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The Sum of all Parts

Studio Acoustics is not Magic

Published 9:11 am on Monday 22nd February 2021 by Beat Magazine

Beat / Hi Lukas, classic recording studios in separate rooms are rather rare nowadays, but the number of home studios is increasing exorbitantly. No wonder, a laptop with a pair of monitor speakers is usually sufficient for producing. Has this changed the demands of your customers? 

Lukas / Of course, the trend has been going on for years, more and more professionals are furnishing rooms at home where they can work, of course, due to reduced budgets or simply because they want to work in their familiar environment. At the same time, the number of hobbyists has also increased. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many people have had to think about a home solution again - professional speakers, for example. So it is definitely noticeable that large recording studios are becoming increasingly rare.

Beat / How do their wishes differ today from those of the past? Are there more "in-house" problems to be solved so that their neighbors can play along?

Lukas / A room in which one can work without disturbing others is a basic requirement. Actually, their wishes do not differ from those of the past. As a rule, the customers want to listen in as linear a way as possible and achieve the best possible results in the mixes and masters. What is much more often a topic today is the management of expectations.

What the hobbyist or semi-professional often fails to see is that the room is the heart of the recording studio. This is where most of the investments are made. Many people see room acoustics as a small addition that could be made, perhaps with a few hundred Euro. So you have to make clear that a reasonable room is the absolute basis for proper monitoring. The biggest challenge today compared to the past is communicating the topic and its importance.

Beat / You can do a lot of things wrong when it comes to acoustics. The classics are probably rooms that are simply too ambitiously equipped with far too many or unfavorably placed acoustic elements. How do you proceed when you acoustically optimize a room?

Lukas / The absolute classic is actually the wrong material and that, in many ways, but this leads too far! In serious room acoustics, at least in control rooms, you always work to certain standards. Every control room needs corner bass traps, absorbers at the first reflection points, back wall bass traps and so on. What you adapt, depending on the pro- blems, room dimensions and/or budget, are the products used. Here, it always depends on various factors - and experience plays an important role. The only rooms in which you can do something completely different are geometrically very strange rooms that would probably be better not used as a control room or studio.

Beat / Complex Topic: Room Modes. Why do they occur and what is your recipe against them? 

Lukas / Actually, it's not that complex; sound waves have a wavelength, a 50 Hz wave is 6.80 meters long... If these wavelengths correlate with the room dimensions, a room mode occurs, specifically, if half the wavelength no longer fits into the room dimension, a first order mode occurs. This room mode then causes a decay time of the respective frequency that is too long and, thus, under- or overemphasizes the frequency spectrum. The whole thing changes due to different phase relation depending on the position in the room, but the frequency always remains the same.

The simplest form of the room mode is the axial mode, which is formed between two room surfaces. This means between the front and back wall, the side walls and the ceiling and floor. This is also the most important form of the room mode, which causes us the most problems. So, if our room is 3.40 meters wide, it probably has a mode around 50 Hz between the side walls. This can only be predicted exactly if the walls are soundproof, for example, in isolated rooms or in cellars. In "normal" rooms, however, the modes are usually close enough to be able to identify them.

Beat / One of the biggest challenges in any studio are probably low frequencies and bass. How can problem frequencies be found and - above all - eliminated?

Lukas / Apart from the calculation, all that remains is to measure the acoustics of the room. This has become really easy these days. You can get a useful measuring microphone at a very reasonable price; we recommend the freeware Room EQ Wizard. With such a measurement, you can analyze the room exactly and then determine room modes and bass problems accordingly. What' s always important is corner bass traps, because all modal problems find their beginning or end in the room corners! Here, we want to absorb the bass range over a wide frequency spectrum if possible.

Therefore, contrary to some claims, pressure-based bass traps are not the method of choice here! Porous absorbers based on mineral wool or other materials such as thermal hemp or polyester with a corresponding construction depth are just right here. What is important here is the correct so-called length-specific flow resistance. In addition, you can then combat modes that are particularly stubborn with tuned pressure absorbers. These must, however, be placed very specifically and are not easy to use.

www.gikacoustic.com


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