Is there an echo in here? We’ve all been there, that moment in a new or very large space when you feel like you’re in an echo chamber. Every footstep is amplified, even whispers seem to have an echo. Any space with lots of bare walls and hard-surface floors can be prone to what’s called “flutter echo” – that distinct, whispery, ring sound is what happens when sound waves bounce between hard surfaces like ceilings, walls and floor. It makes listening to music or the television a challenge, and can make conversation unpleasant. It’s an acoustic problem, and fixing it makes for improved sound quality and conversational atmosphere.
Any two opposing hard surfaces can allow sound waves to reflect back and forth in a repetitive manner – effectively bouncing. The result is blurred sound and the indistinct echoes of delayed sound. Add in tall ceilings, or a long room and you amplify the problem. Though it tends to be more pronounced in large spaces, the effect can happen in small spaces as well. The effect can make your space feel cold, clinical and uninviting. Though installing acoustic tiles is certainly an option, there are other ways to improve the sound quality in your space, and do it beautifully.
On the floor
You don’t have to install wall-to-wall carpet to soften your floor space. Hard floor surfaces reflect sound extremely well, simply adding an area rug will both reduce the hard surface area, and absorb rather than reflect sound. Plus, they add warmth and style to your room! An area rug should be your first step in a room with tall ceilings.
On the walls
Soft surfaces, like canvas paintings or cloth textiles, will do the most to add sound absorption, but just breaking up the solid wall surface will also help disrupt the sound bounce. The softer the surface, the less bounce you’ll get. Curtains are another great way to add some acoustic balance to your space. Thicker fabrics will do more to soften sound than thin ones.
Upholstered furniture and lots of decorative pillows and throws will help dampen those echoes as well by absorbing sound waves rather than reflecting them. If your space is large, place your furniture around the perimeter of a large area rug for maximum sound dampening.
Adding plants to a room will create a better acoustic environment as well. Hang big, leafy plants in front of or near large expanses of hard walls, or place a tall plant in an otherwise bare corner and you’ll be surprised by the difference they can make.
Make sound bend
Break up larger spaces with tall bookcases or room dividers filled with lots of different-sized accessories. This little trick forces sound waves to essentially bend, which will diffuse and scatter them around the room. Books make for an amazing acoustic space and will go a long way to breaking up flutter echoes.