, enjoy your meal... if you can.

Cheers! -gundy 

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