Architectural Acoustic Materials
Written by Kent Damschroder

The Waves and Vibrations of Sound

Architectural Acoustic Materials

Acoustics refers to sound, specifically how sound is transmitted and how the surrounding environment affects sound. Acoustics is also a specific branch of physics focused solely on sound.

Sounds are vibrations and the vibrations cause pressure in the air near our eardrums. Then the sounds travel through a hollow tube structure to the inner ear – the cochlea. Thousands of tiny hairs inside the ear are impacted by sound waves and they move back and forth in rhythm with the sound vibrations. This movement creates electrical signals that are sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. This all happens in a fraction of a second, so quickly we imagine it’s simultaneous with the sound.

So, how does our ear distinguish between loud booming sounds and high-pitched sounds like singing? Vibrations at slow speeds create low pitches while faster vibrations create higher pitches. In addition to the speed at which the tiny hairs vibrate and send electrical impulses to the brain, other nerves carry those impulses to areas of the brain that we interpret as happy, sad, frightening, etc. That’s why we may dance and enjoy music but be startled and scared by a loud noise. All this happens in fractions of a second, faster than we can perceive.

If sound is made by vibrations and waves, the materials around us influence those vibrations and waves. You’ve heard expressions about sound bouncing off walls. That’s exactly what happens. Have you ever been inside a room where your speech sounds hollow or echoes? Or rooms that are soundproof and incredibly quiet? Both of these are examples of the effect the materials in our environment have on the sound we hear.

When architects and designers consider what materials to use they must consider the intended use for a space. A concert hall requires different acoustical treatments than a library. The environment in an office building will differ from that of an indoor stadium. And, the types of materials used will influence the quality of the sound.

Manufacturers have spent years developing the finest acoustic products to meet the needs of businesses and organizations around the world. Midlantic Sales Group is proud to be the Maryland, Virginia and DC manufacturer’s representative for companies all over the world engaged in the use of quality acoustic products. Contact us online at or call 410-224-5665.