Field Report: Acoustical Solutions AlphaSorb

October 3, 2013


In May 2013, Liberty University's Victory Radio Network moved its facilities from a historic house on the school's campus to a storefront space in a nearby shopping center. The project was a welcomed change. Leaving a house-turned-radio station and relocating in a building that was specifically designed for broadcast fostered an environment for implementing much needed improvements. The most noticeable feature in the new studios is the acoustical treatment. Victory FM worked with Acoustical Solutions on the installation of AlphaSorb acoustical wall panels. This product improves the acoustical properties of each studio by leaps and bounds and it provides a visual component that is fun to look at.

Acoustical Solutions AlphaSorb

The Victory Radio Network facility houses four studios used on-air and for production. The master control studio is visible from the street. Behind it is the production studio, followed by production control, and the programming/engineering office, which is used for production as well. The long, narrow layout of the building lends itself to the studios not being perfectly square, but square enough to create standing waves and resonance. Consequently, the studios have skewed walls offset by about 8" each. This design allowed us to forego the installation of corner traps. The walls however, are drywall, making reflections an obvious problem. Acoustic treatment of some sort was in order, but we didn't want to take away from the fresh clean look of the new studios. Plus, we wanted the entire facility to have a uniform look that displayed the station's burgundy color. AlphaSorb was the perfect solution. Plus, when we learned how easy it is to install ourselves, AlphaSorb was even more attractive.

The product

Michael Binns from Acoustical Solutions in Richmond, VA, visited our studios and took meticulous measurements of each wall, painstakingly noting the placement of windows and doors. We wanted to cover each wall from floor to ceiling and make the panels fit perfectly. Acoustical Solutions custom-cuts the AlphaSorb panels and assigns numbers to notate where each is to be placed on the walls. Each panel can range in size up to 4' x 10.' We specified 1" thick panels because it worked well with the trim package on our studio windows. Panels are available in 1" and 2" thicknesses with beveled, mitered or radius edges. The edges come either natural or chemically hardened. They are made of rigid, highly compressed fiberglass insulation covered by Guilford of Maine 100 percent Terratex Polyester fabric. It is Class 1 fire rated.

  Performance at a glance  
  ■ 1" or 2" thicknesses
■ 48 available colors
■ Mounts with Z-clips or impaling clips
■ NRC rating from .85 to 1.15
■ Contains primarily post-consumer recycled content
 

Because AlphaSorb is primarily used to reduce or eliminate audible reflections on wall surfaces, the NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) is important. Simply put, the NRC rating indicates how much a frequency is not reflected back into the room once it comes into contact with the acoustic material. The NRC rating for the 1" thick AlphaSorb is .85, which means on average, the wall panels will absorb 85 percent of frequencies between 125Hz and 4kHz. The NRC rating for the 2" thick AlphaSorb is 1.15. As would be expected, the reflection dampening ability is excellent. When guests walk into a room surrounded by the panels, they immediately comment on the attenuated reflections. Conversely, the rooms aren't "dead." Frequency absorption is just right for a broadcast facility without making the room stuffy.

A full-sized panel is very lightweight and easy to move. One cubic foot only weighs 6-7 pounds.

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The installation

The AlphaSorb wall panels ship with either impaling clips or Z-clips for fixing the panels to the walls. The impaling clips look exactly like the gusset plates used to hold trusses together. They are small and are simply hot glued or screwed to the wall. Then, a glob of construction adhesive is applied next to the impaling clip. When the panels are pressed into place, the impaling clips and adhesive hold everything together. If Z-clips are desired, a 4' x 6' panel, for example, would ship with six evenly spaced metal clips attached to the back of the panel. The installer simply installs the matching metal clip to the wall, and the panel essentially hangs on the Z-clips. This installation is excellent for panels that are temporarily moved or hang from ceilings. Layout and leveling of the Z-clips is important, but not terribly time consuming.

Acoustical Solutions AlphaSorb

I chose to install the panels myself with some help from the radio station staff. Except for a few longer panels that required more hands, the process was simple. I started with the panels that touched the ceiling, assuming that if there was any drift or something got out of square, it would be best to have it show up near the less-visible cove base on the floor. The biggest challenge was measuring and cutting around receptacles and light switches. A utility knife easily cuts the panels and a pair of scissors cuts the Guilford of Maine fabric. I spaced the impaling clips evenly over the area of the panels and used the construction adhesive somewhat liberally. After aligning the panel, I used the palm of my hand to pop panels into place. The impaling clips take hold, the adhesive sets up, and the panels look incredible.

It is important to consider the installation of receptacle and switch boxes. Since we were adding an extra 1" of material to our walls, the electricians installed electrical boxes that stuck out an extra inch until the AlphaSorb was installed. This allowed us to easily cut around the boxes and put regular cover plates back on. By way of a hint, if your cutout in the panel is slightly too big, used an oversized cover plate and the problem is solved!

  Acoustical Solutions  
  800-782-5742
acousticalsolutions.com
info@acousticalsolutions.com
 

Using AlphaSorb panels equally provide an aesthetic showpiece and acoustic treatment for our studios. The 1" option fits neatly on the walls and cleans up reflections that would otherwise render the room useless for live on-air work and recording. Don Strahle and Michael Binns from Acoustical Solutions were great to work with, and they took our needs into serious consideration. AlphaSorb is a well-designed product that will serve our needs for many years to come.


Wygal is the programmer and engineer for Victory FM at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA.



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