There's no denying it, acoustic treatment is an essential component in any recording studio. Acoustic treatment comes in a variety of different styles such as absorption and diffusion. Recording studios that do not have at least some form of acoustic treatment in place suffer terribly with reflections and flutter echoes. Mixing on studio monitors and recording with microphones are both general studio workflows that people struggle with in studios don't have some form of acoustic treatment.
Off the shelf acoustic treatment solutions can cost an eye-watering amount, luckily, there are a fair few affordable acoustic treatment solutions available for home recording studio guys on a budget.
If your studio has some spare space then consider this quick, free and easy way to combat some reflections in your room. Get a sofa in the studio as these large soft furnationings are great at absorbing low to high-frequency reflections. If you are on a budget and can not afford to buy a new sofa then search for sofas in your local area that people are quite literally giving away on websites such as Craigslist and Gumtree.
Like sofas, wall mounted shelves and freestanding tall bookshelves on the wall behind your main listening position are also great at making a room sound more balanced on a budget. Shelving, with books on, act as great makeshift diffusers. Random dimensions of books scatter sound back into the room at random angles and times. Diffuser disperses reflections stopping ping-pong reflections occuring between parallel walls.
These simple devices are very popular with the home recording studio crowd. Condensor microphones are prone to picking up unwanted room tone when tracking vocals or instruments, reflection filters shield around the sides and back of microphones reducing room reflections from entering the microphone. From experience, reflection filters do work well when recording in lively sounding rooms but there is a small drawback... Lyric sheets can be a struggle to place.
SE Electronics started the reflection filter trend back in 2006. SE have since updated their design and many other companies such as Aston Microphone have also released their own take on microphone reflection filters. If you are interested in buying a reflection filter then expect to pay between £50 - £250. The cheapest filters are made from basic foam, spend a little more and you'll get a filter made up of several different materials that will perform better.
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Personally, I can't stand studio foam. I've aired my opinions on foam in the past on Pro Tools Expert:
Years ago I did the whole studio foam thing only to realise years later that it, sonically speaking, sucked the life and energy out of my studio. It was a bad move.
Off the shelf 50mm deep "studio" foam doesn't absorb much in the low-mid to low end of things, instead, cheap "studio" foam that you see advertised on sites such as eBay only absorbs high-frequency reflections that often can be heard as flutter echoes.
If you do decide to go the foam route in your studio then please learn from my past mistakes, don't feel the need to cover the majority of your walls with the stuff. Use small amounts in areas where flutter echoes occur and at main reflection points in your room. On a safety note, ONLY install fire retardant foam.
Broadband absorption panels perform really quite well in most studios. They absorb a far greater range of frequencies, hence the name. Rockwool is commonly used inside as the absorption material leaving a one-inch air gap behind as this gap improves the performance in low-frequency absorption.
If you were to buy these off-the-shelf you would be expected to pay in the region of £70 per panel, which isn't bad value, but if like me you need several the price does skyrocket a bit.
Luckily, these style broadband absorption panels are relatively easy to make with some basic hand tools and some standard materials from your local hardware store. If I were to go to my local hardware store and buy timber, screws and Rockwool to make five panels I would be spending in the region of £70 plus another £50 for coloured fabric to cover the panels.
If you do decide to build your own acoustic treatment panels then check out GIK as they can supply you with acoustic breathable fabric that comes in a variety of colours. I recently purchased a roll of white Cameria fabric to recover my broadband absorption panels to match the decor of my new studio.
What Have We Missed?
Those are some affordable acoustic treatment solutions for home recording studios on a budget. If you know of any cool budget acoustic treatment tips that you feel would be a nice addition to this article then please share them with the community in the comments below.