RESTAURANTS – Zagat Survey's 2008 edition of America's Top Restaurants notes that excessive noise has become the 2nd most common complaint with restaurants, after poor service.
The Internet is full of customer complaints, and articles about the issue have appeared in major newspapers—from "Working or Playing Indoors, New Yorkers Face an Unabated Roar" in the New York Times to “No Appetite for Noise” in the Washington Post Magazine to “I Really Hope You Said Fork” in Canada's Globe and Mail.
Ten years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle became the first daily newspaper to include noise ratings in its restaurant reviews. Since then the practice has been adopted by the Washington Post and newspapers in cities across the country, including the New York Times (a Chelsea bistrot was recently given the dubious rating "fairly challenging").
Acoustic problems in restaurants exist because the streamlined look so favored in restaurant interior design is made primarily of hard surfaces that reflect sound. The problem can be solved by applying the right type and amount of acoustic material integrated into the existing design aesthetic, with an eye and ear to striking a balance between liveliness and speech intelligibility.
As a restaurant owner, what you see are the customers in your establishment. What you don’t see are the customers who don’t come back because of the noise, but will when they hear about the solution.
BARS – In many bars, a vicious cycle occurs in which the din of conversation overtakes the music, which is then turned up louder, which brings the conversation levels up and so on until everyone is shouting and the combined noise is approaching levels hazardous to hearing health and may even violate OSHA standards. With proper treatment, the cycle is stopped before it starts – the overall sound level is reduced, with no loss of the energy and lively dynamic of the bar atmosphere.
NIGHTCLUBS – by treating the stage area, the sound delivered to the mixing position is free of unmusical, high-decibel early reflections, so as a result, the music coming through the PA is clean, and actually requires less volume to deliver the desired impact. Additional treatment throughout the venue absorbs and diffuses the sound from the PA, reducing the risk of hearing damage to patrons and employees. And it just plain sounds better.
HOSPITALITY – Hotel banquet facilities are generally ill-equipped acoustically for amplified live music and are home to some of the same problems experienced in nightclubs. Permanent and removable wall panels and floor-standing, wheeled acoustic panels can solve most sound problems.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS – Gymnasiums, auditoriums, theaters, music rooms, cafeterias, industrial arts rooms and aquatic centers often exhibit acoustic problems which can be overcome with a balanced approach to the unique challenges of each type of space.
HOUSES OF WORSHIP – The acoustic properties that contribute to the dramatic atmosphere in HOW’s are the very same that cause problems with when amplified live music is introduced. A combination of permanent treatment and moveable panels around amplified musicians can offer dramatic improvements.
OFFICES – Create a sense of privacy in open-plan offices by reducing reflections that broadcast speech. Many cubicle walls offer little sound absorption, but can be retrofitted on-site.
RESIDENTIAL – Reduce echo and reverberation in great rooms and enhance the acoustics of stereo/home theater rooms. More often than not, the best way to upgrade the sound of a music system is not new equipment, but well-placed, attractive acoustic treatment.