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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 March 25, 2020

        How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

        How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

        When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

        So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

        1. Exercise

        It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

        2. Drink in Moderation

        I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

        3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

        Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

        4. Watch Less Television

        A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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        Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

        5. Eat Less Red Meat

        Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

        If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

        6. Don’t Smoke

        This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

        7. Socialize

        Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

        8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

        Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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        9. Be Optimistic

        Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

        10. Own a Pet

        Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

        11. Drink Coffee

        Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

        12. Eat Less

        Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

        13. Meditate

        Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

        Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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        How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

        14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

        Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

        15. Laugh Often

        Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

        16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

        Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

        17. Cook Your Own Food

        When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

        Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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        18. Eat Mushrooms

        Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

        19. Floss

        Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

        20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

        Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

        Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

        21. Have Sex

        Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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        Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

        Reference

        [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
        [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
        [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
        [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
        [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
        [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
        [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
        [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
        [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
        [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
        [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
        [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
        [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
        [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
        [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
        [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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