Acoustic treatment can be a ridiculously confusing topic.

If you’re just starting out with recording, acoustic treatment might be the last thing on your mind. After all, you’re trying to figure out microphones, interfaces, EQ, compression, etc.

Speaking from personal experience, I wish I had gotten acoustic treatment for my studio much sooner than I did. Recording and mixing without acoustic treatment is similar to playing golf with really cheap clubs. You might be able to put together a decent round, but you’re constantly limited by the capabilities of your equipment.

Without acoustic treatment, you’re constantly limited by the capabilities of your room. (More on this below.)

I talked about the need for acoustic treatment on Day 4 of 31 Days to Better Recordings. If you haven’t read that article, do so. It’s important that you know why you need acoustic treatment.

2 Acoustic Treatment Myths

Yesterday I emailed my newsletter subscribers about acoustic treatment. I simply asked them if they had any treatment. I got a TON of replies, and among the responses I noticed a few things that bothered me.

It reminded me of all the myths out there that surround acoustic treatment. Here are a few of the responses I got.

Being new to the whole recording stuff, I’ve not attempted mic recording yet. I have seen alot of topics on this subject, so must be a key element of good recordings.

And this one:

Since all my stuff is written via sample and soft synth the only accommodations I need to make is for vocals and for that I throw the kid in the closet and do the best with what comes out…:)

These two responses represent one of the misconceptions I see in a lot of new home studio owners. They are under the impression that acoustic treatment only helps the recording process.

While acoustic treatment DOES make the actual recordings sound better, it is just as important (if not MORE important) to the mixing process.

The sound is coming out of your speakers, then bouncing around your room. Your room is then altering the sound, oftentimes dramatically.

Takeaway point: Acoustic treatment helps you get better mixes.

Here’s another response I got:

The only acoustic treatment, i will ever need, as long as I’m a home-recordler, and dont have somebody to build a studio professionally from scratch… is the IK MULTIMEDIA ARC…Believe me, when i compare my monitors with the ARC on, to my Audio-Technica ATH-M50, I hear pretty much exactly the same sound.

I am a musician, not a robo-engineer, so if the ARC gets me 95% (or more) there, i prefer to not spend thousands of euro, and huge stress to get on the technical-scientific side of things, and do room treatments.

I wrote an article on this a few months back. (See Acoustic Treatment vs Digital Room Correction.)

The problem here is that IK’s Arc software creates an EQ curve to compensate for the room. Unfortunately, most acoustical issues can’t be completely fixed with EQ. (Your room could be causing a 45 dB dip at certain frequencies. An EQ can’t fix that.)

While this technology is FANTASTIC, and it can be found in studio monitors as well, there’s really no replacement for acoustic treatment. I recommend digital room correction as an add-on to your acoustically-treated room…not a replacement.

Acoustic treatment can address issues in both the frequency domain AND the time domain.

Still a bit confused?

That’s understandable. That’s why I’m launching a brand new training course this week. It’ll be something I’ve never done before, and it will give you all the ammo you need to tackle your room’s acoustical issues.

I’ll be telling my newsletter subscribers about it first. (One of the perks of being a subscriber.) If you want to be the first to know about it, sign up here.

[Photo by SAN_DRINO]

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  • JP

    I agree with the above sentiments with the exception of using foam for treatment. Sure, it will pass the “clap your hands” test, but that’s about it.

    I bought into the Auralex stuff, bought boxs of wedges, the bass trap LRNDs, etc. It looked silly and more importantly didn’t solve issues with mids and low-mids (male voice, guitars, bass, drums, etc.) Finally did some proper research and learned about broadband panels and proper methods for dealing with bass issues.

    For real acoustic treatment, make your own (or buy $$) broadband traps (and gobos) for real acoustic treatment. The basics are all over the net, but I’m sure Joe will cover this aggregate this knowledge in his course for y’all and save you a few hours of work.

    JP

    • I’ve also gone both routes. I did one room using all Auralex foam based products for bass trapping and absorption. Then I got their plastic type diffusion panels. In my current room I made the bass traps and absorption panels myself using a mineral fiber material. Both were very effective and really helped improve my mix. One thing I couldn’t build were proper diffusors. They do some serious math on designing the patters on those and I think the plastic type diffusors have some merit.

      The only downside of building the panels yourself is that it takes time to do it right. There is a lot of research involved and it’s a somewhat cumbersome process to build panels that will hold up for a long period of time, and not look awful. I know it’s superficial, but I like my studio to look good. If you can spend the money on Auralex, do it. Save your time. If your budget is tight then the home built panels are equally effective but take your time to research and make sure you’re doing it right.

      • JP

        You have a point about the diffusers, but spending money on foam, be it for acoustic treatment or bedding, is a waste of money in my opinion. Again, you’re damping high and high-mids at best but that’s it. There’s more to treatment than killing slap-back echoes and flutter. I’m sure Joe knows this will hopefully be up front with his customers if he’s getting commission from Sweetwater or an endorsement from Auralex for promoting their products. (I don’t care either way… the guys got a family to feed… just be open)

        As far as building panels, I’ve done it from scratch and later on I found a company that sells bag panels for rigid fiberglass or rockwool panel insertion. Much easier and looks good too.

        But go ahead and try foam. Just keep it in good condition so you can sell it on eBay or Craigslist later on.

        • Hey JP,

          You’re right, foam handles the highs, but that’s still an important part of the treatment process. In fact, when I first started recording, I noticed a HUGE difference in the sound of my room by JUST adding foam. Was it perfectly treated? Of course not, but it was a start.

          [Also, to answer your comments about Sweetwater and Auralex. As I mentioned in my review of the Auralex Roominators kit, they DID send it to me for free to review on the site. And Sweetwater IS an advertiser here, but I don’t get commissions on stuff they sell. Any time I partner with someone, it’s because I believe in them. That’s why I haven’t partnered with too many people. Also, I try to make that as clear as possible, so as not to sound overly biased.]

        • I’ve found that “waste of money” usually depends on how much of it you have. 🙂 I’m a frugal guy and my wife keeps having kids (although I’m partially to blame for that one) so going the home made route makes the most sense for me financially. If I had a more lax budget I’d probably pay for Auralex, or Primacoustic just for convenience’s sake. While their 2″ foam is just for upper mids and highs, they do make some broadband absorbers that are effective. Actually they make fiberglass panels that are basically exactly what I built, so it’s not a question of effectiveness, it’s a question of budget. If you have the spare cash it makes sense.

          I built my deck, redid my floors, do my own oil changes, built my acoustic panels, and would probably do my own dental work if I could. To some guys, it’s worth the extra cash to have someone else do things for them. That’s where I can see the merit of acoustic panel companies.

    • True, broadband will handle lower frequencies.

  • David

    Joe,
    For quite some time I have been doing things that sounded right in my home studio only to find out that my mixes dont translate on other platforms. Now that I have found the extra cash to treat my room, I look forward to learning more on this topic.

    David.

  • Wayne Johnson

    Acoustic treatment for my room made a huge difference especially in the low end to lower midrange. It’s not perfect but my room shape is not rectangular. I have some bass traps and have made mixing much easier. Getting your mixes to sound good in cars,iPODs and home stereo systems. Ifyou don’t invest in Mopads and acoustic treatment your just spinning your wheels at the starting line of the race. It is one of the cheaper investments to make your mixes sound better. Just Do It!!!!!
    Wayne

  • Matt

    Joe,
    Acoustic treatment is absolutely ESSENTIAL, especially when mixing!!
    I found that, before treating my mix room with Auralex and other acoustic treatments, my mix didn’t sound the same in other peoples homes, cars, et cetera as it did in my studio. The bass response was usually the worst offender. Without proper acoustic treatments, you’re just rolling the dice!!
    I’m looking forward to your new course!
    ~matt