Welcome to Day 4 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.

HSC31DaysLogo_400.jpgIt would be a grave injustice for me to talk about getting better recordings and not dedicate a day to acoustic treatment.

Acoustic treatment is probably one of the least “fun” items you’ll add to your studio, but the benefits FAR outweigh any potential inconveniences. Whether you decide to buy or build your acoustic treatment, this is absolutely one of those must-have items.

I’ve talked about acoustic treatment a lot on HSC. (Click here to see all the acoustic treatment articles.)

What IS acoustic treatment?

I’d guess that 98% of you have home studios in some sort of spare room in your house. In other words, the room wasn’t built specifically to be a studio.

Chances are there are a lot of bare walls and parallel surfaces and right angles. While very common in houses, these things can wreak havoc on the sound of the room.

This isn’t some evil myth created by acoustic treatment companies to get you to buy acoustic treatment. The problems are real. It’s physics.

Ever wonder why your recordings sound nothing like the professional recordings you listen to? Ever wonder why your mixes sound great in your studio, then sound horribly bass-heavy in the car? Ever wonder why your vocals don’t cut through the mix?

Acoustic treatment can address all of these issues.

Hear it for Yourself

I explained this in more detail in my review of the Auralex Roominators Project Kit. I highly recommend reading that and listening to the before and after sound samples. It paints a pretty convincing picture of what you could be missing if you ignore acoustic treatment.

Acoustic treatment doesn’t have to be expensive. Even if you just hang up some packing blankets and sleeping bags, you could still reap some big benefits. Experiment. Take a chance. I’ve found it’s extremely difficult to get excited about acoustic treatment, but once you hear the difference, you’ll be glad you took the plunge.

Day 4 Challenge

Leave a comment below and tell us what you plan to do (or are already doing) to acoustically treat your studio. Does it make a huge difference?

  • Rick Stone

    I’ve got the cheapest solution (free) and easiest (It takes 1 minute). Ok, not the best, but night and day with or without. I’ve got a condenser on a table top mic stand. I take my fluffy 20 degree down sleeping bag very loosely wrap it around the mic and stand (my mic hangs upside down), making a hollow cave with the mic pretty much even with the entrance. It truly eliminates that terrible bedroom reflection. Brings out much more focus, increases bass, which you can alter by making the cave bigger or smaller, the mic deeper in or further out.

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  • Pingback: More Than Blankets | Home Studio Corner()

  • chris

    Yeah i have realised that once i export my projects that some of the sounds in the track are not super crisp , its only even recently that i was reading about mastering which really led me to the real issue which was mixing down properly. while im working on treating my room i have purchased some studio headphones to help with the mixdown….. will definately get some accoustic tiles they look quite nice and possibly build some bass traps…..

  • Charlie

    Steve makes a good point about treating the high and mid range but not low end. I dont think bashing Auralex is called for.
    Whether it’s Auralex (which is approved by Rod Gervais and many other experts in studio building) or other products, if you deaden those high & mid frequencies too much, you have no wiggle room left to treat the low end.
    The key here is to test all of these frequencies for your particular room and treat accordingly.

    The idea is to get the reverb time close for all frequency ranges. explained here – http://johnlsayers.com/Recmanual/Pages/Reverberation%20Time%20Calculator.htm#verbcalc

    The most cost effective way to acoustically treat your studio is DIY with rigid fiberglass, rock wool/ mineral wool, or Ruxul.
    You can build simple 2’x4′ frames out of 1×4’s, insert 2″ thick or 4″ thick rigid fiberglass, cover with breathable cloth and hang off the wall leaving a space of 2- 4″. You can actually tune these to treat certain frequencies.

    For me, this is the best solution because I am a woodworker and have all the tools. For others maybe Auralex, or other products are the way to go, but treating a room so your mixes translate well to other sound sytems takes some effort and learning.
    I get my information from the book by Rod Gervais – Home Recording Studio: Build It Like the Pros, and this site http://johnlsayers.com/Recmanual/index.htm

    • Bass absorbers must “seal” to the wall and have a semi-rigid panel on the outside. Tuning these isn’t a trivial task as the mass and flexibility of the panel interacts with both the air-space and fiber-filled volumes. When the panel has appropriately sized and spaced holes (relatively simple formulas), these become broader-band absorbers.

      John

      PS Please excuse “… desired 1/1.6/2.6 desired ratio …” elsewhere; It should have read “… desired 1/1.6/2.6 ratio …”

      J [chagrined, tired, click-typist]

      JEL

  • Steve

    If anybody is reading this, DO NOT buy Auralex and think that you are treating your room.  You absolutely are doing yourself a horrible disservice in using Auralex products on anything other than those monitor iso pads, and here’s why:
    When you treat a room, you need to absorb lows, low-mids, mids, high-mids, and high range frequencies.  Auralex does not absorb all the frequencies equally, rather, it absorbs the high mids and highs (which is what your ear is most sensitive to) and since those areas are being deadened, you think that they are working in your favor.  In reality, they are doing nothing at all for the lows and mid ranges, so you are attenuating high reflections but not the problem frequencies (especially problem frequencies in square rooms, like spare bedrooms like so many people use).
    What you all need to do (not want, but need) is get rid of that foam, and make your own acoustic panels out the exact same material that he’s using in his bass traps in the corners.  That stuff is golden, and THAT is your answer.  His buddy (Joe’s friend who built the bass traps) knew what he was doing by making them 4″ thick, because that’s the minimum required thickness to absorb bass frequencies.  Now, have your buddies make you the same thing, only have them make you 2″ panels that hang on your walls in place of that absolute crap they call Auralex.  End rant.  But seriously, how come so many guys don’t know how bad Auralex is?

    • Hi Steve. It’s hard to really take your comment seriously when you refer to
      Auralex as if it’s only one product. They do make foam, which certainly only
      absorbs high frequencies. But they also make bass traps, which absorb down
      to around 100-150 Hz I believe. Works wonderfully.

      I just don’t understand the bashing of Auralex. They make absorption
      products. Of course using only high frequency absorption doesn’t fix all of
      your problems. But Auralex never claimed that…so…not sure where you’re
      getting your info.
      On May 19, 2011 11:54 AM, “Disqus”

      • Connie Tripp

        The Bass Traps that Auralex that you are talking about, that’s about right. They also make some that absorb 50Hz ($350 per wedge). Most of the stuff you get at your local music store is only good for vocal booths, but they are far less superior than building your own using an 6lb density rock wool or owens corning insulation.

        • CamBam

          I looked at the NRC ratings for rigid fiberglass, and found them to be the equivalent of 3″ wedge foam. I did not look at mineral wool, but I think that may be better.

  • Dar

    I normally only record vocals at home, so I’ve treated the corner where my mic is placed. If I record bass or my nephew’s keys, I just go direct so sound isn’t affected bouncing around.

  • I have added Auralex panels to my bathroom/sound booth. I also hope to get some isolation pads for my monitors. I still need to test the difference. Hopefully I’ll get to test this week.

  • Michael

    I would suggest to use IK Multimedia ARC. Especially for not at all, or not so good treated rooms.

  • ki

    acoustic treatment is very complicating…

    bit expensive..

    i think i will put some auralex foam at least a few…

    hope it helps….

  • Joe R.

    This is a problem for me.

    For recording I use moving blankets.

    I mix at a diffrent location. Next year my plan is to purchase: Auralex Roominators Project Kit

  • Francisco Arbolay

    I have a lot of problems with acoustic treatment. my main problem is that Im not actually recording on a spare room. Im using a corner of my bedroom. My plan is to empty one of the rooms that I have in my house and use it as a mini studio so I can give it some treatment. I have already the materials to do it and Im planing on doing it this weekend.

  • Rick George

    I have been in the middle of Acoustic Treatment hell for about 5 weeks now. I just bought 12 4″ Bass Traps from Ready Acoustics and 8 6″ Super Subs. They were all Do It Yourself kits, so they were fairly inexpensive. I’ve been waiting for the deliver for over 3.5 weeks, emails back and forth from the president of the company. The DIY kits are great, however they take FOREVER to ship because the company doesn’t make profit on them (or so they say) anyway, those are still on there way and we’ll see what happens…. tune in next time… 😉

  • Yep, I could get excited about this if I had a room. Unfortunately, any acoustic treament would have to be disguised as interior design elements since it’s in the living room. But, with that said, I don’t think it’s entirely impossible to make a room look inviting and absorb some reflections as well.

    • You know, a friend of mine has his studio extending off of is living room. He’s built his own acoustic treatment and has them wrapped in pastel cloth (linen, I guess?)

      He has them attached to his walls where he can take them down and move them around the room depending on what/where he’s recording in there. With the light colors, and the fact that he can hang them up out of the way, they go with the rest of his house. So when they’re just hanging there, they actually do work as an interior design element.

      So it is possible to have acoustic treatment and it not necessarily be big black or gray chunks of foam.

    • I use “temporary”, or “portable” acoustical treatment to set up a vocal booth in the bathroom, three 2′ x 2′ x 1′ “bean-bag” pillows (though one is stuffed with plastic bags and the other two with foam). I form a vertical corner with the lighter two, foam pillows by clipping them with clothespins to boom mic stands that attach by the booms, horizontally-oriented, to a tripod speaker stand. I lay a broom over the top of the two mic stands, close to the mic-stand uprights, and drape the third pillow over the top. Then, I place my AT4040 mic, on a boom stand and enclosed near the open end of a small, polyester-fiber filled trashcan about 18″ away.

      When I face the mic, sitting on a chair and pulling the mic in toward me until I’m “nose-to-nose” [with a 5″ dia’ nylon pop-filter flush with the trashcan mouth], the back/top of my head is 6″ or less away from each pillow, in the acoustical shadow (down to approximately 280 Hz) of the “corner/pillows”. Since the mic is in the shadow of the “vocal-booth” trashcan, and also in the shadow of the pillows-corner–and since the fiber-fill kills the resonances in the trashcan–I get very clean vocals (with some mostly undesirable bass boost–very similar to the usual mic proximity effect–but easily EQed out).

      As long as the faucet, toilet, nor refrigerator are running! Outside vehicular traffic isn’t much of a problem between 1 a. and 4 a. in the morning (when, as a night-person, I like to record).

      Auralex? I have some for mics; it isn’t needed on the walls due to the “portable-corner” and “mic-booth”. Moving blankets would also work, however, I can’t afford them, nor can I find my old quilt (wool/unknown-inner/cotton) to throw over the shower-curtain rod. Plus, when I’m done, 15 minutes later–I’m prematurely old and therefore even slower–the bathroom is once again exclusively “THE bathroom”!

      I haven’t measured

      Do whatcha gotta do; it ain’t gotta look purty!! 🙂 (If you love making/recording/mixing music!)

      😉

      John

      PS Oops! I forgot: I do use over-priced PrimeAcoustic TriPads, on the AT4040 mic-stand feet, to keep structure-born refrigerator-noise down. I’m guessing–I haven’t formally measured it–that my acoustical S/N-ratio at the mic is 70dB+ (C-scale).

      JEL

      😀

  • As of now I DI my instruments and use amp sims. For vocals I haven’t found the right spot in the house yet. The first vocal tracks I made was in the living room where I hung heavy blankets. The results were okay as a start but has a long way to go. I intend to build my own portable acoustic panels to create a vocal “booth” and maybe use the closet for my next project.

    • A “climb-in”, 18″ x 3′ x 4.5′ closet was a “pain”, literally! Thus, the bathroom vocal-booth idea came about (it’s nearer the desired 1/1.6/2.6 desired dimensional ratio).

      John

      PS Please ignore “pre”dundant “I haven’t measured” sentence fragment in other reply.

      JEL

  • Studio still has to be built I’m in an unfinished basement so in the long term I will wait for the house I buy to create a proper sounding room 🙂

  • the room where i track drums and vox is my living room. my drums are set up facing a corner with a homemade sound diffuser type thing (a 3 panel presentation board with egg carton foam covering and then placed in the corner). i also have loose blankets placed in a few of the other corners. the couch, shelves, and chairs also do good with standing waves. hardwood floors probably dont help much though… for vocals i wrap multiple clothes and handkerchiefs loosely around the the mic and pop filter with just a 6″ hole in the fabric around the pop filter for me to sing into. this works really well and really cuts down room noise and reverberations. i mix on my couch with the sound coming right at me. the couch absorbs a lot of the sound so i believe this helps quite a bit while mixing.

  • Preshan

    My home studio “control room” is in my bedroom so I’d love to treat the walls in here for mixing purposes. The tracking room is the guest bedroom though, and I record vocals in the closet with blankets hanging off the clothes rails and pillows and cushions on the shelves! It works really well actually 🙂

    It’s funny though, I’ve mixed so much in my room and I know it’s bass/low mid heavy, so I automatically compensate now. So if you hear a mix I’ve made in my room, it’ll sound too tinny or thin usually, but it will translate pretty well through other systems. A bit dodgy, I know… but it works for the time being! 🙂

  • rick

    I used to discount the “need” for acoustic treatment, but I totally get it now (thanks in large part to Home Studio Corner).

    Since my primary studio “rig” is in my master bedroom with my wife and me (and she was VERY understanding and generous to allow me to move things there when we moved our daughter into her room), I don’t have many options for treating that little sliver of that room.

    However, since the only real acoustic tracking I will do is vocals, I am going to try and record vocals in another room (probably living room or dining room… both are carpeted) and set up some blankets and/or sleeping bags during tracking.

  • Bob Sorace

    My biggest problem is I have a strange room layout. It’s 11 feet wide and 18 feet long with a 4 foot angled notch for the door and an angled bay window at the other end. I can’t setup my room they way it probably should be due to the couch, chair and TV in the room but those help with deflections and deaden the room some what. I get alot of bass frequency build up by the door but I’ve learned my room enough so I don’t get alot of bass in my mixes. I plan on building my own bass traps and treating the room properly one day, I just need to make it sooner rather than later.

  • Arjun Ramesh

    In the past, my recordings were plagued with room noise and sounded terrible. I had read about acoustic treatment on http://www.acoustics101.com, but the problem is that I moved a lot and did not want to sound treat a closet, having the uncertainty of how long I would stay in that apartment.

    Recently, I decided to get 2 boxes of the Auralex Studiofoam from Musician’s Friend for $60 each. I turned the walk-in closet into a fairly dry iso booth. The results have been remarkable. Such a big difference in sound quality, especially when recording acoustic guitar and vocals. I tested it out for a couple of songs and it was great. I highly recommend it.

    Now, I just have to find some local artists who are interested in tracking in my little apartment. It is not easy when everyone has a home rig nowadays. But, if I can offer some competitive pricing and quality recordings, then it should be possible. Sound treatment was a big step in the right direction.

  • I know how important acoustic treatment is but my little homestudio is in my bedroom… I will keep this in mind and will see what I can do on the next time.

    • For my room I need acoustic absorption foam panels for just two walls (one behind and one infront of my desk) and just one bass trap for only one corner. So I checked my store and surprise … I have only spend 60 Euro (around 45 Dollars) for four panels 100x100cm, 40mm thick and two bass trap moduls 30x30x60cm. Ok… it´s not all from left to right corner and from the top to the bottom, but just for the start it should be enough or what do you think?

  • Everett Meloy

    I think it is a very good ideal and would like to start with back treatment for monitors.

  • Marc Lapointe

    Like most, I converted a spare room into a studio. Like a few out there, I focused on this even before the recording gear. Not sure why, but seemed to make sense at the time. I was really in need of acoustic treatment because of the bad echo. I purchased the Audimute Absortion Sheets. Got like 500 Square Feet for $500 (room kit). Really worked great and I can take them with me if I ever move. See: http://www.audimutesoundproofing.com/
    For more information.

  • I have 10 1″ sheets of Rockwhool that I am mounting in pairs into frames I`m building from 2″ wood.
    Then I`m covering them in veloure, in a color my wife feels will match the walls and roof of my studio room.
    Then I`m hanging one behind my computer and monitors, one above my head where the ceiling meets the short wall, and one on each long wall.
    There`s no short back wall in the room a it`s just an open space part of a hallway. But I hope this will go along way.

  • Will

    I would love to treat my studio (spare room) but at this stage don’t have the spare cash to do it… it is definitely on the mid-long term goal list though. Right after rent, food, insurance, petrol, university fees, wife, etc etc 🙂

    • Matt

      Hey Will,
      You may want to put your wife at the front of the list (before rent, food, et cetera). I’ve been married over 26 years and I’ve learned, usually the hard way, that doing something small like that goes a LONG way! :-}

      Best wishes with your studio!
      ~matt

      • Will

        Thanks Matt – don’t worry my priorities list goes in this order: God, family (wife), everything else – I was just making the point that acoustic treatment is somewhere down the bottom in the big scheme of things!

        I was one year old when you got married… good job keeping it together so far 🙂

        • Matt

          LOL
          Hey Will,
          It looks like we share the same priorities… GOD, family, everything else!! :-}

          Awesome!

          Oh, you didn’t have to mention that you were only one years old when I got married….. LOL that hurt!! LOL

          I wish you and your family the best in all you do!
          ~matt

  • Have a tone of acoustical treatment but still need to address some trouble areas. Looking to hang some moving blankets near my mics.

    Great topic-Joe!

  • I currently have Auralex Audiotiles on the wall in front of the listening position and MoPads for my monitors. The wall to the left of the listening position is an external wall with a window, which has drapes that ends up covering about half the wall. The wall to the right has a closet, and we took out the closet doors and replaced them with matching drapes. The drapes could stand to be a bit heavier but they are fairly gathered even when closed and I have to think it’s better than just the flat closet door or bare wall surface.

    The room also has a twin bed in there, since our previous guest space was displaced when the baby came. Makes it a little tight on space but I figure it’s more absorptive (is that a word?) material, so it could be worse. When we first moved in and I picked which room to use, this was the least reflective room… the previous guest room (now baby room) still has a really weird flutter echo in it.

    So I could still stand to put in some bass traps in the corners, but I find myself just using my laptop + portable interface and moving around the house to wherever has the most privacy (or least chance of waking a sleeping baby!) so it’s probably low on my list of things to do at the moment for my current workflow…

  • Ive got a load of rockwool in the garage waiting to be made into basstraps (its only been sat there a few days so it’s not like I bought it 6mnth ago and nothing will happen with it).

    Have no other treatment in my room at the moment, but loads of soft furnishing, couod really do with something to kill the fist reflections above and behind my listening position but I’m not in a position to stick things up at the moment.

  • I have 96 square feet of 2″ Rigid fiberglass panels. I have two in the corner on the front wall of my room. Two more hanging in between them. Three more on the walls to my sides. One on the wall behind (I want some diffusion here next). Two more that need to be hung from the ceiling above my desk. And finally 2 attached to mic stands that can be used where needed when recording.
    Besides that I have my desk and speakers placed well away from any walls (3ft). The speakers are on stands with 2″ chunks of high density fiberglass between stand and speaker. I’ll be replacing that ugly but effective part with Primacoustic Isopads at some point.

    I did all that for about $200 and it made a huge difference. Made everything sound better.
    At some point I’ll have to build more panels because there’s a couple nasty areas in my recording area behind my mix position. Treating the ceiling might take care of that.

  • Simo

    Hey, I AM excited for my acoustic treatment! Believe me guys, this is what really changes your recordings…I already did a lot of experiments and this is what I’m going to do: I’ll lay down a floating floor on my new room, rockwool thick bass traps in every wall-wall corner, from floor to ceiling, then other bass traps on every wall-ceiling corner. And this part is all DIY, very few money. Then, I’m going to treat parallel surfaces with proper panels to avoid reflections, not only behind the monitors, but even on the ceiling on the mixing position and the walls side by side this spot (I’m going to buy a kit, less than 800€). I’ll keep the mixing spot at 38% of the room lenght and put a large carpet under the DAW position to cover as much floor as I can…after some mesurement, I’ll see if a little diffusion is necessary…

  • I’m building a 6 foot by 12 foot peice of wood that can fold or be positioned in different way that has acoustic foam on it hinges to move and position around drums and players to help make a portable isolation area as well as use it behind my mixing desk. I also plan on turning walk in closet underneath my steps into an isolation booth for vocals and amps too.

  • Room acoustics, to me, is even more important than the right choie of mic. Really, reflections (with different delay-times) are the last thing you want on your recordings. Unless you are in a church of some sort and want to record those typical “roomsounds”. But in general, it’s easier to add reverb than removing it.

    Anyway, first thing I did when i moved out to my new house was to build my own DIY basstraps and reflection panels.

    I’ve put basstraps in every corner of the room, from floor to ceiling and left some space between the wall and the traps for maximum performance. After that, I’ve but traps mirroring my monitors on the side wall, to stop those reflections. As a last, I’ve also put up traps behind my monitorspeakers as they are pretty close to the wall (30 cm, or less) and I wanted to stop those unwanted coloration too.

    As a result, my room is full of traps and everyone who visitis me for the first time asks: “what’s the meaning of all those pillows against the wall”?

  • Matt

    Currently, I have Auralex wedges behind my monitor speakers as well as on the walls on either side of my speakers. In the back of the room (the direction the speakers face) I have some fiberglass insulation stuffed in between the studs covered by two layers of felt. My “control room” is pretty small and is all drywall. The wedges and the back wall being fiberglass definitely help keep the high freq’s from bouncing all around. I think that having the Wedges on the side walls helps a lot with early reflections getting back to my mix position. I still have bass nodes in the 4 corners of the room but, I listen to professionally recorded (CD’s) music in this room all the time so I am used to the bass “bump” the room has. However, after taking Joe’s production class, I may find that I should invest in some bass traps….

  • Scott

    I’m currently in a room that does not provide the space for a lot of acoustic treatment, but I have done somethings to help it. I first thing I did, and probably the most significant is bought Auralex Mopads. This has help greatly with the bass response of my monitors. The other thing I’ve done is place acoustic cloth over my windows to help control some of the reflections off them. This hasn’t had that great a difference, but did help some.

    My next plan is some kind of reflection filter for recording. I’m not sure if I will go the homemade route like Joe, or get something I probably should spend the money on (Editors Keys Home Portable Vocal Booth), but I will be doing one.

  • Dave O.

    I haven’t done anything except for MoPads under my monitors. I’d like to put some foam in the corners of the room, behind the monitors and on the ceiling above my DAW setup.

  • Havent done any yet. i mainly played with mic placement. my studio is a spare room of my apartment so i cant do anything permanent. i was looking a buying something like the SM Pro mic thing. Not sure if it would help alot.

  • christopher [chrisw92]

    I have no idea what to do, its only really my windows that need acoustic treatment but heavy curtains can help with that. my room isn’t the best place to mix but its “far” from the worst I have used.

  • The next £300 I have spare is literally going straight to GIK acoustics – been in contact with them, decided what panels to start with and where to put them in my room, everything. Even when I have a normal conversation with someone in my room, the flutter echo and resonances can be heard clearly.

    I can’t believe I’ve actually recorded stuff in here too. I know we all say not to hold off recording because of gear purchases, but I really do want to hold off doing my next project (mostly Acoustic guitar and Vocals) until I get my room tamed a little! Also considering one of those SE Reflexion filters, but they’re a little pricey.

  • Great subject Joe. When I first used the room I’m now in, I noticed acoustic issues both in recording and monitoring. I placed acoustic foam treatments both overhead and behind my mixing desk, and added insulation to my room’s dropped ceiling (mainly to keep it warmer in the winter! but the side-effect is a slightly more deadened room).
    I also have 2 auralex LENRD bass traps in the one corner & homemade bass traps in the other corners using the same fiberglass insulation. I also recently used PVC pipe & moving blankets to make a small isolated area similar to this: http://www.palmcitystudios.com/timobrien/music/soundbooth/simplesoundbooth.html

    • wanna add — and this is probably coming in a one of the 31DBR posts — as far as mixing/monitoring goes: while operating in less desirable acoustic situations, or even GREAT acoustic environments, another good investment are high quality open/semi-open headphones (Senns HD650 or Beyerdynamic DT880s etc). In less-than-ideal acoustic situations, the headphones can help you check your ears with what the monitors present them in spite of the room.
      ‘phones ARE NOT a replacement for good monitoring & acoustics, but they can be big help to factcheck some problem frequencies in tough acoustic environments…

  • This is a great topic, and something I think a lot of folks overlook. In fact, this was the very first thing that I did for my studio room. (Even before I had recording gear!) I’m mainly tracking drums, so this was a necessity. The folks over at Auralex had a nice room layout form that helped a ton with what to buy and where to put it! I’ve never recorded without treatment, but I’m certainly confident it helps.

  • Carlos

    Well can’t say I really know what to do. My micro studio is in my bedroom, not a spare room, that plus the fact that I still live with my mom kind of makes it hard to deal with acoustic treatment.