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Acoustic Diffusers and Absorbers: Theory, Design and Application

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Every book tells a story and there is a story behind every book. This story begins in 1980, in the conference room of the laboratory for the structure of matter at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, DC, where Peter D’Antonio was employed as a diffraction physicist. Knowing Peter’s interest in music, a colleague handed him the latest issue of Physics Today with a cover photo of Manfred Schroeder seated in an anechoic chamber. The article suggested using a number of theoretic diffusers in concert halls. While Peter’s interest at the time was not in concert halls, he became fascinated with the thought of using these diffusers in a renovation of Underground Sound, a private studio he originally built in 1972 with Jerry Ressler. The acoustic renovation utilized a new concept called Live End Dead End TM proposed by Don and Carolyn Davis of Synergetic Audio Concepts (Syn-Aud-Con) and implemented successfully by Chips Davis. At that time, Peter was examining the threedimensional (3D) structure of matter in various phases using electron and X-ray diffraction techniques. Peter shared the article with John Konnert, a colleague at NRL, and it became apparent that the ‘reflection phase gratings’ suggested by Schroeder were in effect two-dimensional (2D) sonic crystals, which scatter sound in the same way that 3D crystal lattices scatter electromagnetic waves. Since the diffraction theory employed in X-ray crystallographic studies was applicable to reflection phase gratings, it was straightforward to model and design the reflection phase gratings.

At this time, Peter’s only link to the field of acoustics was a love of composing, recording and performing music. Having scientific backgrounds, John and Peter approached acoustics as they did the field of diffraction physics, and began researching and publishing findings in the scientific literature. The Audio Engineering Society and Syn-Aud-Con offered a unique forum and community for discussing the research. In October 1983, at the 74th AES Convention in New York, Peter met Bob Todrank following a presentation of Peter and John’s first paper on Schroeder diffusers. Bob was designing a new studio for the Oak Ridge Boys in Hendersonville, TN and was interested in utilizing these new acoustical surfaces. The studio was a resounding success and turned out to be a harbinger of many exciting things to come.
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