A home studio used for recording, production or streaming can be acoustically improved to give a better audio quality result, by using simple acoustic treatments such as absorbers, diffusers and bass traps which need to be positioned appropriately in the studio.
If you are a content creator, recording or producing audio at home, or a streamer, looking to give the best speech clarity broadcast you can, the audio quality on your content can be greatly improved by acoustically treating your home studio or production room.
Why does a studio room need to be acoustically treated?
Sound moves around in waves. So when you speak in your studio, or you are listening to audio, the sound is bouncing off the walls within your room and surfaces reflecting and interfering with each other.
Imagine a rubber ball being thrown at speed into your studio. It will bounce off surfaces and walls sporadically. Now imagine 10 rubber balls being thrown into your studio. They will bounce randomly off all the walls and surfaces and hit each other.
Some of the rubber balls will get more energy as they hit other balls and hard surfaces and some will stop as they hit soft surfaces such as cushions…..this is a good way to visualise how sound moves around your room.
If left untreated, these sound waves bouncing off your studio walls and reflecting off surfaces can result in poor sound in your content.
What are some of the negative effects caused by a poor sounding room on content recording and production?
A poor sound room, with lots of internal sound reflections can cause reverberations. This type of room could sound like it has a discrete echo or it may seem like sound is getting “lost”. This will decrease the clarity of speech recording while recording or broadcasting.
If you’re using your studio to critically listen to audio to mix / produce sound, having a well treated studio is important to ensure your audio translates well and sounds OK across all sound devices from PCs to phones to TVs or whatever your audience is listening on.
When sound waves bounce off the internal walls of your studio, they will interfere with each other. Sometimes, these interfering sound waves could create coloration’s in what you’re listening to and make you think you’re hearing something that isn’t actually there.
For example you might be producing a podcast and trying to mix and balance dialogue with music.If you’re not doing this task in a well controlled and balanced listening environment your room may create acoustic effects giving you the impression that your mix is really “bass heavy” or “has too much high frequencies” but in fact these perceived sounds may not be actually be there on the recording. The internal interfering sound could be creating an impression of “too much bass” or “too much treble”.
As a producer, you are naturally going to try and remove this bass or treble sound. However, when you listen to your podcast in a different environment, for example a car, you may have negatively impacted your production by removing or adding frequencies that were never truly there.
This is why producers always try to listen to their audio productions in multiple places before releasing to the public, (such as in a car or in a kitchen), as this will cross check that they are mixing the audio well and it will sound good anywhere, not just their personal studio,
So whether you’re recording audio, broadcasting audio via streaming or mixing audio, acoustically treating your studio can greatly help your all your content and production.
What is acoustic treatment?
Acoustic treatment is the means of using materials and products, such as absorbers, bass traps and diffusers, to control how sound reflects and propagates throughout your studio or listening environment.
In theory, these acoustic products should be positioned in a way to prevent unwanted room acoustics and reflections such as too much reverberation and standing waves which can impact audio production
For example, too much reverberation in a studio will reduce the audio fidelity when recording.
Standing waves is a scenario where a sound wave is reflected in a way which artificially reinforces the sounds or creates colouration, for example, this could give the impression that there is a strong bass sound on your audio production, when really it is not there at all – it is just the room that is creating the effect.
Who needs acoustic treatment
Content creators who are recording or mixing audio, sound design engineers, streamers and anyone who is involved in the recording, production and broadcast of audio will benefit from acoustic treatment of their studio and work space.
Remember, acoustic treatment refers to the improvement of room acoustics to aid audio production and recording. Soundproofing or sound isolation refers to the removal of noise or sound from your room.
These are two very different things. If you are looking to soundproof your studio (i.e. isolate it from external noise and make everything quiet) check out this article.
Acoustic Treatment & How to Use It
Below is a picture of a typical audio production studio layout.
Ultimately, you are going to have to place your acoustic treatment in a position that fits your own room but this is a good general guide to get a feel for how one might go about acoustically treating a rectangular room.
If you are a Podcaster and want to go about acoustically treating your recording studio check out this good guide from Auralex Acoustics.
Here is a link to their technical documentation explaining their design with streamers in mind.auralex streamer starter kit PDF
If you would like to get $5 off any Auralex Acoustic product, just use my affiliate link below.get $5 off auralex acoustic products
What is an absorption panel?
An absorption panel is a panel of material that will absorb frequencies. Typically absorbers are designed to help improve mid to high frequency ranges of rooms.
Where should I place an acoustic absorption panel?
Absorption panels should be placed at what we call “the first reflection points”
These are the walls or surfaces in your room that sound coming from your studio monitors with hit first.
In order to easily identify the point of first reflection in your room and where to place your absorption panels you could use what’s been called “the mirror trick”.
What is the “mirror trick” in acoustic treatment?
To implement the mirror trick you need an assistant.
Firstly, sit at your listening position then ask your assistant to hold a mirror against the side wall to the left of your studio speakers, roughly between your listening position and the speakers.
Next, ask your assistant to move the mirror until you can just see the speaker reflected in the glass – this is location of your first reflection point – this is where the absorption panel should be placed.
Replace the above procedure for the right hand side speaker.
Here is a video to help explain:
It can be really useful to place absorption material on the wall behind your studio speakers. Treating this area, behind your studio speakers, will improve imaging and reflections coming from this wall.
If you are a streamer or recording speech, placing absorption material in front of your speaking position will also help remove unwanted reflections and help improve audio fidelity.
What is a diffuser?
A diffuser is typically a rough or uneven surface that scatters sound waves around your room. True diffusers are carefully designed to scientifically scatter sound waves based on mathematical calculations. Here is an image of an acoustic diffuser.
Diffusers can be expensive so some budget savvy content creators use bookshelves as diffusers to give a similar effect. Book shelves are typically uneven making a natural diffusion surface.
According to the sound experts, bookshelves will never be as good as a designed acoustic diffuser, however they do have an impact and are a cheap suitable alternative.
Where should I place an acoustic diffuser?
Typically the wall behind your listening position is a good spot for a diffuser. If you don’t want to invest in a diffuser, absorption panels can equally work just as well.
Typically, if the distance to the back wall behind your listening position is very short, diffusers or an uneven surface is a suitable acoustic solution.
What is a bass trap?
As the name suggests, bass traps are used to trap and control low frequencies or the bass frequency range.
Where should I position bass traps in my listening room?
The corners of your room are typically a good position for bass traps.
It’s not necessary to cover the entire corner from floor to ceiling to produce a good bass trap, however the more area you cover the better result you will get as you increase the low frequency absorption area.
It is also worth mentioning that it’s not necessary for bass traps to be up against walls or sealed. Bass traps can be simply hung from a wall or stand them in the corner and they will work fine.
How to acoustically treat floors and ceilings?
Acoustically treating ceilings in home studios can be tricky as the solutions are quite expensive. In addition, it can be very difficult to place acoustic foam on a ceiling as often it needs to be glued in place which is a permanent solution and not the first choice for many, myself included.
It is possible to treat your ceiling by buying an “acoustic cloud” and placing it over the mixing position. Here is what an acoustic cloud looks like and where you can get them:
If your ceiling is low, it is best to use an absorption material.
If you have got a high ceiling, using diffusion typically works better to smooth out reverb and decay in your room.
The acoustic clouds that you can buy are best placed right over your listening position for audio mixing and speaking position for audio recording and broadcast.
If you combine all the standard acoustic treatments such as acoustic absorbers, diffusers and bass traps in your home studio and carefully consider where to place them, you can improve room acoustics and as a result the audio quality on your content and broadcasts.
The problem with acoustic treatment is that all rooms come in different shapes and sizes and although acoustic treatment is governed by mathematical equations and physics, at the end of the day as almost every home studio is different, acoustic treatment positioning is often treated more like an art form than a science.
However, by following room acoustic guides you can get the most out of room acoustic treatment and make your home studio sound very good.
Most manufactures of acoustic treatment provide great guides on how to use and position their products so when buying an acoustic treatment product always check out the manufactures website for some extra information and help.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.