Ceiling mostly affects the sound isolation from other rooms. If that's not your concern, you shouldn't worry. It's more depended on walls and position. If you're planning to sound-proof the room, than flat ceilings are much easier to work with.
I had a smooth ceiling in my living room where my stereo resides and had a popcorn ceiling put in instead. I could hear no difference in the sound.
I will say that I've personally noticed that popcorn ceilings - once called acoustic ceilings - seem to work in preventing the kind of echo chamber you get with a flat ceiling. I would definitely vote to keep it based on my personal observations.
You should get some diffusion of the higher frequencies with a pop corn ceiling but unless you have really high res stuff, an optimized listening room, really well developed listening skills, and are a bit on the anal side of neutral, you would probably hear no difference. :-)
Is there a fashionable modern form of popcorn ceiling? I have not seen it but perhaps there is. I would have a hard time wanting popcorn these days due to dated appearance.
I suspect it would have a sonic impact only if ceiling is low, and even then it would be tradeoffs.
If you go smooth and find the room too lively, you could mount small decorative carpets on the wall. Or find other means - throw rugs, upholstered furniture) to control it.
From an aesthetic point of view the smooth ceiling will be more attractive. Acoustically speaking there may be a negligible difference between popcorn ceilings and smooth ceilings. Be sure to test for asbestos if you decide to smooth the ceiling as it was often used as a binding agent for popcorn ceilings.
I recently moved and during the process of searching for a new apartment over a five month period I looked at a great number of places. Room acoustics was not the highest on my list of priorities, but one place I visited noticeably stood out as having the best room sound in terms of lack of echo and best speech intelligibility. It had smooth ceilings, wall to wall carpeting and crown molding. I believe that the crown molding was an important factor as many other rooms had similar dimensions, carpeting and a mix of smooth and popcorn ceilings.
I've read that others have also noted a positive difference in room sound when adding crown molding so it's a factor to consider if your room lacks it.
There are plenty of treatments that can be added to a ceiling to damp reflections. Google them to see. Also, a heavy carpert/pad on the floor will go a long way towards killing ceiling-floor reflections.
The *best* way to go, but more expensive, is to have a gradually sloping ceiling so that it does not present a flat, reflective surface opposed to the floor...
I would keep it just not to disturb it and turn it into friable asbestos.As far as removing it to improve sound? Stay with it and place an attractive ceiling mural attached to the ceiling. If your wife finds it not to her liking. Just place some 1/2 sheetrock over it then tape and paint. You only loose an half inch measurement.
There's two ways to install a popcorn ceiling. I've been doing this for over 40 years since it is partly what I do for a living. You can install it purely for cosmetic reasons, and also with acoustics in mind simply by how thick you spray it on/how many coats you spray on. Lay it on a good 1/4" thick and you'll have some serious acoustics. Brand is important. Some are more porous than others.
I did drywall finishing in the 70's & 80s'. The acoustic (popcorn) does work well at deading the sound reflections,(hence the name acoustic) but as stated above it is real dated. Plus it is a real pain to refinish and paint. As far as a more modern style I remember folks would put glitter in the mix to give it the old "Corner Bar" effect. Add a disco ball and you would be all set.
Acoustically, popcorn should be a little better. If you want it to look good you can always paint it. A lot of people are afraid to do this. If you are interested, here's how.
1. Pick the right paint. I recommend Sherman Williams ProMar 200 flat. Anything up from there may be a but too thick for this application. If you want to go with White paint, use the untainted base called extra white.
2. Roll as much as you can with a 9 in roller - 1 to 1.25 inch nap. Be sure to roll in all different directions so you don't leave lines. Also, do 2 coats. If the room is dark, you may be able to get away with 1 coat, but the 2nd is much faster and easier than the 1st.
3. Cut the edges in with a regular 3in roller. Just mash it right up against the wall (I assume you will be painting the walls also so it won't matter if you get paint on them. Don't use a brush unless you absolutely have to, like around a fan.
Some other tips:
The job will be a little messy, so be sure to put drop cloths on anything you don't want paint on.
You will loose a little popcorn but don't worry. It won't be too much - it may seem like you are loosing a lot but that won't be the case.
You will get a lot more life out of your roller covers if you periodically pull them off the roller, flip it around and put it back on. (You'll just know when to do it. Its obvious.)
If you take your time you should get surprisingly good results. You may want to try it first in one room just to see how good it will look. Removing old popcorn is a real pain. You may just decide to paint all of it once you see how it comes out.
If you paint it, you throw the acoustic properties out the window. I can't count how many calls I've gotten to remove one way or another, popcorn ceilings that have been painted. They're horrible.
If you've got a fan hanging from the ceiling prepare yourself for when, after a few years, there'll be a ring of dust on the ceiling trapped in the popcorn. No matter if you try to vacuum or dust it the ceiling will shed everywhere! Nasty! I'm looking at my dust rings as I type!;)
If you home was built in the 50/60's the popcorn was to (or should be) removed, as it may contain asbestos.
I removed the popcorn from the ceiling in my kitchen; there is definetly more echo now.
I have a dropped down, acoustic, deep fissured ceiling, in my listening room. Adds to the great sound that I can get from the room. The floor is carpeted, so the room in itself is really quite 'dead', which was desired. Unlike popcorn ceilings, mine is deep fissured so it traps much more of the sound. So my recommendation is dump the popcorn, install a dropped ceiling like mine. You will be happy. With a dropped down ceiling, mine is 2x2 grid, there are endless acoustic 'drop ins', that can be added to further control the resonance you get from the ceiling.
I noticed a difference (more "ring") when popcorn was replaced with light orange peel texture in our front room.
Fighting and killing all of echo may defeat the naturality of the sound. And amount of echo should be present so to feel an atmosphere of a real performance hall and naturality of every instrument and voice you're hearing.
Some studios don't kill echo completely for that purpose.
Sound with no echo is lifeless IMHO.
If you're talking about large recording rooms where a classical performer or group might be recorded live then that makes sense.
But every standard recording studio I can recall being in was dead as can be.
But every standard recording studio I can recall being in was dead as can be.
Agree, but one can choose studio with partially defeated echo realizing that there won't be possibilities of successful overdub or isolated recording of each instrument. Whole band shold start from AtoZ with no interruptions or failures of either electronics or musician's fingers just like on the live concert. It works super great for small jazz band with good recording equipment.
For home entertainment I don't see neccessity of defeating echo heavily. It's much easier achieved via closed back 2