1. What’s the difference between the SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro Apps?
The “SoundSoup Apps” consist of SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro, two separate iPad apps available for download on Apple’s App Store. SoundSoup-Free is a basic version of the SoundSoup-Pro App which provides fundamental sound modelling, but without many of its professional-level features. But SoundSoup-Free will still allow you to design a room, put noise sources inside and outside, listen to the sounds in that room, then change the room design and hear the difference in real time. However more advanced features only available in SoundSoup-Pro include:
- access to detailed information on reverberation in the room, the level of sound from each source in decibels, and sound transmission properties of the walls, ceiling and floor;
- the ability to set the sound level of each source in decibels, and for relevant sources, the distance of the source from the listener;
- saving of an unlimited number of room designs;
- saving of sound in a room as an audio file; and
- the ability to purchase additional packs of sounds with a specific focus, such as construction sounds and music sounds.
2. What the SoundSoup Apps can and cannot do
I’m an architect. Does using the SoundSoup Apps mean I don’t need my acoustic consultant?
Err … no. But we hope that using either SoundSoup-Free or SoundSoup-Pro as a design and intermediary tool might make your relationship a little easier and much more effective. Your consultant can demonstrate to you, and you can demonstrate to your client, how acoustic treatment can add to the quality of your space. Take out the treatment and see how it sounds, then put the treatment back in. There’s nothing like hearing the difference to help people understand how important it is. Hearing is believing!
How can the SoundSoup Apps help me make my restaurant / lecture theatre / classroom / office / lounge room etc sound better?
First, you need to understand exactly what the problem is. Is it too much sound from outside, too much reverberation, not enough sound to mask other unwanted sound …? Model the room in SoundSoup-Free or SoundSoup-Pro and try changing all these things to see if it sounds better. If, for example, there’s too much sound from outside try removing a door, removing a window etc and see if this helps. Then look at possible constructions that would let you keep these elements but reduce the sound. If you’re looking at expensive building works you should definitely get professional acoustic help. But even then, when your acoustician says “This will reduce the noise by 5 decibels”, the SoundSoup Apps enable you to hear in real time what that means.
I’m setting up a home music studio. Can the SoundSoup Apps help me?
Absolutely. You have three acoustic issues to resolve – the sound quality inside the studio, preventing outside sounds from entering the studio, and preventing sound in the studio from escaping and annoying the neighbours (or others in the house). In the SoundSoup Apps you can model the studio so you can hear the difference in the quality of music with various finishes on the walls, ceiling and floor. You can also hear the difference in traffic noise, or noise from speech in the next room, with various wall constructions. And you can model the adjacent rooms and listen to how music in your studio will sound there. Using the advanced features in SoundSoup-Pro you can also see the actual decibel levels and spectra of the intruding sound. We recommend that you still consider consulting an acoustic professional to ensure that all the design details are covered and the workmanship is good. If you’re designing a high-quality recording or mixing room you’ll also need professional help with the details of sound quality design.
I work in education and I’d like to use either SoundSoup-Free or SoundSoup-Pro for demonstrations and student assignments. Can you supply the app directly to my institution?
Yes, we can certainly be of assistance, and in some situations we can offer an educational discount through Apple’s App Store. Please contact us for details – click here
My company makes acoustic building materials, and we have good quality test data for them. Can you incorporate these into the SoundSoup Apps?
Yes, your acoustic materials can certainly be hosted within both SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro as one of our Industry Partners. We can also provide your company with a customised App version for use by your sales representatives or others. Please talk to us about options – click here
Are there sounds that can’t be modelled in the SoundSoup Apps?
Both the SoundSoup Apps are designed to simulate “airborne sound” but do not cater for “structure-borne sound”, which is sound that is transmitted through direct vibration of building elements. An example is footsteps on a hard floor, heard in a room below. The SoundSoup Apps have a sample of footstep noise, but the sound you hear from this will only be accurate if the footsteps are in the same room. Otherwise, in addition to the airborne sound you hear in the SoundSoup Apps, there will also be structure-borne sound transmitted by vibration. Other examples are sound transmitted by vibration of water pipes, or from speakers attached firmly to a heavy wall. The loudness of structure-borne sound depends on exact details of the building constructions, fixings, etc. If you have potential issues with structure-borne sound, you should get advice from an acoustic specialist.
3. Sound Reproduction
I can’t hear the sound through the speakers
1. Check that when you press the PLAY button a green line appears at the top of the screen. If not, you may not yet have added any sound sources in your room.
2. Increase the volume control on your iPad and check that it is not muted.
3. You may have the “soft mute feature” on your iPad turned on. To fix this please refer to www.gottabemobile.com/2011/09/15/how-to-fix-no-sound-in-ipad-apps – copy and paste the url into your browser. This is a known issue with iPad software.
Does SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro give reasonable simulations of sound when heard through the iPad speakers?
The iPad speakers are OK for listening to “normal” sounds like speech, dogs barking and, to some extent, traffic noise. They have limited ability to produce the low frequencies that come from sources like heavy vehicles, especially when heard through a wall. You will probably want to turn the iPad’s volume control up to full to get the best out of the speakers. If you want better than a general “feel” for how a room will sound, we suggest you should use either a good quality external speaker, or good quality headphones.
Are the sounds that I hear at the correct actual loudness, or are they just correct relative to each other?
Of course, the loudness of the sounds you hear depends on the volume settings on the iPad and any other reproduction equipment you are using. However, if you have a calibrated sound level meter you can adjust these settings to give you the correct loudness. Select a single, constant sound (air-conditioning vent noise is good) and set its level in the program to be fairly high. Then measure the reproduced sound level and adjust the volume until its loudness matches the value set in the program. The loudness of all other sounds will then also be accurately calibrated. Of course, the above assumes that your reproduction system is capable of producing the sound levels and sound frequencies required. If you simulate a rock band in the room, your reproduction system is unlikely to be able to produce the band’s actual sound level.
Where do the sound samples come from?
Currently, the sound samples are mostly from public websites that supply Creative Commons Licensed samples. These include freesound.org and soundcloud.com. A few were recorded by us, Stirfry Software, and other authorised sources. We have cut, edited and analysed the samples to make them suitable for the SoundSoup Apps. A list of sound samples with their origin and attribution is available – click here.
Can I add my own sound samples to the SoundSoup Apps?
No. Sounds need to be prepared and analysed before they can be used in the SoundSoup Apps. If you have sounds that you’d really like us to include, we encourage you to contact us
Can I save the sound output in an audio file and export it?
Yes, this advanced feature is available in SoundSoup-Pro.
4. Using SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro
Why can’t I position the windows, doors and openings in the right place on my wall?
In the SoundSoup Apps, sounds outside the room have the same loudness at all points along a wall. Therefore the position of windows, doors and openings doesn’t affect the acoustic performance of the wall. They are represented by icons that have the correct total size, but their actual positioning is not relevant.
Why can’t I add some sounds inside the room?
Some sounds clearly only happen outside. For example, it doesn’t make sense to have road traffic noise coming from inside your room. Some sound samples are marked in the the SoundSoup Apps’ internal logic as being only for outside. Similarly, some sounds, like noise from air-conditioning vents, can only be located inside the room.
In SoundSoup-Pro when I put speech inside the room, I can change the distance to the listener and the sound level at one distance. When I add air-conditioning noise, I can only change the sound level. What’s the difference?
Some sounds, like speech, are marked as coming from a specific location, and in that case, you can change your distance from the sound source. On the other hand, air-conditioning noise is “diffuse” as it comes from multiple places and is roughly the same level all around the room (the same is true of sounds like background music and crowd noise). In this case, rather than changing the distance, you simply set the sound level which applies throughout the room.
I don’t understand the names of the “Gypsum Board” and “Double Glazing” constructions.
Double glazing constructions are given names like 6 | 13 gap | 5; aluminium frame (in metric units) or 1/4” | 1/2” gap | 3/16”; aluminium frame in imperial units. This means the window consists of one pane of 6mm (1/4”) glass and another pane of 5mm (3/16”) glass with a 13mm (1/2”) gap between, all fitted into an aluminium frame. The gap is very important for the acoustical performance of the glazing.
Gypsum board constructions are similar, but a bit more complicated. The construction 2 x 13 Gyp | 51 Wood Stud; 50 MinFibre | 2 x 13 Gyp (metric units) means two layers of 13mm gypsum board on either side of 51mm wooden studs with 50mm mineral fibre in the cavity. Once again, all these factors influence the acoustic performance.
5. How SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro work
How good are the SoundSoup Apps’ data for transmission loss and absorption of various materials?
All data used in both SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro are sourced from values published by reputable sources, generally based on laboratory-measured data. The technical data sources are listed – click here. However, different laboratories will often give slightly different results for the same material, and small changes in the material can cause significant changes in the acoustic performance. Therefore the results produced by the SoundSoup Apps should be considered as a guide to the likely performance of building materials of similar type.
How accurately do the SoundSoup Apps calculate sound entering the room?
For sound entering from outside the room, both SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro’s simulations are based on laboratory measured sound transmission loss values. The audio filters used match the transmission loss values at all sound frequencies, generally to within 2 decibels, with occasional differences of up to 5 decibels at some specific frequencies. The overall loudness of sound entering the room will correspond to the loudness predicted from the data to within 1 decibel (given a good reproduction system). This accuracy is sufficient for quite realistic audio simulations.
However, just because a wall, ceiling or floor construction gives certain results in a laboratory doesn’t mean it will do so in your room. The performance depends on factors such as quality of workmanship, and the presence of sound paths other than directly through the building element. The SoundSoup Apps give a “best case” simulation, assuming the building element performs as well as it can.
How accurately do the SoundSoup Apps simulate the reverberation of sound in the room?
Sounds created in a room, or sound that has entered the room through a building element, is reflected around the room and absorbed by the materials used as finishes on the walls, ceiling and floor, as well as by room contents. The details of this process are very complicated. A really accurate simulation of reverberation requires sophisticated modelling software, as well as a detailed CAD model of the room, and cannot be performed in real time (certainly not on an iPad!).
SoundSoup-Free and SoundSoup-Pro use a simpler, but still useful, model in which reverberation is described by the Sabine Reverberation Time, which depends on the average properties of room finishes and contents. This is calculated at all frequencies, and reverberation is then modelled in software using a “feedback delay network”, with filters that ensure that the sound you hear has the correct Sabine Reverberation Time at all frequencies. Reverberating sound is then added to sound arriving directly from the source, which may depend on the distance from the source to the listener.
The overall effect is quite realistic, but specific characteristics of particular room shapes, for example, aren’t modelled. Don’t use SoundSoup-Free or SoundSoup-Pro to design your next concert hall, but for lecture theatres, lounge rooms, classrooms, restaurants, etc they can certainly be of great assistance to you.