Thursday, Apr. 27th 2017

Theater Acoustics Design Tips

Good theater acoustics often require more than a few wall panels. High school theaters, in particular, can be challenging spaces for acoustical engineers such as ourselves to tackle. That’s because these multipurpose auditoriums are used for plays, lectures, assemblies, musical performances, and more. It’s our job to help the architect achieve the perfect acoustical balance for the space.

How do we do this? Here are a few recommendations:


Fort Riley Middle School theater acoustics

AVANT worked on the Fort Riley Middle School theater acoustics & AV design.

Location Affects Acoustics

Choose a quiet location for your theater, away from major roads and noisy spaces. Try not to place the auditorium next to music practice rooms, mechanical equipment rooms, etc. Also, hallways and storage rooms can serve as great “buffer” spaces to acoustically isolate the theater. 


Acoustical Treatments for Theaters

Achieving the right balance and placement of sound-reflecting and sound-absorbing materials on theater walls often requires acoustical consultants. They will measure the reverberation time at different frequencies throughout existing auditoriums, or create acoustical models to calculate the results for new construction. Too much reverberation at high frequencies will result in “bright” or “harsh” theater acoustics. At low frequencies, too much reverberation will make the space sound “boomy,” and may be prone to feedback in the sound system. Too little will cause sounds to lack “warmth.” 

Depending on the acoustics of your auditorium, a consultant might recommend sound-reflecting and/or sound-absorbing materials on the ceilings, side walls, and rear wall.


Interior Design Tips for Theaters

Wichita Southeast High School auditorium

Great auditorium acoustics were the result of this project at Wichita Southeast High School.

Hard surfaces reflect sound, so choose fabric-upholstered seats to help control reverb in the theater. Metal or plastic seating may be cheaper, but they can mean disaster for your acoustics. Absorptive seating, on the other hand, helps provide stable reverberation conditions in the auditorium, no matter how many people are in attendance.

Carpet can also significantly affect theater acoustics. We typically do not recommend using carpet under the seating. However, carpeting the aisles will help control footfall noise and high-frequency reverberation.


That’s a Wrap!

Hopefully these theater acoustics tips give you enough to get started. Remember that every project is different. If you run into a problem, just let us know. Experienced acoustical consultants and AV designers around are only a phone call away!

In the meantime, check out some of our recent handiwork on similar spaces by clicking the photos in this post.

2 Comments on “Theater Acoustics Design Tips”

  1. Andrew York Says:

    I’m consulting on a project in Huntsville that badly needs your attention.
    I’m giving the architect a free 5 min. recommendation, but would benefit greatly from consultation from Avant (Bob Ledo, Ed, etc.)

    The architect has used you in the past for SRS. This one need Architectural Acoustical treatment recommendations, AV and SRS.

  2. Drew Siebert Says:

    Andrew, thanks for the kind words! We are always happy to help theaters, or any other types of spaces with their Sound System, Audio-Video System, and Acoustics needs! I hope your client decides to reach out for our assistance. Did you know that through our partner network we can also provide space planning, theatrical consulting, and theatrical lighting design. Combining these services, clients can have all of their specialty consulting needs covered for theater projects.

    Drew Siebert, President

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