Acoustic Treatment for your home of Office Studio
Today, we’re talking about something that is INCREDIBLY important and almost ALWAYS overlooked when recording audio. And that is acoustic treatments for your studio.
For starters – what is an acoustic treatment? Essentially, it’s additions you make to your environment to improve the sound of recorded audio.
The problem is that the types of rooms that most of us record in weren’t designed to optimize the quality of digitally recorded sound. Shocking, I know.
Happily, you can add a few bits of acoustic treatment, and dramatically improve your outcomes.
Generally, you’re looking for materials that absorb and diffuse soundwaves to prevent things like echo and tinniness. (That bottom of a well sound. Ugh.) So, you could go spend a few thousand dollars on the top-of-the-line studio mic. You can practice and practice your mic technique until you’re blue in the face. And you can hone your content to a razor’s edge, but unless you’ve given your room a good acoustic treatment, you’re not going to sound as good as you ought to.
There are a number of ways to make your room sound great for just about every budget, and we’ll get to that. But first, let’s look at what acoustic treatment DOES to your sound. Just like sound bounces back to you at the Grand Canyon to create an echo, sound also bounces around in your studio.
At a high level, the goal of acoustic treatment is to prevent the bouncing of sound waves. To do that, we treat large, flat surfaces like walls, windows, and floors, with some sort of sound-absorbing or diffusing material. There are a number of ways to achieve this, from creating a room within a room to a fully decked out studio with acoustic foam. There is literally something for every budget.
If you don’t have a lot of money budgeted for acoustic treatment, you can do what I used to do – build a blanket fort. Seriously! It was as simple as grabbing a few ladders, or whatever tall, sturdy things you have, and draping thick blankets or comforters on them.
So, instead of covering the walls and floors, you’re building a small fort around yourself. Do you know of voice-over pro Mike Rowe, the guy from Dirty Jobs? He does something similar when he’s traveling. He has a tentpole type thing he sets in the middle of the hotel bed, then records his voiceovers under the blankets.
Another popular option is to record in a closet. I haven’t tried this one, personally, but it’s the same concept as a sound booth – as long as you have it filled with clothing to absorb and diffuse the sound. If the closet is empty, well, you’ll be sitting in an echo-box.
These solutions are simple yet effective, and best of all, you probably already have everything you need.
Medium cost option
If you prefer your acoustic treatment to be more of a fixture without making your room look like a radio station, then make sure the room is furnished!
If you have hardwood floors, put a good rug down that covers most of it. Ensure that your windows have thicker curtains – the gauzy type won’t help a lot. You can keep them pulled back until you’re ready to record. You’d also be surprised how much furniture helps treat a room – everything in the room is breaking up the sound. So you can put a comfortable chair in the corner, a loveseat against the wall, whatever. To deal with the walls, hang some art! There are a number of companies that offer acoustic panels designed for studios that are also beautiful to look at.
And a word on egg crate mattress covers – I have tried them and found them to be severely lacking. Most of the covers are too thin to do a lot of good. Granted, it’s better than nothing, but some strategically placed acoustic panels will always be better.
So let’s move on to the more professional setup, and what One Stone’s Creative Director, Audra Casino has in her home studio.
My absolute favorite product for acoustic treatment is Auralex foam panels. While they might look vaguely similar to egg crate mattress covers, the Auralex is engineered for sound, from their shape to their composition.
So, in my studio, I have a large, thick rug over my hardwood floors. On the wall behind me, I have a checkerboard pattern of the square Auralex panels (which are about a square foot each). On the wall to my left, I have two large windows covered by thick curtains. On the wall to my right, a few strategically placed square panels. In front of me, just above my computer, I have two solid rows of the panels without any gaps.
That’s all well and good, but the single biggest improvement came from the bass traps. These large Auralex foam wedges go in the top corners of the room. In my case, I have two in each corner, starting from the ceiling, down. Each one is about 3 feet tall, so it covers a good portion of the corner. This is a permanent solution for room acoustics because you literally glue the acoustic foam to the walls. It’s not for everyone, but hey – if you’re serious about recording high-quality audio and have a room to dedicate to it, this is the way to go.
Another option is to install a permanent sound booth – it’s basically a large box you sit in that blocks sound from the outside and controls bouncing sound on the inside. This isn’t really an ideal solution unless you have room for it, or have a large room you can’t effectively treat.
Alternative – Pro Studio
Now there IS an alternative to blanket forts, furnishing rooms, and gluing foam to your walls, and that is to rent a studio. Unless you live in a very small town, there are recording studios you can rent by the hour to record your audio, and depending on price, it may be very worth your time to look into. The key here is to batch your work – when you rent a studio, record as much as you can in one sitting. In fact, when it comes to recording audio, batching is a great practice.