Welcome to a new Pro Tools Expert series called Pros & Cons where we weigh up three benefits against three downsides within everyday recording studio workflows and studio gear choices. In this first article, we discuss the pros and cons of pre-built acoustic treatment panels such as bass traps and ceiling clouds. Pre-built panels are generally a timber-framed box filled with sound absorption material covered with breathable acoustic fabric.
Pro - Out Of The Box Panels Perform Better Than Studio Foam
A lot of foam based acoustic treatment perform well within a very narrow frequency range whereas acoustic treatment absorption panels perform better across a much wider frequency range. These types of panels are generally described as broadband absorption.
Pro - Minimal Damage To Walls
It is so easy to install a pre-built acoustic panel. Minimal damage to interior walls is also an added bonus as only two strong 90 degree brackets with 4 screws are needed to securely hang a panel on a wall. When removing the panels to move the studio to a new building the redundant screw holes only require a little filler, sand paper and paint to make good on the walls.
Pro - Transportable & Long Lasting
My studio has moved twice in the last two years. Both times I had my CM Acoustics broadband acoustic panels, fiberboard ceiling clouds and HOFA bass traps - these acoustic panels were placed around my studio with ease so that I could quickly balance the acoustics in the room. The best thing it that I know what these panels can do as I've used them in other rooms with my monitors.
Con - Size & Weight
Acoustic panels come in all shapes and sizes but expect any panel to weigh a fair bit. If the panels are not secured to a wall then don't be surprised when one falls off and breaks something expensive on the way down - This has happened to me.... twice. If you have a large collection of acoustic panels like me then you may also find it difficult to transport all of them. My acoustic panels take up a standard size Ford Transit alone, my home moving company had to send for an extra small van for my acoustics as they didn't fit in with my house items.
Con - Expensive
Acoustic panels are fairly expensive for one unit alone. The cost really skyrockets when factoring in the cost of several units. The problem, in this case, is that you'll never really know how many acoustic panels a studio space will need to sound good until at least two panels are mounted on the wall at the first reflection points. I purchased two at a time and kept going until my studio sounded balanced - This got expensive.
Con - Choosing The Right Acoustic Panels Is A Gamble
This really is a con for all "off the shelf" acoustic treatment products as you'll never know how a selection of acoustics will perform in a room until purchased and mounted. The gamble is "safer" with acoustic studio foam as it is less expensive - Excess studio foam can be given away or disposed of quite easily - Not so easy with expensive acoustic panels.
Have Your Say
Let's hear some of your Pros & Cons for Using Pre-Built Acoustic Treatment Panels In Recording Studios.