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Room Acoustics


Room acoustics has been defined by a physicist as a mere subchapter of enclosed spaces acoustics that itself is a subchapter of continuous medium mechanics [1]. However, for many acoustically minded people, this is akin to the ultimate domain of acoustical engineering when thinking of performance halls. But production halls are also volumes to be contended with! And so are open-space offices.

Room acoustics mainly revolve around the same concern: enabling the occupants to hear the sound signal coming from the location of interest while not being unduly exposed to unwanted noise from other locations, ensuring proper sound propagation in the room, controlling the reverberation inside the room, and specifying the relevant noise criteria for the mechanical equipment.

This chapter is devoted to the basic physics of those phenomena. Application of those bases will be done in the relevant following chapters.



Very early on the need to try to characterize the acoustics of a room had been understood. The composer Handel was known to clap his hands in the place where he was going to have a concert prior to deciding on the program; similarly, the composer and organist Silbermann would hit the floor with his cane to assess his acoustic environment. A significant step was spanned when a professor at a school of architecture named Sabine eventually noticed how the acoustics of his lecture hall would change according to the number of cushions brought in by the students! This led the way to the notion of quantity of absorption.

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