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How to provide sound within inflatable structures

Optix Inflatable structures products are not fully soundproof, they do however baffle the sound somewhat. The air cavity wall that provides the structure’s structural integrity is a great insulator as it effectively acts as a big pocket of air around the structure. However, even fully enclosed roofed structures will cause some sound leak. We advise your partner audiovisual companies to contact us to discuss the best sound and lighting setup within our structures.

The best solution is to create a well-spread sound that doesn’t carry, this can be achieved with a distributed system. This system consists of several speakers at lower sound levels and dotted around the perimeter of the structure. Think of it like using headphones, with headphones, one user can hear the music nice and clear, but at a lower volume and the person standing next to you would only hear something faint. If there was one loudspeaker in the room then all of the people would hear the music and possibly in the next room too. So in terms of creating a well-distributed sound that won’t travel too far, we would suggest using more speakers and spreading them around the structure in a surround-sound effect. The sound level can then be reduced so that it has the same perceived volume for each user within the structure.

See the diagram below on a couple of options of sound distribution within our meeting structures. Please note one is recommended the other is NOT:

Sound distribution within inflatable structures
From the above sound options we would suggest Figure 2 & 3.

What happens when a distributed sound system isn’t used in an inflatable structure?

If using one or few loudspeakers in one of our inflatable structures for a large number of users (+30 people), the volume will be loud and will, therefore, carry a long distance and is harder to baffle or reduce the sound leakage. Other factors such as high ceilings, hard shiny surfaces such as windows, floors and roofs then cause reverberation where the loud sound echoes around the space. If multiple inflatable structures are used within a large venue hall, this can then be magnified by the number of structures used. This creates numerous sources of loud noise that is in turn reflected and bounces around a venue, almost like being at a racecourse with delayed Tannoy system with major latency issues.

We also recommend sealing up the structure, so no gaps can be visible for sound to escape. We can do this with freestanding glazed door systems and also our sound reduction canopy roof which consists of ground support truss, which can be used for mounting AV and graphics.

The suspended canopy is made of a blackout high-density material that reduces the ambient light within the structure making the presentation and lighting effects stand out with even more clarity. The trussing system then permits a mounting point for projection meaning that front projection can be achieved without losing any space within the structure for ground support projectors.

Sound waves leave the source, be that someone’s mouth or from a loudspeaker at the height of which the source is situated. The waves are dispersed in a fanned effect. If you stand directly in front of a speaker you will hear the sound louder and more clearly than if you were to walk 3 paces to its left or right. The most concentrated sound is therefore in the sweet spot of the direction of the loudspeaker, directly in front of the speaker. In terms of associating this with speakers within our inflatable structures and meeting spaces, the loudspeakers would normally be positioned at approximately 1.2-1.8m depending on the size of the inflatable structure and also the head height of the delegate, being seated or stood. To absorb the majority of these sound waves would help with the soundproofing of the structure.

There are 3 types of sound waves when considering register and sound frequency: Bass, Middle and Treble. Bass frequencies travel the furthest and can pass through mass the best, this makes them the worst type of sound wave in combating soundproofing. You’ll probably notice this when in the next room to a sound source, music especially. You’ll hear the rumble of the bass and even feel vibrations in the next room. The middle and treble frequencies will be dampened and difficult to hear. We, therefore, want to try and avoid bass waves as these are the hardest to dampen. Presentation and spoken word are the ideal sounds to work within our inflatable structures if you would like to control the sound in your event.

We now know that the most concentrated focus point for sound waves is at the centre of the source, and if this is at head height, then this is the area to provide extra sound dampening or absorption through adding a greater level of mass between the source (within the inflatable structure) and the area which we would like to be as quiet as possible, being outside of the pop-up structure. We do supply as part of our trussing systems a fully integrated sound reduction panels that stand upright around the inner perimeter of the structure.

Another more obvious factor for sound reduction is the distance away from the source. A rather obvious technique is to ensure that the sound sources are spaced as far away from each other as possible. For example, if we were working in a large hall with 4 structures, and each structure had presentations within them, we would want to be placed in each corner of the room, as far away as possible from the other inflatable structures. See below examples of this.

Floor plan options
Figure 2 shows the optimum positioning of inflatable structures within a venue if in search of minimum sound interruption

White noise is a common technique to mask the sound of speech, you’ve probably seen spy films where covert communications are had in rooms, filtered by white noise. In some cases this can be similar to noise cancelling, by recording and analyzing sound frequencies. The opposite polarity frequencies are then output by loudspeaker to cancel the noise by destructive interference.

We have thought about all aspects of sound reduction to achieve a system that produces minimal sound leakage and maximum soundproofing. Here are our tips to create the best sound experience from within an Optix inflatable structure.

  1. Always carpet the venue to avoid sound travelling by reducing the hard surfaces that sound waves can be reflected off.

  2. Place inflatable structures as far away from each other as possible within the space provided.

  3. Seal the structures up. If the venues allow it and ceiling height permits then a roofed inflatable structure works well. This roof can either be integral or we can provide a sound reduction canopy that acts as a blackout system too, which in turn increases the quality of the presentation visual. Glazed door systems work well to seal up any entrances or exits.

  4. Work with an audiovisual company that will supply a distributed sound system. Optix does not supply sound equipment or consult on sound, we can only suggest based on supplying many events where the sound has worked extremely well and learning what has worked from other AV suppliers and venues.

  5. Avoid using big bass-heavy music. Drum and bass and electronic music are the main culprits on this one. Stick to presentation style audio-only.

  6. Add additional sound-reducing mass such as sound-insulated panels. Please ask our technicians about this for your next event.

For optimal soundproofing or minimal sound leakage, we heavily recommend the use of wireless headsets. This solution to sound distribution is the most concentrated available on the market. It increases the choice of what venue is on offer, it reduces the need to have any other sound-reducing equipment and is quick to install. Along with a really well-distributed sound system, silent conferencing as it is sometimes known has worked well for us on certain projects where the venue features have lent towards a wireless system. Check out our case study here where 900+ headsets were used for an event within 1 large venue hall.

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