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Why Your Home Studio Needs Acoustic Treatment

Why Your Home Studio Needs Acoustic Treatment

Technology benefits from the “trickle-down effect” – a phenomenon which lowers the price of consumer goods so that what was once affordable to only the very rich can be had by the common person for a fraction of the price.

This means that, unlike even three or four decades ago, the average music enthusiast can piece together a home studio capable of producing high-quality recordings, with less space taken up and the sort of potential that could only be dreamt of in the early years of music production. In fact, with little more than a moderately-priced computer, a pair of monitor speakers, a DAW (digital audio workstation) and a couple of microphones, you can record and mix in a spare room. But something is missing…

What’s that sound?

    A home studio will never be a professional studio. The former is bound by size constraints, often less-than-ideal surroundings and the acoustic effects of conventional construction techniques. The latter – well, the latter doesn’t suffer from those problems because it’s purpose-built from the ground up. But the biggest issue facing home studio owners is, fortunately, also the easiest to address. It doesn’t require moving or tearing down walls. Rather, it involves treating the chosen room to make it as acoustically honest as possible.

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    Room construction – the dimensions and proportions of a space, the thickness of the walls, the insulation, and placement of windows – varies from one home to the next, and furnishings, wall coverings, carpeting, and flooring material all add unique acoustic characteristics. But why should all this matter when you have your head a few feet away from a pair of accurate monitor speakers?

    Sound waves travel fast. Fast enough so that what you think you’re hearing from your speakers has already been colored by the surrounding space. An untreated room has a frequency response – the way it reflects sound back – that is uneven. In short, that means what your ears are telling your brain isn’t true. It’s like taking a photograph of a tree in a field and adjusting the brightness and contrast, then applying a color filter. The outcome is a landscape you still recognize, but it isn’t a true representation.

    Unless you make music for your sole listening enjoyment in the one space it was recorded or mixed in, the end result of an untreated home studio is that what sounds good there probably won’t “translate” well in the real world where most people listen to music. Your mixes will be colored by the excesses and insufficiency related to the unique acoustic properties of your room.

    Why treat your home studio?

    Total acoustic deadening is neither necessary nor desirable. A well-treated space is not covered from top to bottom in foam paneling – that’s more akin to what you’d find in an anechoic chamber. The goal of room treatment, according to Andy Munro – a specialist in acoustic design – is to achieve a “neutral sound balance”. That means that various frequencies are neither exaggerated nor deficient; it means that your ears perceive the source material as it was meant to be heard.

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    Dimensional and budgetary constraints may limit the home studio owner in what they can do. However, treating a room as optimally as possible will create a listening environment in which you can learn what a good recording sounds like. You’ll be able to make better decisions which will be evident when your music is played in the outside world.

      The problem with bass

      Of primary concern to the home studio owner are low frequencies. Bass travels far, passing through walls and leaving most of the mid-range and treble behind. If a low-frequency sound wave could be visualized, its cycles – the number of times the wave repeats – would be significantly longer than that of a higher frequency. The unique sonic characteristics of bass make it particularly problematic.

      Left untreated, an average room allows bass to bounce from the wall behind the listener, building up in the corners. The result can be a significant dip – as much as 30 decibels. You might think your music sounds balanced and powerful, with a deep, driving rhythm that supports the entire song, but take it out of the studio, and suddenly it sounds muddy and boomy, with bass overpowering the other instruments. What happened?

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      The aforementioned dips – often referred to as “nulls” – altered your perception of the bass in your music. You compensated for what you heard by adding more low-end frequencies. As soon as your music was played in a different environment, the effect of this compensation became evident.

      How to create a bass trap

      The solution to bass nulls is placing a “bass trap” in each corner of your studio. These “traps” are made from material of varying thickness, density, hardness, and softness, sometimes containing air gaps and covered in an acoustically transparent fabric which allows sound waves to pass through without reflecting them back into a room. When low frequencies hit a bass trap, they encounter resistance and slow down. The reflection, dispersion, and accumulation which would be caused by hitting an untreated wall are reduced, resulting in a more even, accurate representation of the sound.

      How many bass traps does a home studio need? Twelve are ideal – one for each of the room’s eight corners, and an additional trap for each of the four vertical junctures between walls.

      The problem with treble

      What about the higher mid-range and treble frequencies? There are two approaches that can be taken. The primary is the placement of acoustic panels, of similar construction to panel-shaped bass traps, at various points on the studio walls. When high frequencies hit an acoustic panel, the sound is absorbed and converted into imperceptible heat, instead of being bounced back at you. Absorptive acoustic panels are an important tool for reducing rapid echoes and the “ringing” effect found in sparsely furnished rooms.

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      Another way to deal with troublesome high frequency reflections is through the use of “diffusors “. Unlike acoustic panels or bass traps, a diffusor breaks up sound using an array of three-dimensional patterned surfaces. They may have the appearance of a random arrangement of shapes, but are actually based on precise equations. Diffusors – which should be used only as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, panels – help improve your “sweet spot”, the space where you sit between the speakers, leading to more accurate auditory perception.

      Buy or DIY?

        Whether you make your traps, panels, and diffusors yourself or purchase them will depend upon if you have more time than money, or vice versa. It’s entirely possible to build everything you need and get a good outcome – there are many tutorials to be found online. The drawbacks are the time involved in research, calculation and design, the acquisition of materials and, of course, the creation and installation of the end product. You’ll also need a few basic tools and a space in which to work. The benefit is the money saved.

        Conversely, you can purchase everything you need, professionally made and finished. You’ll save a great deal of time, needing only to install the room treatment products – and with purchasing them comes expert guidance from someone who is already well-versed in acoustics. The only downside is the cost, which ranges from moderately to significantly higher than doing it yourself.

        In either case, your music – whether it’s strictly recorded, electronically sequenced, mixed or any combination thereof – will improve. So too will your mood. You’ll be confident that what you hear in your studio will sound great everywhere else!

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        Last Updated on November 18, 2020

        50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

        50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

        If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

        That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

        Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

        1. Believe It to See It

        Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

        2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

        While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

        3. Keep Looking for Solutions

        Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

        4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

        Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

        5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

        There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

        6. Always Ask Productive Questions

        It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

        7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

        Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

        8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

        Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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        9. Maximize Your Strengths

        Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

        10. Be in It to Win It

        Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

        11. Know That Success Attracts Success

        People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

        12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

        Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

        13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

        You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

        14. Be a One-Off Original

        Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

        15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

        Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

        16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

        Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

        17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

        Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

        18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

        We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

        19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

        Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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        20. Accept Challenge All the Time

        Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

        21. Make Your Own Luck

        In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

        22. Ignite Your Initiative

        While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

        23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

        Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

        24. Champion in Communication

        Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

        25. Plan Your Life Strategically

        Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

        26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

        To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

        27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

        While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

        28. Live by Core Values

        Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

        29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

        Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

        30. Don’t Get Carried Away

        Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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        31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

        Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

        32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

        Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

        33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

        Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

        34. Change Opens New Doors

        People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

        35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

        It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

        36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

        Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

        37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

        When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

        38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

        How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

        39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

        If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

        40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

        Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

        41. Swim Against the Tide

        Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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        42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

        More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

        43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

        Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

        44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

        While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

        45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

        Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

        46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

        Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

        47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

        While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

        48. Follow Through

        Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

        49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

        We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

        50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

        To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

        So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

        Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

        More About Success

        Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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