I am going to start this review/how-to/case study with a simple statement of fact. I am not a qualified acoustician. Nor am I into acoustical number crunching of any kind. This entire experiment was based on a reasonable working knowledge of room acoustics and good old common sense. So let's begin.
I was first approached by Paul from Universal Acoustics to see if I was interested in reviewing any of their room treatment products. Room acoustics and good room treatment is something we should have invested in during the planning and preparation of our studio spaces and my studio is no different. So doing any kind of tests at my studio felt like a bit of a cheat. What we needed for this test was a space that had little or no acoustic treatment and was being used for the recording and production of music. By chance later that same week I was introduced by a friend of a friend to Ollie Wride, producer, songwriter and artist who has a small production and recording room at his house near Brighton on the south coast of England. Ollie's room is small with no serious attention to acoustic treatment. Perfect I said. Would you mind if we do our very best to improve your acoustic environment I asked? Yes, said Ollie and stage was set for what turned out to be a very interesting test.
Before we even started to talk about what to put where treatment wise, we needed to know more about Ollie's space and he sent Paul and I some pictures and the plan of his space that you can see below to give an idea of the size of the space. Paul decided that a Universal Acoustics Mercury 2 room kit would do the job with the addition of some EPS diffusers to attempt to break up any standing waves in tricky reflexion points that we may find during the installation and testing.
The First Problem
Under normal conditions, the acoustic panels would be fixed directly to the walls using the provided adhesive. The kit comes with 2 cans of Space Mist to attach the foam products and 2 tubes of Cosmic Fluid to the EPS products.
Ollie was concerned (and rightly so) about sticking the treatment directly to the walls for fear of damaging them or being able to move the treatment products later on. I came up with the idea to mount the foam and EPS onto what I'm going to call fibre "Peg Board". I had this cut at a local DIY store to six 2ft x 4ft pieces. Thus allowing 8 foam or EPS tiles to be glued to each board and then 2 screws could be used to fix the boards to the walls in the correct locations.
You can see the Peg Board and how we laid out the tiles in the images below.
We ended up with enough foam to make five 2x4 boards and decided to put these to the left and right of the mix position on the front and back walls and one of the right of the mix position to stop any secondary reflections from the side wall. Fortunately, Ollie's house is built from good old British red brick so fixing these to the wall was simply a case of getting busy with a hammer drill, some rawplugs and some 2" number 10 screws. We chose to hang the boards so the centre of the boards would be at head height when seated at the mix position.
We then had six EPS diffusers to install. We mounted these in a smaller 2x6 configuration with the idea of either putting these in the void in front of the mix position between the speakers, but Ollie had said he might put a bookcase (a very good home made diffuser) in that space. We also talked about flying it above the mix position but having not planned this we were not really equipped for that job. We decided to leave this piece free to be moved around and for Ollie to decide through trial and error where this piece worked and had the greatest effect.
Lastly, we had four large Mercury Bass 300 bass traps to instal. We again mounted these on a smaller board with Space Mist and kept these mobile so once again Ollie could through experiments work out where these bass traps had the greatest effect.
You can see in the images below and in the video at the top of this story that I think the acoustic foam looks great in Ollie's studio. I think it was more by luck than judgement that his studio is a kind of battleship grey colour already so the foam looks really great against it. The Peg Board is just visible above the foam but Ollie may chose to point this at a later date to help it all blend in.
Once installation was complete and we had tidied up and but his gear back together had say and listened to some of our favourite tracks and some of Ollie's work to find out if we could hear a positive difference. I think it is fair to say that the foam tiles on the peg board are a really good start at making Ollie's working space sound as good as it possibly can. As we mention in the video, the window is going to be an issue for sound reflexions but a heavy drape might be a visually pleasing solution there.
Having heard Ollie's room before and after the Universal Acoustic products installation, I would have to say we made a positive difference. Bass in the room sounded tighter which has to be a good thing but also the top end felt more focused and the stereo image of the Yamaha monitors sounded more defined. Is this a perfect acoustically treated room? No, far from it. Is it a better place for Ollie to work and be able to hear what he is recording and mixing? Absolutely! Just grab the hoover Ollie, you missed a spot.