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What’s the Difference Between an Echo and Reverberation?

Tips on solving a noise challenge in your space

Though you might think that echoes and reverberation are pretty much the same thing, in fact there is a big difference to noise control experts like the team at Avenue.

An echo is a single reflection of a soundwave off a distant surface; while reverberation is the reflection of sound waves created by the superposition of such echoes.

To put it a little more simply, reverberation is the persistence of a sound after it is produced. When a sound source ceases, the sound waves will continue to reflect off hard wall, floor and ceiling surfaces until they lose enough energy and die out. The continuation of the reflected sound is known as reverberation.

Do you hear reverberation or echoes… echoes… echoes…?

An echo can only be heard by humans when the distance between the sound source and the reflecting body is more than 15 metres. Reflecting sound off a nearby surface that’s closer than this creates reverberation. 

An echo is usually clear and easily distinguished because of the distance and time the sound wave travels. Reverberations do not usually have enough distance or time to travel, which means they can pile up on each other, making them very difficult to distinguish.

Echoes can be used to determine the distance of a reflecting object such as a large building or mountain if the ambient temperature and humidity are known. Reverberation does not allow enough travel time to be used to measure distance.

Why reverberation causes problems in a space

With reverberation, sound waves pile on top of each other, arriving at the receiver’s ear at different times. This makes the sound very difficult to comprehend or understand.

The piling up of soundwaves also increases the sound energy in a room; a buildup of energy which will eventually excite the structure and increase the room’s overall volume. That’s why reverberation in a room will cause people to raise their voices to compensate for their inability to understand speech.

Adding sound absorption in a space will reduce these reflections and cause the sound waves to decay faster. In public spaces, a comfortable decay time should be less than two seconds.

The best way to solve a reverberation challenge

Avenue Interior Systems are experts in reducing reverberation and improving a room’s acoustics.

The most practical way to deal with reverberation is to add absorption materials to a room. Ceiling tiles, sound absorption panels and other materials can control sound reflections and reduce reverberation within a space.

For challenges with speech intelligibility, controlling reflections that interfere with the direct speech path is important. Absorptive panels installed strategically throughout your space will improve speech intelligibility and lower general room noise.

Talk to Avenue for professional solutions to reverberation

If you have a reverberation issue in your office, hall or classroom, contact Avenue Interior Systems for a customised solution on 1300 827 177.

We look forward to designing your silence.