Thanks to home recording equipment becoming more affordable every day, making music and mixing at home is easier than ever before. However, you need to make sure you’re getting the best sound possible. We look at the best way to acoustically treat your music room or home studio and improve your mixes on the cheap.
Any home recording enthusiast faces some serious challenges when it comes to recording. Aside from the usual “how loud can my amps go before I blow out the windows” question, when you’re mixing your bands latest track, you might be finding that the sound is lacking “life”. In addition, you might find that the sound quality of your recording isn’t as good as you think it should sound. You might be thinking to yourself, “where did all the bass go?” or “why can’t I hear my solo?”. If so, chances are you haven’t treated your room acoustically.
So today, we’re going to talk about the benefits of acoustically treating your room with acoustic absorption panels and diffusion panels and how you can do it on a budget! Learn how you can get cheap acoustic treatment for your home studio.
Acoustically treating is NOT the same as soundproofing
It's worth noting that people often mistake soundproofing for acoustic treatment, and vice versa. In fact, I was guilty of it myself! So, to be clear, this is the difference between soundproofing and acoustic treatment.
- Sound proofing will make a room quiter and stop sound leaking out of the room. This process will help block out external noise such as traffic, footsteps, or your neighbours. This is an ideal option for those who want to make a lot of noise in a particular room without disturbing the household. Be aware, that recording in this atmosphere may make recordings sound "dead".
- Acoustic treatment is the process of making a room sound better for recording or mixing by absorbing unwanted ambience and frequencies within the room. This is an ideal option for those who have a home studio and don't mind making noise.
So now that you know the difference, we can begin!
Why should I acoustically treat my room?
First off, you’re probably thinking that your bedroom is perfectly fine for mixing your album or recording your guitar. But, chances are it won’t sound as good as it should do. So, a little investment in acoustic absorption panels and diffusion panels can go a long way, especially if you’re serious about making and mixing music. Here's a great video from the band A Rocket Complex showing you the difference between a treated and untreated room:
When you listen back to a mix or record in an untreated room, the sound is bouncing all over the place with soundwaves colliding and generally causing an uneven frequency response. In addition, the shape of the room and items within that room will colour your sound, meaning that anything you mix will relate to THAT room.
For example, you might mix a track and notice that the bass is too low, so you ramp it up. The snare might be too harsh, so you take some of the treble out of the mix and the vocals need some reverb adding because it sounds dead. However, when you play that track back in a different room, you notice that the bass is extremely high, the snare is dull and the reverb is off the charts – this is because you mixed the track to the first room, so it will only sound good in that environment, not the one you’re in now.
This is why you need to mix in a room that has been acoustically treated. It ensures your mixes transfer to a high standard across different platforms, and you don’t look silly when you throw a track on your friends’ stereo and the snare shatters their mind.
In addition, no matter how good your gear is, it WILL respond to its surroundings. A mic will pick up the sounds of what you’re recording, as sound will travel in a straight line towards the mic, however, the rest of the sound will bounce around the room and eventually back to the microphone. So in essence you’ll pick up the characteristics and natural reverb of the room.
This is great if you’re recording in the stone room at the Motor Museum in Liverpool, or using the huge live room and natural reverb at the Distillery Studios in Bath, but not great if it’s bouncing off your TV or wardrobe.
This is where acoustic absorption and diffusion really comes in handy!
What’s the difference between acoustic absorption and diffusion?
Don’t worry we’re nearly finished with the theory part, but stay with us! Before you go thinking that you need to cover your room with foam panels, stop right there. Acoustic foam panels such as Auralex panels do a great job of absorbing sounds and soaking up all that rubbish ambience that ruins recordings, but if you use too much of it, you risk making your room sound “dead” and lifeless. Covering anywhere between 30-50% of the wall space in your home studio will really help you get the best sound.
This is where diffusion makes a huge difference
Absorption panels help tame a room that is too bright or echoey and are most effective on the higher-frequencies of a recording. It literally absorbs the sound and doesn’t let it bounce back.
Diffusion on the other hand, scatters the sound via the use of uneven surfaces and lets the middle and high frequencies break up nicely without colliding, with some of them making their way back to the mic - or your ear if you’re mixing. This makes sure your sound has a little bit of live ambience, but not so much that it becomes overbearing.
What do I need to acoustically treat my room?
Right, that’s all the theory out the way. So now you’re probably thinking “Just tell me what I need to acoustically treat my room!” so here goes.
Acoustic panels can be extremely cost effective, can cover a lot of wall space and are an essential addition when it comes to effectively absorbing the super bright and echoey frequencies. Acoustic panels are a must have for any studio as they reduce those nasty reflections that can make your mixing session a nightmare. Absorption panels work best when used in conjunction with bass traps…
Bass traps handle the low-end frequencies (caused by bass guitars, kick drums etc) that smaller rooms often struggle with. The most common types of bass traps are porous absorbers that are designed to sit in the corner of a room, either on the floor or the ceiling.
They stop those low-end frequencies that can reflect in corner areas.
Without the use of bass traps, you risk noise frequencies bunching up in the corner and cancelling each other out. This could potentially make your recordings sound like they lack the low end power. In fact, bass traps do such a good job at absorbing unwanted ambience that they provide amazing broadband absorption – which means they soak up ALL frequencies, giving you an even better overall sound. We highly recommend getting hold of bass traps, even if they are the ONLY thing you put in your studio.
As previously mentioned, diffusers are designed to scatter the sound rather than trap it. This is ideal if you have a particularly reverb heavy room, or you want to capture the ambience of the environment you’re recording in. When you use diffusers, you retain some of the “life” of the room which is ideal for mixing and recording.
If you just want to record vocals or guitars and let someone else do the mixing in a studio, a reflection filter is a great, budget friendly choice. Reflection filters are highly portable solution that can effectively reproduce the same effect as a vocal booth and can be used for vocals or placed in front of amps, trumpets or whatever you're recording.
Placing Acoustic Absorbers and Diffusers
No, you know what you need, you’ll need to know how and where to place acoustic sound panels and diffusers. Luckily the good people at Auralex have created this very useful video on best placement ideas for acoustic panels, with some great tips and tricks for home studio owners.
Acoustically Treat Your Room For Less Than £250
Treating your home studio room doesn’t have to be expensive at all, and the benefits totally outweigh the cost. You can acoustically treat your home studio (or small room) for less than £250 quite easily with a few little additions. Auralex provide a huge range of cheap acoustic treatment for your home studio. Just because it's cheap, it doesn't mean it's poor quality and you can treat your home studio for a lot less than what you think...
For smaller studios and square/rectangular rooms here’s what you’ll need:
Option 1: All-in-one solution
Auralex Alpha DST Room Kit in Charcoal / Purple
If you have quite a small room and you want to reduce the amount of slap and flutter echo in the room, this is a great starting point. The Auralex Alpha DST Room Kit is a fantastic option for mixing and small studio projects as you have everything you need to get started creating the ideal atmosphere to work in. It doesn’t include bass traps, but you do get 18 x DST-112 panels and 18 x DST-114 panels with 2 TubeTak Pro Adhesive tubes so you’re good to go straight out of the box.
- Auralex Alpha DST Room Kit- £412.00
Option 2: Buying separate parts
Auralex Designer Series Treatment 114 in Purple (24 Pack)
The Auralex Designer Series Treatment 114 pack includes 24 1-foot square panels which means you get 24-square-foot coverage – ideal for smaller studio owners. This should provide you with enough to fill 30% of your room and absorb quite a lot of the unwanted ambience.
Auralex LENRD DST Bass Traps (Half Box) Burgundy
The Auralex LENRD Bass Traps (Half Box Burgundy) are the most important part of your studio, so they’re going to be the most expensive part. The Auralex LENRD (Low-End Node Reduction Device) will smooth out the low-frequency response and absorb unnecessary ambience. The can be placed easily on each corner of the room, and you get 4 in the pack.
Auralex Temptabs Studiofoam Mounting Kit
You’ll need to secure your acoustic panels to the wall, and the best way to do it is with the Auralex Temptabs Studiofoam Mounting Kit. This handy kit is ideal as most adhesives on the market will oxidise ("eat") foam – which is not ideal if you’re forking out for decent gear.
This is where the Studiofoam mounting kit excels as it has been specifically designed to provide a strong hold without the need of adhesive. This is an easy and elegant solution that uses velcro dots to fit the foam to the wall. In each box, you'll get a total of 72 pieces.
Total cost Auralex Temptabs Studiofoam Mounting Kit - £45
Acoustically Treat Your Room For Less Than £500
If you have a larger studio and need a more complete package with a wider coverage, you have a wider range of options, but the best option, hands down, is the larger Auralex Alpha package.
Auralex Alpha DST Acoustic Foam Treatment Kit
If you have a room with less than 100 ft/sq, the Auralex Alpha DST Acoustic Foam Treatment Kit is a great option for under £500. In the box, you get 32 - DST-112s, 32 - DST 114s, 4 - LENRD-DST Bass Traps and 3 - TubeTak Pro Adhesive tubes. This means you have pretty much everything you need to get the best out of your recording and mixing sessions. This is currently unavailable but if you require assistance then don't hesitate to get in touch with PMT via our website or your nearest store.
- Auralex Alpha DST Acoustic Foam Treatment Kit - £412.00
Acoustically Treat Your Room For Less Than £1,000
If you have a particularly large room and you'd like to capture some of the reverb and ambience of your room, you'll also need diffusers. Thankfully there's a few different all-in-one options out there that can turn your echoey, harsh room into a beautiful, acoustically sound, recording/mixing friendly studio.
Auralex D108L DST Roominator Kit
The Auralex D108L DST Roominator Kit is ideal for those with larger sized studios, whether they're an amateur or a professional and is made for rooms with a floor square footage of 100-250 ft/sq. In the pack you have everything you need to get your room sounding great and enjoy some of the natural ambience of teh room, providing a far more real and lively sound thanks to the inclusion of diffusers. In the box you get 24 x Studiofoam 2’x2’x2″ Wedge Panels, 8 x LENRD Bass Traps, 6 x T’Fusor 3D Sound Diffusors as well as a selection of adhesives to mount everything. If you're serious about your sound, this is what you need!
It goes without saying that if you're serious about your recording sessions and you want the best sound to be able to mix properly, you need to invest in some acoustic treatment options. Fortunately, there's some really cost effective options out there that won't break the bank!
View a full range of Auralex Acoustic Panels and more over at PMT online and get your home studio or room acoustically treated today!