Using Acoustic Treatment

We're getting ready to do a little construction here at DAB studios.  Now to be open and honest, DAB studios is a home studio setup.  We are actually based in a house, that I live in, in a subdivision.  So yes, you can actually have a recording studio in your home.  Depending on HOAs and other restrictions.

Sometimes you can have an option as to which room in your home you might record.  This gives you a wonderful chance to go around the house / apartment and find some "sweet spots."  Literally go sing / play your guitar around the house and find a few places that things just seem to sound the best.  Then record a scratch track in each place and see which one sounds the best to you.  Then you know your "sweet spots."

Other times you don't have much of a choice as to where you can record.  Like in my situation, we have 2 kids in our 1400 sq ft house.  I can't just record in the living room and kick everyone else out for a few days at a time.  But when we purchased our house, we did so knowing that I would be using part of it as a studio.  So we bought a house that has a nice family room / office area that we've since converted into a studio.

We're finally getting ready to finish the room up.  It's taken a while as we've been focused on my wife's cancer (which is vastly more important than a studio).  So we're now getting ready to install a solid core door to separate the room completely, install window covers to remove outside interference, and do a little more acoustic treatment work.

Sound Treatment vs Sound Proofing

I think it's important to show the distinction between sound proofing a room and  installing sound treatment.  If you're in a home, good luck sound proofing a room.  It's basically impossible.  You can cut down outside noise by covering the windows and adding doors and such, but you'll likely never get rid of every outside noise.  And honestly, that's fine.  Cut as much noise down and out as possible, and live with what you've got.

Where as sound treatment isn't concerned with outside noise at all.  Nope, it's acoustic treatment.  This is where you're concerned with what the sound IN the room sounds like.  Is there too much reverb?  Because a bad sounding reverb can be recorded.  And if it's recorded, you're not getting it out, and it sure can ruin your recording.  So sound treating a room is minimizing echoes and reverberation.

How can I professionally treat the sound in my room?

There are a several different types of professional acoustic treatment products out there.  The 2 main forms are acoustic foam and sound panels.  Acoustic foam is a type of foam that get's glued to the walls dampening sound reflections.  It's fairly inexpensive as far as sound treatment is concerned, but it seem expensive when you think that it's just foam.  However, do not just glue standard packing foam or furniture/bed foam pads to the walls.  Acoustic foam is flame retardant, while standard foam is not and can easily cause a fire hazard.  To the left is an example of acoustic foam here in DAB studios.  (Yes, the Strat-0-clock makes it cooler).

Sound panels are actual panels that are essentially thick insulation, in a frame, wrapped in fabric.  This type of treatment comes in handy as you can set it between sound sources to minimize bleed.  If using this on walls, you typically want them spaced about an inch off the wall.  That's how sound panels work best.  They lessen the sound going through them, the lower sound bounces off the wall and is weakened to the point that most sound won't go back through it on the way out.

Does it really matter that you treat the sound in your room?

That depends - do you want a professional sounding recording?  Then yes.  If you want it to sound like it was recorded in a garage, then no.

That's a very generic statement when it comes to sound treatment.  If you walk into a high end recording studio, they'll likely have a few studio rooms that have basically no sound treatment.  Why?  Because the room has fantastic acoustics!!!  Most rooms don't have good acoustics, and the reverb they produce sounds unnatural and bad in recordings.  Especially bathrooms.  Please don't make the rookie mistake of recording in the bathroom.  Just about any reverb plugin will sound a 1000 times better.

How can I treat the sound in my room on a budget?

There are some really affordable sound treatment solutions that you can do.  In fact, I know of several people who have home studios that have spent little to no money on sound treatment.  How?  They use what they have.  You're an artist, be creative!

But down to HOW they did it and what you can do to help your studio out.  Soft surfaces reflect less sound.  Sounds obvious, but it had to be said.  One easy way to add sound treatment is by simply adding furniture.  Put a couch or a comfy chair in the room.  That will actually help your sound.  But again, use a soft surface, probably not leather.

The next big thing that most people use....blankets.  Not because they're cold.  They don't wrap themselves up in them, they drape them on the walls.  Using a thick blanket on a wall does just about as much as adding foam or sound panels.  It just doesn't look as nice.  Being up front and honest again, I still use blankets from time to time.  You have to do what you have to do.  And the sound is more important than the looks.  Don't have any spare blankets?  Run down to your local Harbor Freight and pickup a pack of moving blankets, they work great.

Now mind you, blankets won't block sound from outside nor from one instrument getting recorded by another instruments microphone - but they will minimize the room reverb making for a more flat and cleaner recording.  However, I have used a seat cushion wrapped in a blanket as a sound panel between sources before - and it worked just fine.

That's it for today.  Hope this helps you out!  Go put up some blankets, foam, or panels and make something you love!