Recording Studios – The Basics of Control Room Acoustics
The aim of this page is to give you an introduction to acoustically treating your home or project recording studio. Applying the straightforward information on this page will massively improve the accuracy of your studio monitors resulting in much better mixes and a lack of ‘listening fatigue’ that is common to engineers with poor control room acoustics.
For the sake of simplicity we will split acoustic problems into two main categories.
These range from mid to high frequencies and are characterised as ‘reverberation’ or echoes from hard surfaces in your room.
These are caused by the natural frequencies of your room as a whole and are perceived as a lack of consistency across the low frequencies.
The first thing that you must do is set up your studio monitors properly. That means the tweeters should be roughly at ear height and the positioning (relative to the walls and furniture) should be as symmetrical as your room will allow.
Your studio monitors may have specific instructions in the user manual as to how they should be configured. As a rule of thumb, the speakers and you head should form the three points of an equilateral triangle (3 x 60 degree angles) and your speakers should be firing down the long dimension of your room. Ideally your tweeters should be at ear height and the speakers should be situated away from the wall behind them.
All studio monitors benefit from isolation pads to reduce resonant peaks. Our AirSpace Monpads are made from a specially formulated isolating foam and are adjustable to suit many different monitoring setups.
The diagram on the right shows an ideal configuration for a room with walls between 2.5 and 4 metres in length. You can scale the contents up or down to suit your exact room size and layout. Read through the rest of the page if you want learn more details about how to approach your control room.
Once you have your speakers in position, it is time to treat the first reflection points. These are reflections that hit a single hard surface before reaching your ears and as such carry a lot of energy. We recommend a 50mm Spectrum Studio Tile 50L for this task due to its wide bandwidth absorption characteristics (it will absorb very well down to and below 250Hz). The first reflection points to treat are either side of your sitting position, to clean up your stereo image; and behind you in the centre of the back wall.
You will also find that a Spectrum Studio Cloud Tile 25 (or a pair of them) will take out the first reflection from the ceiling. This should be hung above your sitting position and mixer / work station. It does not need to be close to your head – the supplied hangers will suspend it about 50mm below your ceiling.
Now that you have treated the priority areas you can add other tiles to the walls to iron out any remaining problems. It is common to treat behind your studio monitors which often results in a tightening of the sound. Additional tiles on the rear and side walls will deal with any residual ringing.
Don’t go overboard with the quantity of treatment – you do not want your room to be too dead or it will feel unnatural and your mixes will not translate well onto other systems.
Practical compromises are common in an existing room of your house and you may have to work around fittings, light switches, doors and sometimes furniture. In a live or tracking room, there is no need for symmetry so you can even place tiles randomly and get a result that sounds good. But control rooms benefit from symmetry as the stereo image is nurtured rather than distorted by the room. As with all things in your studio the level of compromise you assign to your treatment should can only be decided by you. But even a multifunction room that offers limited possibilities (such as a small bedroom studio) you will still get a huge benefit from a couple of Spectrum absorbers placed near to your mix position.
Make use of the different sizes of Spectrum Tiles we offer to work around the obstacles you are unable to move. If you have a window we recommend you sit a 50mm absorber on the window sill or place it right across the window if it is wide enough. This will also help cut down a little of the noise coming into your studio from the outside world. Our magic tape can be placed on the walls either side of the window for easy tile removal when required.
If none of our standard sizes are suitable for your particular scenario then contact us for a custom size tile. We are happy to offer this handy service and it is no more expensive than a standard tile!
Bass Traps are thicker than wall panels and have a different internal structure. This results in greater low frequency absorption without sucking up all your high frequencies. In a small room, bass problems are part of the territory as the wavelengths of bass frequencies are roughly the same as your room dimension. This results in resonances which boost certain frequencies and cancel others out. The results are often chaotic bass response regardless of how much money you spend on your studio monitors.
Thankfully the solution is relatively straightforward. Our bass traps are broadband low frequency absorbers which even out the peaks and troughs in your room’s bass response. In the average room you really can’t have too much bass absorption. You can fit in as many bass traps as possible to the corners of your room. Start with the vertical corners where two walls meet and if you can afford to, treat the horizontal corners where your wall meets your ceiling. The rule is simple – the more bass traps you add, the more even your bass response will be. Additional traps can be hung from the ceiling or fitted directly to the wall. To get the best performance from these, mount them with an air cavity behind.
There is one caveat to the ‘more bass traps, the merrier’ rule: you must use proper bass absorbers such as our Spectrum Studio Bass Traps.
Unfortunately acoustic foams cannot absorb much below 100Hz due to the sole method of ‘porous’ absorption they offer. You could be forgiven for taking some manufacturers’ lab test data at face value. But further scrutiny reveals the test standard commonly used is inappropriate for a ‘corner’ bass absorber. Additionally foam bass traps are over absorbent in the high frequencies so you can very quickly find your room is lifeless and tiring to work in.
We recommend that you browse our competition so that you may fully appreciate the uniqueness of EQ Acoustics. No other company in Europe can offer the same level of quality, desirability and affordability that we present to our customers. We are sure that you would benefit from joining our other satisfied customers in taking your music and listening experience to the next level.
As a guide the contents of the 3M x 3M example studio pictured above is priced (at the time of writing) as follows:
- 4 x Spectrum Studio Corner Bass Trap L £109.99 each
- 10 x Spectrum Studio Tile 50L £99.99 per pair
- 2 x Spectrum Studio Cloud Tile 25L £84.99 per pair
Total price = £1024.90 including VAT
If you room is larger than this you can increase the number of tiles and bass traps. You will find that large rooms require less treatment per square metre than a small room. A short but audible reverberation is permitted (provided the listening position has been properly treated) so don’t go mad covering up too much wall and ceiling area.
We are here to help
If you are new to acoustics and have just read through this page you’re probably better prepared to go about purchasing some acoustic treatment. If you have any queries relating to audio acoustics or have a specific question relating to your studio, please drop us a message via our contact form.
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