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Diffusing Surfaces in Concert Halls: Boon or Bane?

It is widely recognized that the intensity of the sound reaching a listener by reflection is different for a diffusing surface than a specular one, but the practical significance of this fact has not been closely examined. Subjective desirability is influenced by the intensity of the sound reaching listeners from various directions, so presumably diffusing surfaces are not universally applicable. In this paper we will first compare the reflected intensities of the two types of surfaces, basing the analysis on mathematical idealizations. Applying these results to practical situations is necessarily conjectural because our understanding of subjective response is too limited. However preliminary results suggest that diffusing surfaces are probably more useful as walls than ceilings. Practical diffusors are far from ideal, of course, and their deviation from idealness might introduce subjectively significant side effects. The subjective effects of diffusing surfaces is a fertile area for further investigation.

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