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Acoustic equipment in fields and by a busy road

The Open University Acoustics Research Group has been in existence for over forty years, carrying out internationally leading research in the fields of environmental acoustics, musical acoustics and the development of acoustical measurement techniques.

Environmental acoustics research carried out by the group includes work on improving the prediction of sound propagation outdoors, producing more effective noise barriers, increasing understanding of acoustic-to-seismic coupling mechanisms, and measuring the acoustic impedance of porous materials. One ongoing area of research is into the design of grooved surfaces alongside roads for reducing traffic noise. An interview with Professor Keith Attenborough on this topic is available here. Other research is concerned with non-invasively determining the properties of soils, acoustical imaging of crops and the use of sound and vibration for monitoring health.

Acoustics equipment being used to monitor musical instruments and their enviroment

Musical acoustics research topics include investigating the effect of wall vibrations on the playing characteristics of brass instruments, analysing the importance of the bassoon crook to the instrument’s playing properties, monitoring the result of the bending of instrument lead pipes during the manufacturing process, and making bore profile and input impedance measurements on woodwind and brass instruments. One current project within the OU Acoustics Research Group is concerned with investigating, through surveys and experimentation, the problem of pitch drift in choirs during acapella singing. Further details on this project can be found Pitch Drift in a cappella choral singing

Different structures and techniques to dampen sound

The group also carries out work on developing and improving non-invasive techniques for measuring the acoustic impedance, impulse response and internal geometry of ducts such as musical wind instruments, airways and pipeline sections. Such techniques include acoustic pulse reflectometry, a Two-Microphone-Four-Calibration impedance measurement procedure, and capillary-based impedance measurement methods.

Teams of academics being filmed and recorded on location

Research group facilities include two anechoic chambers, a laser laboratory, a high speed camera, a Laser Doppler Velocimeter, professional quality microphones, as well as a wide range of measuring apparatus and high performance computing equipment.

More detailed information on work carried out by the OU Acoustics Research Group can be found in the PhD theses, conference and journal papers accessed via the Publications page.


Information on public engagement activities carried out by Acoustics Research Group members can be found on the Outreach and Media Appearances pages. These pages include descriptions of school and public lectures offered by the group, as well as audio and video clips of radio and television appearances by group members.

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Academic staff


Visiting Academics

  • Dr Steve Mellish

Research students

  • Peter Wheeler
  • Andrew Dunn