Where to Place Acoustic Panels: Height, Separation, Walls & Ceiling
Where to place acoustic panels depends on the space you are acoustically treating as the effectiveness of your sound absorbing panels is heavily reliant on where you install them.
Acoustic panels should be placed on all walls and ceilings to help reduce echoes and reverberation from most sound waves.
On walls, sound absorbing panels should be placed at ear level height, at reflection points and no more than 2 panel widths apart.
On ceilings, place acoustic panels at reflexion points or evenly distribute across the area you want to treat.
From offices and schools to recording studios and your own home, noise can be a problem no matter where you are. If you’re looking to improve the acoustics in your room, understanding where to place your sound absorbing panels needs to be top priority.
Today, we’ll be exploring the best practices for placing acoustic panels, and showing you how to work out where to put acoustic panels to achieve the best results.
How high to hang acoustic panels?
Hang acoustic panels on walls at 4 to 5 feet from the floor (about 1.2 to 1.5m), if most people are sitting or at 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8m) if most people are standing. Generally acoustic panels should be placed at ear level, but acoustic panel placement will vary depending on the type of room you’re trying to treat, and what the space is used for.
Here are some typical rooms and spaces and the height at which setting up acoustic wall panels will achieve the best acoustical effects:
- Home Theatre: centred at the height of the home theatre’s speakers, normally between 4 to 6 feet from the floor (or at about 1.2 to 1.8m high)
- Office: centred 4 to 5 feet from the floor (or at about 1.2 to 1.5m high)
- Lecture hall: centre acoustic panels at the sitting height of the students in the hall.
- Home studio: centre at 6 feet from the floor (little over 1.8m high) or centred at the height of the speakers.
- Recording studio: centre at standing height at 5 to 6 feet from the floor (about 1.5 to 1.8m high) or centred at the height of the speakers.
- Classroom: centred 4 to 5 feet from the floor (or at about 1.2 to 1.5m high)
- Restaurants: centred 4 to 5 feet from the floor (or at about 1.2 to 1.5m high)
- Hospitals: centred between 4 to 5 feet from the floor (or at about 1.2 to 1.5m high), where patients are in beds or in waiting areas and between 5 to 6 feet (or at about 1.5 to 1.8m high) for hallways.
- Hallway: centred at 5 to 6 feet from the floor (or at about 1.2 to 1.8m high)
How far apart should acoustic panels be?
Place panels on walls between one and two panel widths apart to maximise the perimeter of the entire set of panels. Avoid placing panels together without spacing in between them to maximise efficiency.
For example, for 600 x 600mm panels, place them 600mm apart and no more than 1200 mm apart. For 1200 x 600mm panels, place the long side in the vertical position and separate panels between 600 and 1200 mm apart.
On a ceiling, place acoustic panels no more than two panel widths apart to maximise the acoustic treatment area and reduce echo. Avoid placing panels together without spacing in between them.
Where to place acoustic panels in a room?
Place acoustic panels on all walls and on the ceiling to cover the most amount of reflective surfaces, minimise noise, echo and reverb.
Where to place acoustic panels on a wall?
Prioritise placing panels on first reflection points, at ear level and in corners.
First Reflection Points
The first place you’ll want to put acoustic panels is where sound first hits prior to reaching a listener’s ear. These areas are known as ‘first reflection points’.
Every room has spots where sound waves are most likely to be reflected, so it’s important to position acoustic foam or fabric in these areas. For example, if you know that people tend to talk in a certain spot in the office, then the sound of their voices is likely to resound off the wall they’re facing, making it a great candidate for acoustic treatment.
At Ear Level
Sound waves travel in a straight line until they encounter an obstacle, so it’s important to know how high to mount acoustic panels. Too high or too low can seriously impact the performance of an acoustic panel.
This will take some knowledge of your space and how people use it. In a classroom or office where most people spend the majority of their time sitting, you’ll want to position the panels about four to five feet up to line up with their ears. In rooms where there’s a lot of standing, the panels should be around five to seven feet up.
In the Corners
Bass tends to build up most strongly in the corners of rooms, so treating these areas is a great way of minimising the noise. Please note that while standard acoustic panels are excellent at absorbing mid-range and high-frequency sounds, they’re not as effective at managing lower frequencies.
Bass traps, which are specifically designed to control low-frequency sounds, may be a more appropriate option for these areas.
It’s also important to place sound absorbing across parallel walls to maximise acoustic treatment.
However, small budgets and physical obstacles in the room may make this unachievable. In this case, ensure that each set of parallel walls has at least one wall that’s treated with acoustic material to alternate your panels with the opposing wall so that each gap on one side lines up with a panel on the other.
Where to place acoustic panels in the ceiling?
Where you place acoustic treatment on the ceiling depends heavily on the shape and size of the room, as well as what other surfaces are present. However, acoustic ceiling tiles can be used to cover the entire ceiling space – as is the case with traditional dropped ceiling designs. Alternatively, panels can be evenly distributed in rows, or they can be suspended in clusters.
The goal is to cover reflection points, think where the sound is coming from and where you can place acoustic panels to absorb the sound and stop it from bouncing around the room.
The ceiling is one of the largest sound reflectors in the room, so treating it with acoustic tiles is a great way of minimising reverberation and preventing the hard surface from amplifying perceived noise.
Where to place acoustic panels in a home theatre?
Home theatres are typically quite small rooms where noise can bounce around, muddying up the sound coming from your television. To improve the sound quality, you can install acoustic panels as well as bass traps in the corners to capture those lower tones that are common to horror and thriller movies.
To work out where to place acoustic treatments, a good place to start is by identifying your first reflection points. A first reflection point is the first surface that sound waves come into contact with, and the area where the most disruptive echoing occurs.
Like light, sound travels in a straight line until it encounters an obstacle, so a clever way of identifying your first reflection points is with a handheld mirror, some tape, and a friend:
Step 1: Have a friend or family member sit on the couch or chair where you most often watch TV.
Step 2: Hold the mirror up against either of the sidewalls.
Step 3: Move the mirror around the wall. Every time the seated person can see the reflection of a speaker in the mirror, mark that spot on the wall with tape.
Step 4: The spots you mark are your first reflection points: the first places you should be putting acoustic panels.
Where to place acoustic panels in an office?
A busy office can be a noisy and distracting place. Ensure your panels are evenly spaced, and position them at ear height – either sitting or standing, depending on how your teams work. Acoustic clouds or acoustically treated drop ceilings can also go a long way to manage noise.
You can discover more techniques for managing office acoustics here.
Where to place acoustic panels in a lecture hall or classroom?
Excessive noise in the classroom can seriously impact student focus and productivity. Positioning acoustic panels around the perimeter of the room and on ceiling surfaces is a great way of helping improve sound quality in the room.
In the classroom, students spend most of their time sitting at their desks, so acoustic foam or fabric panels should be installed roughly four to five feet up. You may wish to supplement your acoustic panel treatments with other soft surfaces such as fabric furniture, carpet, and rubber stoppers on chair legs for maximum effect.
You can learn more about improving classroom acoustics here.
Where to place acoustic panels in a home studio?
Poor sound quality is even more problematic in a home studio where you’re trying to record or produce music. Here are some of the most important locations you should consider treating with an acoustic panel solution:
- Behind studio monitors to prevent sound from bouncing back at the speakers
- In dihedral corners where two surfaces meet
- First reflection points on your sidewalls
- Front and back walls – consider alternating panels for maximum echo reduction
After installing your acoustic panels, you may wish to perform a clap test by standing in the centre of the room and giving one sharp clap, listening for an echo. This can help you decide if any of your rooms needs further treatment, and can also help you identify where to place extra acoustic materials if you need them.
How to Place Soundproof Wall Panels for the Bedroom
While acoustic panels don’t have enough density to block noise, they can still improve room acoustics and create a more comfortable and echo-free environment. Evenly spaced, the benefits of sound proof panels are that they cut down on reverberation while creating a nice, even sound in the room.
Installing an acoustic cloud on your ceiling may be a little pricey, but it can also be a highly effective and stylish way of improving the acoustics of your bedroom.
Where to Place Acoustic Wall Panels in the Living Room
Ideally, every wall in your living room should feature evenly spaced panels. However, this can be costly and will restrict your ability to personalise the space with photos, artwork, and other decorations. To save money and wall space, try positioning panels on just one of each set of parallel walls.
You can further improve sound quality by installing acoustic ceiling tiles. These should cover roughly 30% of your ceiling surface. This will cut down on echoing without deadening sound or making the room seem lifeless and unnatural.
How to place acoustic panels
How you lay out acoustic panels will depend on a number of factors, including your goals, your budget, how loud the room tends to get, the space available to you, physical obstacles, and sources of noise in the room.
- Note Problem Areas in the Room
Locate the areas where the most noise is generated, including high-traffic spaces, corners, and oddly shaped walls that tend to trap sound.
- Treat Your First Reflection Points
Your first reflection points should be a priority for acoustic treatment. To identify first reflection points, ask a friend to sit or stand in a commonly used space and run a hand mirror along the wall. Use tape to mark any spot where a source of sound appears in the mirror.
- Ensure Effective Placement
Sound travels in a straight line, so panels are most effective when placed at ear height. Be sure to consider whether people in the room will spend most of their time sitting or standing to work out the correct panel height.
- Space Your Panels Evenly
For better, more even sound, your panels should be spaced evenly throughout the room at no more than twice their width apart.
- Maximise Acoustic Panel Layouts
Alternate panels on opposing walls so that no two bare surfaces are facing one another. This can help minimise reverberation.
- Consider Your Budget
Ideally, you want to place panels on every wall, but if money is tight, you can still achieve excellent results while cutting your costs in half by placing panels on just one of every set of parallel walls.
- Less is More
While the temptation may be to cover every available surface in sound-dampening materials, this can actually worsen the acoustics of the room. We recommend covering between 15%-30% of wall surfaces.
- Enhance Sound Performance by Placing Panels on the Ceiling
The ceiling is a major sound reflector. Use panels or tiles on your ceiling to further improve the acoustics in the room.
- Use Bass Traps in the Corners
Acoustic panels excel at capturing high and mid-frequency sounds, but they aren’t quite as effective when it comes to bass, which tends to gather in the corners rooms. Use bass traps to help manage this.
Do I Need to Cover the Entire Wall with Acoustic Panels?
While it may be tempting to cover your entire wall with acoustic panels, this may actually worsen the acoustics, creating a space that feels lifeless and unnatural. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll notice the greatest improvement by applying acoustic foam or fabric panels to about 15%-30% of the surfaces.
How to Install Acoustic Panels
Now that you know where to put acoustic panels, it’s time to learn how to install them.
How to install an acoustic panel depends on whether you are installing it on a wall or on a ceiling. Explore our article on How to Install Acoustic Panels to learn more.