It appears that some of the most misrepresented and overlooked topics in music production circles are room treatment and room acoustics in general. There are a few loopholes that lead to the current state of affairs. Well, first off, most of the today’s music makers are known as “bedroom” producers, which implies a distinct lack of professional room treatment. So why would you research acoustics, moreover, invest in it?
Well, senses are subjective, let’s try to break it down step by step. The human sensory experience is individual. We are all the victims of our internal sensory biases. The colours I see, are most certainly not the colours you see. Of course, they’re very similar, yet the inherent anatomical differences are staggering. It’s the same thing when regarding sound. Audio signal is incredibly prone to distortion. A sine wave you hear in a small room is not the same wave you’ll hear on an open-air sound system. There is a tremendous amount of potential factors that will distort the sound. Thus, besides our internal peculiarities, we are facing external obstacles as well.
Now imagine you’re going to have to deal with lousy acoustics in your studio while writing your music, or even within the mixing and mastering processes. All of the above demand maximum meticulousness, and letting inadequate room treatment affect your music is an abomination, simply criminal. What’s even worse, is that it partly cancels out all expensive gear you’ve been investing your money in, to get a more colourful and intense sound. So let’s try to put our fingers on a few inexpensive, yet necessary precautions that have to be considered when you’re looking forward to improving your room acoustics.
So What Should You Do?
Kill the reverb. Softly. If your studio is a large and empty room, you might want to reduce the reverberation that will naturally occur in these circumstances. For starters, the easiest way to eliminate unwanted reverb is to break the room’s “perfect” square or rectangular shape; you might want to turn it into a rather complex polygon. However, bear in mind that your goal is not to cancel out the reverb entirely, you might want to keep it at a “natural” threshold. There are several ways to improve the sound, some of them free, and the others that involve some financial input.
Most people prefer the traditional acoustic treatments, but there are loads of household items that will work perfectly as excess frequency absorbers, i.e. pillows, mattresses, blankets, etc. The essential part is that the items need to be porous, a factor that will undoubtedly aid to cancel out some excess frequencies. Some people have even found success with recycled egg cartons.
Hiding your room corners will do you a world of good, and you can easily do that by using bass traps and acoustic panels. Due to the reflective properties of sound, corners interact negatively with your signal, and you can often hear an almost “metallic” resonation in small rooms with uncovered corners.
Although these solutions with not cover the entire spectrum of possible issues related to acoustics, it is an excellent first step to commence with. Hopefully, you’ll soon dig deeper into the entire topic of room treatment so that you can bring your mixes to a more objective sound.