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7 Apr 2020

How to improve your home studio acoustics on a budget!

producer How to improve your home studio acoustics on a budget!


Now more than ever, people are turning to remote recording setups as a source of income during this time of uncertainty. Improving your home studio’s acoustics will have a huge impact on your production quality, client satisfaction and overall end product in any scenario. Often, when people are looking at investing in a home studio, they turn to gear and equipment. This will make very little difference if your room isn’t designed for recording, mixing and pro audio applications. 

Acoustically treating your room is also a very inexpensive process, if you do it right! You can easily spend £100-1000’s on pre-made bass traps, panels, and diffusers. Taking into account the standard bedroom studio dimensions, you can get good results from £150-300. 

Obviously, the more money you spend the more treatment you’ll be able to fit, resulting in an increasingly better sound. But a little can go a long way in terms of home studio treatment. In this short concise blog, we’re going to look at three key ways you can battle your bedroom studio acoustics, on a tight budget!     

Bass traps and absorption panels

The most common problem with all bedroom studios is the build-up of bass frequencies in the corners of the room. You can buy 50 acoustic tiles for £100 online, but you’re wasting your money. These panels only really suppress the mid-high frequency reflections and have no effect in controlling the low end. 

The biggest issue is almost always the low end. Rock wool slabs have great acoustic absorption as well as thermal properties. Rock wool is also very affordable to buy in bulk. Depending on the size of your room, anywhere between 8 – 16 slabs should be sufficient. The bass traps should be 2-3 times the density (or more) of your standard panels. The more rock wool you can get in the corners, the more accurate the low end will be in your studio.

Selfmade diffuser
Wall attachment 
Wall panels
Wall panels

The construction of absorption panels and bass traps requires a timber frame, rock wool, breathable fabric for covering and fish eye hooks for hanging. All of this can be bought online or at your local hardware store (B&Q, Wickes, etc.). Softwood timber is a good choice of wood as it is light, strong and is inexpensive. 

The choice of fabric is incredibly important. Sound absorption requires a light and breathable fabric that will allow frequencies to travel through and be absorbed. If the fabric is heavy and thick, it will actually bounce the frequencies back - which could result in an even worse sounding room and a complete waste your hard-earned money. I highly recommend Camira fabric as its very easy to get hold of, has all of the desired acoustic properties and comes in a huge range of colors and finishes. 

Key tip: always leave roughly an inch between the panel and the wall surface when hanging.

There are some very detailed books available that go in-depth on the schematics of acoustic properties and tuning. This blog is purely to get the wheels in motion and to hopefully save people a lot of money during these difficult times. 

Diffusers

Acoustic Diffusers are useful for treating issues such as comb filtering and flutter echo. They are ideal for acoustic diffusion in a home studio environment as they can make the room sound larger. Acoustic diffusers give your recording studio or listening environment a sense of space without completely deadening the room. Mixing and recording in a dead room can be quite unpleasant, and very tiring on your ears. Having a sense of room sound Is imperative to preventing ear fatigue and decision making. 

You can make a diffusor using wooden blocks on a sheet of plywood. Plywood is a good choice over MDF as it won’t warp and distort as MDF will. It’s also very strong meaning It can hold the weight of the varying wooden blocks. The wooden blocks can be all cut to different shapes, widths, and lengths and fastened to the plywood board. You can then either leave it like this or spray it, dye it or even paint it – it’s completely personal to your taste! You would then hang this just like the panels, using a fish eye fixing. For very similar results you can also bring a bookcase into the studio as this has very similar acoustic diffusion properties to a purpose-made diffusor.

Wall panels
Bass trap
Wall panels
Full studio
Sonarworks
Rockwool

Speaker Calibration

The final step in optimizing your room's acoustics is to properly calibrate your speakers, using a pink noise microphone and a series of measurements. Sonarworks offer a brilliant user-friendly system called Reference 4 which calibrates your speakers to your room by generating sound waves and projecting them into the room. 

The pink noise mic (included with the software) takes measurement information and tells the software how the sound waves are reacting to the reflections and sonics of the space. This is also a great solution if you can’t do any acoustic treatment (for example if you live in a rented space), as it can massively reduce any common issues: standing wave nodes, resonant frequencies and comb filtering.

Remember, you don’t have to spend much money at all to make a room sound great! There are countless tutorials, demonstrations and books available online if you’ve got the ‘acoustic itch’ and want to learn more.

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