Best Types of Sound Diffusers and How They Work

wooden sound diffuser

Last updated: January 11, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Sound diffusers are a staple in modern homes, studios, and halls. The ability to soften, disperse, and even eliminate sound is one of the many reasons why so many people choose sound diffusers as opposed to other products.

This article gives you the ultimate rundown on how sound diffusers works and goes on to explain the different types of diffusers including what you should look for when purchasing one.

What is a Sound Diffuser?

Sound diffusers can be made of varying materials and shapes, but they are all designed to lessen the audible effects of boundaries. These devices are often used in recording studios and other places where sound quality is especially important.

Sound diffusers work by dispersing the sound waves that reach them into multiple directions, so the sound produced is more even. This is achieved by deflecting some waves that strike a surface, so they can travel around to the other side. The result is lessened concentration in certain directions, thus reducing feedback and echo.

Conventional methods used for achieving these effects include hanging fabrics from ceilings, placing absorptive material on walls, or making use of specialized room shapes

A sound diffuser can be created from any number of materials. In most cases, these materials are some sort of foam or plastic. Some materials have a better degree of diffusion than others, but it’s often necessary to try several different types until you find one that works just right for your needs.

How Do They Work?

A sound diffuser is a device that increases the diffusion of sound. Diffusers are designed to scatter sound waves in many directions instead of reflecting them into a single direction.

The purpose of a diffuser is to make acoustic energy from a source spread out over as wide an area as possible. Sound diffusers work by breaking up the sound waves into thousands of different frequency bands.

Unlike traditional materials, modern sound diffusers do not reflect or absorb sound; they disperse it over a wide area. The individual frequencies are then absorbed and dissipated so that humans no longer hear the original sounds. This reduces the intensity of the sound at any one point and makes it more difficult to locate the source, especially in large spaces such as auditoriums and concert halls.

Sound diffusers are used in many places where unwanted noise, such as echoes or reverberation, may occur. They are also used to protect people who are sensitive to noise, such as those who suffer hearing loss due to age or excessive noise levels at work or home.

Sound diffusion can also be used to block sounds, such as fire alarms, school bells, and baby monitors. Sound diffusers work by reflecting sound waves into the room where they came from instead of allowing them to travel through an open door or window.

diy sound diffuser

Diffusion vs Absorption

Diffusion is a way of spreading the acoustic energy around the space evenly, which serves to reduce the peak sound level. It also creates a diffuse sound field that appears to have some depth and width.

The downside is that the diffusion process involves spreading out “good” frequencies along with “bad” ones. Since most reflections from boundaries are at low frequencies, any surface treatment that diffuses sound effectively will also diffuse low-frequency energy.

This is where sound absorption comes in. Absorption is a way of taking bad frequencies out of the room without reintroducing them later. Ideal absorption would be complete and selective at all frequencies, but no single material does this well, so combinations are often used.

The classic combination for home theatre use is absorption on the side and rear walls combined with diffusion on the ceiling and floor. This gives good performance over a wide frequency range with good freedom from flutter echo and multiple reflections.

Sound Diffuser or Absorber: Which One is Best for You?

The diffuser and absorber are both tools to control a room’s acoustics, but they do it in very different ways. One places absorptive materials around a room and the other radiates sound around the room.

The two types of devices do what they do by different mechanisms; their results are quantitatively different and qualitatively different. In some ways they are opposites, yet both can be used in the same space to create a fine balance of sound.

A sound diffuser is a device that attempts to break sound waves into many smaller waves with much less energy than the original. Absorbers do the opposite: they attempt to contain and absorb any sound waves that come into their area.

Both types of devices are used in home theatres, multi-room setups, and drum rooms to create optimum acoustic environments.

Treating your room with either a sound diffuser or an absorber will make it sound better. However, depending on your acoustic environment, one or the other may be more appropriate.

For example, if you have a small room with little reverberation, using a diffuser will likely only result in spreading out the existing reflections in the room. If you have a large room with some natural reverberation, using an absorber with well placed diffusers will likely give you better results.

Best 5 Types of Sound Diffusers

A good acoustic room can be achieved no matter the size or shape. Utilising various types of sound diffusers available on the market today.

The five most common types of sound diffusers are:

1. Quadratic-Residue Diffuser (QRD)

QRDs are effective in treating low frequency sounds. It is formed by squares, rectangles, or triangles. These shapes work by creating a set of parallel wave fronts with overlapping wave troughs and crests.

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The shapes create a series of soft reflections that help to diffuse the room’s reverberations. QRD is a great choice for improving the sound quality in any room. It is highly recommended for places like recording studios, gyms, and home theatres.

2. Acoustic and Colour Panels

Pattern designs and colour panels are specifically designed to offer an acoustic solution to heavy reverberation issues, while still maintaining the aesthetic appeal of a space. These panels come in an array of patterns, shapes, and colours that are sure to complement any environment.

Colour panels are also available in custom sizes and shapes. Pattern designs can be custom ordered with a unique pattern, shape, and size so that you can create the right look for your space.

3. Skyline Diffuser

skyline sound diffuser

Skyline diffusers are made of fabric or wood and contain varying height blocks. These are arranged in a unique, patented design that creates an acoustical shadow within the diffuser’s physical boundaries.

What does this mean?

It means that sound is directed away from the ceiling and walls, allowing it to be projected more evenly throughout the room. Skyline diffusers can work effectively with any type of loudspeaker, including in-ceiling or in-wall. This makes them ideal for both commercial and residential use.

4. Fibreglass Acoustic Diffuser

Fibreglass has been around for years and is still very popular because it is so affordable. It can be found at many hardware stores and is easy to install. Fibreglass diffusers are made from an open-cell material that looks like a sponge.

When hit with sound waves, it absorbs them and then releases them over time, creating diffusion through absorption. The absorption quality means that fibreglass will not alter the quality of the sound after diffusion.

5. Barrel Sound Diffuser

The barrel sound diffuser is the most common type of sound diffuser panel found in recording studios around the world. These consist of an outer barrel and inner core. The function is to break up the sound waves and distribute them into a 90-degree arc. This helps with reducing standing waves, flutter echo, and comb filtering.

Cylindrical sound diffuser consists of two sheets of plywood with a space in between that is filled with various materials.

The purpose of this design is to create a “reflective” surface on one side. The other side acts as a barrier to keep audio from escaping behind the panel. The result is the ability to concentrate audio energy into a specific area while controlling reflections by blocking off other areas.

Spread the Wave… Know Your Options

So, there you have it – a closer look at sound diffusers, what they do, and how to use them in musical applications. With many different examples out there, it’s clear that sound diffusers do a great job at improving the overall acoustic response.

If you need a new way to improve the quality of your sound, then be sure to investigate sound diffuser options. Predominantly used in recording studios, they can also be applied to a host of other applications, such as live sound reinforcement and even home audio and video.

So don’t be afraid to experiment with a few different options to see which one’s work for you and your setup.

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About the Author: AJ

AJ is a self-confessed soundproofing nut. He has written full-time on Quiet Living for the past 3 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about living a quieter life, soundproofing and fixing loud noises.

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