Why should you use Acoustic Treatment?
How to improve the sound of your room with acoustic treatment.
When it comes to recording and production getting the best and most accurate sound from your environment can really improve your workflow. Not only will it give you better recordings and mixes, but it will also save you time and make for an enjoyable listening environment. In this article, we’re going to look at acoustic treatment solutions that can be used.
Sadly most of us don’t have unlimited budgets to build a perfectly treated facility and for a lot of us, it is a room within our house, garage or shared building. There are various apps and tools you can use to analyse your rooms /studios, but, decoding the information these give can add more confusion rather than providing an appropriate solution.
If budgets permit it is always worth employing the expertise of an acoustic consultant, but if you want to understand what different types of treatment can achieve please read on.
Different Types of Acoustic Treatment
Different spaces and environments require different forms of treatment, and what works for one environment will not always work in another. For example, you are likely to treat a project studio differently to a live hall or, you may have a multi-functional room that may require modular/portable treatment as opposed to a permanent fixture. That’s why it’s important to understand the different types of acoustic treatment and what they do.
Probably the most easily understood form of acoustic treatment is absorption, the goal being to ensure that what we hear is the sound in it’s purest form and not what is surrounding the listener.
Vocal booths and recording rooms will usually have more absorption because we want to eliminate the sound of the room to get a pure sound and absorption panels help us achieve this.
These Absorption acoustic panels are usually made from porous materials such as fiberglass, mineral wool or foam materials, each of which will have varying acoustic properties. These can be mounted on walls, but also come in a modular form that can be mounted on stands to provide a portable solution.
Placement of these is often on reflective surfaces in front and to the sides of the listening position (often called the sweet spot) and are often combined with diffusion panels for a more balanced sound.
Well, the name says it all. Bass traps are designed to do exactly that, and in rooms that have odd shapes or corners that are 90 degrees or less, the bass can be misrepresented so by eliminating oddly shaped areas and corners the sound is greatly improved giving a much more accurate sound.
There are usually 2 styles of bass traps: resonant absorbers and porous absorbers. Resonating absorbers soak up a narrower spectrum and need to be tuned to resonate in unity with the frequencies being absorbed. Porous absorbers on the other hand, do not resonate or need to be tuned and tend to soak up a broader spectrum.
Porous absorbers are usually smaller in size, more simple to make and tend to be cheaper. However, the deep bass attenuation of a porous absorber is less effective making it difficult for attenuating lower frequencies. These are typically made from fiberglass, mineral wool or foam materials.
Resonating absorbers vary in construction, with one type absorber employing a flexible wood that attaches to the enclosure solely on the edges/corners, and then another using a fabric sheet of skinny material stretched across the frame like a drumhead.
Helmholtz resonators can have one or multiple round or slotted ports tuned to one or more frequencies. Porous absorption materials are sometimes added internally to simultaneously lower the resonant frequency and broaden the spectrum of absorption.
Placement of these is usually in corners to achieve a less square room shape.
Diffusion allows sound energy to spread evenly in a given environment to provide a more realistic and natural sound. They help to reduce echos and reflections and allow sound to be radiated in many directions instead of reflecting off at an angle equal to the angle of incidence. Usually, a balance of different panel types will lead to the best results.
Placement of these can vary depending on the application. In control room / project studios they are often placed behind the sweet spot, but also on the side & front walls to add a brighter sound to the room.
What about Soundproofing?
A common mistake made when it comes to acoustic treatment is the assumption that you are soundproofing your room, and, although absorption panels will provide some noise reduction, it is unlikely to completely soundproof your studio.
Making an existing room soundproofed can be very difficult and in most cases requires building a room within a room. If this sounds like a good option then you should speak to a studio build company.
There are, however, some prefabricated options that take away the need to employ a studio construction company. The Esmono sound booth is a great example of this. The panels are pre-manufactured and then constructed on site which usually takes 4-8 hours depending on size.
Acoustic Treatment Apps and Software
Auralex have an app RLX that takes the measurements of your space, asks what the space is used for e.g project studio / live space / control room etc. Based on the information you give the app it will recommend the appropriate products to treat the space.
REW is free room acoustics analysis software for measuring and analysing room and loudspeaker responses. The audio measurement and analysis features of REW help you optimise the acoustics of your listening room, studio or home theatre and find the best locations for your speakers, subwoofers and listening position.
What price should I expect to pay for Acoustic Panels?
The good news is you don’t have to pay vast amounts of money to improve the acoustics of a room. Acoustic foam panels offer an inexpensive way to treat a room and these come in all shapes and sizes and prices start from around £5 per panel.
There’s also a good selection of starter kits which come with a comprehensive range of products and fitting accessories. Aesthetically they may not be as attractive as some solutions but they typically come in several colours such as charcoal grey, white, purple and deep red.
If you’re willing to spend a little more money then fabric covered panels are a little more pleasing on the eye and these start from around £20 per panel. Bass traps tend to be a little more expensive due to the size and build of them ranging from £25 up to £295 for a kit.