Achieving optimal acoustics in a videoconferencing room

In this current Covid era, we have become a lot more accustomed to the use of video-conferencing situations. Small room acoustics is becoming a major issue because small spaces can present acoustic surprises.

Workspace designers are typically used to the concepts of echo (reverberation), sound volume (dB) and noise frequency (pitch) in large open spaces, meeting rooms and other workspace environments but what we are seeing is that there's less understanding of how small single-person spaces can be designed to provide optimum experience for Zoomers, Facetimers, Google Hangouters and everybody else using video conferencing solutions.

This article provides our top three tips on how to achieve optimal acoustics in a room used specifically for videoconferencing purposes.

1. Place the room as far away from background noise as possible

Strategic location of videoconferencing rooms is essential as background noise gets in the way of your voice.

Typically mechanical service noise contains low frequency (pitch) and high frequency sound waves that penetrate and travel further - this means that they are harder to block and absorb, so ensuring the room is as far away as possible from such sounds is beneficial for enhanced user experience.

Likewise background noise such as people talking, traffic, wind etc can all combine to make video-conferencing more challenging, so the same rule applies - ensure the positioning of the room is as far away from background noise as possible.

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2. Apply absorption 50% of what Zoom picks up is from sound waves that have bounced around the room surfaces after leaving their source.

With this in mind, it is pretty essential that this 50% is eliminated. How? Application of acoustic absorption materials will ensure that airborne sound waves will be soaked up before they get the chance to reach the computer microphone!

When specifying acoustic materials for this purpose, ensure the product carries a noise-reduction coefficient of 0.9 as a minimum.
The next rule is to make sure you cover at least 50% of the wall surface area with this 0.9NRC rated acoustic absorption material. This ensures that there's as much chance as possible for the sound waves to be soaked up, and absorbed, therefore reducing the opportunity for sound waves to remain in the space.
Of course, sound that isn't absorbed stays airborne for longer - this results in the need to talk louder, or to switch up the speaker volume. In turn this creates more sound... and you start to get a compound effect that is counter to a comfortable and efficient experience.
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  • 3. Small is not best

    Sound waves don't just stop when they reach the end of the medium or when they encounter an obstacle in their path. Instead, how sound waves behave depends on many different factors such as:

    » The distance the waves travel before reaching an obstacle
    » The pitch of the sound wave
    » The volume of the noise
    » The reflective properties, or otherwise, of the medium reached
    » The sound waves will either bounce off the surface of the medium, diffract around the obstacle or transmit into the medium

    So the greater the distance between the source of sound and the obstacle, the better. As sound waves travel they lose energy - the opposite happens when they reflect off a surface (in this case they gain energy and momentum).

    So, the larger the space the better.

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If you would like to discuss videoconferencing rooms with one of our Workspace Consultants, please contact us.