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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 January 17, 2019

        8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

        8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

        In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

        Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

        Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

        Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

        Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

        The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

        There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

        How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

        According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

        Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

        Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

        The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

        Listen carefully:

        We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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        The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

        Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

        8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

        There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

        Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

        1. Pray Daily

        You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

        When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

        Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

        Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

        2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

        A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

        By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

        Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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        If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

        This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

        How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

        3. Smile Often

        Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

        Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

        Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

        The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

        4. Organize Your Working Desk

        A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

        When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

        Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

        Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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        5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

        I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

        Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

        What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

        6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

        God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

        I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

        I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

        7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

        You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

        How do you do that? This is my formula:

        First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

        If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

        If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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        If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

        Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

        8. Go Exercise

        Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

        The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

        You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

        12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

        The Bottom Line

        It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

        It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

        Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

        More Resources About Mindfulness

        Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

        Reference

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