Acoustic Engineer & CEO
Acoustic Engineer & CEO
My name is Dennis Foley and I am the Chief Product Designer and Owner of Acoustic Fields. I have been an audio engineer for 30+ years now and have been passionate about music for as long as my grey cells can remember. My technology has been used in Electric Lady Land Studios, Sony Music of New York, Cello Music and Films founded by Mark Levinson, and Saltmines Studios in Mesa, Arizona, along with hundreds of others.
I started Acoustic Fields because I wanted to finally offer people real solutions to the acoustic problems endemic to all listening rooms, monitoring rooms and home theaters. You see back in the 80’s I was tasked with solving the room acoustic issues for clients in the high, high, high end office building space who needed really quiet but also great sounding rooms for both vocals and music… And to, cut a long story short, I did just that! Over 8 years of R&D, with a team of 8 and 3 project houses at my disposal, I found a way to solve low frequency bass issues (“bass boom” to some) to free the mids and highs of the human vocal range.
So I decided that I should apply the same high performance results to the audio market where my passion has always been. Why? Well because all through the R&D process I realized that a lot of what was being sold and marketed on the acoustic treatment market was a bunch of, how can I say this politely? Rubbish!
Knowing how passionate my friends and I were about music I was not prepared to stand idly by and watch other manufacturers dress stuff up as low frequency bass absorbers when they were nothing of the sort. If people, and maybe this includes you, are going to continue to buy cabinets stuffed full of rock wool and building insulation at least you should be told what level of performance you’re really buying into, namely something that is OK (ish) for middle and high frequencies but NOT something that is going to improve the definition in the low frequency range below 100 Hz. where all the real bass experience happens… And without the bottom end taken care of you really can’t get your precious mids and highs to pop.
You see some manufacturers have even gone so far as to try to manipulate the definition of what low frequency is and to some extent they have succeeded in the Audiophile market. Recording professionals, engineers and studio owners on the other hand understand that the real magic happens below 100 Hz., that’s where things get really interesting and that is the first area you have to treat if you are to ever get the intimacy you crave from your music.
So you should definitely not be miss-sold into believing a cabinet full of rock wool or building insulation will do much of anything to tame muddy bass because it won’t. After all the laws of physics will not allow it using that combination of tools and materials.
As a company I decided that we will not stand for people being ripped off by unscrupulous manufacturers and their well oiled marketing and PR departments pedaling products as something that they are not. The least we can do is educate you as to what you are buying, why it won’t work and what your alternatives are.
3 Very Unique Acoustic Solutions
As such, we really have 3 very unique solutions, which I’ll explain in more depth over the coming pages.
1. The first is our low frequency activated carbon bass absorbers which can be built into your walls or be placed in your room as free standing units. More about these later.
2. Secondly we have our acoustic foam which has smooth absorption curves and is wonderful for music and voice. It’s a lot more dense than common foams and I a refrain I often hear from customers runs along the lines of “I’ve never felt foam like this before”.
3. Finally we have created an industry first by marrying our low frequency activated carbon technology with the time tested process of quadratic diffusion. This tool solves two important acoustical problems in one unit.
So how did this story begin and how did we solve small room acoustic problems? Well it all started with a great opportunity I could not pass up…
How did I get to where I am today?
I was fortunate to become a partner in a real estate development firm that was concerned with building high-end office buildings. Now, when I say high-end, I really mean really high end. We had to have very quiet rooms; some of the walls were twelve to fourteen inches thick. Doctors, lawyers, things like that, they wanted me to design rooms that made them stand out, so that when people walked into the rooms, they would immediately be taken by the acoustics of the room and obviously that was a big selling point.
We tried a lot of things that were in the marketplace but I could never find anything that was really acceptable especially in the low frequency absorption end. If we were using our room for music, we needed low frequency control. Obviously if it was just a conference room we were using it for voice and so we needed middle and high frequency control.
Building Class A Office Buildings
So I was given a team of eight guys, a $2 million budget and eight years for me to figure all the solutions out. I bought three homes with the money. The middle home was the home that we used as our testing facility and we would build rooms of different dimensions, using different materials and then measure them. Extensive vibration and structural testing was performed along with a vast array of acoustical issues such as reverberation, first reflection time signatures, modal pressures and a host of others. We would then tear the rooms apart on an almost daily basis. We built different sized rooms that would resemble the rooms that we were going to be building in the office complexes. In all we built about four thousand offices over a ten year period. So from that we amassed a data base of over a hundred different rooms of different sizes that were actually physically built and measured.
So, without being too boastful here, I could probably say that we have a room that’s really close to the room that you’re in and I can pull it up on the screen and know exactly what kind of issues you’re faced with because I’ve built that room and treated the issues that you have. There is no substitute for practical, in the field experience, over textbook learning and running with the problems to the point where they ran out of gas and new designs emerged. The current trends were relevant but there were better ways to achieve that delicate room structure and function balance that comes from obtaining just the correct rigidity to flexibility ratio.
The Magic of Activated Carbon
Our big success came when we stumbled upon using activated carbon for low frequency absorption. Its kind of a fun story. You see the frustration with small rooms is the low frequency pressure problems they create. People have put up with the problem for far too long. I’ve talked to a lot of engineers over the years who just simply accept it. They just accept that you can’t control bass in your room because the rooms are too small; well, yes the rooms are too small but there are ways to deal with the problem.
You can’t work around the modal issues all the time and you can’t ignore them for there’s really no reason to do that. If you’ve purchased products that have been put out there from other manufacturers and installed them and been unhappy, I can understand why. I did the same thing when I built the office buildings. I bought current technology and installed it and was unhappy. So, believe me, I can understand what you’re feeling.
What is the problem in small rooms?
Its that muddy, bloated and blurred bass, we’ve all heard it. Some people call it bass boom. There are all kinds of names for it. It’s quite honestly disgusting and it’s just not acceptable because it has so much energy and it covers such a wide range of frequencies even from twenty cycles to fifty cycles; there’s a lot of music in that particular frequency range.
Well, if your room is not set up to handle those low frequencies or treated accordingly to handle them, they’ll blur your middle and high frequencies and we all know that we just can’t have that because that’s where our emotional connection to music is and hopefully we’re all trying to emotionally connect to our music. So if you’re not experiencing enough hairs on the back of the neck moments for your liking, this could be partly why. The emotional connection is the musical connection we all want and that really only comes about when all the acoustical issues of your room are in balance.
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So I took the technology that I put in the office buildings and I said “look let’s build a bass absorbing unit that people can put in their room”. So I worked for a couple years on taking the rigidity that we had developed in the new construction situation and measured that for vibration analysis and then came up with a cabinet that basically duplicated it within about ninety percent of the vibration characteristics I had in a permanent building.
Free Standing Or Internal Wall Absorption Options
We can’t all build walls in our rooms so we have to have a unit that’s free standing and easily positioned to do that so that’s what we’ve done with our ACDA units. They have seven layers of materials in them and they have different damping materials between each layer. So it’s a serious cabinet, I mean it does not move literally, it does not vibrate; it forces all the vibrational energy to the front two walls.
The way I found the activated carbon which gives these units their low frequency absorption horsepower is a bit of a funny story. I was in the office one day and I saw the light flashing on the filter on the faucet. I guessed it was time to change the filter, I tried to unscrew it, I couldn’t get it unscrewed so I shook it and I could hear something on the inside. Since I couldn’t get it open, and I needed to figure out what was going on, I hit it with a hammer and out came all of these little pellets and I started looking at them and they looked like little meteors.
So I started doing some research on activated carbon and I discovered that people were using it to filter water and they were using it to filter air. Well sound is found in both mediums air and water, right? Then I started looking at the surface area of this stuff and, I know this will look like a misprint but it’s true, there are two thousand square meters of surface area per gram of this material! So what did I do? I put sixty five pounds of it in each of our units. So that will kind of give you a feel, a kind of ratio of how powerful these low frequency units are, that we use. So they’re without a doubt, the most powerful absorbers in the world.
I will tell you this, they’re without a doubt the heaviest in the world too! An average two foot by four feet unit is two hundred pounds. So this is a real serious technology. No papering over the cracks.
What’s the results of all this?
Our middles and highs just literally jump out. There is a definition and a separation when you get the low frequency issues in your room under control and they are found throughout your room. They can even be close to the center of the room. Obviously they’re more prominent towards the room boundaries but they are everywhere in your room and not just the corners. I know the literature is full of all kinds of references to put your low-frequency absorption in the corners and I would say that’s a good start.
So there’s other areas that we have to address too. There’s a feeling of intimacy that you get when you get all of these issues coming into place. When you get the low frequency energy in a room under control so that the middle and high frequencies can ride smoothly on that low-frequency energy, so to speak, there’s a nice balance to your presentation so you can hear everything.
So when we get all of those things going on and you can stop trying to figure out different ways to do things; if we approach it from a step-by-step basis and deal with the low energies first.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON OUR UNIQUE TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS, REFER TO OUR NEXT SECTION ENTITLED WHAT MAKES US SPECIAL
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