The relevance of acoustic treatment in a bedroom studio.

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by KanoraK, Aug 2, 2018.

  1. KanoraK

    KanoraK SS.org Regular

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    Hey guys, just a question I have in mind for a few weeks now, I hope you can help.

    Here's the thing, I own a modest bedroom studio with only a PC, an audio interface (Scarlett 18i8 1st gen), monitors and a small MIDI keyboard. Basically everything to get started. Please note that I'm only using VSTs : those I got from Cubase and I bought some as well (BIAS FX and the Darkglass VST). The reason I'm using only VSTs is that I don't own any mics or guitar amp (I do have a bass amp though).

    My questions are :

    1) Is it always useful to put acoustic treatment into a recording room even if you record straight into the interface and add some effects with VSTs ?

    2) Does acoustic treatment make a difference in terms of perception of the sound by the human ear ?

    3) Does acoustic treatment help to record better music (sonically speaking), no matter the way you record your own music ?

    4) If it is truly useful, what kind of acoustic treatment should I get to begin with ?

    Acoustic treatment is something I can't get through despite all the research I've already done. I'm fascinated by the way some people get great sound without any sort of acoustic treatment (like Sithu Aye who recently posted a picture of his studio room) That is why I'm asking you guys, you have more practical experience.
    Thanks for your answers :)
     
  2. Turgon

    Turgon SS.org Regular

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    hi there

    1) in your situation, just for recording, it makes absolutely no sense to treat your room in any way, because you don't use any microphones and go straight into your interface

    2) Yes, you can optimize how loud you hear certain frequencies

    3) in your case, no, if you work with mics, yes

    4) this highly depends on your room. Nobody can give you tips. You have to find out, which frequencies are higher/lower in volume in your room. I think there are some tools out there helping you.

    I for myself have no acoustical treatment in my room. I try to get the best results possible by mixing in my room and then comparing on different speakers on different systems in different rooms (living room, car, headphones etc)
     
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  3. lemeker

    lemeker SS.org Slacker

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    The only thing that you would "really" need it for in your case would be for mixing if you aren't using headphones (which isn't ideal either, but sometimes you do what you have to.)

    Check out YouTube, there are some cool diy videos on making your treament on the cheap
     
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  4. gienek

    gienek SS.org Regular

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    1) it might be useful for recording and practice on ex. acoustic guitar, or if you're singer, when you track electric you use headphones usually.

    2) yes, you could tell many more lyrics in songs :lalala:, besides, i dunno, it clear up your system, make it more even and more dynamic.


    3) hmmm i like practicing w/o plugging so treatment gets some of high end from string buzzing and make time more confortable, but in terms of recording, absolutely no.


    4) i dont know what shop you got in FR, but i recommend to take a note with acoustic specialist via email with pictures, dimensions and arrangement of your workplace. Do you have 5" or 7" monitors? On desk or on stands? most important: do your desk is in center of room? I have some thick 7cm foam in cube patern to take make even freq >>125hz and some 5cm foam in wave pattern to take care of >>1500hz freq. I use bass traps too, but if you have enough room i would make it DIY from kind of heat isolation panels from hardware store. They should do the job better.

    Hmm yes, i was suprised by Sithu too. Probably someone check his mix after or he uses the same template over songs, i dont belive in such miracles :)
     
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  5. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    Acoustic treatment is always nice to have, but not always worth it.
    For your situation, it may not be worth it, since you're recording direct to interface. As others have mentioned, the only benefits that you yield are during playback when you're mixing, and room sound when you're practicing.

    Personally, I'm in a similar situation to you (in where everything is direct to interface), but I opted for treatment anyway since I appreciate the more defined sound while I'm practicing (and had to decorate the room anyway lol). Is the difference really night and day? ....not really, but it is noticeable. If you have cash to burn and nothing in your rig immediately demanding an upgrade, I'd do it.
     
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  6. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    The idea of acoustic treatment is to make the frequency response of your monitors flatter and more spatially accurate, by eliminating the impact of things like flutter and echo, phase cancellation and filtering, and bass standing waves. In turn, the idea of making your monitors flatter and more spatially accurate is to give you a way clearer picture of your mix, so that something that sounds good on your monitoring chain will translate well to most other monitoring chains.

    So, with that in mind... Are there situations you can mix well without acoustic treatment? Sure. If either:

    1) Your room, untreated, already sounds great and has no phase cancellation issues.
    2) As part of your workflow, you're routinely mixing down and then playing back your mix on other speakers and in other rooms, to ensure the mixes are translating well and there aren't any issues that are being obscured by your monitors/room.

    The former is extremely unlikely unless you're in a speciality built room, and the latter just takes a lot of time.

    I'd say that you CAN do very good room in an untreated room, especially if you're either recording direct or exclusively close-micing all of your instruments, but that it's certainly easier and faster to work in a room you know is pretty flat.

    Myself, I'm currently working in an untreated room. It's a little small, a slightly odd shape, and most of the points I'd want to treat would logistically be tough to do so. There are issues I'm aware of (bass response is tough to gauge) so I routinely mix down to a CD-R and pop it into my car and a couple other stereos to make sure everything sounds normal from system to system. I'm happy with the results I'm getting, but if I ever do sell my place and am able to set up a larger dedicated room, then acoustic treatment (and better monitors - my Yamaha HS80Ms are fine, but bigger picture they're probably now the weakest part of my signalchain, maybe second to the room) is definitely a priority.

    The other thing I'd say is that if by bedroom studio you mean that literally - your bedroom, where you also have recording equiptment, then I'd definitely not worry about it. I have a dedicated room now, but the room I recorded my album in was my bedroom, and I figure that considering I spent 98% of my time in that room using it as a bedroom and 2% using it as a studio, then the bedroom comes first. :lol: Unless of course you can find a way to make broadband trapping look artistic and visually appealing and really add to the atmosphere, of course. :lol:
     
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  7. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Always is a strong word, but I'm going to jump on the "yes" side of that one, maybe with the caveat of "most of the time". It's not just about the recording process- if you're monitoring in that same room, then you can only mix what you can hear. You said it yourself:
    YES. The treatment of the room (or lack of) will affect what you can and can't hear. Like Drew already said, you can do things to work around the weaknesses of your listening environment, but ideally you want the space that you work in to put as few roadblocks in the way as possible. The better your listening environment is where you actually do your mix, the less time you have to spend running around trying everything to search for those "invisible" issues that pop up simply because you don't hear them. The better your room is, the fewer surprises you'll get when you (or someone else) tries to listen somewhere else.

    "Better" is subjective. Working in a treated room will give you something cleaner to start with, but that's only useful if you need something clean to start with. The exact opposite approach would be to find a room that has the sound you want already -> like using a big hall or something, or intentionally recording in a long tunnel or stair well or something because you might *want* the big ugly sound of that space. In the context of getting a cleaner signal to start with so that you have more control over what you're working with, yes treatment will help that.

    I have no idea, because I'm another person who works with what I've got - which is entirely untreated rooms 99% of the time. :lol: With that in mind, take my advice with a grain of salt or two, since I'm not a pro, don't use treatment myself, and a lot of my advice tends to be echoing things I've learned from the internet, so.....
    However, I do normally try to take steps to compensate for my lack of room treatment - this includes working in the room in the house that's the deadest sounding to begin with - because of the couches, books, etc., that are in the room that absorb more 'verb than the other rooms, but also things like avoiding placing your monitors in places where they'll be off balance from eachother, or backed into corners or something like that.
     
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  8. A-Branger

    A-Branger SS.org Regular

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    you can find acoustic treatments kits for not too much money to start with, do a search and find how to DIY some bass traps ect.

    but whatever you do, please DO NOT use egg cartons...... yes the shape of them looks similar to acoustic foam panels, but they DO NOT WORK! unless you jsut want houses for your cockroaches
     
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  9. KanoraK

    KanoraK SS.org Regular

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    Hey guys, thanks for all your answers !

    At the moment, my studio is really a bedroom studio but I plan on getting my own dedicated place once I'll get my own house. In the meantime, I do with what I have, just like most of you guys !
    So, acoustic treatment is useful to hear what you don't normally hear in a regular room. It changes our perception of the sound, therefore it helps us make the right decisions in the mix. Yet, it has no effect on the sound itself. Am I right ?

    For now, I'm going to use some of the tips you told me about (listening on different sources) and maybe invest on some acoustic treatment when I'll get my own place.

    Thanks again for the answers. This is way more useful than anything I've seen on the Internet ! :)
     
  10. A-Branger

    A-Branger SS.org Regular

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    yeah its all about how you hear on a room. It doesnt change the sound source, but it changes how those sound waves behave on a room.

    Think about a dance studio, you know a big mirror wall with polish floors and flat surfaces everywhere. You know how much natural reverb it happens on that room. This is as every surface is behaving as a mirror for sound waves, nothing really gets absorbed and sound waves jsut bounce back and forth from the walls/ceeling/floor till eventually die off.

    now try to mix a song in that studio, or simply play guitar, listening to music. Thats why theres acoustic treatment

    your room has in some degree the same problem. A flat painted wall, maybe polished floors, a window, ect ect. Difference is that different materials has different Hz frequencies absorption (plus all yur furniture helps to absorb frequencies too). So if you put a rug on your floor it would kill certain frequencies, from XXXHz-XXXXHz, the rest would bounce off like on a mirror. A perfectly acoustic treated room would have a pretty much "flat" response across the range Hz, this takes some time to calculate as every material would affect every frequency in different ways, so you would need to find a happy medium between every material in the room..... X amount of this and X amount of square metters of that, plus a bit of this and a bit of that.....its a fine balance, its like playing with a graphic EQ but each slider notch is a square meter of a material

    then you also have the problem of resonant frequencies, the frequencies in which wave lenght matches perfectly with the size of your room between two walls. Imagine a wave lenght going up and down from 0 and back to 0, now picture a Hz in which those two 0 would be the excat size of your wall, that sound wave would be bouncing on a perfect loop back and forth between those walls. This also applies to that sound wave harmonics/octaves, intead of doing a full Hz, it might do two "waves" between reaching 0 again, ect ect..... Reason why a pro studio would be build on a awkward shape with angled walls, where no two walls are parallel to each others.

    this problem affects the bass(frequencies waves long enough to fit on a room), reason why if you have ever heard on a band practice, where theres that ONE-ish note on your bass players where it just sounds massive, as its the resonant frequency of that room. To kill this you need special bass traps
     
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  11. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Simply put, room treatment helps you hear exactly what is happening in your mix.

    But you also need to bear in mind that your general listener is NOT listening on monitors, in a treated room. They're in a car, or using the white apple headphones, laptop speakers, iPad speakers, or a mono bluetooth speaker... so really I wouldn't obsess about getting something which sounds perfect.

    What I might do is just a couple of basic things to improve the sound. Lift up your monitors from the desk (on stands or foam). Put up some heavy curtains. Maybe bass traps in corners. Those things will make the biggest difference and make for a nicer listening experience.
     
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  12. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Ehh...

    In the narrowest sense of that, whether or not a space is treated is irrelevant to the signal being sent from your DAW to your monitors, so no, room treatment doesn't effect the sound being played back. What it does effect, though, is:

    1) it can minimize "distortions" or irregularities caused by the way sound reflects around the room on your ability to perceive that sound. I wouldn't say "hear what you don't normally here in a regular room," but rather "hear with as little coloring as possible the recorded sound being played back, as accurately as possible."
    2) If you're using microphones on live sources within that room, even to a certain extent close-mics on loud sources, then it DOES have an effect on the sound, because the recording starts off as a sound being heard in a room and captured at a single point by the microphone, and any room ambiance will be part of that sound.

    Bare minimum, even just spending some time on speaker positioning could do you a lot of good. You can't go all in because you have to use the room as a bedroom as well, so you don't want to TOTALLY optimize the room for recording... but ideal positioning would be having your desk centered, facing down the long axis of the room, maybe a third of the way down from the wall, so even if you keep your desk up against the wall for the most part and just pull it out a couple feet to mix (or, even if you just leave it there), at least spending some time on speaker orientation and ensuring that the space the speakers are pointed into is as symmetrical as possible to give a more accurate stereo field, will do a lot of good.
     
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  13. gienek

    gienek SS.org Regular

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    If you wanna get maximum results for no money use Room EQ Wizard where you can simulate room acoustic and find better speaker/listener setup w/o treatment.
     
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  14. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    That's really more making the best of a bad situation than it is any sort of long term fix, though...
     
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  15. A-Branger

    A-Branger SS.org Regular

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    similar like using a 30 band graphic EQ on a PA to tune the main speakers for the room the gig is gonna be played at. Helps to reduce the resonant frequencies, and the ones that get canceled too.

    but to do this propertly, you need either a flat response tester mic to check whats the EQ on your sitting position so you can check the response curve.... Or have a really really good set of trained ears

    Not ideal, but it could help to improve the sound a bit, this wont kill room reflections tho
     
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  16. QuantumCybin

    QuantumCybin Lost In Thought

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    This pretty much sums up how I feel about this forum in general :wub:
     
  17. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    To an extent, you can do that for your listening position, though with two caveats:

    1) this is an EXTREMELY position sensitive fix. Because the issues you're looking to address are related to the acoustic space you're playing music into, if you ARE able to make improvements in the flatness of the room at your normal listening position, it's going to be at the cost od greater inaccuracy everywhere else. Not a dealbreaker, just something to keep in mind if you move around while working.
    2) It also may not be effective. If you have a room with some pronounced notching at, say, 450hz going on, then if frequencies are being phase-cancelled by reflections there, simply adding more of those frequencies is just going to result in those increased frequencies getting cancelled out, as well.

    I guess as a third caveat, you can't address stereo imaging with EQ, so if you have stereo placement and positioning issues, EQ alone won't help.

    Basically, acoustic physics is kind of a nightmare in a small studio, and there are no easy fixes. :lol:
     
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  18. A-Branger

    A-Branger SS.org Regular

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    ^yyyyyup
     
  19. KanoraK

    KanoraK SS.org Regular

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    Exactly how I'm feeling about this forum as well... Thanks guys, this is very informative !
     

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