In most home studios space is a luxury. Many music producers who record, mix and master music from home commandeer spare bedrooms, garages, basements or even garden outhouses as their studios but these types of spaces are not always the best starting points when room acoustics is concerned.
Domestic rooms are typically either quite small in volume or have equal proportions (such as being square shaped), neither of which are great for studio room acoustics. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world though, if your studio suffers from some types of room acoustics issue as all rooms, large or small, will inherently have room modes. Typically though, the smaller the room you’ve got the higher the room modes will be and the bigger the room acoustic problems you will need to address.
What Are The Main Room Acoustic Problems I Should Know About In My Studio?
There are two common room acoustic issues that you need to be aware of in any home recording studio:
Room modes: All rooms have naturally occurring resonance frequencies called room modes or standing waves between opposing walls, floors and ceiling, which cause problems for studio monitor frequency responses making it difficult to hear a true representation of music through monitoring as certain frequencies will be boosted where the room resonates.
Unflattering reverberation: High pitched flutter echos is the easiest type of reverberation to hear in an untreated room, especially if the space has lots of hard reflective surfaces such as wooden floors and flat featureless parallel walls. Such echoes cause recordings to sound roomy and ambient which typically isn’t pleasing to the ear. Just clap your hands and listen for a ping.
Addressing those two room acoustic issues with acoustic treatment in a studio environment is key to getting a room that not only sounds focused and tight in tracking but also balanced and trustworthy in mixing and mastering… but where do you start? Firstly you have to set expectations. A small square room for example will always have it’s problems regardless of how much treatment you apply as physically there isn’t enough space in the room for certain frequencies to develop. Acoustic treatment will help to improve some areas in your room but not all.
Room acoustics is one of those subjects that typically gets people hot under their collars, as do listicles. Also with listicles, we get complaints about “sponsored content”. To hopefully avoid this we want to state from the outset that this article was not sponsored or even requested by any of the brands we are featuring.
If In Doubt Talk To Pro Acoustic Treatment Company
Acoustic treatment in principle isn’t a difficult subject to get your head around but in practice it can take a lot of time and trial & error, after all, every room is different so there is no one size fits all. Luckily there are many “rules of thumb” that can be applied when installing acoustic treatment but if you find yourself struggling to understand or implement a good acoustic treatment solution in your studio then I strongly suggest you contact a company whose business is acoustic treatment.
Although some feel confident to undertake a DIY solution when it comes to acoustic treatment, we recognise that that doesn’t work for everybody.
Choosing acoustic treatment is more challenging as it’s not possible to demo or test a full solution in your studio before buying a solution with a number of panels and installing it.
To help those currently looking at investing in acoustic treatment in this article we’ve put together a list of top brands that provide great sounding low cost off the shelf acoustic panels and treatment solutions to help you improve the sound and performance of your studio space.
The Auralex website features a wealth of very useful soundproofing and acoustic treatment info. If you are building a soundproof studio from scratch or retro fitting a room with acoustic treatment then you’ve got to check out Auralex’s online tools which includes a useful acoustical terms index and room analysis app that you enter your room dimensions into if you need help choosing an Auralex acoustic treatment package.
Auralex offers a wide range of acoustic treatment products ranging from low cost studio absorption foam bundles through to some beautifully crafted high-end panels. They also produce some cool studio monitors and guitar amp decoupling (isolation) products as well.
In general their site is very good at explaining each of their products and solutions in layman's terms which I feel is quite refreshing as many brands of this ilk speak too technically . Auralex is one of those companies that are more than happy to help you with your studio build or acoustic treatment queries over the phone or via email. I can vouch for that as the team at Auralex provided me some very useful advice when I was planning my studio build a few years back.
GIK Acoustic produce acoustic panels with beautifully machined designs, just check out their Alpha & Impression Series. Besides producing a wide range of solutions ranging bass traps, diffusion and absorption panels, GIK have also made it possible for us to produce a visual mock up of our room with the panels positioned on the virtual walls of our studio. Of course, it’s very important for us to know that the acoustic panels we put up in our studio are going to perform well but it’s also nice to have a idea what they will look like when installed. Check out the Beta of GIK’s Room Acoustics Visualizer.
I haven’t purchased any of GIK’s acoustic panels but I have ordered a fair amount of acoustic fabric that GIK supply in a variety of colours. Their prices were by far the best I could find online which enabled me to recover 8 large acoustic panels on a small budget.
Like Auralex, GIK do not expect you to work out the type and quantity of acoustic treatment by yourself. They have an online form that you can fill out and send to them which enables GIK to provide you with a solution that they believe will best serve your studio requirements.
Uk based acoustic treatment company CM Acoustics produce a wide range of absorption and diffusion panels available in a range of colours that do the job perfectly… I should know, I own ten of their broadband absorbers and I absolutely love them! If you don’t fully understand all the acoustic treatment terminology that floats around the internet then check out CM Acoustics’ knowledge base as this resource features several fantastic explanations covering many topics covering early reflection points through to what is diffusion.
HOFA’s approach to acoustic treatment is a modular affair which is useful for those who need to charge the sound or acoustic characteristics of their studios frequently. Let’s say you need your studio to sound dry one day for a voice over recording but lively the following day for a rock drum recording…. well, HOFA’s products could very well be just what you need.
The back wall in my studio features 5 HOFA Frames mounted side by side. The middle three frames house six HOFA Diffusers, the outer two frames have HOFA Absorbers. What I can do at some point in the future is get another six absorbers and switch out the diffusers easily if I need that wall to be more absorbent. These panels simply pull out and push into the frames which are fastened to the wall.
If you are unsure how many frame and panels you need in your studio then you can either use HOFA’s Acoustics Advice & Planning service or their online Acoustic Wizard which calculates the reverberation times of your studio based on the room dimensions you input. The results provide you with possible solutions for the optimisation.
Vicoustic offer a range of innovative acoustic treatment solutions such as the VicTotem, a free standing variable acoustic treatment stack which provides absorption, diffusion and bass management in the same product, Vari Bass, a bass trap that can be tuned by the user between 50 Hz and 100 Hz by simply rotating its wooden top and Multifuser DC2, diffusion panels made from high quality EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). I use six DC2 panels on the front wall of my studio. These are available in a range of colours, are lightweight which enabled me to mount the panels using a small amount of adhesive and look & sound the part.
Artnovion produces acoustic treatment panels that they claim are shallower in depth compared to many other panels on the market. This space saving approach apparently doesn’t effect the performance of the panels, it’s claimed to actually improve absorption. Artnovion says:
Without compromising the best performance, we committed ourselves to use less material in our products so that we can reduce our impact on the Environment. The unique design creates isolated air cavities that not only optimize shipping but also provide 20% better acoustic performance.
Primacoustic has designed and manufactured acoustic treatment for over 30 years. I’ve lost count of how many studios I’ve visited with Primacoustic panels fitted to the walls. Primacoustic offers a wide range of products from, bass traps, ceiling clouds, absorption panels and complete acoustic treatment room kits. They also offer a great selection of studio tools which include a microphone reflection filter style absorber, kick drum microphone stand isolator & crash guard for reducing bleed into snare drum microphones. Primacoustics have so many options aimed at studio acoustics that I’m sure there’s at least one product that will take your fancy.
I’ve always felt that purchasing acoustic treatment isn’t the most exciting way of spending money. I’d much rather spend my hard earned on a tasty microphone or outboard unit than acoustic treatment but I know deep down that kind of mindset is shortsighted.
It’s important to consider some acoustic treatment solutions to help the rooms we choose to have our studios in sound and perform better as a studio that sounds good is a room that helps us to make better choices with our ears. A room that performs well is a room that can be trusted for tracking and mixing.