WHERE TO PLACE ACOUSTIC PANELS?

It’s moderately simple to make a vast improvement to an untreated home recording studio without paying a fortune. However, done wrong your DIY treatment may cause more problems and issue than what you began with.

The acoustic treatment needs to be part of a plan designed specifically for the home studio room. If there isn’t a plan elements are arbitrarily arranged or bought and installed based on a plan that worked in another area or inspired by something in a picture or another studio. The useful solution needs to be based on some examination of the function of the room.

Many home studio owners especially DIY have difficulties with their monitoring. It doesn’t make sense to buy expensive monitors and then skimp on the acoustic treatment when setting up your studio.

You need good acoustics, or in other words, a reasonably flat mixing environment and placing your treatment correctly makes a huge difference.

The secret is to control as many variables as possible within your listening environment. Some things you can’t control like studio size and shape. In any given space, the components of that space have a direct effect on what we’re listening to. Small rooms require more treatment than a larger room and a square one more than a rectangular one.

Sound bounces around more times in a small room and walls the same distance apart can produce strong standing waves where a particular bass frequency rattles the wall, but other frequencies don’t.

Many times we’re using a spare bedroom, garage or basement which aren’t conducive to good sound. Thin, parallel walls, boxy formed rooms, low ceilings and clattering window frames are only some of the adversaries we face.

Before we focus on the acoustic panels and where to place them, we need to figure a few things out.

In order to decide where to position your panels you need to find your monitoring or mixing position, this is your listening position.  Most recommend experimenting by setting this position approximately 35 to 40% into the room.

You do not want to be in the center of the length of the room. We suggest facing the shorter wall rather than the long wall which maximizes the distance between your ears and the rear wall.  Note your back wall should be at least 10 feet from your ears.

What you should hear when sitting in your monitoring chair should be mainly the direct sound from the monitors. However, we know there will be some room reflections. The strongest of these should be either absorbed or diverted before they reach your prime listening position. This can be achieved through wall angles to divert reflections. However, most likely your studio is set up in a rectangular room, and that is not an option.

Monitors placement– make sure they are being positioned the right way up.  Don’t lie them on their side.  Put them on stands at head height when possible and pointed towards your head.

Read the manufacturer recommendation on how far from the walls and then set there symmetrically within the room.

Take a look at where your equipment and gear is going to reside.  Desks should be lower than monitors, and hardware like computer screens should not come between the monitors and you.

First Reflection

This is when sound arrives at the listener’s ear before the rest of the reflected sound does.  The reflected sound can be coming off the walls, floor, and ceiling along with everything in between.  This can have the worst effect on sounds in a room.

Manage this through absorption.

Place the panels on the hard surfaces to the left and right of the mixing position and the ceiling cloud above which is the minimum treatment expected. We suggest ceiling clouds be at least 12 inches deep.

We didn’t do the geometry calculation but used a mirror instead to find the best placement.

  • Sit down in your listening position and have a someone else hold a mirror at speaker height against the left wall.
  • The person will then start to move towards the back
  • Once the left monitor can be seen in the mirror, mark that spot as that is your first reflection point
  • Continue down the wall until you see the right speaker and again mark the spot as that is another reflection point
  • Repeat this on the other wall.
  • Place your absorption panels on the spots marked

Late Reflections

Reverberation and flutter echo is the simplest problems to recognize in any room and are especially common in rooms with a lot of empty wall spaces and hard surfaces. Both issues can be handled with simple solutions.

One way to control reverberation is by using proper acoustic panels evenly spaced throughout the room as best you can to provide a general dampening. Diffusion will also help with reverberation.

Flutter echo specifically occurs between any two flat, parallel walls, and is usually found in the higher half of the majority of rooms since the sound isn’t broken up by anything like desks, chairs, instruments, amps, etc.

Make sure there is any large bare walls or ceilings. It can be treated using either absorption or diffusion. Like reverberation, using diffusion is sometimes favored if control is wanted but dampening is not.

A basic guideline to treat your typical home recording studio is to cover 22% to 25% of the interior surface with acoustic treatment.

Remember our perception of the quality of sound is determined by the way that sounds works within the studio.  If our walls are massive most of the audio will be reflected back to us one it strikes them. On the other hand is the room is too dead it won’t be the most pleasant environment to create or listen to the music.

A great sounding room will inspire the artist whether they are recording instruments, sampling, vocals, mixing and editing.  A lousy space will give you a headache and be uninspiring.

We would love to delve into the science of acoustics however our goal was to discuss common issues with acoustic panels placement in our musical spaces.  We look forward to hearing from you on your successful setup.