Five senses: this is what we’ve been gifted with as human beings. As acousticians and AV specialists, our work focuses on hearing and sound, as it integrates with the physical design of a space. But one’s first opportunity to hear the final product of our work comes on Opening Night, at the very end of a long process of design, and construction that itself comes after still more years of dreaming, planning, and building support for a capital project. Traditionally, the client has had only visual representations of acoustical statistics – charts and graphs – along with the acoustician’s assurances to sustain them through that long wait.

But what if one could start hearing the space before construction begins?

To enable the design team and the client to experience the acoustics of a future room, to see and hear for themselves long before Opening Night, we have constructed and fitted out a unique simulation space – the Auralization Studio – in which we can simulate live performance in various acoustic settings along with a compelling visual experience.

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As acousticians and AV specialists, we spend countless hours on detailed research and analysis using math, science, and knowledge of building construction as well as our experience with rooms that already exist. We can predict how a room will sound and describe the acoustic characteristics statistically, but to really connect with a design, there’s nothing that can replace hearing how it might sound.

In the Studio, we bring a client’s artistic and administrative leaders together with members of the design team, and as a group, they can have a shared experience seeing and hearing the space. Changing the conditions and design options using an intuitive touch screen, the group can see and hear how various options affect the live performance of a single instrument, voice, or group of musicians. We can “move” around the space and hear the modeled acoustics from various points in the room. The discussion that takes place during this communal experience fosters a connection and understanding that charts and graphs simply cannot provide.

The experience in the Studio is immersive and makes the process of comparing options and making choices much more accessible. Because it is also a collective experience for as many as a dozen people at a time, the group can experience and discuss “what if” ideas and options, comparing them and arriving at conclusions together, in the moment. They can even hear how the future room and its various acoustic options compare to well-known benchmark spaces, such as Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall. It is enlightening and social as it builds confidence amongst everyone involved  – even those who thought they’d never be able to distinguish the nuances with their “untrained” ears.

It’s all about collaborating, listening, communicating, and moving forward together. As a decision-making tool, it’s powerful to use as a team. At the end of the day, everyone leaves the Studio with a deeper understanding of the space and the project, and with a common language to speak about it and share with others.

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While we’ve been using the Studio for several years, we recently updated and expanded the space, and we’re excited about the potential to collaborate with our clients and help them connect with their projects through this shared experience.

Sound is a part of the fabric of our everyday lives. The quality of sound in live interaction and performance can affect the human experience profoundly. We value our Studio as an essential tool for listening, exploring, communicating – and for building trust, confidence, and community along the way.

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