Synopsis: Sound and visual designers have always been at loggerheads, be It in the design of an upscale café or a heritage theater or even a simple living room. While visual design usually takes precedence, sound plays a vital role in the functionality of the venue. Architects and interior designers like clean undisturbed lines and beautiful flowing curves accentuating the visual aesthetic of a venue, led by the design brief from a client. Sound on the other hand is often an afterthought that is plugged into the space either by the AV consultant or the contractor. This invariably leads to some amount of conflict and heartburn, with fierce debates of “form over functionality” or “function beyond form”, usually with both parties having to concede some space (the sound guys claim that they get the raw end of the deal always!).
One of the more exciting areas of research is into acoustic properties of materials and how transducers can be produced from even the unlikeliest of materials. Enter “invisible” loudspeaker technology: which is basically a way to bring exceptional quality sound from engineered flat panels and small apertures, with acoustic properties rivaling the best in conventional loudspeaker technology. So much so that Its now possible to extract full bandwidth sound at eminently enjoyable levels from loudspeakers that are invisibly “embedded” in walls or ceilings. No more unsightly boxes, grilles and ungainly brackets disrupting the visual flow.
Research into materials and acoustic properties coupled with acoustic modeling using advanced software have allowed loudspeaker designers to create flat tile-shaped loudspeakers that allow plaster/paint and wallpaper finishes to be applied after installation, lending to seamless finishes. All this without compromising on the quality of sound for most applications such as background/foreground music and speech. Where more sound pressure levels are required, small aperture technology allows loudspeakers to be embedded into walls/ceilings/floors with only a visible coin-sized aperture that is able to accurately reproduce sound up to commercial cinema/auditorium levels. These small apertures are then further hidden from view by applying custom finishes such as wood, fabric or metal grilles.
So be it a heritage theater or a minimalistic modern living room or a museum/experience center, now visual designers do not need to compromise, without loudspeakers jutting into view. Or having to design around black boxes that break the visual flow. And for the discerning customer, it’s the best of both worlds that meet form and functionality.
Prashant Govindan, Director – India, Generation AV (India) Pvt. Ltd.