Ask a Pro
Q. How Can I Combat the Echo Created by Stone Floors, High Ceilings?
Scott Varn of Harmony Interiors offes some cheaper remedies for this acoustic nightmare.
May 27, 2008 by Scott Varn

Q. Our house has stone floors, high ceilings and tons of echo. Are there any ways to inexpensively kill the echo? - Paul, San Diego

A. You have quite the acoustic nightmare. You really need full acoustic analysis and without measurements and a surface diagram - I can only give general recommendations. Most people don’t understand the basics of sound reflection. Ironically, many would say the acoustics are great. The old concept of good acoustics was that it is easy to hear without amplification. Of course, today we have plenty of watts to go around along with the old fashioned concept that acoustics only muddies the sound. You have a problem because the sound waves are never absorbed. You’ll hear the same sound many times until it finally finds the sofa and diminishes.

Any area that can be covered should be, especially the wall opposing the speakers (I’ll skip the ceiling since that is the most difficult to reach and treat). While they aren’t your cheapest option, acoustic panels work best and are relatively easy to install. And don’t worry, these won’t turn your room into an office cubicle. There are thousands of fabric colors to choose from and you can be creative with patterns to make it more artistic. The least expensive treatments are rugs, textiles or drapes. However, these alone will absorb only some of the frequencies. The thicker and denser the material, the lower the frequency it will absorb. Go with thick drapes on the windows and area rugs with thick pads underneath. An even cheaper (but ugly) option is the acoustic material designed for studios. The trick is to attach it to the wall and then cover it with fabric art or a decorative rug. One last tip - make sure your speakers are as low as possible. The closer to ear level when seated the better.

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Scott has been in the technology industries for over 20 years. But his experience as an artist is what led him to create an award winning business that combines engineering and aesthetics for home theater design.

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