Spatial Audio & Acoustics Laboratories

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The Spatial Audio & Acoustics Laboratories in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney support research and teaching concerned with sound in the built environment. They are among Australia’s most capable research facilities for acoustics and audio.

Acoustics is one of the main contributors to the quality of the built environment, but poses many challenges in architecture because sound cannot be seen and it behaves in complex ways. It has a profound effect on human communication, comfort, productivity and enjoyment. Audio systems are a part of almost every building, and play a substantial role in supporting human activity. The Spatial Audio & Acoustics Labs provide a context for advanced research on problems of acoustics and audio applications, contributing to improving the sound environment in which we live.

The School of Architecture, Design and Planning has housed an acoustics laboratory since the early 1960s, supporting research in architectural, environmental and audio acoustics. The current acoustics laboratory was opened in 1984. Following a fire in 2005 the laboratory was renovated and it was re-opened in 2008. As well as a general laboratory work area, the acoustics laboratory has an anechoic room, a reverberant room, and in 2015 the laboratory’s capability has been significantly extended through the completion of the high-density hemispherical array of loudspeakers facility. A sound recording studio was established in the late 1990s, and was renovated in 2014-15. The studio has developed into a lab with an emphasis on spatial audio research, in conjunction with the School’s acoustics facilities.

The School’s Indoor Environmental Quality Lab (IEQ Lab) also provides substantial infrastructure for research on how acoustics affects comfort and productivity. It is equipped with an integrated multichannel audio system for simulating sound fields (such as masking noise, external sources of sound, and human-like talkers).

Over the past half-century, notable staff contributors to acoustics and audio research have included Ross Thorne, Fergus Fricke, Neville Thiele, Ian Dash, Glenn Leembruggen, John Goldberg, Nigel Helyer, Michael Bates, Ken Stewart, Jin Yong Jeon, Doheon Lee, Densil Cabrera and William L. Martens. Many students have used these facilities for their masters and PhD projects and for postgraduate coursework, and many acoustics and audio professionals did their postgraduate study here.

Publications about the labs

• Cabrera, D., Miranda, L., Jimenez, D., Edser, C., & Martens, W. L. (2015). A Facility for Simulating Room Acoustics, Employing a High Density Hemispherical Array of Loudspeakers. Acoustics Australia, 43(1), 77-81.

• Martens, W. L., Cabrera, D., Miranda, L., & Jimenez, D. (2015). Potential and Limits of a High-Density Hemispherical Array of Loudspeakers for Spatial Hearing and Auralization Research. Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics, 3(02), 240.

• de Dear, R., Nathwani, A., Cândido, C., & Cabrera, D. (2013). The next generation of experientially realistic lab-based research: The University of Sydney's Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory. Architectural Science Review, 56(1), 83-92.

• Cabrera, D., Miranda, L., Crow, R., & De Dear, R. (2013, June). Audio and acoustic design of the University of Sydney′ s Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory. In Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics (Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 015016). Acoustical Society of America.

• Sun, D., Jin, C., Van Schaik, F., Cabrera, D. (2009). The design and evaluation of an economically constructed anechoic chamber. Architectural Science Review, 52(4), 312-319.

• Stewart, K., & Cabrera, D. (2006). Re‐equipping the University of Sydney’s acoustics laboratory for teaching after a fire. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 120(5), 3117-3117.

• Stewart, K., Cabrera, D., & Fricke, F. (2006) Acoustics laboratory fire at the University of Sydney. Proceedings of Acoustics 2006, Christchurch, New Zealand.