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Good Acoustic Room Treatment

Discussion in 'Room Acoustics / Isolation / Treatment' started by Steve Freeman, Sep 9, 2010.

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  1. As I read more and more on this forum I find that people stress having a well treated room to record vocals in. My question is this: What would you consider to be a "well treated room" for hip hop vocals and a bit of singing? As far as my limited understanding goes I would want to deaden as much reflections etc. in my booth as possible as a means of making my recordings sound better. Anyone agree or disagree with me? I am a bit confused as to what will make my recordings sound better in terms of acoustic treatment. Is a booth the right way to go? Should I record in the middle of a big empty room? Is my bedroom okay? I need to know exactly what to do in order to record and produce quality tracks and right now I am wildly confused as to what I should be doing.:confused:
     
  2. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I'm no expert - but I think almost any room can be treated to sound better, if not perfect.

    In a home studio, most deadening is done with "stuff": furniture, the bed, book cases, etc. Hang carpet on the wall like I have done.

    For a step up from there make 2X4 frames, fill them with insulation, cover with an attractive fabric, and nail to the wall.

    A big empty room is usually best served by being just off the middle. That eliminates a lot of flutter, but won't eliminate a lot of room reverb. Close micing can help.
     
  3. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    John,

    I really have to take exception to your rather risky proposal to hang carpet on walls.

    Most carpet will only address frequencies above the 10kHz range. Additionally, most carpet is fairly flammable and generally poses an increased risk of fire hazard.

    It is also a huge misconception that furniture will solve a lot of acoustical issues. Most furniture can potentially address midrange and upper frequencies, (which human hearing is most sensitive to) but rarely can it provide enough mass to be effective in the frequencies below the midrange band.

    As far as adding stuff to deaden a room as much as you can, that's strictly a matter of opinion and taste... and really seems to be pervasive due to a lot of video's that appear to show an artist in a "booth." Which, if you talk to many of the true professional engineers, they'll tell you that the majority of the time, they record in rather large "main" rooms and are really just putting gobo's to the sides and/or behind the vocalist to minimize rear reflections... leaving the front and tops open to allow some of the air of the room to be captured.

    Where vocals are typically recorded in a booth, is for commercial voice over, ADR and broadcast radio.

    Personally, I prefer the sound of a room with a bit of character, then add what I want after that... or to track in a large room and use gobo's as previously described.

    Your description of how to build absorption panels, while technically accurate, is certainly a hell of a lot of overkill. You can make the frames out of far less bulky and costly material than a 2x4. I've made them out of simple 1x2, strung wire across the back and hung them like a picture on a light duty hanger. I would also mention that when it comes to the type of insulation one would best be served to use, is Owens-Corning 703 or OC703, rigid fiberglass. You can also use standard mineral wool and save yourself a few bucks. The performance is generally accepted as relatively equal for non critical environments.

    Speciality Products and Insulation (spi-co.com) is probably the best source of OC703 and mineral wool in the United States.

    Flutter echo is the result of excessive comb filtering and occurs in a room where you have two parallel surfaces. Moving off center will NOT eliminate the flutter echo. Only by applying something on one or more surfaces, or by putting something in the reflection path, can it be addressed.

    Steve, if you really want to dial in your room, I would suggest jumping over to the Acoustics forum, read Rod's sticky at the top of the forum, and present your situation in as much detail as you can, and I'm sure you'll get a lot of good information, as well as a cost effective solution for your room.
     
  4. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    If you can remove standing waves AND flutter by simply shoving junk in the corner (RE: your blog) then you have surely out smarted physics.
     
  5. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    OK. MadMax and Space, your points are well taken. Steve, they are essentially correct in what they say. And I wrote "flutter" when I meant to say "certain resonance". My bad.

    But Steve appears to be a novice at this, so I've given "EZ Fixes" to these problems. When he gets some more experience, he will be able to hear more problems. It is true that a total remake of his rooms would solve the problems (for real), but he doesn't give indication of wanting to do that.

    So, my explanations are general and simple. Steve, they are correct, for real room treatment, you'll have to roll up your sleeves and make traps, diffusers, baffles, etc. All of which you are certainly quite capable of doing. If you want to dive in deeper than what I suggest, let us know here in this thread. There will be tons of info put in here by people much more knowledgeable than I.

    As for deadening, it is a personal taste. I prefer to have a dead room and a live one so I can choose what I want when I track. I do most of my stuff in the dead room because I prefer a drier, tighter sound. That is a decision we all make for ourselves (or the paying client makes it for us!)

    And there are many ways to do the same thing. I didn't know until now that 1X2 would work as well as 2X4s in this! There is always more to learn...that's why our Art is so much fun - it never gets boring!
     
  6. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    John,

    As you said, you really are not an expert. So, I'm not sure why you're trying to confirm to Steve that at least what I said was ok for him to accept. Like you alone have the power to confirm what I've said is accurate? Maybe a little arrogance goes a long way when you got egg on your face?

    Not being a peckerhead here, but the opposite of your advice is actually closer to the truth, in that not much of what you offered Steve is readily accepted as solid, science based advice. I generally try to be polite and respectful to all but the rudest of members here at RO, but stop trying to cover your ass with a blanket of "trying to over simplify" the whole situation. Better to provide accurate information to educate, or just say you don't know.

    I'm NOT an expert, but I have spent a lot of time researching the field of acoustics as it applies to recording studios, and just got through with a three year build of a 5 year project of building a studio I'm very proud to say was designed by one of the best structural and acoustic engineers in the industry, Rod Gervais. Again, while NOT an expert, I feel I am at least qualified to make my own statements with enough credibility without the confirmation of someone who obviously doesn't have the experience or qualification to offer much more than erroneous data, wives tails, snake oil, and speculation.

    It's misinformation from individuals such as yourself that just irk the REAL experts, in that they often have to give to individuals, who listened to the likes of your rhetoric, the sad news that they pissed away huge bundles of time, effort and money that has to either be completely ripped out and start all over, or they have to live with the reality that they were a fool to listen to someone who knows little more than they do, and it will take far more than can be afforded to undo the road they sadly took.

    Sorry to be rubbin' your butt with sandpaper and dousing it in rubbing alcohol, but I vowed to myself about 1/2 way through my build, that I would NOT idly sit by not call BULLCRAP when I see it. You see, I spent a good deal of my personal health and a hell of a lot of money to build my studio, so I KNOW what it takes to build a studio... essentially, by myself. So, I really do know the smell of BS, and don't like to see others stepping in it.

    Call me a Boy Scout or what have you, but when you offer unsound advice, I'm callin' you (et al) out. Likewise, offer good, solid principled advice, and I'll back you up.

    So far, you've only offered one partially accurate statement; "I'm no expert - but I think almost any room can be treated to sound better, if not perfect." And even that statement is erroneous in that there is no "perfect" room, and alluding that there is such a thing, you only confirm your first three words of that sentence.

    Now that I've had my say as far as fair warning that I don't care to be patronized, I should probably offer a bit of information that Steve can actually use...

    Steve, what you're asking is not a simple clear cut answer. I'll try to point you in the right direction by giving you some food for thought and asking you to answer a few questions, if that's ok...

    In order to give you an exact answer, you need to have exacting questions.

    First, you need to ask yourself if you have the financial ability to warrant going as far as you can, to build out a "professional" space in which to record. Part of that question is to determine whether you can afford a full on, ground up build in a new facility, or if you are going to do this on a limited budget in your parents house or a rental apartment where you are dealing with constraints of not being able to do any structural modification.

    The real bottom line is this... how much money have you got? It all starts with the budget... and to give you some relative guidelines, the average cost of a retail business upfit is $125/sq ft. So a 1000 sq ft facility would be in excess of $125,000, and probably closer to double that. So, kinda' tuck that number in the back of your mind as you dig through the process of creating your recording space.

    It really depends on the size and shape of the enclosure.

    The BBC established a couple of really significant findings awhile back. One of the major things they established was that in general, larger rooms sound "better", up to a point. Amongst those findings, was that medium sized rooms are easier to work with than small or very large rooms. In their findings, 3000 cu. ft was kinda' the break over point for a medium sized room. Anything less than 3000 cu ft is considered to be a "small" room.

    Many acceptable vocals are indeed recorded in bedroom sized (small) rooms... but arguably, an equal, if not greater amount of poorly recorded vocals are recorded in bedrooms.

    Some of it has to do with under treating a room with "acoustic treatment" and some with over treating a room. The vast majority of professional quality recordings are made in rooms that are somewhere in the middle of dead and live. (Motown's main tracking room was a converted living room, so small rooms can be used quite well!)

    To find that happy medium is what I would propose is your goal.

    But you need to understand that there are two key terms to understand... first, there is sound proofing... and second, there is acoustical treatment. They are not at all the same.

    Sound proofing is generally accepted as being the method of integrating mass, isolation and decoupling in an enclosure to keep sound from leaving and/or entering an enclosure. This is the expensive part of a recording environment, and is often expressed in mathematical terms such as Transmission Loss (TL) and Sound Transmission Coefficient (STC).

    Acoustical treatment is application of materials of two basic characteristics; absorption or reflection, in an enclosure to establish a desired amount of sonic character. This can be expressed in a variety of mathematical terms. One such is RT60, or the Amount of time it takes an impulse of sound energy to decay by 60db.

    There are many such terms to learn or at least understand before jumping in and just slappin' some foam on the walls in hopes of creating a good room.

    There's an entire science to the "art" of creating a good acoustic space, and it's not one that I would suggest that you can just guess at and "get right", without being reasonably informed... which is why I encouraged you to head over to the Acoustics Forum, read the sticky which Rod has put up there, and then create a post with as much detail as you can possibly muster.

    Doing so, you probably won't have 100% of the information needed to give you an immediate definitive answer, but you will get pointed down the right path, and you'll at least stand a good shot at ending up with a recording space that is acceptable for your situation and your budget if you make a reasonable plan and then carry it out... asking questions as you head down the path of building your recording environment.

    Whether you've got $500,000, or $5000 to work with, money is too hard to come up with and too easy part with, to not take your time and invest wisely.
     
  7. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    That was unnecessary. I told him what has worked for me in my small studios. My studios are nothing much, but they sound good. I think you laid it on too thick on me. I was humbly helping based on my own experience, perhaps you got a little irked?

    Maybe I just got lucky in my designs. Beginner's luck? Whatever. Your rant against me was uncalled for.
     
  8. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    "That was unnecessary."

    It was immediately necessary in order to stop these kinds of misinformed posts before they live on without required corrections.

    It isn't an attack on you John, it is a correction of information, the same information you agree that you are not expert enough to recommend with any authority.

    I can agree that anything someone does to a room can change the dynamics of how the mics interact with the room, and might even seem like an improvement to the ears listening. But it doesn't mean it is accurate, only that the room parameters have changed and now things sound different.

    It is a common misconception that carpet on the floor (RE: your blog) will be a good idea for recording in small rooms and this is far from the truth for several reasons.

    The first one is the way humans interpret reflections from the floor. When a microphone attempts to capture this sound we think we hear, it captures something different. The carpet, usually for a higher pile, maybe 1/2 inch to 3/4" nap, has a selective ability in absorbing sound, usually the highs get stripped, maybe some of the mids but certainly not the lows.

    So in order to correct this carpet is removed from the floor and replaced with a reflective surface, hard wood, composite vinyl and just as often the actual concrete the carpet covers is well suited for this.

    Once to have a reflective floor then you can use area rugs if some reflections from the floor are still not up to your tastes. I have seen it suggested on many occasion to lay a full sheet of plywood on the carpeted floor and do an A/B test to verify, if the user has doubts. Seldom are they not motivated enough to get the carpet off the floor.

    And then install an overhead absorptive cloud. You effectively flip the environment that humans have listened to sound in enabling the listener to make more accurate decisions.

    Mostly you talk about gear and are at least accurate with what you say, but your acoustical room tips leave much to be desired. Placing everything in the corner is the worst possible position in any room since this is were the panel vibrations converge. Everything gets louder, muddier and hardier to find detail, clarity and instrument space.
     
  9. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Thank you. FWIW to you, I feel like you have made a great effort to clarify that it wasn't an attack, and I appreciate that.

    Steve, if we could get you to weigh in on your level of expertise, that would help a lot. Everything I posted above and in my blog worked for me, but if you, Steve, are at a higher level than that then you *do* need better info than what I have provided.
     
  10. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Thank you John.

    Max is an awesome individual, his commitment to detail and the road to education required to accumulate that understanding of detail is well noted in the thread I posted, his studio build I must add.

    I do not know him personally, but I have never witnessed a mean action on his part to anyone, only his unwavering desire to "get it right" and the mental stamina, all health issues aside or maybe in spite of, that he has displayed in his involvement here, long before I showed up.

    Directly to the properties of materials used to absorb sound (carpet):

    Frequency 125 Hz 250 Hz 500 Hz 1 kHz 2 kHz 4 kHz
    carpet -- 0.01 -- 0.02 - -0.06 - -0.15 -0.25- -0.45

    The 1-4 kHz speaks directly to cymbals and the snare drum, around B5 all the way up of a piano, upper end of acoustic/electric six string guitars, damn near all the spectrum of a flute or piccolo and specifically to the useful human voice frequency range that we can understand what the singer is saying, @ the 300Hz – 3,500Hz range.

    Basically carpet starts to cut off the exact frequency range of the human voice that the human ear needs to understand what it is the singer is saying.

    Many will tell you here @ RO that your room is an instrument. But learning how to tune that room is where folks often lose focus if not only for the myths, the prevailing "Internet Experts" and/or ignorance.

    It isn't black magic as was once thought but does require as much attention to education as you would put into learning you musical instrument of choice.

    Trail and error is not a means to an end and no one is asking anyone to learn how to be an acoustics engineer which takes considerable schooling based on what I have read, what is being requested is simple.

    Minimum, get the Master Handbook of Acoustics written by Alton Everest, unlearn what you think you know, learn what you should know, and learn to distinguish the difference between the two.

    That way you will be better equipped in the future to accurately position those that you instruct to be better educated in trusted and verifiable information, based on scientific analysis. The same science that goes into the manufacturing of the musical instruments that we all wish to excel in.

    Would you try to instruct someone on how to make an acoustic guitar or a percussive instrument simply based on having owned one previously?



    Anyway, I've been going on for hours...good luck to you and Steve, where ever he is,
     
  11. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Yo B,

    I dunno about awesome at all. I definitely don't think that description applies to me... lunatic, maybe... but not awesome.

    "Technically", what I posted was an attack - on ignorance, lack of accuracy, misconceptions or whatever you want to name it... but not totally a personal attack on John, per se.

    Again, trying to stay focused on Steve's original post...

    MHOA is an incredible resource, as is Rod's book; "Build It Like The Pros" and Philip Newell's; "Recording Studio Design". (Although I would really only recommend Newell's book if you have a substantial budget to do major construction.)

    There are a good number of older posts in the Acoustics Forum, (as well as a few other forums here) that really will give you insight into how to address the learning curve associated with this "art" we call acoustics, including some pretty deep "propeller head" discussions about nits and and their significance. Wiki's also a good resource as well as RO's own wiki at the top of the site.

    Again, you can spend as much, or as little as you want on treating your room, but informed spending is a lot cheaper in the long run.
     
  12. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    That was what I meant Max. It wasn't just some guy venting waving a knife, it was some guy raving because he is TIRED of seeing these kinds of posts from well intentioned but ill-equipped persons, all over the Internet, go unchecked.

    So check and mate...mate ;)


    edit: "all health issues aside or maybe in spite of,"

    Yea, I covered the lunatic thing, just put a hi-pass filter on it ;)
     
  13. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    HA! Me LIKEY the hi-pass filter comment... makes a lotta sense too! I'll concede the mate, mate!

    I just hope that Steve will jump back in here... or over in the Acoustics Forum (and anyone else that's trying to tame their room, for that matter) so he can get pointed in the right direction.

    ... and just as a "slight" aside...

    It really doesn't cost that much to improve almost any room's response. It mainly just takes a bit of digging into the math, and learning the basics of what is known to be accurate and proven principles of enclosures and their optimization for music and/or vocal recording.
     
  14. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    "It really doesn't cost that much to improve almost any room's response. It mainly just takes a bit of digging into the math, and learning the basics of what is known to be accurate and proven principles of enclosures and their optimization for music and/or vocal recording."


    I know that from first hand experience. It costs less to do the job right, one time, then it does to do it wrong one time.
     
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    With the great proliferation of home recording, I have this to add. Home recording is a kin to ON LOCATION RECORDING. And with on location recording such as, nightclubs, or personal spaces, churches, rehearsal rooms, outdoor festivals, etc., you don't get ideal acoustics. You can't change the acoustics. You have to use the acoustics to your best advantage. Bad acoustics can & have to be utilized when you can't change them. In home recording, it's a matter of trial and error to obtain a good workable, listenable product. Much of the bad acoustics that people talk about in home recordings is largely due to a misunderstanding of how to properly mix and/or record and excessive use of dynamics processing such as compression/limiting. This over enhances bad acoustics. So less is more. And some troublesome acoustics can actually be minimized through the proper use of fast & variable downward expansion. Sometimes people refer to that as a gate. Gates are fine for on and off, such as gating toms/snare/bass drum but gating is generally not good on vocals and any other instruments that have any kind of sustain to them. Whereas " downward expansion" is a smooth downward transition of level to a predetermined lower level. Like compression & limiting attack and release times have to be tailored to the specific singer or instrument. And with some particularly bad acoustical spaces, it might be more advantageous to properly over exaggerate it than to try and minimize it. This is what experience brings. This strange mindset of mine comes from a background in live broadcasts for radio & TV & on location and is not quite the same concept in the creation & construction of an actual purpose built recording studio. Most folks that come to this forum just don't have that kind of money to blow in their residence nor is that practical. It's an extravagant application & job to try and turn the average living space into a luxurious acoustic environment. Generally, most home studios in small spaces do not possess the cubic area necessary for any real kind of acoustic environment other than dead. And dead is dead as in disco is dead which pretty much dictated the sound in the 1970s to an environment full of a health risk of excessive pink fiberglass. And that scenario was even true at George Massenburg's ITI studio in the 1970s. We don't go there anymore (ultra dead spaces). Unfortunately, most folks just want to make a fun & nice recording at home without a real budget & a few pieces of recording equipment plugged into their laptop. Now if you were constructing a home studio and you had a space of say, 50 feet by 100 feet with 15 foot high ceilings, you'll have to shell out a few dollars but that's a warehouse not a home. So while the desire to put up some carpet or pretty acoustic foam appeals to many and you believe that will solve the sound of your recording problems, you're wrong. You're going to still have acoustic aberrations that can't be dealt with effectively in a small space without an appreciable amount of investment. So you folks should all think about home recording as an "on location" event not a studio event and that's what separates the pros from the I don't knows.

    I have a big nose & knows
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  16. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, there isn't a dedicated Acoustics forum listed here at RO anymore. Although, someone can still find lots of the archived threads if they use the right search terms.

    If you're feeling lucky, there are still loads of acoustics threads here worth reading just by using 'Ethan Winer' and/or 'Eric Desart' as search terms. Some of them are beginner friendly, and some of them are highly technical discussions between peers and engineers that will make a beginner's head explode.
     
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    5 years ago that almost happened to me. My head almost exploded. I had a hydrocephalic condition that nearly killed me. Probably all of that rock 'n roll? Acoustics are just for people that don't know how to make good recordings to begin with. With good acoustics you almost can't make a bad recording. And that's why most of the novices here should learn how to make a good recording under less than ideal conditions. How else are you going to learn how to do things if everything is perfect to begin with?? When we were younger, we didn't go to school to pass our tests before we were taught. There is a logical progression to what I am talking about. I worked with plenty of recording students from universities that could do things right, since everything else in place was correct. You're not going to learn about acoustics until you have to deal with the lousy acoustics first. We all have to grow up through this process to get to the other side. You don't just walk into Oceanside Studios out of high school to learn recording. Although, I've told plenty of people in a sense to do just that. You want to learn how to record well? You take your band to the best studio you can find, to the best engineer you can use and then you pick their brains throughout the entire session. After all, you're paying for it. This is a different way to go than enrolling in a school for it and actually a lot less costly. Plus, you'll probably come away with a quality product you can be proud of while you learned something. I mean $40,000 for a degree in moving volume controls?? That's nuts. It's crazy. It's fraud! Of course we all need teachers & mentors of some kind along the way. This is the same as learning how to sing or play violin. Generally, you get it from a single teacher over a long-term. Sometimes, in the land of academia, all this unrelated crap is also necessary to get your fraudulent piece of paper. Not everybody needs that piece of paper. Of course today, we have been over encumbered with the plethora of complexities. Everybody wants to try and out complex the other. This isn't necessary either. Simplicity and technique produces music. Whereas math, science, history creates a clinical technician. A clinical technician may also be able to produce music that I've found that some of the most talented have the least credentials. Even George Massenburg didn't finish his electrical engineering degree at Hopkins because he used to argue with all of his professors. He knew better. HE KNEW BETTER. And when he wanted something properly designed he employed an electrical engineer that could work things out to his specifications. I work the same way. There is theory and then there's practice. The two don't necessarily mathematically work out. I appreciate the well educated folks who we rely upon to enable us to make recordings. But when their circuits don't sound quite right, we have to modify them in a way that may not be mathematically accurate. You can't argue this with me because I've worked on the manufacturing end of professional audio equipment. But the college educated can help to guide us in the general direction we want to go. And after you've spent a good chunk of your life at honing your skills, you effectively have a degree without the piece of paper. Of course a lot of people want to see that piece of paper because they have no vision, no insight, no talent. Unfortunately, you can't really teach talent. It's one of those things in life that you either have or you don't. And I know some folks that have been extremely frustrated by that because they thought they had the talent for something. It's okay to make mistakes. To err is human and correct. In the wrong kind of right way.

    What the heck did I say? I don't know?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
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