Home Studio (5): Acoustic Treatment

Ugh. This stuff gives me a headache. Just look at this picture.

It’s a mess, but I have a good reason for trying. Here’s a snippet of the studio AFTER we fixed it:

Acoustic treatment prevents sound waves from reflecting against the walls and corners in the room. Unwanted reflections can cause cancellation (or amplification) of certain frequencies. For example: From where you sit, it sounds like your song is lacking in bass, so you compensate by enhancing the bass in you mix using EQ. The result is that when you listen to your mix on headphones or car speakers, it sounds muddy or boomy. It’s because room contained unwanted reflections which fooled your ears, so you over-compensated.

The problem with Google is, anyone can put “facts” on the internet (like me, right now!) So if people have different opinions, how do you know which one is right? I’ll just tell you what I’ve tried so far.

1. Your (Mixer’s) Position

Your head should go in the center of the room facing the shortest wall. Being centered is important for a symmetrical stereo image, blah, blah, etc. Google how and where to place your monitor speakers. They should be in an equilateral triangle with your head.

2. Acoustic Panels and Bass Traps

At first I tried to wing it by slapping up foam everywhere. I poured money into those silly-looking foam pads because I was too lazy/cheap to go for the real panels. As you can see, that looked ridiculous.

We built the acoustic panels at home. You can buy 2′ x 4′ x 4″ acoustic panels for about $60 each from Acoustimac (right here in Tampa), or you can make 6 of them for around $150 using plywood, foam, a hammer, nails, and a staple gun. You can buy the rockwool insulation from Home Depot or a box of Roxul from Acoustimac (it’s $60 for 6 pieces of 2′ x 4′ x 2″ foam.) You can purchase the canvas fabric from Joann’s. 

To learn how to build acoustic panels yourself, Youtube it. Here is a video that I enjoyed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSogByPUezc

3. Where to Place the Panels

Google how to use the mirror method to find reflection points.

First, I planned out the room. I drew the dimensions in Microsoft Excel. In the drawing on the left, the red panels were bass traps– thicker corner protection against low frequency reflections. The gray acoustic panels were my second priority, and the blue ones were lowest-priority (not really necessary to get a good mix; these were more for recording a loud drum set, or just aesthetics).

When you are done, make loud noises in your room and see if you hear any echoing or ringing. If you do, you may need to move a panel or add more treatment.

I’m very lucky to have a handy man at home. While renovating the panels, we decided to paint the room red. Here are some photos! It’s still not finished, but it’s a lot nicer than it was before!


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