Transforming existing spaces into venues for live or amplified music and comedy – acoustic design for reverberation and sound insulation

27 August 2020 by Mike McCabe, Senior Consultant

Music and arts organisations are always looking to create new venues for live or amplified music, comedy and theatre by transforming spaces which weren’t originally designed for performance. Spaces like this can provide a new and exciting setting for events. However, organisers often come across a number of practical hurdles running events in this type of space, with acoustic issues being high on the list. On a recent project Spectrum have assisted an established theatre in overcoming these hurdles to create a new events space by using simple solutions to transform the existing foyer mezzanine area.


There are two main ways in which acoustics are critical when creating a good performance space:

The experience of sound within the space itself

  • All the best event spaces have good acoustic properties – event spaces with poor acoustic characteristics can create a disconnect between the audience and performer, affecting both the quality of the performance and the enjoyment of the audience (often in ways the audience aren’t consciously aware of)
  • Different uses require different design and characteristics
  • Good design takes advantage of the features of the existing space and the proposed use
  • Acoustic design of spaces for live or amplified music and/or speech can be complex but sometimes simple solutions can be the most effective
  • Room acoustic modelling using ODEON can be extremely helpful in prototyping solutions
  • In the recent project Spectrum’s client wanted a space to be suitable for live or amplified music and comedy but still flexible for other purposes and without compromising the large area of curtain walling with great views
  • Spectrum were able to take advantage of the unusual shape of the room in question and simply recommended an acoustic curtain along a curtain wall, which provided a significant benefit without compromising the flexibility of the existing space

Model before and after

Sound transfer from the event space to surrounding spaces

  • Can be very problematic, especially where sensitive spaces adjoin or are nearby
  • Noise from live or amplified music in particular can be extremely disturbing and individual sensitives vary
  • It’s vital to consider the relevant guidance and limitations, whether there are already complaints, planning limitations, employer’s requirements or in some cases a less specific goal to improve the existing situation – Spectrum can help clients understand their obligations, focus on achievable goals and work towards a desirable outcome
  • Spectrum can also help in setting realistic expectations before embarking on expensive projects. We can use our experience to help clients understand what is possible and what the inherent limitations of the space are
  • For this type of project, a combination of technical work and experience is crucial
  • In the recent project, Spectrum visited site to carry out initial measurements and inspect the space closely. We are able to identify the two key problem areas with testing and a third additional problem area which didn’t show up in testing but became apparent as a result of our experience of construction methodologies
  • Once the goals, key issues and criteria have been established, acoustic modelling can again be extremely helpful. By using ODEON, Spectrum were able to try different solutions and compare the effectiveness, eventually resulting in a recommendation which satisfied the client’s criteria

Transforming existing spaces for live or amplified music and other performance is tricky and can be fraught with problems, but Spectrum are available to provide expert advice, helping out clients identify and understand the issues, quantify the problems and work towards effective solutions through a combination of technical understanding and our extensive experience.

Should you wish to discuss Spectrum’s capabilities within this or any other area, please telephone our Head Office on 01767 318871, or contact us by email or enquiry form via the following link – contact us

Transforming existing spaces into venues for live or amplified music and comedy – acoustic design for reverberation and sound insulation