Acoustics Control Solutions Tame Boardroom Conference Call Issues

The boardroom at Axial Healthcare features ProPanel fabric-covered acoustic panels from Auralex Acoustics.

The boardroom at Axial Healthcare features ProPanel fabric-covered acoustic panels from Auralex Acoustics.

“Acoustics is an integral part of any environment; acoustics can make or break an AV installation,” says Scott Oliver, owner of Nashville-area-based Centerline Audio Visual. “You can waste a lot of money on a really great system in a challenging acoustical environment.” As a case in point, Centerline has addressed boardroom acoustics issues for Nashville-based Axial Healthcare in what has become the first in a series of upgrades; deploying acoustics control solutions from Auralex Acoustics Inc. to tame a problematic environment.

Axial Healthcare, a company specializing in the field of pain management, is headquartered in Cummins Station, a renovated train station in downtown Nashville. While the technical infrastructure was in place in Axial’s facility for the conference calls that are key to their business model, the acoustics of the spaces led to problems with intelligibility. A referral from a Centerline client led Axial to approach Oliver, seeking a solution to those problems.

“At Axial, they have quite a few conference rooms,” says Oliver. “The problem is that there are all these hard surfaces – plaster walls and windows. There’s a tremendous amount of low-frequency buildup in the rooms. When they’d be on a conference call with a group of people around the conference table, the people on the other end couldn’t understand what they were saying because of the poor acoustics in the room. They had several people come in an attempt to do fixes, but the problem remained.”

“I did an impulse response test,” Oliver shares, “and confirmed that there were substantial low-frequency standing waves, even with one person talking. It was just horrible, especially if someone has a big voice. You could even hear your voice resonating off the top of the conference room table.”

One long wall of the conference room is a glass wall. The other long wall is completely given over to a dry erase board. Neither could be permanently covered. A large video monitor that also had to remain visible is fitted to one of the remaining walls for video conferencing.

After constructing a room model for one of the primary conference rooms using EASE software, Oliver predicted the RT60 time for the room, the time it takes for the reflections of a direct sound to drop by 60 dB, as well as the related prediction of the percentage of articulation loss of consonants, %ALCONS, which typically is correlated to RT60 time. “Predictions are good to keep from doing the wrong thing, or from doing too much,” he says. While a general recommendation is that %ALCONS should never be more than 15 percent, “I disagree,” says Oliver. “I think they should never be above 10 percent. This room, before treatment, was 21 percent. That’s a lot of articulation loss. %ALCONS, when we were done, were maximum of 2.6 percent. That’s a marked difference. I also worked with Auralex’s regional manager Kevin Booth and his team on this, and they provided engineering data and another great set of ears as well. What they predicted came out exactly like mine. It was beautiful.”

The solution included mounting 18 Auralex Acoustics ProPanel fabric-covered acoustic absorptive panels on room surfaces that allowed permanent installation, 14 2- by 2-foot panels and four 2- by 4-foot panels. All the ProPanels are 2-inches thick. Additionally, six 2- by 6-foot by 4-inch Auralex ProGO stand-mounted portable absorbers on casters are used where a permanent installation was not possible. All the Auralex panels are surfaced with a fabric finish in the Petoskey color option.

“ProGOs are killer,” says Oliver. “They solve a lot of problems because you have absorption not only on the front but you also have it on the back.” The ProGOs can be moved when the room is used for other purposes.

“The big problem you run into in this business,” says Oliver, “is, with every other discipline in the world, you can see the results. But when it comes to sound and acoustics, you can’t see results.” The results are audible, however, effectively addressing the issues Axial was having with the room acoustics. “They were floored with the results,” says Oliver. “Everybody there is happy with it.”

Axial has a second, mirror-image conference room on the other end of their space, currently being treated with an identical Auralex solution, and Axial is building two more conference rooms. “We’re addressing the acoustics in darn near every room in that place,” says Oliver.

John Donahue, Axial Healthcare chairman and CEO, notes, “It is crucial to our corporate mission that we can communicate clearly to prospective clients during conference calls. In the past, sometimes voices have sounded distant or were overshadowed by background noise. With these Auralex panels, we’ve noticed a significant improvement in communication. For instance, we are asked to repeat things much less on these calls; making meetings run more efficiently with less disruption. We also appreciate that the Auralex team made sure their sound solutions were visually consistent with the existing design of our conference rooms. We are growing rapidly, having undergone two office expansions in the last 16 months. Another expansion is currently underway, and we have asked Auralex Acoustics to be involved with that project from the beginning.”

Auralex ProGO stand-mounted portable absorbers on casters are used where permanent installation in the boardroom is not possible.

Auralex ProGO stand-mounted portable absorbers on casters are used where permanent installation in the boardroom is not possible.

Oliver, who relocated to Nashville from Los Angeles in 2006, worked for another integrator before starting Centerline five years ago. In that time, Centerline has since seen success in providing A/V solutions for a host of clients. “We do a lot of churches,” says Oliver. “We also did the National Corvette Museum up in Bowling Green, Ky., as well as a number of studio jobs. Our acoustics business is really starting to take off,” he continues. “It’s been quite amazing, and Auralex Acoustics solutions are an important part of that growth.”

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