How to convince yourself to invest in acoustic treatment

You need to acoustically treat your room.

You know it. You’ve read the articles, you’ve had people tell you. You already know that it’s holding you back.

The problem is that you haven’t done it yet. Despite you knowing how important it is, it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe you’re not sure how to do it, maybe that money has mysteriously disappeared into more plugins or instruments or other hardware.  Maybe it’s just not sexy.

If you’re not quite sure how to do it, relax. It’s not that hard. For a basic studio, you should start with some wall panels and some bass traps. The wall panels absorb and disperse the first reflections from your speakers. Imagine mirrors on your walls – anywhere you would see the reflection of your speakers when you sit at your mixing position is where you should put a wall panel. The bass traps hide in the corners and edges of the room. That’s it. That approach will get you decent results for the first round of treatment, and will most likely be a noticeable improvement on your current environment (you can get more sophisticated if you want, but wait until you’re designing your next studio for that).

If the money keeps mysteriously disappearing into more plugins or other gear, take a good hard long look at your setup. Chances are, you’ve already got plenty of gear. Chances are, you’ve got enough gear to last you the next few albums, at least. Don’t kid yourself. How many more analogue-modelling synths do you need? How many more kick drum samples do you need?

Chances are, you need a new chair more than you need more music gear.

Despite what anyone else will tell you, acoustic treatment is sexy. It adds more sex appeal to your studio than any plugin or computer upgrade. Acoustic treatment impresses people who don’t even know what it is, or why it’s important (you’ll recognise them as the ones who call it ‘sound proofing’). Acoustic treatment is how people instantly know you’re serious about your studio – especially if it’s a modern computer-based studio which isn’t necessarily brimming with hardware.

It’s also how you know you’re serious about your studio. Acoustically treating your room will motivate you and make you work more than you expect. It will make you excited to listen to music, it will make you excited to work on your own music. It will actually make you more productive.

And besides, there’s nothing quite like telling people you spent $600 on foam!

-Kim.

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    • Oliver Charles
    • February 1st, 2010

    Kim, what do you think about building your own acoustic treatment panels? $600 is a lot for me, and I’m sure a lot of other people, and I could build some basic stuff for much less. I’m thinking of basically stuffing some wooden frames (hand made) with rigid fiber glass and wrapping it up in some thin cotton. The bass traps I probably will have to invest in…

  1. Designing and building your own acoustic treatment is a good idea to consider – regardless of whether you have a low budget or not. You’ll learn a lot by doing it and in the long run you’ll better understand studio acoustics. Of course it takes more time. It also requires more know-how (or a preparedness to make mistakes while learning – which isn’t a bad thing!).

    The question of whether you use fabric-covered panels or bare broken-surface foam (or hard broken-surface panels or a combination of all three) is a matter of personal taste, decor, visitor temperament, room size, style of working, etc. Don’t let indecision hold you back though – trust your intuition and dive in! You’ll learn much more by doing it and getting it wrong than by simply doing nothing.

    -Kim.

  2. Hey there, I just found your site, and it is the best! I am learning a ton. I can’t stop!!!! I’m following the RSS from now on. Thank You!

    Anyway, I know you are right on this one, because I just bought one of those little foam portable vocal booths and it made a huge diff….Primacousic voxguard…..I record in a spare bedroom that is used for guests and it was so thin and echo sounding, the vocals were useless. so I needed something (I I know, $99 for a piece of foam, but it truly does make a huge diff)

    So I know accoustic treatment would be great, but I can’t be putting foam all over the walls and traps in the corners, it just won’t happen. So, I just get as close to the speakers as I can, about 3 feet.

    I know, not perfect, but I have no options……or do I?

  3. @Ian Hudson
    Hi Ian, thanks for the kind words. Glad you find the blog useful!

    Acoustic treatment is more than just putting foam on the walls. It’s about controlling the way sound travels and propagates in the room. It involves choice and placement of speakers, positioning of other things in the room, and treating the reflective surfaces.

    At an extreme, it involves controlling the shape of the room, the density of the materials, the design of the surfaces, etc.

    I’ve written a bit more about this here:
    https://kimlajoie.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/the-space/

    Each space is different, so it often doesn’t make sense to give specific advice without actually seeing your space and knowing your limitations. The next best thing is to give you the knowledge and confidence to tackle the issues yourself. That’s the general approach of this blog.

    -Kim.

  1. May 2nd, 2011
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