Getting Started with Acoustic Treatment

We’re living in an amazing age when it comes to music.

The age of the home studio.

Whether you’re a recording musician, a producer, or a hobbyist, setting up a home studio is pretty easy and inexpensive.

However, there is one thing that I’ve found to be confusing. This confusion can lead to not knowing what to buy or how much money to spend.

I’m speaking, of course, about acoustic treatment.

How much do I need? Do I get the expensive stuff, or will cheap stuff be ok? Should I buy, or build it myself? How do I keep from over-treating my room? Is my room too small? Too big?

See what I mean?

Well, I have good news for you. I just recently set up my very first home studio room with acoustic treatment. It was easy and cheap. I spent a lot of time doing research, and I’m going to boil all that down for you so you can get your studio set up as quickly as possible.

Determine your goal

The first thing you need to do is decide primarily what you’ll be using the studio for. You probably already know this. In my case, for example, I wanted to set up the room to be a good environment for mixing, mastering, and recording. It did not, for example, have to be a room that would accommodate rehearsal with a band.

This decision will guide the rest of your decisions as you treat your room.

You can always add more later

Don’t be afraid to treat your room in stages. Every little bit helps. You don’t have to do it all at once.

Some people out there will tell you that in order to start recording, mixing, or mastering in your home studio, your room needs to be perfectly treated with nice expensive absorbers, big ol’ bass traps, and even more expensive diffusers.

I firmly disagree.

Yes, a well treated room can make a big difference. But I’m a huge fan of the 80/20 rule. You can get great mixes in a less-than-perfect room. You can always improve the acoustics of your room as you improve your skill. Don’t wait until you can afford all the best treatment.

Buy or DIY?

It doesn’t matter. Pick what’s best for you. If you’re even the slightest bit handy, building your own panels and bass traps can save you quite a bit of money. It doesn’t take much skill. That’s what I did, and trust me, I’m not a handyman. Just ask my wife :)

If you would rather buy, go for it. It’s more expensive, but still pretty affordable. You can also get better quality stuff than what you can build yourself, but at this stage, the quality doesn’t matter nearly as much as you might think it does.

Either way, your room is probably not going to be perfect on the first try. Mine isn’t. But it’s good enough for me to record, mix and master in, and that’s enough for me.

How to get started?

Start by hitting the “early reflection points”. When sound comes out of your speakers, some of it will come straight to your ears. But some of it will travel over to the wall, bounce off, and then hit your ears a little later than the direct sound. This can cause muddiness and loss of clarity.

To solve this, put absorbers on the walls in the place where that sound is being reflected. Sit in your mix position, and have a friend hold a mirror on the wall. Move the mirror along the wall until you can see your speaker in the mirror from your mix position. Put your absorption there. Repeat for each side wall, the front wall, the back wall, and the ceiling if possible.

The next thing you’ll want to do is install “bass traps”. Bass traps are large absorbers, typically placed in the corners, which help to absorb low frequencies and give your room a better bass response. Treat the front corners first, and later you can hit the rear and ceiling corners if you want.

Any other absorptive materials can help as well. Think curtains can go over windows. If you have a sofa that you can put in your studio, that will also help.

What I did

My setup is very simple. I built two panels for the side walls to hit the early reflection points using the instructions here. I then built two bass traps for the front corners by extending the design of the panels to make them doubly tall. I put a curtain over the window in the front wall. When I’m mixing, sometimes I will hang a thick blanket in the back of the room to absorb reflections off the back wall.

It’s certainly not a perfect setup. But it works. I’ll probably improve it later, but my goal was to get some treatment up, and get back to making music as quickly as possible. I hope these tips can help you to do the same.

What type treatment do you use? Leave a comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *