Open floor plans continue to be a hit in both residential and commercial spaces. Society at all levels has discovered that living and working in open spaces is psychologically beneficial, making us healthier, happier, and more efficient. Open spaces let in more light and allow us to be more communal, two aspects of life that make everything just a little bit better.

There’s really only one major downside to open floor plans and that is the way they amplify sound. Tall ceilings are the ideal scenario for an open space room to enhance the above perks by helping us feel less constrained, but this only adds to the acoustical problems. Tall ceilings make open floor plans literally cavernous, and we all know what happens with sounds in caverns, canyons, and caves: increased reverberation and echo.

Recently I had a custom call requesting my assistance to help the intense echo in her new office space. Not only was the floor plan open, but they had chosen a bank of recessed skylights in the tall ceiling to add even more light. She recalled how beautiful and perfect she thought their office design was, until it filled up with employees. Immediately upon entry she was met with a cacophony of echo and reverb. The recessed skylights were making it worse by becoming echo amplifiers, and what was supposed to be an open floor office setting of peace and community to enhance efficiency and well-being did the opposite!

Thankfully, her situation and open floor plans in general can have their acoustics readily solved. In this article, I’ll detail my favorite ways to create excellent acoustics to help offices with open floor plans craft the best atmosphere yet.

Soundproofing vs. Sound Control

If you’ve read any article on our site, my colleagues and I love to quickly unpack the difference between two distinct but often confused aspects of acoustics: soundproofing and sound absorption. The hardest part is teasing apart the words as they sound the same, so I like to use their synonyms: sound blocking and sound control.

Soundproofing, or sound blocking, is the method in which we block sound from transmitting from one room to another. This is employed in all manner of scenarios such as movie theaters, office conference rooms, music studios, and even in industrial settings to reduce the sounds of loud machinery. 

Sound absorption, on the other hand, is how we control sound, which is why I like to use sound control. This method is how we make sound sound better by eliminating unwanted reverb and echo within a room that can rapidly add up to muddy incoherence.

When it comes to taming the sound in open floor plans, sound control is the method we will be working with. Open floor plans and soundproofing simply do not mix because soundproofing requires a material or assembly in between to be effective. Sound control, on the other hand, is the perfect way to shape and tone all of the many sounds in a large space so that it is clean and tranquil. 

Using Sound Control to Perfect Open Floor Plans

The Fannin County Multipurpose Complex installed AlphaSorb® Panels to provide the best sounding environment for hosting events like concerts, weddings, galas, banquets, county fairs and other community gatherings.

The Fannin County Multipurpose Complex installed AlphaSorb® Panels to provide the best sounding environment for hosting events like concerts, weddings, galas, banquets, county fairs and other community gatherings.

The go-to when it comes to sound control solutions is to employ acoustic panels, whether on the wall, the ceiling, or both. Let’s look at the common implementations and the best products for each.

Acoustic Panels

Acoustic panels are the sound control workhorse. These panels are typically hung on walls and are made of materials that absorb the types of soundwaves that cause echo and reverberation. 

AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Acoustic Panel

AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Acoustic Panels are our go-to suggestion when it comes to high-end acoustic panels to absorb echo and reverb in open floor plan settings. Not only are they highly-effective at absorbing sound with NRC ratings of .85 and 1.10 for the 1” and 2” versions, they also look great. With dozens of choices of acoustic fabric covering, AlphaSorb fabric wrapped panels are a designer’s best friend.

Siemens PLM Software lined the chutes to these skylights with acoustic panels to eliminate the disruptive sound that was reverberating back into the office space.

Siemens PLM Software lined the chutes to these skylights with acoustic panels to eliminate the disruptive sound that was reverberating back into the office space.

As it relates to the story of my customer who had a problem with recessed skylights amplifying echo and reverb, we solved that issue by mounting acoustic panels in the recesses. Acoustic panels are a versatile, powerful solution and can be used to solve simple to complex spatial arrangements. 

AlphaSorb® Designer Premium Acoustic Felt Hexagon Wall Panels

Acoustic panels are great, but they aren’t the only formulation serving the same purpose. You can think of acoustic panels like paintings in terms of how they are installed. Additionally, you can choose wall panels to create larger, more intricate designs. The AlphaSorb® Designer Premium Acoustic Felt Hexagon Wall Panels are another sound control option that can be used in replace of, or to compliment hung, acoustic panels. These wall panels are created by a patchwork of hexagonal panels that also offer an array of color options as well as providing a textual aesthetic. They can also be arranged as you will, providing a more visually-interesting effect than square panels.

Clouds and Baffles

Acoustic clouds and baffles are the version for installing in high ceilings. Generally speaking, baffles are vertically oriented panels that are hung to lessen reverb in open floor plans that have sounds coming from all different directions. They are highly effective working in concert with acoustic panels mounted on the walls.

The AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Sound Baffle is a great choice that offers the same absorption capabilities as AlphaSorb acoustic panels, but designed as a baffle to be hung from the ceiling. Baffles, with their vertical orientation, provide an even more interesting aesthetic.

Very similar to baffles, acoustic clouds are essentially acoustic wall panels that hang from the ceiling and thus are oriented horizontally. These are a great choice for open floor plans that have tall ceilings as they are able to significantly absorb all of the echo and reverb that bounces off of the ceiling above. 

I love our AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Acoustic Ceiling Cloud that provides the excellence of AlphaSorb acoustic panels in cloud form. With the same acoustic fabric color options, these could readily be used in concert with wall-hung panels to create not only a fantastic acoustic environment, but a synergistic aesthetic.

Wood Wall Panels

Since we’re talking about open floor plans that often go with biophilic design aesthetics, I like to share with my customers our slatted wood wall panel option. AlphaSorb® Designer Acoustic Slatted Wood Wall Panels are an excellent option that provides a biophilic aesthetic while also applying further acoustic treatment to the room.

Remember that sound control products don’t have to be boring-looking, nor do they have to be all the same. A blend of panels, baffles and/or clouds, and wood wall panels all work in concert to improve aesthetics while giving open floor plan designers a significant aesthetic palette from which to design.

Acoustic Ceiling Tiles

Some open floor plans might not have super tall ceilings and instead rely on drop ceilings. Drop ceilings are actually a fantastic way to introduce sound control through the use of products like our AlphaSorb® Designer Premium Acoustic Felt Ceiling Tiles. These panels simply replace your existing ceiling tiles and provide excellent sound absorption with an improved aesthetic.

Loud HVAC Equipment Above the Drop Ceiling? Let’s Soundproof It!

Often, drop ceilings are installed because they are blocking HVAC and other mechanical equipment that exist above the tiles. The tiles visually hide this equipment, but rarely are able to hide its noisiness. For that, we have a great soundproofing solution to add to your acoustic ceiling tiles. 

PrivacyShield® Ceiling Tile Barrier along with PrivacyShield® Light Hood provides a sonic barrier between the ceiling and the equipment above, while AlphaSorb ceiling tiles provide sound absorption and visual appeal from below. Drop ceilings often get a bad wrap because of the cheap look of ceiling tiles, but they can actually be a great situation from which to improve aesthetics and provide the foundation to master your acoustics.

Another solution to loud HVAC noise is our Audioseal Duct and Pipe Wrap which is a composite of MLV with a fiberglass vibrational decoupler wrapped in an aluminized mylar facing to block the sounds emanating from the housing and ductwork. This is often a great solution when the HVAC and ducts are exposed in an open ceiling scenario.

Craft the Best Acoustics for Your Open Floor Plan with Acoustical Solutions

Grand Horizons Community Center Whisperwave Ceiling Clouds

Grand Horizons Community Center Whisperwave® Ceiling Clouds

As someone who has worked in an open floor plan, I think they truly deliver on their promise of enhancing a workspace for increased well-being and efficiency. I know the ins and outs of why they can be acoustical problems and have helped many customers with their unique situations find the perfect products and strategies to make their open floor plan sound as good as it can. 

Reach out to me today and let’s analyze your open floor plan and come up with an acoustical solution to get you up and running quickly.

To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at