Combining architectural drafting skills with a deep knowledge of applied acoustics, a branch of physics that focuses on sound, acoustical consultants help design or modify physical spaces and sometimes sound systems to achieve their clients' sonic needs. The services offered by acoustical consultants can generally be broken down into three categories:
- Design—working alone or in tandem with dedicated architects to create plans for an acoustically oriented space
- Soundproofing—making an existing interior space acoustically isolated so that outside sound doesn't come in and inside sound doesn't get out
- Optimization—improving the way sound travels through an existing space to ensure clean, controllable, and flexible acoustics
As research has confirmed the negative impact of unwanted noise on health, wellbeing, attention, and learning, more and more people have become aware of the value of acoustically intelligent spaces, leading to an increased and diversified demand for acoustical consulting services. Today, acoustical consultants work with a wide variety of clients on spaces including residential homes and developments, business offices, schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, retail stores and shopping malls, movie theaters, theme parks, and more.
In addition, acoustical consultants have long had a home within the music and live performance industries. Working alongside or as studio designers, they help to design and modify recording and performance spaces alike. In comparison with all-purpose acoustical consultants, those who work mostly with music industry clients tend to have specialized knowledge of amplification and recording equipment, similar to live sound systems engineers.
Acoustical Consultant at a Glance
Many acoustical consultants begin working after earning their B.S. in a relevant field, while others go for a master's degree in acoustical engineering or architecture. Early in their careers, the vast majority of acoustical consultants work for acoustical consulting companies, either as full-time employees or contracted freelancers. Those who enjoy working with amplifiers and other hardware to solve sonic problems in environments like performance spaces and event halls may go on to become live sound systems engineers, while those who gravitate towards designing recording spaces may become studio designers. Generally speaking, the most highly regarded and successful acoustical consultants study further in architecture and incorporate it into their practice, allowing them to take on more difficult, extensive, and lucrative projects: designing the plans for a new concert hall, for example.
The most secure option, particularly for beginning acoustical consultants, is to be employed by an acoustical consulting company or architectural consulting group. These opportunites are usually advertised on conventional job posting websites like Indeed, Monster, or Glassdoor. However, there are also opportunities for freelance acoustical consultants, for whom finding work is a matter of networking and visibility. Freelancers and full-time employees alike must be capable of forming strong relationships with clients as this is the heart and soul of the consulting industry.
- Acoustics (and, more broadly, physics)
- Live sound systems and hardware
- Recording systems and hardware
- Time management
Strong communication skills are very important for acoustical consultants, both with regard to clients and to the design process, which is frequently collaborative. Although acoustical measuring tools do much of the heavy lifting, acoustical consultants must also be sensitive listeners in their own right, capable of picking up on slight differences in tone, frequency, and vibration.
The vast majority of acoustical consultants are salaried employees of small acoustical-consulting companies, although those who have successfully found a plentiful market or niche may thrive as freelancers. Most of the work takes place during business hours from an office, but projects, which frequently require on-site work, can affect this. While working on a project, acoustical consultants may split their time between their office and wherever their project is based, or, in rare cases, uproot entirely and work in proximity to the project. This can mean occasional travel or periods away from home.