Everything you do in a studio is centered around audio waves, right? We’re in the business of capturing, manipulating, and reproducing audio waves.
While we audio cowboys are in the process of wrangling in these unruly audio waves, they’re bouncing all around our room. The more reflective surfaces your studio has, the more unwieldy the audio becomes.
Acoustic treatment is like Ritalin™ for your studio. Audio waves have ADD. They bounce around the room like crazy until they finally run out of energy…then they do it again.
Okay. Enough analogies.
An Undercover EQ
Regardless of your involvement in audio, whether your a casual hobbyist or a full-time professional, your music has a slim chance of sounding decent if you don’t have acoustic treatment.
As these waves bounce around the room, certain frequencies are boosted. Others are cut. If your studio is untreated, the room itself acts like a graphic EQ gone crazy. 100 Hz might be cut by 19 dB while 250 Hz might be boosted by 6 dB.
Every room is different. No room is perfect. You can never have a perfectly flat frequency response, but you can “flatten” it out with acoustic treatment and tremendously improve the sound of your room.
Another big reason to treat your room is to improve the sound of your recordings.
Let’s say you’re recording lead vocals. You could have a $1,000 microphone running into a $1,500 preamp, but if the microphone is in a room with a bunch of bare walls, your recording is going to sound like it was made in a room with bare walls. (Shocking, right?)
The microphone will pick up the direct sound of the vocal, but it will also pick up all of the early reflections as the sound waves bounce off the walls and ceiling and race back to the microphone. By treating your room, you can cut down on these reflections and capture a nice, up-front vocal without building a vocal booth.
Auralex Roominators Project 2 Kit
I’ve been a big fan of Auralex for quite some time. I was planning to purchase a set of their LENRD bass traps and extra foam sometime this year, so when they approached me about reviewing some of their products on HSC, I jumped at the opportunity.
They sent me a few things to review, but today we’ll focus on the Roominators Project 2 Kit.
[Disclaimer: Yes, Auralex gave me the Roominators Kit in return for a review. However, I only review products I believe in. I've turned down similar offers from other manufacturers.]
The Roominators kit comes in two gigantic boxes. It includes the following:
- (8) LENRD Bass Traps
- (24) Studiofoam 2′x2′x2″ Wedge Panels
- (5) tubes of Tubetak Pro Liquid Adhesive
LENRD Bass Traps
I think I was most excited about these. I already owned some Auralex Studiofoam panels, so I had a fair amount of absorption in my room, but I didn’t really have adequate bass trapping. Bass frequencies are the hardest to tame in a studio, because they’re such large waves. Bass traps like the LENRDs go in the corners (where bass likes to build up) and helps absorb them.
Studiofoam Wedge Panels
Like I said above, I had some acoustic foam in my room, but not nearly enough. With these 2-foot by 2-foot panels (each 2 inches thick), I was able to liberally treat my entire studio, rather than cutting corners like I had done before.
I applied them in the following areas (in order of importance):
- Directly to the left and right of my monitors – This is probably one of the most important applications. Without treatment here, the sound from your monitors bounces off the side walls and reaches your ears at a slightly later time than the direct signal from the monitors. This slight delay causes the monitors to sound undefined. Placing studiofoam here immediately tightened up the sound of my monitors. They sound tighter, and the stereo image is much wider. (It sounded almost mono before.)
- Directly behind my monitors – To prevent sound from reflecting off of the rear wall and interfering with the direct sound of the monitors.
- Directly above my monitors – Sound waves bounce off ceilings, too!!
- Dispersed evenly throughout the room – After thoroughly treating all the areas above, I still had a bunch of panels left, so I applied them evenly throughout the room.
Tubetak Pro Liquid Adhesive
I didn’t use any of the Tubetak adhesive. I simply used a hammer and small nails to place all the pieces where I want them. Once I’m convinced that’s where I want them, I may glue them to the wall with the Tubetak. Until then, the nails are holding up okay…somewhat.
One thing to note about Tubetak. If you decide to glue your foam to your walls, you shouldn’t use standard adhesive, as these oftentimes eat through the foam. (That’s bad.)
See it in action. You can see exactly how I applied the treatment around my studio by checking out my latest Home Studio Tour video.
There is an IMMEDIATELY noticeable difference in the sound of the room. It feels much more…”tame.” When I talk or clap my hands, I don’t hear the sound bouncing all around the room anymore. It does a little bouncing, but it quickly dies out.
One thing to keep in mind when applying acoustic treatment – don’t try to cover every square inch of your room. If you do, the room will be TOO absorptive and it’ll feel dead. It’s okay to have some reflections, just not an overwhelming amount.
From a mixing standpoint, my speakers sound much more clear. I can hear details in my studio monitors that I could only hear with headphones prior to the acoustic treatment. Also, thanks to the bass traps, my studio has a much better low end. It’s not perfect, there’s still some resonance around 200 Hz or so, but the bass is much more pronounced.
Check this out: adding bass traps to my room actually INCREASED the bass response of my room. (See Low End Woes for more on that.)
From a recording standpoint, I’ve noticed that my recordings sound much cleaner and “tighter.” I don’t hear quite as much room in my lead vocal tracks. The room just seems quieter, which is always nice.
Play some audio already!!
Want to know what a lead vocal sounds like recorded in a completely untreated room versus a treated room? Of course you do.
The bedroom right across the hall from my studio is almost the exact same size as my studio. There’s a bed in there, but nothing on the walls.
I set up a mic in the guest bedroom and recorded a vocal. Then I set up the same mic (with the exact same settings) in my studio and recorded the vocal again. The audio files are 320 kbps mp3′s, and there’s no EQ or compression on either file.
Each was recorded through a M-Audio Luna microphone into a Presonus Eureka preamp into Pro Tools. I was standing 12 inches from the microphone each time.
The Untreated Bedroom:
What do you think? Pretty big difference, right? And it totally makes a difference in the mix as well. Once you add compression to that first vocal, the sound of the room gets even louder, and you’ll hear it in the mix. The second vocal? Sits in the mix just fine.
The Auralex Roominator Project 2 Kit currently sells for $599 over at Sweetwater. That’s how much you’d pay for a nice preamp or microphone, which are both great, but neither one will help you make better recordings and better mixes. A properly treated room will make your current gear sound much better.
So…what are your thoughts? Let me know by leaving a comment.
If you want to get rid of the frustration of constantly guessing as to how to acoustically treat your studio, join “Understanding Your Room.”
You’ll get the exact training you need to confidently tackle the acoustical issues in your room. Grab your copy here.