Jan 27, 2008 - 20:17 Filed in: Articles
If you can't trust your room, the greatest monitors in the world are worth a bowl of warm sinus fluid.
There are very few hard and fast "rules" in recording - Two that hold true are:
1. You will only ever hear as accurately as your monitors allow you to hear.
2. Your monitors will only ever sound as good as the room they're in allows them to sound.
Having your room "in order" acoustically means success or failure. The best engineer in the world can't tweak what he can't hear. And "The Room" always seems to be skipped over when setting up a recording or mixing space. Many times, in favor of some sort of worthless bling.
So - To take away any excuses and let's get that room set up.
DISCLAIMER: I'm not an acoustics expert. I'm not a physics major. This is going to be terribly "dumbed down" for the most part. If you want "serious" acoustics consultation, contact a serious acoustics expert. This is just some basic info to get a hobby/project space into decent shape without having to go through a training course.
First - Positioning: You don't want corners - You don't want to be up aginast a wall. Without getting into the physics of "why," there *is* an "ideal" spot in pretty much every rectangular room -- .38 the length of the long wall from the short wall. That's the spot with the least offensive reflections and collisions (peaks and null points). SO - You're in a room that's 12x15. .38 of 15 is 5.7 feet. That's the mix position. That's where your head goes.
Speaker positioning: You've probably heard it a hundred times, but you want you and your speakers to form an equilateral (all sides equal) triangle. Now - Because you're 5.7 feet from the wall, that doesn't mean you're going to push the speakers against the wall and space them 5.7 feet apart - You don't want the speakers up against the wall. Too much low end buildup. I'd go with at least 1.5 feet. At least. Minimum. The more the merrier.
So, figure you place them 1.7 feet away... Do you see where I'm going? The speakers are 4 feet away from you, four feet apart, equilateral triangle. It's that simple. The angle
of the speakers is next - You don't want them pointing directly at your head - Have them converge maybe 2-4 feet behind you. You can match the angles by positioning yourself in the middle of the room and looking down the sides of the boxes.
Now go out and get some drink holders or egg cartons and cover the walls with them and you're set!
Okay - I'm joking about that last part and I hope you knew that. Drink holders, egg cartons, acoustic foam -- Not what you need.
The room: Sound is energy. Low frequencies consist of a lot of energy. High end, only a fraction by comparison. A rather common mistake by recording hobbyists is to cover the walls with drink holders or egg cartons (which is flammable - and acoustically worthless) or toss up a bunch of acoustic foam sheets.
Acoustic foam is great stuff for absorbing high end flutter and comb filtering. Which is almost nothing on the grand scale. What's worse is that along with all the flutter, the foam absorbs the ambience in the high end. That leaves a very "dead" or dull sounding space in the highs, but does nothing for the low end problems. Thus, the low end problems are now allowed to take over. So instead of just "dull" you get dull and muddy.
Low end first. Always, ALWAYS the low end first. Broadband absorption. Rigid fiber / rock / mineral wool. All four corners, floor-to-ceiling if at all possible. High-side corners (where the ceiling meets the walls) in line with the mix position is a safe bet also.
Low end waves are very long - And consist of a lot of energy. Therefore, it takes up a lot of space and requires much more mass (far more than a few sheets of foam) to absorb that energy and turn it into heat. The corners are the important part because like a funnel, the walls direct the energy into the corners where it builds up more than any other part of the room.
And what about that high-end flutter? That gets directed into the corners also... Take care of those corners, and rid yourself of most of your problems from the start. Any other rogue flutter or comb filtering can be handled with a minimal application of Sonex (or far less expensive Auralex) acoustic foam products. A sheet or two is probably all you'll need - If you need any at all.
A dozen broadband traps can be the best investment you can ever make.
So in short - .38 of the long wall from the short wall. Equilateral triangle without being too close to the walls. Broadband trapping (as much as you can get - It's very easy to ruin a room with too much foam. It's nearly impossible to use too much broadband trapping).
DON'T STOP HERE: For more information on the physics behind all this, visit two of the pros I alluded to earlier: RealTraps
and GIK Acoustics
. No coincidence, they're also two of the most popular manufacturers of broadband traps. John Scrip - MASSIVE Mastering - http://www.massivemastering.com