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Look, I don’t want to be the one to break it to you, but your studio could be lying to you.
Picture this: You’re up late one night working on a new track. It sounds great, like really, really great. You’re super excited and you can’t wait to share it with others. But as soon as you play it in your car, at a friends house or anywhere other than your studio, it sounds like complete trash.
Sound familiar? It’s a cold hard fact for everyone who hasn't worked on their studio's acoustic treatment. The good news is there’s a solution to your problem and we can help!
When it comes to your average untreated studio, we're talking about rooms that were never meant for recording or mixing music. They don't necessarily offer the best acoustic environments for working. Hard surfaces like drywall, wood, concrete and metal affect the way we hear sound. Things like parallel surfaces and 90˚ angles can create unpleasant reflections called "room modes" that deceive your ears.
Room modes make certain frequencies sound louder or quieter than they actually are depending on where you’re sitting in the room. Have you ever noticed the bass sounds louder at the back of your room than it does in the listening position? Yeah, those are room modes.
A simple way to test for room modes is to open the stock signal generator in your DAW and slowly sweep through the frequencies. You’ll probably notice the frequencies aren’t all the same level and that’s your room lying to you once again.
If you’re not getting an accurate representation of the frequency response coming out of your speakers from the listening position, you’re not going to make the right decisions when mixing. A track may seem like it has too much in the low-mids, so you cut and cut and cut but you just can’t seem to get rid of that build-up at 200Hz.
That’s because the build-up isn’t coming from you speakers. It’s coming from inside the building. It’s coming from the room you're in. Even if you could gut the low-mids enough to sound good in your studio, it’s going to sound thin on any other system, all thanks to room modes.
In order to correct these room modes, you’ll need to install some basic acoustic treatment. There are two types of treatment, absorption and diffusion. Absorption panels are used to absorb sound waves and prevent them from bouncing around the room. They’re typically made of foam or rockwool. Diffusion panels are typically made of wood and are used to reflect sound waves and prevent standing waves.
Absorption panels will help make a room feel more “dead” or isolated, while diffusion panels will help prevent problems like standing waves, flutter echo and comb filtering without taking away the “liveness” of the room.
Different rooms will require different amounts of coverage depending on what they’ll be used for. Most tracking rooms are more on the “live” side and only feature 25-50% coverage, while control rooms may feature 50-75% coverage. Iso booths feature even more than that.
The Plan For Acoustic Redemption
OK, so we’ve identified the problem, now how do we fix it? Our team of Vintage King Audio Consultants can help you devise a plan that will work with your specific room, but for the purposes of this blog, let’s take a look at a common acoustic treatment package for a typical control room.
The corners are usually the biggest problem in any room, especially where the walls meet the floor/ceiling. This is where bass traps can help prevent the low-frequencies from building up in the corners.
Next up is your listening position. Panels are often installed to the left and right of your listening position. This will help reduce flutter echo and comb filtering from early reflections bouncing off the walls. In addition, you'll want some panels on the wall directly behind you, where the speakers are pointing, as well as the wall behind the speakers to prevent sound from bouncing back and forth.
Last, but not least, you'll need to control reflections from the floor and ceiling. If you’re in a carpeted room, the floor is probably fine. If not, get a rug. Additionally, some panels will need to be installed on the ceiling directly above the listening position.
Bells and Whistles
There are also a lot of small things you can do to improve the acoustics of your listening environment. Isolating your monitors from your desk is a cheap and effective way to make quickly make a big improvement.
Things like gobos, filters and portable iso booths can make a huge difference when tracking in less than ideal environments. Even things like the lighting in your studio can have a big impact on the way things sound in your room. And for those of you looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, most acoustic treatment companies offer a variety of packages to cover the basics for a smaller studio.
One extra special way of working on your room's acoustics can involve using gear from Trinnov Audio. The Trinnov D-Mon is a versatile monitor controller designed to analyze your space and provide acoustic correction to create a finely tuned listening environment. For a more in-depth look at what Trinnov gear can do, consult our guide on five ways the D-Mon can supercharge your studio.
The Next Step
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of the importance and role that acoustic treatment plays in a studio, we want to help you take the next step. We carry a variety of brands like Vicoustic, Primacoustic, Auralex and Real Traps, that we can use to help outfit your studio and make it sound better than ever.
If you're interested in learning more about how Vintage King's Audio Consultants can help you with your studio's acoustic treatment, please contact a team member via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.