Acoustics for Clubs and Lounges – 2

Great. Now that we’ve largely taken care of soundproofing in the previous post, let’s look at what happens in the interiors.

All Glass 

Glass is something we can’t avoid these days, and the challenge is to ensure that the sound field in a room is sufficiently diffuse, despite perfect planar reflections from large panes of glass all around you. This poses trouble even for the mids and highs, let alone the LF.  How do you introduce time and phase shifts? How do you reduce the spot intensity of standing waves forming peaks and nulls at the same spots ALL the time? Well, clever options are possible if you lay down the fundamentals of the concept/solution to the architect, and let them play with it. They ARE the creative of the species. In Mumbai, a lot of old industrial sheds have been successfully converted into music lounges – despite the theoretical odds.

Mixed Usage

Here’s a very generic scheme of what sound should sound like, for various usages:

Frequency MoviesLive MusicGaming
BassLoud, but not boomyTightLoud and Boomy
MidsShortLong, resonantShort

Now lounges have another category    – DJ music. The kind of absorption you need for these scenarios is really different, but we always have to strike a balance. There is always a mixed usage. The kind of bass you need for DJ music is thumping, compared to the kind of tight bass you need for say, smooth jazz. Actually, for those who know their music, within EDM ( Electronic Dance Music), there are so many sub-genres each of which have a typical characteristic feel – all contributed to by the balance of highs, mids and lows.

Now while it’s great to experience this variety, at the design level it is not really possible to alter a room’s response to suit different scenarios. So broad generalizations are made, keeping in mind the primary use, the secondary use, etc. Sometimes the extremes are too far away to bridge – such as one project I’m pitching for where I will need to design for typical lounge music, DJ music, and the space also doubles up as an exhibition area, or ( hold your breath) – a conference room!  The ambience for an exhibition area must be a quiet one  – low noise, piped music, etc, and for speech – deadly quiet. HVAC hum, etc are factors to monitor here. Now for the volume of the space, speech is going to sound terrible if music is to sound awesome. Variable acoustics is the key here. There will have to be additional absorption brought in when there is a speech event going on. The design must be modular, easy to assemble and move, and sturdy.

Such a situation also requires variable sound systems. You can’t be playing piped music through a line array meant for live music. Sound system engineering is also critical for soundproofing. Choice must be made between having a distributed system or a line array-like system. Distributed systems must be chosen to ensure their coverage isn’t much more than needed – to avoid excess sound pressure at the walls. Compared to distributed systems, for the same power configuration, a line array system will beam all energy along the main axis – while keeping smaller amounts of energy in the side lobes. This makes it suitable for long halls, marginally/significantly reducing soundproofing needs for side walls, but surely increasing the soundproofing requirement for the opposite wall. However, low frequency response is nearly similar to that of a distributed system. So soundproofing requirements for LF stays the same.

Mixed usade presents another issue in that seating plays a very important role in acoustics, and we are unable to take that into account for such cases. Seating accounts for a significant absorption, and so does the crowd – we design for 2/3rds occupancy typically. If furniture is going to be modular, to be shifted in and out for various scenarios, our calculations have to buffer for that. Also, the place could have 150 people for a DJ session, and only 25 for an exhibition. The challenge lies in making intelligent estimates, and in knowing the broad ranges of parameters within which these estimates are true.

Concluding each such article leaves me excited about the variety of cases we get to solve in the ever-evolving melting pots that our cities have become.

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