Sharp tools make good work. Chinese Proverb online To have a nice recording, we must choose a nice recording studio. To have a nice recording studio, acoustic treatment is the most important progress while building the studio. Why is acoustic treatment so important? Acoustic treatment will make the actual recorded sound better, it is just as important as the mixing process. The purpose of acoustic treatment is to improve the quality of sound in the room. Acoustics Treatment of the studio is very important than the used of the equipments for record the track on. Yet there are still many people who only allocate a small portion of their budget to acoustic treatments when building a recording studio or home studio. It is very important to choose the right type of room and after that we have to testing the acoustic in that room, make sure that everything like the soundproofing of the studio is good. Let say, we can listen to the tracks that recorded in the studio, if we can hear something like reverb or echo on the track, or the sound is rather flat, this might mean that the acoustic of the studio were wrong. Insufficient insulation can result in the interference of external noises.
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“People always think they can or able to overcome acoustics with equipments but you just can’t. Russ Berger (Sound On Sound Article 2005 [online]), the president of acoustic and audiovisual consultancy firm, Russ Berger Design, told Carolin Heinz in an article for the website Electronic Musician. Beside that, there is another common mistake that people always make, according to Berger, is to confuse “sound isolation” with the acoustic performance in a room.” Sound isolation is simply the process of stopping sound entering or leaving the room. It has no bearing on how sound is absorbed and diffused in the room itself, which are the key determinants of how a recorded track sounds when listened to.
Every studio building needs to be acoustically treated as standard professional music or audio studio requirement for professional sound quality. So when building a recording studio, we have to pay much attention to this, this will avoid frustrations in the future.
(B) Treatment Characteristics
Acoustic Treatment is so important to the studio it is because we want to prevent standing waves in the room. When the standing wave occurs, it will affect the frequency response of the listening rooms and the recording studio. Beside that, by using the right acoustic treatment, we can absorb or diffuse the sound in the room to avoid the flutter echoes and improve the stereo imaging while the recording and keep the sound from leaking into or out from the room. Correct use of acoustic treatment could lower the reverb time in larger space or room or reduce modal ringing in the small room. Thus modelling the acoustics to cater for our needs.
There are few problems that we have to consider while building a studio such as absorption, diffusion, reverberation and isolation.
Sound absorption can be defined as when sound that strikes the materials doesn’t reflect back. An open window is a very good example for poor absorption because the sound waves goes through the open window and never reflected back. The more fibrous materials have more absorption; oppositely the denser materials are less absorption. By using the absorption materials in the studio, it can minimize the reflections while the recording going and it can also prevent the standing waves and flutter echoes.
With this control over acoustics, one can model a space to be optimum for a certain purpose. The LEDE (Live End Dead End) concept illustrates this. By using acoustic treatment we can deaden one half of the room whilst keeping the other half reflective.
Absorption can become very useful when tuned to a specific frequency. In general, low frequencies are very difficult to absorb because of their long wavelength, on the contrary, high frequencies are easily absorbed by less complicated structures, The reduction of high frequencies in a critical musical environment is essential for the reduction of flutter echoes. Products like bass traps are absorbing devices specifically designed to absorb the low frequency energy. The good bass trap is the combination of the hard, soft, thin materials. By the way, the back of the trap and the gap between the walls can make it even more effective.
Reverberation time will be affected by the absorption. The lower the reverberation time, it is mean there is more absorption. By adding the porous absorber is the easiest way to make the good absorption. Beside that, placing the acoustical foam on those reflective surfaces until the reverberation time is suitably reduced. On the other hand, by removing the absorbing materials will lengthens the reverberation time.
Diffusor can be used to reduce reverb or echoes that will be occur in a room that has parallel walls and the flat ceiling. Through the research and books that I have read, all the professional studio designers they agree that periodic reflections caused by parallel walls are best avoided. So, diffusion is always used into absorption to tame these kinds of reflections because diffusion is handful of sound energy using multi-faceted surfaces. Diffusers are commonly made of wood, plastic, or even polystyrene. “Jorge Castro (2004, online) explains: “diffusion helps in energy control and improves the sound quality in frequencies throughout the middle and high range of the spectrum, and also improves sweet-spot should be sitting to get the best stereo image (imagine that your head and the two speakers form an equilateral triangle).”
Insulation is the process of blocking sound from leaking out from the room and is also to soundproof the room from external vibrations or sound. The good noise control’s room can retain the sound within the listening area. Isolation is a very critical question, but the most important is still about the room treatment. Even you will feel something going wrong while you are in the quiet room if its acoustic treatments are wrong. And what can you do for the isolation if your studio is going to build nearby the highway, or beside the train track? Only two things can be done to insulate a space: increasing mass or separation. We will see how we address by the use of correct materials.
(C) Studio Design
Now that we have looked at what problems might occur in a room and how to address them, we shall see how they apply to a professional studio.
“Room mode or natural resonant frequency, which is related to the length, width and height of the room, is one of the most important properties in the studio design and it determines its natural resonances.” (Ethan Winer, 2008[online]) Let say the rectangular room has 3 sets of primary modes, which are length, width and height. So, if you have got a irregular room shape or irregular angled walls, then you have to average the dimensions and get the rough idea of the mode frequency. As a rule of thumb one could say: the larger the rooms the better the acoustics.
This is one of the examples of the recording studio’s design, materials of used and its construction details.
(i) Studio Layout
(Siavash Irani, pers. Comm., 11 December 2010)
(ii) Construction Details
Dry Walls is a Simple single stud design sufficient for wall because the dry walls are doubled, one on the existing outer wall and one as inner wall. We make the double walls to minimize structural linking. Studs spacing is 24″, on center instead of the usual 16″ spacing, this yields a slight increase in TL (transmission lost). The walls are angled but room shape symmetrical to provide even dispersion and prevent flutter echo. Diameter approx 5″ to 6″.
Total estimated wall area: Total wall perimeter x Average Ceiling height
239.5 ft * 12.125 ft = 2903.9
2903.9 * 2 = 5807.9sq ft.
Ceiling angled upwards at 12 degrees from the front to the middle of both rooms and then backs down at 12-degrees.10 ft (3.05m) min height for optimal drum sound recording. The diameter approx 10″.
Total estimated ceiling area: 289 + 305.15 + 238 + 295.87 = 1128.02 sq ft.
Diameter of floor is approx 10″
Total estimated floor area: 280.7 + 296 + 231 + 287 = 1094.7 sq ft.
Acoustic Timber Door¼ŒSTC 30-35 each leaf. It has a same construction as walls using timber and narrower studs. The dense yet lightweight mineral fiber for more STC and it including gaskets to seal sound, hinges, knobs
Total: 6 doors with dimensions of approx 6.5′ x 2.7′ x 3″
Acoustic Window – Double Glazed
The space between glass panels sealed. Use two different thicknesses of glass to prevent resonant frequencies and sealed enclosure up to STC 47. The distance between the paresis about 150mm.
Total: 2 double-glazed acoustic windows with 6′ x 2.5′ panes
The use of sound lock can reduce -3 dB. As sound insulation by air volume and air sealed by door gaskets.
Air-conditioner Duct Damping
About the noise-reducing enclosure of air-conditioning by using plywood baffle and installed into the opening of the air-con duct with simple plywood baffle held together with strong and moisture resistant adhesive. The plywood “maze” slows down the airflow or the air-con, thus reducing noise. The absorbent foam lined/covered on plywood baffle to absorb airflow noise as well as noise from generator. It’s 4 ft in length.
Example of a self-made duct baffle
With good and correct materials in building a studio, it can help you to record and mix your music correctly. “A good room, good acoustics can defined as we can get the sound from the speakers in the room and listen through your ears as unchanged as possible.” (Ethan Winer, 2008 [online]) A good studio should have a very good isolation but still as neutral as possible for you to hear the details such as stereo positioning properly. So, the music we have mixed and equalized can sound good and has the good opportunity of sounding good in other rooms as well.
Controlling the sound in a room is achieved by selective acoustic treatments. Materials are the source out for the best acoustic characteristics in terms of isolation and diffusion, but since there are many ways and different materials to do this, we try not to go overboard with specialized materials as they can break the budget. Instead to use effective construction methods with typical materials, and whatever that works fine as well as cost-effectiveness.
(i) Acoustic Foam
The most important aspect of any studio or home theater probably is the using of acoustic foam. Even the listening room, it can also make or break a project studio. It doesn’t matter how much money you will spend on the recording and monitoring equipments. If the room itself doesn’t has a good acoustic treatment, the result of the recording will never as good as it could be. When the sound is traveling in the room it will reflect from different surfaces. So, this is meaning the acoustic problem will be occurring. These can be the reflections, flutter echo, reverberation, standing waves and modal problems. When all of these frequencies started bouncing around, the sound waves can change because they are clashing into each other. This will absolutely affects the last result for the negative. That is meaning you will start to off with one sound and end up with another sound while in the recordings.
When there are two parallel walls, or two parallel ceiling and the floor, it will create standing wave. So the distance between the walls, ceiling or the floor will reinforce some of the frequencies. This mean the sound will makes exactly one round trip in each cycle of the speaker and the pressure fronts pile up. So, this is why people like to sing in the bathroom while taking the shower because the low frequency of the voice are greatly amplified by the standing waves and it will sounds nice.
The installing of the acoustic foam can improved the response of the room and the sound of the room can be under control. The use of the acoustic treatment is the only way that can tell you the accurate while you are doing your recording, mixing, editing, or monitoring as well as not to affected by the room you are in. Whatever you want your room to stay live or dead, good acoustic treatment is the only way to help you to tame the beast that in your room and keep everything under the control. So, you have the ability to record and monitor your stuff accurately.
Product like The ProCornerâ„¢ is an effective way to increase low frequency absorption (minimizing low frequency room modes and speaker boundary interference distortion) by increasing acoustical foam thickness in the corner, while visually extending and seamlessly integrating with the Profoamâ„¢ wall design.
RPG® Diffuser System’s “Studio in a Box” Diffuser and Absorber:
FIGURE 1: Diffusor System
Additional panels may be layered to any thickness offering unlimited absorption. The using of ProFoam because its absorption and diffusion properties are sufficient for the studio’s surface, as its stackable, and for a uniformed look.
(ii) Gypsum Board
FIGURE 2: Gypsum board
Gypsum board is a typical material used for layering walls, holding insulation fibers, providing a certain amount of damping and as wall surface. It is also used for floors, doors and ceilings treatment.
FIGURE 3: Plywood
Plywood to separate gypsum and studs and adhere with soundproofing mat. Chip wood (recording room floor) is an ordinary chip wood for flooring. It is act like a diffusor.
(iv) Sound Blocker Membrane
FIGURE 4: Sound Blocker Membrane
Sound Blocker Membrane have excellent sound insulating qualities and it can be used as a sole sound barrier layer, or as part of a multilayer composite with other materials such as sound absorbing foam and carpet. It acts, as a thin, dense sound barrier layer in walls, ceilings or floors and it’s most effective when used as one component of a multi-layered construction scheme. It extremely effective at improving the sound and insulation properties of lightweight plasterboard partitions, floors and almost anything else.
(v) Mineral Woll
FIGURE 5: Mineral Woll
Acoustic mineral woll is use for the reduction of airborne noise between flooring joist, suspended ceiling and in partition walls, it is a good sound absorbing infill. By using the acoustic mineral woll, it will has more efficient for the purpose of soundproofing than a lightweight thermal insulation, chemically and mom-flammable insert. By the way, this will not adversely affected by any substance. Beside that, it will not react with metal wall ties and wired plastic, masonry or brickwork. While using in a standard stud wall, it can increase the sound insulation performance by up to 150%. It normally will provide a reduction in the reverberant noise level up to 200% when fitted under the roof constructions. It will provides a reduction in air bone noise levels by up to 100% when it fitted in-between the ceiling or the floor joists.
(vi) Resilient Bar
FIGURE 6: Resilient Bar
Resilient Bar is a thin metal channel, which is designed to substantially improve the sound insulation of the plasterboard ceilings and walls. It can easily isolate the plasterboard from the studworks, and it will contact directly to dissipate sound, which is normally being transfer through the frame. Because of the improvements in both impact and the airbone noise, so the sound will normally act well in excess of 300%.
FIGURE 7: Gasket
Gaskets/ Cushioning, self-adhesive EPDM / Neoprene blend expanded foam rubber sealing strip. This is ideal for exposed sealing, damping and cushioning. It age resistant and chemically neutral against the most commonly used lacquers and Plastics and resistant to most caustic chemicals, resistant against ozone, moisture and UV radiation. This is good for isolating and ‘decoupling’ battens attached to walls and ceilings.
(viii) Acoustic Caulk
FIGURE 8: Acoustic Caulk
Acoustic Caulk is use to maintain the STC (Sound Transmission Class) value of the system such as metal studs, gypsum board, wood, concrete and other types of building substrates. Because of its unique formulation such as non-hardening, non-migrating and non-drying, so it can apply to the joints, ceiling runners either metal and wood, cutout in gypsum board and other area where the sound rated assembly is required. By the way, it can also be applied on the heating and the air conditioning ducts or other utility equipment penetrating wall surfaces in order to increase the acoustical performance.
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E) Comparison between recording studio and home studio
We can notice that why professional recording studio they spent so much time and money in order to get a good acoustics design but why there is still a lot of people they don’t take this seriously and record in their house without doing any acoustic treatment? For an example, various devices are invented like “microphone a transducer that changes one form of energy into another corresponding form of energy” (David and Robert, 2005) to enhance the professionalism and the quality of recorded music, also a lot of techniques are established around that time as well, such as automatic double-tracking technique are invented by the Beatles which is the process where we “copy a signal and make it sound like the singer or band member overdubbed the exact same thing over the original track” (Audio Production Tips [online]). On the other hand, MIDI (Musical Instrument Interface), there is countless plug-ins, synthesizers, samples and loops available in the market, and all these elements have become the major elements of music production and major arrangement of popular music nowadays. So with this kind new popular culture, many people can produce their music or track in their house just only using their computer. Another example such as disk jockey, they have an expensive DJ’s sets so they gain more flexibility of their creating and producing music with only a laptop computer as such a convenience rise of a fact, they can make satisfaction, high quality music in a more efficient and cost-effective way by using samples, plug-ins, they can perform unlimited variation of sound, instrument, techniques that without any acoustic treatment needed.
All of them are the invention of for the music production. But is it possible if a rap artist or vocalist they want to record a good quality track without any good environment? Let say if the rap artist or vocalist they record their song in their house by using a very expensive microphone and gear but without any acoustic treatment, in the result of the recording will be too much room noise on the track such as the ceiling fan in your room, outside traffic and etc, all of these will produce the low frequency rumble. So it will take you a lot of time and it is very hard for you to do the mixing. Equipment is useless if sound is recorded badly. This is why professional recording studio they will spend so much money on the acoustic treatment. Beside to give you the good environment to recording your music and track, and it also because you can get the good quality on your final production.
But sometimes money will be a matter of fact it always comes to the first priority problem, investing less money on a home-base production but achieve quality results, you can also do it with cheaper acoustic treatment as well.
Normally, the acoustic problems of home studio are reflections of high frequencies and mid-range from the hard surfaces. Second, “peaks and troughs in the room’s low-end response caused by the room’s dimensions and the reflectivity of the walls at low frequencies. Both compromise the accuracy of what you believe you are hearing from your monitor speakers, and each has to be dealt with in different ways.” (Paul White, Feb 2006 [online]) So, you can DIY your own acoustic treatment to avoid these problems. Absorption and Diffusion are always had to consider into the progress when DIY your own home studio.
For the example, if you don’t have enough money to afford the acoustic foam, you can use the existing furniture that you have got in your house like carpet, soft furnishing, curtains can as the sound absorbing materials. In the small room, triangle pieces of foams are designed to go in corners, this can reducing the room resonances. But is there is too much of absorbing materials in the small room, it will give you a very dead sound. By the way, for the sound diffusing materials, bookshelves can does this job if it does not places in the large block, so it can act as diffusor to break up the reflections. You can also use LEDE (Live End Dead End) for the home recording space when you placing your speaker in the dead end. Beside, you can use the same room to monitoring your mix after the recording. Every room is different, so it is important to listen to the result by using acoustic treatment. For the example, the dead end always can be tackled first, foam and bass trap are suggested to use if necessary. you can test if there any flutter echoes in the high frequencies with handclap. If you hear the boommie sound when you are talking, that is mean you need more absorbing materials.
Overall, are acoustics really that important in recording music today? Even though the quality of the instruments, speakers, recording gear and amps are expensive, but without the good acoustic treatments, all the recording will be bad and it will take you even more time to get your track done. That is why we still need to pay a lot of attention to the space in which we use them. The acoustic treatment of recording studio is very tricky because of the construction materials used and the size of the studio. No matter how, acoustics are really important but the way we produce music has changed. The room is less important as an important of the production is now done digitally. But, there is still some recording like vocal recording you have to done in the environment with good acoustic treatment unless you prefer the low quality of recording.
“Acoustical treatment is not something that you can put your hands on and work with, such as a reverb unit. It is, however, the single most important aspect of any room – bar none!”
Scott Wilson, Part-Time Musician
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