Acoustics in music performance, and rehearsal spaces

NS-ISO 23591 includes relevant requirements for the sound conditions of music rehearsal spaces. NS 8178 is a national supplement to the international standard and describes acoustic criteria for halls used for music performance, such as smaller performance halls and multipurpose halls.

Several who play the violin in an orchestra
Photo: Unsplash

The acoustic properties of a room are crucial for the interaction between the room and the musical instrument. When the room's acoustic response works well with the instrument, good conditions are achieved for both the listener and the music performer.

Uses of the standards

The standard NS-ISO 23591 Acoustic Quality Criteria for Rooms and Spaces for Music Practice defines criteria for music practice rooms (“practice cells”, ensemble rooms) and smaller halls. It can be used to assess the suitability of both new and existing buildings, rooms and spaces for music. The standard can be used to size new buildings, rooms and spaces for various musical purposes early in the planning phase. The criteria in the standard can be used to improve or change the use of an existing room, and assess whether a room is suitable for a specific purpose.

NS 8178 Acoustic Quality Criteria for Music Performance Halls establishes differentiated criteria for sound conditions and characteristics for music performance halls with volumes up to 6500 m3. The standard can be used in connection with acquisitions, contract signings, planning, construction, leasing, and use of performance halls.

NS 8178 refers to NS-ISO 23591 and describes requirements for performance halls that are not included in the international standard.

NS became an ISO Standard

NS 8178:2014 was translated into English, and was a popular standard internationally. Given the significant international interest, Standard Norway, on the initiative of the Norwegian Music Council and in consultation with the acoustics committee, proposed that NS 8178 should be made into an international standard. In November 2018, an international working group was established with 28 representatives from 12 countries.

The draft of the ISO standard was under enquiry by the member countries and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The new standard was published in September 2021, one year earlier than originally planned. As a result, NS-ISO 23591:2021 replaced the Norwegian standard; NS 8178:2014.

The leader of the Akershus Music Council, Jon G. Olsen, led the international working group, and Standard Norway held the secretariat function.

New Edition of NS 8178

After NS 8178 was replaced by NS-ISO 23591 in 2022, efforts were made to revise NS 8178. In 2023, a new edition of the standard was published and it serves as a national supplement to the international standard.

By the end of 2023, there was already significant international interest in the Norwegian supplement, and in January 2024 it was also published in English.

The main changes compared to the 2014 edition of NS 8178 are that the 2023 edition only contains criteria for performance halls under 6500 m3, and for multipurpose halls where music is performed. Regarding criteria for music practice rooms, the supplement refers to NS-ISO 23591:2021.

The 2023 edition of NS 8178 contains an expanded description of the stage area and the audience area. The standard also describes the use of an active acoustic system (AAS) and how to manage it, when considering reverberation and background noise, amongst other things.

Additionally, NS 8178 includes requirements for noise from technical installations according to building technical regulations, limit values for technical installations and equipment used during concerts. This kind of operational noise is not included in building technical regulations, but is still disturbing and bothersome during performances and concerts. It is therefore desirable to set requirements for such installations and equipment.

Useful links (external pages):
Internasjonal komité ISO/TC 43/SC 2/WG 33

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