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Better Studio Acoustics Part 2

Acoustic Tips Part 2

We continue!

So let's continue looking at ideas to help you improve your space for better mixes and ultimately better masters.

If you've not read part one I recommend you check it out as there's some hot topics and advice discussed that might give you a few ideas to help you improve your space for the better.  

Go check out Better Studio Acoustics Part One now or if you've not got time here's a quick summing up of what was discussed!

  • Mixing in a untreated room can fool you into thinking your mix correct
  • A bounced mix from an untreated room might not sound right played back in other rooms
  • Monitor stands help decouple your speakers
  • Monitor isolators are great for playing on studio desks and decouple the monitors
  • Room adjustment software can help to take the room out of your speakers
  • REW is a great free downloadable software for analysing your room

So with the above covered let's discuss how you can put all that data you've gathered from REW to good use!

The beatsuite is a great studio with a some amazing acoustic design looks as good as it sounds!

The beatsuite is a great studio in Newcastle with some amazing acoustic design looks and it sounds good too!

5. Expert Advice

So now you've downloaded the software bought the mic and analysed the room and have lots of colourful charts telling you lots about your room what now?  Well like me you probably will only understand the data to a point and therefore it can be hard to make a true judgement of what your room really needs.  

We all love forums

This is where expert advice comes in forums like Gearslutz can be an amazing resource I love forums they are a great resource and you'll find some really friendly folk that will gladly help you out and give you good advice.  There's also like most forums people that will spend more time giving you less than helpful advice and make you feel like the best and only option is to throw in the towel and become a spoon whittler!  So take forums with a pinch of salt be a good judge of who's the experts and whose not.  They're easy to spot the good ones focus on helpful advice while the not so good ones focus on telling you emphatically where you're going wrong.

There are two very good forum acoustic experts on Gearslutz Ethan Winer (Real Traps) and Glenn Kuras (GIK Acoustics) they both run their own very good acoustics companies but are very active on the forums and always willing to lend expert advice.  What they don't know about acoustics isn't worth knowing so if you do post on Gearslutz and get a response from them you've got good, trusted advice. 

Trust the Experts

The best and most trusted expert advice is from dedicated acoustic specialists they can help you with the REW charts as they understand them intimately.  They can help advise you on the best solutions and products in getting your room sounding great.  Of course they want your business and so will advise based on their products so it's wise to choose a company that is reputable or comes on high recommendation.

If you want my advice, for what it's worth, and I can only speak with authority for one company and that's because I use their products.  I mentioned Glenn Kuras of GIK Acoustics, I have used GIK's products for years and am very happy with the way the work.  I have Broadband Panels, Tri-Traps, Bass Traps and Monster Bass traps in my room and they have made a massive difference to the trust I have in my speakers.

They are not cheap but equally not the most expensive solution either and you'll find them in many a pro studios and mix rooms doing a great job of helping to make great music. 

Let's not have a foam party

For me personally and if you're in the market for treating and improving your rooms acoustics I think saving and investing with companies like Real Traps or GIK Acoustics is a better choice than buying acoustic foam panels.  I'm not saying they don't work just that, well they don't work as well as specialised panels!

They work up to a point and the foam panels will absorb some frequencies up to a point but for the biggest problem a room will face bass trapping can only truly be treated by higher end professional panels

The best advice I can give is even though it might well be tempting to spend a couple of hundred dollars, pounds or Euros on foam panels I really do think personally it's a waste of money.  Wait be patient and save your money if you can and treat your room to something special, your room and more importantly your mixes deserve a great sounding space.

If you do want to buy foam panels please what ever you do don't buy anything that's really cheap you'll just be wasting your money and the foam won't do anything other than look neat on the wall!  

A trusted company like Auralex have quality budget solutions for acoustics and have a wide range of products you won't get quite the service and quality as say GIK but it is a affordable and a reputable option if you really want to go down that route.

 

Do It Yourself

keep-calm-and-do-it-yourselfIf you're handy with a hammer and like many buddying DIYer's you might want to have a go at making your own traps and panels?  

There is a ton of information on the web that will provide you with advice on building your own panels.  Many budding studio owners have successfully done this and there is lots of vendors our there that are keen to sell you rockwool and the various materials that you would need in order to build your own homemade panels.

Gearslutz again is a great resource with a huge pool of information on the subject of building panels and absorbers.  You never know it could be fun building it too, I'm totally lacking in this department so my advice is limited, be careful do your research and make sure you're buying products that first and foremost are safe, not a fire risk and clean for the environment you're in.  Make sure you're buying materials that will do the job you want them too, absorb the frequencies you are intending to catch etc.

GIK offer DIY products so you can have fun building your own traps in the knowledge your buying a trusted quality product!

What you need

So what panels does your room need?

That's difficult to answer because I have no idea what your room is like, how big is your room?  What shape is it?  How high are the ceilings?  Acoustics is a complex and scientific process and isn't something you can do just by guess work but I can offer a few guidance tips.

Pick me First

So when starting to think about treating a room often (but not always) a good place to start is the back wall, this is because sound will hit the back wall and then reflect back at you.  So treating the back wall first is always a good place to start.

Treating the back wall usually falls to bass traps, perhaps a trap in the centre of the wall and traps in the corner.  Bass frequencies are always the biggest problems in rooms especially smaller rooms, bass build up can be even greater than in larger rooms so bass trapping and treating the back wall is always a good place to begin your quest for a better sounding room. 

Go and stand in the corner!

Corners are where the naughty sounds go and a lot of naughty sounds lurk in the corners!  In any room especially smaller rooms like mine corners are the biggest problem.  Why?  Because they trap low frequency and hype your room with low end.  Walk around an untreated room and you'll find the corners can have more bass energy than any other part of the room. 

This can be a big problem for a recording, mixing and especially mastering rooms as it will completely change the way you perceive the direct sound coming out of your speakers.

Bass traps are the answer to this problem ideally from floor to ceiling but you can get really good results from hanging them at the same level as your speakers so that the traps absorb most of the sound as it hits the corners.  The best choices for treatment is bass trap panels, tri traps and the ultimate in corner treatment are soffit traps.

Great reflections

Treating early reflections is very important and this is usually the job of the broadband panel that is hung either side and even directly above your seating position.  As sound leaves your speaker it emanates in all directions but can be seen as traveling in two basic ways:

  1. Direct sound, which is the audio traveling from the speaker directly to your ear.
  2. Reflected sound, which is audio traveling from the speaker to a wall, ceiling or floor that eventually reflects of the surface back to your ear.  

This reflected sound can seriously change the way you hear your music and can trick you into thinking it's doing something it's not.  For example early reflections can actually make you think the sound stage of the mix is bigger than it actually is.  Broadband panels reduce early reflection so that you hear more of the direct sound rather than the reflected.  More often than not the more panels you have treating reflection points the better; they are most effective at capturing higher frequencies so are best used in combination with bass traps to cover and balance the entire frequency spectrum.

Let's finish up before I bore you too much!

So to conclude this brief or not so brief (depending on your viewpoint!) section on acoustic trapping the three main things you want to think about are:

  1. Treat your back wall with bass traps
  2. Treat ALL your corners with bass traps
  3. Treat early reflections with broadband panels

There is so much more I could talk about but I've bored you enough already so I'll conclude here with this thought don't go for cheap acoustic materials you really will waste your money.  The more bass trapping you have in your room the better and the more panels to treat reflections the better too.

It's more exciting spending your hard earned cash on plugins and VIs but quality acoustics are one investment that will last you years, you won't have to update or buy software upgrades, they may not produce cool noises but they will make your cool noises sound balanced in your room and even cooler your music to Granny!

Gik Monster Trap

Gik Monster Trap.

GIK Corner Traps

GIK Corner Traps.

The ultimate, GiK soffit trap.

The ultimate GIK Soffit Trap.

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