It is difficult to see where you are going if
you don't know where you've been. So first, a
Fall 1979. The AES show is in New York at the
Waldorf. SPARS has its first membership
meeting. Pro Sound News begins publication.
And, the first demonstration of acoustic
materials, a patented anechoic wedge foam, is
unveiled by the founders of Acoustics First!
In the early days, acoustics were a mystery. It
was not uncommon for one production room to have
a 5 dB peak and another 5 dB dip at the same
frequency. Certain sounds could amplify greatly
or disappear altogether depending upon where the
project started and finished. With this
condition, it is easy to understand why foam
became so popular, under the banner of "no
acoustics is better than bad acoustics." Taming
sound was starting to get easier.
Once the sound inside diminished, the noise from
outside became apparent. With foam having
almost no effect on sound transmission, barrier
materials such as sheet lead became popular.
As measuring techniques evolved and totally dead
rooms proved uncomfortable, rear wall
based upon the work of Dr. Manfred Schroeder,
entered the picture. This technique is like
acoustical "crowd control", designed to scatter
rather than eliminate the sound.
Control rooms evolved to "Live End - Dead End."
More people became aware that getting the sound
correct while it was in the air, by thinking of
acoustics first, saved in the long run.
In an earlier decade,
absorption was created by
installing fiberglass batts and stretching
burlap over them. Lesser degrees of absorption
were obtained by gluing school band room
acoustical tile or
carpet to the walls, for some
reason orange shag seemed the usual choice.
Some folks covered the room with
egg cartons, a
real fire hazard not to mention the cholesterol
danger from eating all those eggs!
Diffusion was added primarily by "building you
own polys." These items,
diffusers, were a common fixture in fifties
studios and on scoring stages. (Check out the
pictures of Elvis in RCA's New York studios.)
They fell out of favor due to the time and
labor required. It took several people to hold
the plywood while another fastened it. If it
slipped something or someone flew across the
When Disco came along,
floating floors became
mandatory to keep the "lead" foot on the kick
drum out of the live acoustic piano. One method
was to have a drum platform (made massive with
sand filling) rest on tires to de-couple it from
the studio floor.
Now that the children of the sixties are the
homeowners of the nineties, the demand for
better sound has come home with them. At the
same time there is less tolerance for industrial
looking materials at home, even in the band
Which brings us to the present and the mission
Acoustics First: to make "materials that look
as good as they sound." And to make it easy as
acoustical panels are manufactured to order
and covered in a variety of
standard and custom
fabrics. (No more itching and stretching.) The polycylindrical diffuser which doubles as a bass
trap (our "Double Duty Diffuser") is an
off-the-shelf item made to match the panels.
(No more getting three friends to hold the
plywood while the bend is locked in place.)
Neoprene replaces tires, (No more crinkled lead
foil.) And, for its 20th anniversary,
traditional acoustical foam is now available in
new colors of burgundy and hunter green.
As our company enters the next decade (see I
didn't use the "M" word), looking good and being
easy will extend to new products: The patented
Art binary array diffusor is available ready to
install in 7 different woods and a variety of
painted finishes. A stackable, nesting version
of the "Cutting Wedge" acoustical foam allows
increased absorption at any time by add-on
rather than replacement. The author's personal
favorite, a field tunable corner bass trap
(patent applied for), is expected in the spring.
Acoustics First Corporation
2247 Tomlyn Street
Richmond, Virginia 23230-3334 USA
Tel 804 342-2900 FAX 804 342-1107
Nick Colleran is a former recording artist,
Alpha Audio recording studios, and a
past president of SPARS and VPSA. In 1997, he
joined his wife Becky and former banker, Steve,