This is another guest post from Fathomless Regression. Acoustic treatment is SO important. In fact, stay tuned for an announcement for an upcoming acoustic treatment webinar.
I’m ashamed to say it but for almost three years I was mixing and recording in a space that had no acoustic treatment. I’m hanging my head in shame as I type this. A few years ago I moved several states away from my previous musical space which was properly treated, and isolated (I miss those days), and set up shop in a spare bedroom of a townhouse. Being a rental property I held off on doing any treatment and decided I would wait until I bought a house in my new home town. One year later I did buy a house but over the last 2 years have come up with several excuses for not buying treatment that I desperately needed. Second child, car repairs, house repairs, guitars, alcohol, shiny things to distract my wife from the aforementioned guitars and alcohol, etc. I was using some Mackie HR 624mk2 monitors in my studio and was getting pretty decent results so that fueled my procrastination. My mixes seemed to be translating well and the things I was recording in that space (mostly guitar and vocals) weren’t sounding too bad so I kept dumping money into other pieces of my studio.
That brings us to about 2 or 3 months ago when I changed out my monitors. I was lucky enough to sit in on a shootout between the M-Audio DSM1’s and a TON of other monitors. This all happened at a well designed and properly treated studio, and I was blown away. I couldn’t believe how much truer and just downright better the DSM’s sounded as compared to any of the other speakers in their price range ($1200/pr) and higher. I was sold (and so were my Mackies, thanks ebay!). I bought a pair of DSM1’s, brought them home, set them up, and life was good. I thought they sounded great, much less hyped than the Mackies, and WAY flatter on the top end. And on I went…but then…
I had been doing mostly simple mixes, sparse acoustic recordings, etc, but nothing too serious. As a result I hadn’t been checking my mixes on other speakers to see how they were translating. Then I finally started working on a mix that others would hear so it was time to see how these speakers would travel. I bounced a full on rock mix (drums, guitars, bass, vocals, etc) and took a drive. Pressed play and it was like someone had replaced my decent car stereo with 4 12″ subs and that was it. There was NO high end, no mids, just droning bass overwhelming me. So I went back into the studio and listened to the mix on my speakers again. It seemed like it might be a bit bass heavy, but nothing like what I was hearing in the car. I reported these findings to a friend of mine who had bought his DSM1’s at the same time that I got mine and he told me he was having the exact same problem. I returned to the studio and started adjusting some of the filters on the rear panel of the speakers. Nothing helped.
Of course my first thought was that it might be my room but then I thought about how my Mackies had translated just fine, so I concluded it must be the speakers. They must not put out any low end. So I decided to sell them and get something else. I began asking around to see if any of my friends were interested in buying them and happened across another guy who had bought the same speakers. He told me that his were giving him great low end response and were some of the best monitors he’d used. I went to visit his studio (a large well treated space) and brought the mix that was drowning my car in bass. I popped in and there it was, all of that low end rumbling through. Of course from this I could only draw the conclusion that it was my room, so I went to work.
I started hanging bass traps, and broadband absorbers around the room. I got about halfway through my planned treatment and decided to take a break and listen. OH MY, what a difference it made. I hadn’t even finished the room yet and the difference was obvious. The low end was right in my face with the same flatness in the mids and highs that I’d already been experiencing. I corrected the mix and all was well. Now I’m finally hearing what I heard all those months ago in the original shootout.
Of course it was an immature reaction to blame the speakers first and my room second but it’s such an easy conclusion to come to. 🙂 I guess this experience stands a true testament to the value of acoustic treatment and as an example of just how necessary it is. While it’s not the sexiest addition that I’ve made to my studio and was not fun to buy or install, I can officially say it has made the biggest improvement of anything I’ve ever added to my rig.
Other Articles by Fathomless Regression:
- The Many Hats of a Home Studio Owner
- Do I have to go to college to learn to be a recording engineer?
- Engineers or Guys in Cubicles?
- I Miss Cash and Tupac
[Photo by southerntabitha]