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$20M Project: Acoustical Nightmare

By Mark Sipe
The Grand Room and Sitting Room have horrible sound problems: an echo with massive reverb from the concave ceiling and reflection from glass and stone finishes.

A few months ago, as the sheetrock was going up, one of my worst fears was realized: round ceilings look attractive but sound bad.

Like a satellite dish, acoustical energy can be focused into one point in space, like an echo in a canyon.

Both master bedrooms, the sitting room, the owner's office, the library and, of course, the 3,200-square-foot Grand Room have circular or oblong concave ceilings. I brought this up at the design meetings, engineering meetings and once the sheetrock went up, and everyone heard it. There are fixes and treatments, but most are Band-Aids.

I was mostly concerned with the Grand Room since it is a focal point in the home (no pun intended). Turns out it isn't the worst room. The sitting room, which is between the two masters, is where the client had us add a full surround system. The audio and reverberation are almost "funhouse scary." (Watch the short video and listen to the reverb.)

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