Ever wondered why your audio sounded NOTHING like a good song would?
Do you hear random noises and unnecessary sounds when you play in your studio?
You probably did not have your studio acoustically treated!
This article will show you how to make your studio have excellent acoustics! You’ll be sounding like an experienced musician once you’ve done the changes to your space!
Basics of Acoustics
First and foremost, we shall discuss the basics of acoustics and why it is essential before getting things rolling. It’s always a great idea to have a basic understanding of acoustics as this topic is complex!
What Is Acoustic Treatment?
Acoustic treatment is the process of MANIPULATING SOUND in a room to fit whatever acoustic properties you want when recording or mixing music.
Acoustic treatment aims to ENHANCE audio, sound quality properties and produce pleasing sounds by adding necessary acoustic panels and traps.
A standard room would often have echo chambers, causing the room to have unnecessary reverb and echo.
Smaller rooms have a different approach to acoustic treatment than larger rooms.
When playing music in an empty room, the audio would not be as accurate as if a room is treated with acoustics.
Acoustic treatment is accomplished by using absorbers and diffusion products in the room areas that may have echo chambers or bad reflections.
How Sound Travels
Sound travels all over the room.
That is why when recording audio in an untreated room, its sound and audio sound very unclear, inaccurate, and all-over-the-place.
Sound starts by coming from an audio source. Once played, it travels in all directions.
The direct sound of the audio travels directly into the microphone, specifically in a straight line.
The remainder of the audio, also known as the reflected sound, bounces randomly on the room’s walls.
Direct sound does not interact with the room, so its pure audio form remains untouched.
Reflected sound and its audio form can change the direct sound due to its random movements, and by chance, it can go in the direction the natural sound is going towards.
Average untreated rooms will have many sound reflections spread out randomly, causing audio to be less pleasing.
The remaining sound can either MAKE OR BREAK the sound you want to go for. But it usually BREAKS for various reasons.
All kinds of sounds mix like early reflections, high frequencies, standing waves, etc., hence why rooms initially do not have good acoustic treatment.
Why Do Professionals Sound Different From Others?
Do you ever wonder why it doesn’t sound good when you try recording at home? Do you wonder how professional music sounds the way it is?
Proper acoustic treatment is what separates a professional musician from the average musician.
Compared to your average home with poor acoustics, pro studios are VERY AWARE of what their rooms are made up of.
These studios know how a sound wave travels, where to set up their studio monitors, and the problematic areas in their room, adapting to it by treating those areas.
Professional musicians are AWARE of acoustics. From acoustic problems to the different types of acoustic treatment, they need to be wary of these to produce excellent audio for their music.
If you’ve ever been inside a recording or home studio, you will notice many foam panels on their wall.
Those panels are sound reflection absorbers!
Typically, people would set up many of these panels in their walls because rooms have natural reverb.
When recording, early reflections in rooms can often be picked up by audio inputs, hence the many panels set up on their walls; to absorb the sound!
However, setting up too many panels can be detrimental as well!
Too much reverb is terrible, but completely removing reverb is awful as well.
It is often a common misconception that acoustic treatment means removing reverb as a whole. In reality, even audio needs a bit of reverb to be of top-notch quality.
After all, you aim to remove most of the reverb for you to capture the direct sound at its purest.
Removing ALL reverb is terrible, but if you want to set up many panels but not sacrifice a bit of reverb, that’s when DIFFUSORS come in.
Diffusion scatters sound energy and ensures that the natural tone of the sound remains.
These work well with acoustic panels set up on a wall as they scatter the sound energy instead of absorbing it.
Completely absorbing the sound energy in a room will significantly affect the sound waves and frequencies.
Combining diffusers and acoustic panels will yield the highest sound quality.
The acoustic panels allow for recording unnecessary sound; the diffusers keep a few reflections to keep that live sound that many music listeners appreciate and love.
What are the Common Acoustic Problems?
When dealing in acoustic treatment, you will have to deal with these problems that you will face eventually.
The common acoustic problems are comb filtering, flutter echo, room nodes, and standing waves.
Comb filtering is the direct sound combining with its reflection.
DID YOU KNOW?
Comb filtering got its name because it looks like a comb when looking at its frequency response.
You do not want comb filtering in your recording and mixing sessions because the more the audio becomes tangled with its reflections, the more robotic it will sound.
Sound waves tend to combine due to early reflections and where the audio is directed.
To avoid comb filtering, you must be wary of hard surfaces and reflective surfaces near your audio input, as well as the number of audio inputs you will be working with.
Flutter Echo occurs when sound waves REFLECT between untreated parallel walls.
When this occurs, the listeners will hear the reflections between the sound wave as echoes.
While echo is not bad in its own right, too much echo can affect the quality of your audio.
Small rooms with hard surfaces are susceptible to flutter echo as they can pick up initial reflections, and those reflections can be heard through echoes.
Room modes occur when sound REFLECTS various room surfaces, walls, and other physical objects in a single space.
They are the built-up resonant frequencies in a room.
These can significantly affect the sound in a room, resulting in a distortion of the sort.
What contributes to this is the position of your speakers. That is why many musicians tend to pay attention to how everything in their arsenal is positioned.
It’s as if musicians have OCD!
Standing waves are sound waves that match room dimensions. It is also the COMBINATION of two waves traveling in opposite directions.
This causes an increase in volume at frequencies where said wavelengths match room dimensions.
In layman’s terms, standing waves are sound waves that combine after bouncing off the room several times.
How to Improve the Acoustics of Your Room
Improving the acoustics of your room is A MUST if you are planning on doing some mixing, recording, and performing.
It is practically useless to do anything audio-related if you do not treat your studio correctly!
Ready your surfaces and walls! Here are the steps to improve that and make your music sound unforgettable!
Evaluate the Space
The first and essential step in improving the acoustics of your room is to first EVALUATE the space you are working with.
Do not immediately buy acoustic treatment products without knowing why you need them!
Identifying your listening position and acoustic problems is ESSENTIAL in evaluating the space you will work on.
Does your room have enough space to record and produce? Where do you want your listening position to be? Where do you want your mixing position to be? Do my walls have enough space?
This is where the clapping test will come into play.
You’d want to clap where you will place your listening position. Notice how the clap sounds like and see how you will adjust to it from there.
Assembling your acoustics depends on where your listening position is placed in the room.
Bass traps are one of the most critical types of acoustic treatment!
They are acoustic absorbers that take care of low-end energy that can be a massive issue for recording and mixing.
Hence the name Bass Traps! They trap bass sounds that usually stay at the corners of a room.
Bass traps require extra mass and absorptive material to deal with low frequencies constantly. They make use of low frequencies acoustic panels to do such.
Bass traps also help control bass frequencies, which is essential, mainly if you use a small space, as those frequencies are more common.
A bass trap offers the widest range of broadband absorption.
An acoustic panel is one of the most common types of acoustic treatment and an ESSENTIAL one!
Acoustic foam panels absorb sound waves that typically make the audio feel more echoey than usual.
Acoustic panels can decorate your studio as they are typically set up on a wall. People may mistake those acoustic panels as decoration when it is an acoustic treatment product.
Here enter diffusers!
Diffusors ensure that the natural tone is preserved in your recording, mixing, or performing.
While it plays a different role than acoustic panels and bass traps, diffusers ensure that not every reflection is absorbed.
Having all sounds be absorbed is never a good thing as its naturality will disappear. That is why diffusers are ESSENTIAL in acoustic treatment.
Ceiling clouds are ACOUSTIC PANELS but are built explicitly for spaces with high ceilings.
Since acoustic panels can only be built in so many places, this is where ceiling clouds come in.
Most acoustic panels are built on a wall, so if you want more panels to use, your space is more extensive than usual, and you have a high ceiling, then use ceiling clouds!
Alternate Options for Acoustic Treatment
It is always good to know the alternatives in acoustic treatment. Not everyone has the same way of treating their sound the way they want to. Here are some alternate options to check out!
Mattress Vocal Booth
FUN FACT: Did you know that the best sound absorber in your house is a mattress?
Mattresses are the best broadband absorbers for a DIY recording method.
How they function is that you place your mattress against the wall so that it is behind the performer’s back as they perform.
This technique will only work with EFFECTIVE BROADBAND ABSORPTION.
Your mattress needs to be a heavy solid-core; anything that is not a heavy solid-core will not work.
Then to shield the audio from reflections, the most sensitive side of the mic should face toward the mattress. That is why the bed needs to be a heavy solid-core.
Dynamic microphones are an excellent alternative for acoustic treatment because they are not sensitive to quiet and high frequencies.
In comparison to condenser microphones, dynamic mics won’t PICK UP as much room sound as a condenser mic would.
Dynamic mics are more suited for rooms with poor acoustics and small spaces where sound can be picked up more than large spaces.
Reflection Filters are a fantastic alternative for acoustic foam if you believe that you are on a tight budget!
The purpose of these filters is to PRESERVE the audio clarity of your recordings.
These work similarly to how pop filters work.
Pop filters make your S sounds less piercing to the ears.
If the pop filter makes your voice more pleasing to hear, reflection filters make your voice more accurate and precise.
Treat the filters like they are barricades for your microphones. Any unwanted sound to your microphone can be deflected with the reflection filter.
Reflection filters have absorptive properties, so they are an alternative for acoustic absorption!
What’s the Difference Between Soundproofing vs. Acoustic Treatment?
The most significant difference between the two is their purpose.
Suppose acoustic treatment uses acoustic panels, acoustic foam, and other acoustic materials to refine sound and audio. In that case, soundproofing is completely blocking and shutting off the sound in general.
When Should You Soundproof Instead of Acoustic Treatment?
Soundproofing prevents sound from traveling outside the space. Some would say that soundproofing is to prevent sound from bleeding into space.
In layman’s terms, soundproofing is BLOCKING NOISE.
If you want to block off the noise and make sure the noise you make cannot be heard from the outside, then that is when you use soundproof.
This means sealing any air gaps in doors, windows, walls, and other openings that may leak sound.
Soundproofing is best for people that want to play at any volume without having to worry if their neighbors or nearby people will be affected by their recording or performing.
Is It Possible to Combine Both?
YES, it is possible to combine both.
If all recording purposes are done in one room, it is possible to soundproof and treat the room acoustically.
Soundproof will prevent any noise from leaking out of the room; acoustic treatment will enhance the audio and sound.
The result of this combination is the sound produced will be as near as the original sound as it gets!
What Are Examples of Great Acoustically Treated Rooms and Studios?
Professional music studios and musicians have great acoustically treated rooms and home studios.
Here are some examples of what these rooms look like and why they work!
Abbey Road Studios
Abbey Road Studios is most famous for being the studio responsible for producing and recording for the Beatles during the majority of their 10-year long career.
The image shows that Abbey Road Studios has high ceilings, hard surfaces, and huge performance space, big enough for an entire orchestra to fit.
It is not surprising knowing that Abbey Road Studios provides audio equipment of the highest quality and better-sounding recordings than most could ever hope to achieve.
Abbey Road Studios has recorded many great albums like Abbey Road by the Beatles, The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and even film scores like The Lord of the Rings composed by Howard Shore.
The studio can even be treated as a live room as artists like Kanye West have recorded live albums here.
From the Basement Studio
The “From the Basement” series is a popular show in the UK wherein several bands perform without TV promotion and make these bands as comfortable as possible.
The show has hosted several artists, including big names like White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Radiohead.
This studio is a beautiful example of excellent acoustic treatment for a live room setting because every instrument and audio is clear and pleasant to listen to.
An example of this is the use of small percussion instruments.
Johnny Greenwood, the guitarist of Radiohead, uses an egg shaker during this performance, and it is AUDIBLE even when being played with the entire band.
Studios like these can capture low frequencies and fully utilize their sound systems.
Jacob Collier’s Studio Room
Jacob Collier’s studio room is smaller than the others listed, but it is still a great acoustically treated room.
His walls are filled with foam and absorption products that improve his sound.
Most rooms have your typical sized ceilings, but in comparison, Jacob Collier’s small room has high ceilings than your average room.
Jacob’s listening and mixing positions are designed explicitly to his needs, particularly the mid-range of his room, which is why his performances always sound amazing.
Vulfpeck’s Home Studio
The band, Vulfpeck, is famous for their sharp and funky sound, even in a home setting.
Their bass frequencies are higher than usual because they want to let their bassist, Joe Dart, shine.
As seen in the image, their walls are composed of acoustic treatment products. You can say that their borders have the same set-up as these products.
Vulfpeck often performs in different rooms and studios for their videos, but it’s like their sound never changes.
This is mainly due to their deep knowledge of acoustic treatment.
Their studios are always specifically designed so that their sound will remain the same.
Follow their footsteps with this checklist for beginners!
Products to Consider
If you’re thinking of putting up your home studio, here are some products that will help in its acoustic treatment!
Here are some bass trap options for you to consider! These bass traps will guarantee that those low frequencies are taken care of!
Pro-coustix Ultraflex Acoustic Foam Sound Proofing Panels and Bass Traps
AFBT200 Bass Traps
Here are some of the best acoustic panels in the market! Not only will your room have acoustic treatment, but they will also look good as well!
BUBOS Art Acoustic Panels
Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam Wedgies
These diffusers will make your life much easier! They’ll spread your sound at the highest quality.
BXI Sound Diffuser
UA-acoustics Sound Absorption-Diffuse Acoustic Panel
Do you have a high ceiling and want your studio to have acoustic treatment? Consider buying these ceiling clouds!
TroyStudio Ceiling Acoustical Treatment Felt Tiles
INVIMENT Ceiling Acoustic Treatment
Here are some dynamic microphones to buy if you consider doing this alternative! Start with these if you’re on a budget and want your studio to have acoustic treatment!
High-quality reflection filters are irreplaceable. Here are some of the best ones in the market!
sE Electronics Reflexion Filter PRO
Acoustic treatment is ESSENTIAL in producing the best music!
Your favorite music would not be the same without people that acoustically treat their studio, walls, and rooms to the highest degree!
Suppose you visit recording studios, home studios, school auditoriums, and other places that are sensitive to sounds.
In that case, you will notice the MANY acoustic panels, bass traps, acoustic foam, and different room acoustics set up.
Acoustic treatment allows sound waves to be more concise, accurate, and pleasing to the ear.
Overall, if you want the highest audio quality, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do acoustic treatment. Pair it with good-quality studio monitors too while you’re at it!