Many believe sticking acoustic foam tiles on the walls and ceilings of their studios is the be all and end all to improving room acoustics. In this Myths Of Modern Recording article I will argue that using just foam tiles as acoustic treatment does little to improve problematic room acoustics. Foam merely changes the acoustics of a room as foam can only physically absorb a narrow range of frequencies. You will never know for sure if a room’s acoustics have been improved or deteriorated with off the shelf "acoustic foam treatment". Several years ago I learnt a valuable lesson in over using acoustic foam treatment - Read my article Acoustic Treatment - What Are We All Doing?
Marketing - Read Between The Lines
Acoustic foam treatment is marketed in some quite outrageous ways, such as:
- Control the acoustics in your studio with foam product A
- Get better acoustics with foam bundle B
- Enhance your space with foam bundle C
It’s easy to see why so many buy into the idea of foam. If you read between the lines of foam marketing you’ll see that you are being led to believe that your recording studio is worse off for not having foam stuck to every wall. Low-cost room bundles advertised in a way that makes you believe you should cover almost every square inch of your studio in foam.
Acoustic Treatment or Acoustic Torture?
Let’s compare acoustic treatment to medical treatment. You go to your doctor when you are sick - you want to find out what the illness is and treatment. The doctor diagnoses your illness and prescribes the correct treatment... treatment works - you get better.
Now think of the acoustic problems in your studio as that illness. You don’t know what the problems are, so how do you know what the correct treatment should be? Many wouldn’t have a clue how to find out the illness (acoustic problems) is in the studio. Many will guess and self-diagnose problems with the cheapest option of "treatment" being used as to correct the issues – acoustic foam. The biggest problem with foam is the final installed results. Once it has been stuck to the walls we hear a difference to the sound of the room, this difference is often interpreted as an improvement, however this isn't always the case. No-one will want to admit they have degraded the sound of their newly foam treated studio.
Foam - Part Of The Acoustic Treatment
I will admit I have been quite one-sided in this article. Foam does have an acoustic purpose if used correctly and in conjunction with other acoustic treatment solutions. Foam absorbs a narrow range of frequencies that can address flutter echoes and high-end reverberations if the correct amount is used and positioned well. Read how Mike Thornton uses small amount of foam in his studio - Acoustic Treatment - What Are We All Doing - Part 3