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Let’s Talk About Noise - MergeWorks®
Let’s Talk About Noise
Hear the Sound Difference
Acoustics Explained

Noise in our workplaces, restaurants, schools, and healthcare environments are the single most troublesome issues expressed by all those who use them. Before we can help create an acoustic solution, let’s take a step back to understand what’s happening in these situations.

Sound is energy. When soundwave energy encounters a hard surface, one of four things happen:

  • The energy transitions thru the surface.
  • The energy is absorbed by the surface.
  • The energy is reflected away – called a bounce or reflection.
  • The energy is angled away in a different direction, this is called diffusion.

A great way to visualize how energy reacts to surfaces it encounters is to think of bouncing a basketball. You bounce that basketball on a hard surface and the ball predictably returns with virtually the same amount of energy. Bounce that basketball on a pillow, and the ball hardly bounces up, if at all. The energy the basketball carried was absorbed by the pillow. Likewise, when sound energy meets a solid surface, the bounce is much greater than when it encounters a soft surface.

Soft surfaces will not reflect as much sound energy as hard surfaces, but rather absorb it and stop the bounce. Hard surfaces reflect soundwave energy away. In spaces that you do not want any echo or reverberation, soft surfaces would be the most appropriate.


Whenever we hear a sound, we most often hear it from the source – “Direct Sound”. In cases where echo is present, we also hear that same sound, but it has been reflected or bounced off surfaces around us; floors, walls, ceilings, streets, rock canyon walls. These reflected sounds are called “early” and “late” reflections. These “reflections” arrive to our ears after the direct sound causes what we experience as echo.

The way to reduce echo is to introduce surfaces that are effective at absorbing soundwave energy. As in the pillow example, when soundwaves strike these soft surfaces, their energy is absorbed, leaving less energy to bounce or be reflected away.

We measure a materials ability to absorb sound energy with an NRC rating (Noise Reduction Coefficient). The NRC rating scale runs from 0 to 1.0. The higher the rating, the more effective the material is at absorbing sound. A 0.9 panel is better at absorbing sound than a 0.5 panel.

Acoustics Explained - MergeWorks®
Sound Transmission

Another aspect of acoustics we need to be aware of is when sound from one space can be heard in another space. This happens when soundwaves transit through barriers. We use a measuring system to rate how well materials block sound transitions that is called STC (Sound Transmission Coefficient).

As commercial furniture professionals, we cannot really solve the sound transmission issue – that is best handled during the construction phase or by a general contractor post occupancy. Our business is eliminating echo.

Crafting Acoustic Solutions

The first step is to walk the site if possible. This will help determine exactly what the acoustic issues are.  If you can determine that the issue the customer wants addressed is indeed echo – and not sound transmission, we can move forward to developing a solution.

A trick to help determine the level of echo within a space is to use the Clap Test. Clap your hands together as loudly as possible in the space in question. Watch our acoustic video to learn more about the clap test.

Acoustics Explained - MergeWorks®
Acoustic Calculator

In order to assist you in specifying, we automated a widely used mathematical formula that determines how much sound absorbing material is needed to reduce the echo within the space. Simply input your room dimensions into our online acoustic calculator to find your minimum and optimal amount of acoustic coverage needed.

Once you have your sq. ft. coverage amounts you can begin creating your acoustic solution based on the types of acoustic products that can be used in the space. Acoustic products can be used on desks, walls, ceilings, and as free-standing room dividers.

Tests have shown that it is not as important where you place the material (panels, dividers, screens, baffles, etc.) as long as you have the proper amount of material in the space.

For a deeper dive into acoustics, please download our acoustics whitepaper, “Practical Guide to Selling Acoustic Solutions.”

  • Acoustics Explained - MergeWorks®
  • Acoustics Explained - MergeWorks®
  • Acoustics Explained - MergeWorks®
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