Sound Effects

Acoustic paneling is rarely selected for its aesthetic properties. It tends to be a purely utilitarian product, with a very specific mission (sound absorption) and a limited range of visual expression (perforated holes and lines). That changed last year when the French company Oberflex introduced its decorative Obersound collection—25 patterns that bring a new level of visual sophistication to the formerly unglamorous art of acoustics.

Conceived by the Paris-based studio 5.5 Designers, the collection is grouped into five themes: skin, textiles, vegetation, climate, and sound waves. To fabricate the product, Oberflex developed new machinery—derived from the steel industry—capable of intricate perforations and patterns on the ultra-durable panels. “It took two years of research and development,” says Gaelle de Puniet, the company’s North American export manager. “It’s very strong machinery that allows us to perforate very fast.”

The designers created the forms and patterns first, then sent them to Oberflex for acoustic tests and modified them based on the results. “The idea was to have five families and, within them, five patterns with different kinds of properties,” says Anthony Lebossé, one of 5.5’s partners. “We always looked for one or two really efficient panels, one medium, and one or two aesthetic patterns. What’s nice is some people are buying these for aesthetic reasons, not just for acoustic.”


The panels have three layers: a wood veneer, a medium-density fiberboard substrate, and a backing.

Heat-, flame-, and UV-resistant, the wood veneer has the durability of a laminate with the characteristics and beauty of the real thing.

The collection offers a variety of acoustic properties, so the panels are practical in sound-sensitive environments, such as libraries and restaurants, or they can be put to purely aesthetic uses.

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