SOUND ACOUSTICS TERMINOLOGY

Acoustics
The science that studies the waves that are conducted through matter due to the motion of the matter. Usually air is the material that most people think of when it comes to acoustic waves. But acoustic waves exist in all matter. Architectural acoustics, is the study of acoustics when the air is contained in a room. Church acoustics is a sub division of architectural acoustics..

Sound (waves)
!ressure fluctuations in the air that are heard when an acoustic wave passes by. They are usually caused by ob"ects in the air that #uickly change position or a stream of air that #uickly changes position. $ound escapes away from the sound source as an expanding spherical wave that travels at the speed of %%&' feet per second, traveling about % %()th of a foot each one thousandths of a second *millisecond+..

Sound Level
The measure of the strength of sound. Units are decibels *dB+ and usually measured with a dB meter. The threshold of #uiet sound is ,ero dB and the onset of painful sound is %'' dB. Conversations are at -' dB, whispers at &' dB and shouting is .' dB. /hen the sound strength of something doubles, it increases by & dB, or halved, it drops by & dB.

Loudness
The apparent strength of the sound to the listener. A change in % dB is "ust barely noticed as a change in loudness. $omething twice as loud is actually %' dB stronger, *%' times stronger+. $omething half as loud is %' dB weaker, *%(%'th as strong+.

Di ect Sound (di ect si!nal)
The part of a sound wave that travels directly along the line of sight path between the speaker or sound source and the listener. The dry or actual sound.

Re"lections
$ound waves that strike a surface and bounce off are reflected sounds. They bounce off the wall, changing directions but keeping the same angle off the wall as they had when they approached the wall.

Ea l# Re"lections
0eflections that are heard within %(1' of a second of the direct sound are called early reflections. 2arly reflections cannot be distinguished from direct signals, they merge with the direct sound to form one composite sound. This combining effect can cause the sound of the direct signal to change in tonal characteristics and apparent direction.

Late e"lections (Ec$oes)
A distinct reflection that arrives at the listener later than %(1'th of a second after the direct sound is heard. The listener can identify from where an echo comes. An echo does not change the tonal characteristics of the direct sound.

%lutte Ec$o
This type of echo is most easily heard as one claps their hands out in front of them, while standing in a hallway. The sound 3,ings3 and it4s tone depends on how many times a second the reflection passes by the listener4s head. 5n a hall )4 wide, the clap will expand out, hit the wall and return %6& times a second and the ,ing will sound like a %6& 7, bu,,y tone. 8ot a real sound, "ust a pseudo tone.

Reve &e ation
9or sound in a large room, reverberation begins at about %(- second following the direct sound. 5t is due to the accumulation of many reflections, compounding one upon the other, so much that the sound no longer seems composed of echoes but rather "ust a sound of noise, a din of chaos that has no discrete direction and no discrete timing.

Di""usion
0eflections off of a non flat surface that causes the sound wave to become more #uickly disorgani,ed than if off a flat surface is a diffusive surface. :iffusion decreases the time it takes for echoes to become converted to reverberation. The beautiful gothic churches of the old world have very diffusive or sound scattering surfaces. That is part of the sonic beauty of those spaces.

it might be 6 seconds. Audiolo!# The science and practice of amplifying or otherwise improving how well a person hears sound. rendering the message not understandable. The conversational version of Articulation.! ound Noise) The unwanted. Intelli!i&ilit# A measure of the clarity of sound based on the comprehension of the message being conveyed by sound.' might be % second but in a gym.'< of the incident sound is reflected back into the room. NRC Ratin! *8oise 0eduction Coefficient+ A rating for absorption. 5t gives the < efficiency for a surface to absorb sound. particularly a message conveyed by sound. The fibers provide acoustic friction for the sound wave. rat. 9or a living room the 0T . 5f a surface is &'< absorptive. Articulation is most often measured in some form of a desired signal to unwanted noise ratio. a total sound level difference of . a clear and distinct sound may be drowned out by a nearby louder noise. Da . Too much can seem lack luster and uneasy feeling. Si!nal'to'Noise Ratio (S-N atio) The difference in sound level *dB+ between the desired sound and the noise floor. 2choes also cause articulation problems. The blending of the early reflections with the direct sound is another. Also.. undesirable and usually interfering sounds present in a listening space. A slurred sound may be well heard but the message it carries may still not be well understood. . A&so *tion The loss of sound energy that occurs when the sound wave strikes a fibrous surface.Deca# The dying out of sound. inarticulate. + i!$t-Livel# The condition of sound in which there is an abundance of treble range reflections giving the feeling of 3brightness3 or 3liveliness3 to the sound. Usually referring to the steady decline in the loudness of the reverberation. measured in dB. A ticulation The clarity of a sound. Noise (+ac. Noise %loo The strength of the background noise. +oo. tat. it is inarticulate.# The condition of sound in a room when the lower fre#uencies. such that it can be easily and completely understood. is an example of psychoacoustics. 5t is difficult to understand what is being said in a room with a high noise floor. The difference between an early reflection and a late *echo+ reflection. /s#c$oacoustics The study and science of how the human comprehends and makes sense out of the sounds they hear. particularly the male voice range is excessively reverberant. it keeps it4s same speed but it does lose energy and get #uieter. type of recognition test. The wave does not slow down due to the friction. then only . A 3cat. typically due to an air conditioner or other conversations.. Too much can seem harsh and irritating. bat. Deca# Rate (RT'()) The time *in seconds+ it takes for reverberation to change from very loud to imperceptibly #uiet.-Dead The condition of sound in a room when there is a lack of reflections and a lack of reverberance. $ound in a tile bathroom or kitchen is bright.' dB.

. 5t integrates the direct. it is based on psychoacoustics. Ult asonics $ound whose fre#uency range is above that of human hearing. Acoustical En!inee @ne formally educated. The number of repeat times per second that a sound has is called it4s fre#uency.. The 3color3 of sound is used as emphasis in the spectrum.. an emphasis on higher fre#uencies or a nasal color. who prepares blueprints for acoustic pro"ects. not formally trained. A neutral color is the preferred natural sound but sometimes sound can have a warm color. *7ert. 6k 7.. an emphasis on lower fre#uencies or a cold color. =ost tones are composed of more than one fre#uency.. Acoustician An acoustical engineer who is trained and experienced in voicing rooms. Sonic Colo The shift in emphasis of a complex sound within it4s spectral range.''' 7. it recogni. Tones are sounds that come from voices or instruments which have a repetitive pressure pulse characteristic. Acoustic Desi!ne $omeone. also known as a sound spectrum. 5t re#uires an understanding of the purpose to be served by each acoustic space. and ends at %. not formally trained. %k 7. an emphasis on midrange fre#uencies. experienced in the science and practice of acoustics. %1. Acoustic Consultant $omeone. above 1'. $imilar to pitch in musical terms.. As a science. between a lower set fre#uency and a set upper fre#uency. Sound En!inee $omeone trained in setting up microphones and speakers.+.. )k 7. The sound spectrum would measure the strength of each fre#uency and display that graph as a plot of $ound >evel vs. . The sound level measured at different fre#uencies.. 1k 7. Octave $ound that exists within a limited fre#uency range. early and late reflections with the reverberation. In" asonics $ound whose fre#uency range is below that of human hearing.7. Sound Desi!ne @ne who envisions and directs the way sound plays out of a stage. the impression that most people prefer to have of each particular type of sound that exists in some particular place. as in a musical chord. 1-' 7. 9re#uency. *k ? thousand+... below 1' 7. As an art form. 5t4s unit of measurement is cycles per second *cps+ also called 7.es the aesthetic side of sound. Acoustic Cont acto $omeone trained and experienced in installing acoustic tiles and wall panels. a combination of fre#uencies. including a sense of timing and direction for each into an appropriate and desirable acoustic condition for the listener. and continues thru . 5t combines both the art and science of sound. Sound S*ect u.% e0uenc# (1e t23 123 c*s) A single sound pulse as from a fire cracker has sound energy but no tone. The octave se#uence for the note 3C3 starts at &% 7. 4oicin! The process of defining the desirable condition of sound in an acoustic space. The difference between the lower and upper fre#uency is specified to be e#ual to the lower fre#uency. experienced in providing acoustical services.& 7. -'' 7.k 7..

. Also. lighting. The fairly continuous din of extraneous noise is called 3background3 noise. *9igure %+. of A 5f %.ed by how it looks. surface textures and paint. This doesn4t work very well. a place to listen to and learn from the lecture or.)& percent of the sound. their combined ears collect only '. whereby the loudness is out of context with the lecturer4s action it4s simply not natural. They have come to be in an auditorium. Acoustics 5)56 T$e 7uiete 3 t$e +ette >et4s start with the basics. nearly all of the sound generated by the sound e#uipment misses its intended target.Audito iu.%. funneling it down into the eardrum.''' people would occupy about ). 9or good intelligibility. and if it is well handled. $imilarly. !eople expect to hear a conversational style lecture at conversational sound levels *. By the time this wave reaches the audience. This tiny fraction of sound is called the 3direct sound3 because it goes directly from the loud speaker to the listeners4 ears. !icking up and handling the stray sound is the responsibility of the acoustical engineer. Background noise levels in a good auditorium will be as low as 1' dB A. The architect designs a building that is attractive. but the inner more lasting beauty of the auditorium is truly known by how it sounds. $peech heard in the auditorium should be comfortably loud and crystal clear. the auditorium will sound bad. there should be at least %' dB between the signal and the acoustic background noise. glass. The outer beauty of an auditorium is recogni. as the case may be. 5t has spread out over a #uarter sphere surface area of .' dB A+. These are the two kinds of noise.s ou a&ilit# to $ea The auditorium is meant for understanding speech. the other AA. which is suspended high overhead in the front of the hall.' dB A+. /e have also seen photos taken on a clear day but blurred by a moving camera.e the audience. the ears of the people. /hat happens to all this indirect sound is what auditorium acoustics is all about. that4s "ust about '. there will be at least 1' dB between the #uietest parts of the desirable signal and the background noise since the more #uiet parts of speech are easily in the 6' dB A range and less.ling display of architecture. should solve the problem.e over and block out the detain in an otherwise perfectly fine presentation. the loudspeaker. Lots o" sound3 &ut little is $ea d A sound wave starts at the loud speaker.%& million s#uare inches. The ability to hear and understand depends on the 3signal to noise3 ratio. percent of the direct sound emitted by the loud speaker. . The echo and reverberation of sound emitted from the loudspeaker is called 3acoustic3 noise. 2ach ear of a person collects about one s#uare inch of sound. person in the audience of an auditorium collects about two s#uare inches of the sound wave. To recap. electronics. 5f the indirect sound is neglected or mishandled. >oud sound is uncomfortable. >oud sound does not improve the acoustic noise to signal ratio because the loudness of the acoustic noise depends directly on the loudness of the loudspeaker. The people attend the grand opening and are impressed with what they see. The architect designs a great looking and comfortable auditorium. 5t would seem that if the noise is a little too loud then simply turning up the volume of the direct signal. The sound contractor installs a great looking sound system. /e want as much direct signal as is comfortable to receive and as little noise as possible. a place to hear and. but they have gathered for more than a da. And with this we mark the beginning of our "ourney into auditorium acoustics.. moreover. carpets. The general clatter in a hall from air conditioning to feet shuffling through the aisles can create a continuous din. Noise &loc. it has expanded out to a radius of about -' feet. is called 3indirect sound3.''' people are in the audience. ha. 7owever.''' s#uare feet of floor space. $eated way below. 5t should be kept #uiet so the people can hear and understand what is being said. the auditorium will sound good. the farther from the speaker they have to sit. noise such as echo and reverberation can act as a blurring agent that makes it difficult to even make out what sound is actually there. a noise floor that seems to white out. >oud sound does improve the fairly constant background noise to signal ratio. The greater the si.)-' s#uare feet or about %. 8oise destroys sonic clarity. auditorium design or renovation can be understood to involve three consecutive areas of expertise.'''%. *9igure 1+. are the many people who came to hear that sound. The sound contractor supplies a sound system to the auditorium that makes a direct sound loud enough so people can hear what is going on. The sound wave emitted by the loudspeaker spreads out in the shape of an expanding #uarter sphere. Cranking up the sound throws the presentation off. An audience of %. Also there is a context factor. /e have all seen photos taken in a fog. The rest of the sound. comfortable and allows people to see what is going on. percent of the total sound emitted by the central cluster loud speaker. a #uiet voice at #uiet voice levels *6' dB A+ and a raised voice at a raised voice level *. 7ow it is collected and processed makes all the difference between a good and a bad sounding auditorium. the sermon. A member of that audience typically might be seated some -' feet away from the loudspeaker.

a remembrance. but. >oud reverberation upsets the timing of se#uential sonic events by blurring everything together. piping turbulent air and fan noise into the room through every air supply and return opening. 2choes usually bounce off the back wall of the auditorium and because the person on stage is farthest from the back wall. /hen the background noise is at a raised level. 5n order to achieve a strong signal to background noise. Bust sit and listen in most any meeting space and you can distinguish operational system noise. /e cannot forget !avarotti walking off the stage of a large hall filled with people because the echo was so strong that he couldn4t sing but certainly. starting. people feel that they too can make a little noise and no one will notice. the background noise has to be reduced to as #uiet as possible.' . 2ven 7CAC units mounted on the rooftop generate noise that can come in through the roof and upper windows. There are three aspects of reverberation to be understood. if it is in limited doses. The second is how loud the reverberation becomes. once again. as in singing in the shower. choir and organ. !arking lot noise driving. shoe scuffing. full of disruption and inattention. 5t adds a dramatic flair of importance to speech. space heaters. But #uiet reverberation can be interesting. 5f a reflection is strong and we know where it comes from. 5t is an essential accompanist to acoustic music sources as orchestra. water and air in the building. ensemble. it seems easy for people to make "ust a little more noise.+ac. And it is most important that the performer does not suffer disorientation due to echoes. both fresh water and wastewater. $ome noise begets more noise. =ost of what is created is not directly heard but goes past the audience and begins reflecting around the hall. the hiss and hum of the sound system. a sonic afterglow. 5t is especially detrimental to speech and music in small hard surfaced rooms. like trying to be coordinated in a disco strobe dance floor. air conditioning noise and water pipes. To illustrate. kids talking and parents hushing. Acoustic noise3 ec$oes and eve &e ation $ound expands away from the loud speaker. This spiraling effect can create a very noisy auditorium. coke machine and cold water drinking fountain. They include the hum of lighting ballasts. down corridors. a person trying to stand absolutely still. we can understand and forgive. The air conditioning system is usually a strong contributor of noise. faucet shut off. a totally chaotic lingering presence of a previous direct sound.ing. garbage disposal. water hammer and thermal expansion and utility devices such as the copy machine. The operating system includes all things that operate in order to accommodate the occupancy of the auditorium. The third is how long the reverberation lasts or can be heardF the 3reverb time3 is officially the number of seconds it takes for sound to die down a full . watering. whining and eventually crying. books. toilet. the singer and the listener are one and there are no concerns for improving the communication. door slamming and sidewalk conversations contribute to intruding noise. @nset time delay is the time between the direct signal is heard and the reverberation begins to be heard. coats and clothes. doors. baby shouts. *9igure &+. overhead circulation fan motor hum. 7ere we have the noise from systems that handle electricity. Traffic noise penetrates inside. This then results in a further raised noise floor and. @utdoor stationary e#uipment such as heat exchangers and sprinklers cause noise. video pro"ector fans. as we understand acoustics. 5t is not unusual for echoes to bother the performer more than anyone else in the auditorium. Both reverberation and echoes degrade the perception of timing in the material being presented. candy wrappers. 7owever. 7ere we have the rustle of paper. 0everberation is the ongoing part of sound in a large hall that gradually decays away. $trong echoes are disorienting to the timing aspect of speech or music. it can also be great personal fun. An auditorium whose background noise level starts in the low 1' dB A range stays #uiet when the audience arrives. 5f we hear many reflections at one time from seemingly no special direction. The #uiet of a library provides testimony to this effect. $elf generated audience noise also raises the noise within the auditorium. room and walls of the building. 0ain and wind can cause noise by hammering and scraping on the building. 8oise is generated even when people breathe and when they make little noises of agreement and appreciation and whisper to each other. it is called an echo. There is a symbiotic effect of background noise. and to put it simply. 5t starts #uiet and stays #uiet all day. Denerally. refrigerators. the echo for the performer is the most delayed. in this case. intruding outside noise and self generated audience noise. 5n addition. let alone shake the structural beams of the building. room to room. loud reverberation is bad. 5ntruding outside noise is conducted into the auditorium through the windows. 0everberation generally ruins the presentation of modern electronic bands. But multiple this by %. under doors and through air conditioning ductwork. coughing and snee. breathing as shallowly as possible still generates enough noise to register 1' dB A at a distance of %' feet. Activities in other parts of the building get into the auditorium by passing directly through the walls but also by simply traveling in the air. it is called reverberation. any echo is bad. in from the street and down from overhead planes. Euiet reverberation can contribute to the feeling that a larger than life experience is taking place. There are three types of background noise.''' people and we have a significant increase in people generated noise.! ound noise Background noise is all the sounds one hears when the lecturer is not saying something. @ther systems sounds include the more intermittent operation of a dishwasher.

impersonal. 5f reverberation builds up too #uickly it competes with the clear perception of the se#uence of sounds that make up speech. Coicing the auditorium means deciding what to do with AA percent of the sound. personal chatau#ua style auditorium will have a large difference between direct and reverb levels. $maller auditoriums and more intimate sounding rooms should have reverb times as low as '. $ome languages speak more slowly and others more #uicklyF auditorium acoustics have to be designed for the kind of speech that takes place in them. &e"o e #ou lea* The auditorium is a purpose built hall. Before it can be designed. conversational chatau#ua style auditorium. 0everberation in an auditorium that is used for speech. These three reverb factors are generally the same for auditoriums used for speech. good sounding auditorium will keep them coming back. A short reverberation onset time will fill the essential #uiet moment that exists between and delineates se#uential sonic events.. They have ad"ustable acousticsG reflecting and absorbing panels that are moved. possible as little as . growing popular in the world of broadcast TC church worship. $ome auditoriums are built to support a varied venue. An old sa#in!6 Loo. generated by the loudspeakers but not directly heard by the audience. from speech and plays to operas and symphonies.dB.y. more political rally sounding auditorium will have a lower difference. co. the architect has to understand what the large hall is to be used for. A warm. Acoustically slurred speech is very difficult to understand. The loudness of the reverb changes the feeling of the auditorium. The loudness of the reverberation is important. *9igure 6+. The introduction of each new sound is blurred by the upwelling presence of the old sound.A seconds.seconds. . Background noise is best if kept at least 1'dB below the sound levels of speech. The personal. Before the sound contractor can specify the sound system. seconds. listening. plays and modern music. The time delay for the onset of reverberation should be about one third of a second. at least %' dB A below the level of direct speech will create reasonably clear speech. Denerally large rooms for speech are allowed reverb times of %..seconds. be at least %' dB A #uieter than the direct signal and have a reverb time die out within %. exposed or hidden to independently ad"ust the three factors of reverberation. $peaking more slowly can help this situation. the purpose of the hall must be understood.1. lectures and talks should have one third second onset time delay. A cold.dB A. built for audition. A reverb level of %' dB A below the direct signal is very desirable. =ore traditional music tends to sound better with longer reverb onset delay times. A bright and beautiful looking auditorium will attract people. But the #uiet. !eople speak at a rate of about three separate sounds per second. the feeling and style of presentations intended for the hall has to be understood. but forced slow speaking is a stopgap measure at best. 9inally the length of time the reverberation remains audible is to be ad"usted. Before the acoustical engineer can bring a voice to the auditorium. louder reverb levels and longer reverb decay times. as much as %) dB A. will have reverb times as low as '.