Using deep knowledge of both architecture and acoustics, a unique brand of physics that focuses on sound, acoustical consultants create or modify physical spaces—like rooms, buildings, and complexes—to achieve their clients' sonic needs. Working before, during, and after the construction process, the services offered by acoustical consultants can generally be broken down into three categories:
- Design—working alone or in tandem with architects to create plans for an acoustically oriented space.
- Soundproofing—making an 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 a space to ensure clean, controllable, and flexible acoustics.
Acoustical consultants have worked within the music industry for a long time, using specialized knowledge of amplification and recording equipment and recording processes to design and modify performance and recording-oriented spaces, such as concert halls, stadiums, studios, clubs, and churches. However, they are far from being confined to the music industry. As research has continued to confirm the negative impact of unwanted noise on health, well-being, attention, and learning, the clientele for acoustical consulting has diversified, with more and more people aware of the value of acoustically intelligent spaces. Today, acoustical consultants are hired to work on a wide range of spaces, including homes, schools, hospitals, offices, libraries, museums, theaters, malls, and other complexes.
Acoustical Consultant at a Glance
Some acoustical consultants begin working after earning their B.S., while others go for a Master's degree. Highly regarded acoustical consultants are able to take on more difficult, involved, and lucrative projects—collaborating to design an entire concert hall, for example. Some acoustical designers end up studying further in architecture and incorporating that into their work, while those who specialize in designing music-oriented spaces may become studio designers.
For freelance acoustical consultants, finding work is about networking and visibility. They need to be able to form strong relationships with clients, establish a professional web presence, and keep an eye out for large-scale or recurring projects. Still, the most secure option for an acoustical consultant is to be employed by an acoustical consulting company or consulting group. These opportunities are usually advertised on conventional job-hunting websites, but even if they're not, aspiring acoustical consultants shouldn't be afraid to look up a local company, find an email address, and reach out.
- Project management
- Music hardware (recording and amplification)
As with most consulting jobs, strong communication skills are very important for acoustical consultants, especially with regard to designs, which are often 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; others work as freelancers who have found a successful niche. Most of the work takes place during business hours, but projects can affect this. Acoustical consultants usually split their time between their office and wherever their project is based (as well as, rarely, a lab). Many projects require on-site work, and this can mean occasional travel.