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What is a Sound Baffle?

Concert halls use sound baffles to improve the acoustics.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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A sound baffle is a device which is designed to muffle or at least greatly reduce noise. Most people are familiar with some form of sound baffle, because they are an important part of noise pollution reduction in daily life. One of the more visible forms a sound baffle takes is along highways, where large walls are constructed to reduce the spill of traffic noise into surrounding areas. Sound baffle material is also used to soundproof studios, reduce the noise from neighboring apartments with shared walls, and to improve acoustics in concert halls.

In the 1970s, engineers began to design computer models of acoustic situations such as performance venues and highways. They could see that making subtle manipulations in the angle of construction and materials used could have a profound impact on how noise traveled, and sound baffles began to be implemented in major engineering projects. The basic understanding of acoustics had been around for centuries, but these engineers were able to accurately predict and model for it, allowing for improved quality of life. Today, engineers continue to refine sound baffle design.

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In much of the world, noise pollution is a serious issue, thanks to the large amount of motor vehicles, manufacturing centers, and other sources of noise. Excessive noise pollution can lead to hearing problems, circulatory issues, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and other issues. For this reason, many homes are built with environmental noise in mind, and they integrate soundproofing measures such as thick walls, windows which do not face major sources of noise, and landscaping which helps to deflect sound. This helps to control noise at one end of the spectrum; a strategically placed sound baffle at the source of the noise can also greatly reduce noise pollution.

When used to reduce the amount of noise or reverberation, a sound baffle is usually made from thick, absorbent material. The material does not allow sound waves to penetrate it as readily, and it also prevents the waves from bouncing back to the source. Sound baffles which follow this design are often installed in offices to reduce the sound of humming voices and equipment, along with schools and other public buildings which host large numbers of people.

A sound baffle can also be used to improve the quality of acoustics. In addition to preventing reverberation, well placed sound baffles can make the sound quality in a performance space much better. Most large performance spaces have reconfigurable sound baffles, allowing them to customize the environment to the performance. The installation of sound baffles also helps to cut down on noise from outside the venue, which may disturb a performance. In performance venues, sound baffles which absorb are paired with baffles designed to deflect or reflect sound to the audience, enhancing the acoustics of the performance.

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