how much do the acoustics of a room actually help?

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billiamwalker
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how much do the acoustics of a room actually help?

Post by billiamwalker » Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:00 pm

How much does the acoustic of the room actually affect the sounds of insturments like the vocals and drums and guitars.

How much did you guys pay to get your rooms acoustically treated, how much does the rent of the entire place actually cost, and PLEASE INCLUDE PICTURES if you have them.

thanks for your your help if any.

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Post by nacho459 » Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:48 pm

It depends how far away the mics are from source, and the pickup pattern of the mic.

IE: A cardioid mic 1" away from a speaker cab isn't picking up much room sound, compared to an omni mic 5 feet off a drum kit.

A cardioid vocal mic 3" away from the singer won't pick up much room sound, unless the room is really live, and/or you use a lot of compression.

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Post by Professor » Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:09 am

You could probably figure that if there is an entire area of scientific study dedicated to the subject that it's probably slightly more than complete bullshit.
Ever been to a basketball court?
Ever been to a baseball diamond?
Ever been to a nice movie theater?
Why do they sound different? Well, the first is a big box of hard surfaces that contains and reflects all the sounds created inside, the next has no walls or ceiling and a relatively soft floor so all the sounds are dissapated, and the third may be a similar size to the first but is acoustically treated with absorptive seat cushions, wall treatments, curtains, etc. to absorb the sound so it is more like the baseball field, but without the noise from the other side of the fence.

Here's a shot of my place.
Image

It was designed by the nice folks at Russ Berger Design Group and ran somewhere between $800,000-1,000,000 for the design and construction, not including cabling, furniture, gear or instruments.
But it's all a question of what you're trying to do, and how far you want to take it. Take a look at some of the other studios on that RBDG site and you're looking at $3-5mil. facilities, and probably at least a few what mine cost or less. And then some guys buy a house and use their living & dining rooms as the studio with no treatment at all.
If you're just getting started then you obviously don't need to go the route you see above - at least not yet. But you need to learn what you are hearing in your recordings. What part of the sound you hear is the instrument, the room, the mic, the other gear, the mix, the speakers, etc.
It won't all come at once.
And it doesn't need to come before you start working.
Indeed, it can only come by doing the recording and listening attentively. And of course, it doesn't hurt to get out and listen in other environments as well. Go to a bar and hear a band. Then go to a symphony concert. You'll start to hear the difference the acoustics can make.

-Jeremy

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Re: how much do the acoustics of a room actually help?

Post by drumsound » Tue Feb 07, 2006 11:56 am

billiamwalker wrote:How much does the acoustic of the room actually affect the sounds of insturments like the vocals and drums and guitars.

A TON!!!

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Re: how much do the acoustics of a room actually help?

Post by billiamwalker » Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:32 pm

drumsound wrote:
billiamwalker wrote:How much does the acoustic of the room actually affect the sounds of insturments like the vocals and drums and guitars.

A TON!!!
So, speaking in terms of someone with a great ear and decent equipment... will it totally make my recording go to crap? I'm recording in a small (20 x 20 x 9) room with no acoustic treatment. jsut half concrete, half carpet floor and cheap wood for walls. Will this be one of the main reasons my recording isn't grade a?

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Post by Professor » Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:49 pm

You might still make some grade A recordings, but you'll be fighting the acoustics - probably at exactly the times you don't want to.
It's really easy to add reverb to a dry recording, but it's really hard to remove natural room sound from a recording.
Parallel hard surfaces will create standing waves, and a 20x20 room will have a lowest standing wave at about 28Hz and every linear multiple above that (28Hz x1, x2, x3, x4, etc.) which isn't a big deal right there, but may mess with your bass response by giving some nasty buildup or cancellation depending on where the mics are placed. The 9' distance from floor to ceiling will have a lowest fundamental at about 62.5 and then every linear multiple above that, so 125Hz, 250Hz, etc.
Actually that wide 20x20 is probably big enough that standing waves won't be as big a deal as flutter echoes. Stand in a spot where you have a clear shot to the wall on your left & right and clap your hands once. If you hear a 'fluttering' clap-clap-clap-clap decaying in volume after your clap, then you've got flutter problems. Trying to put a room mic on drums means you'll hear that echo on the drum hits.
Now you can minimize the impact of these problems by listening attentively to hear when they happen, and maybe by only using closely placed dynamic mics, and/or using movable acoustics like foam/fiberglass shields or gobos.

So no, it doesn't mean you have to treat the room but it means that you'll be running into these problems more often than not. If you can work around them, then don't worry. If you can't hear them, then, well, as long as the bands aren't hearing them either, then don't worry. Pleanty of nice recordings have been made in worse environments, and worse recordings have been made in better environments, but don't expect it to make things easier.

-Jeremy

edited because the math was wrong.
Last edited by Professor on Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: how much do the acoustics of a room actually help?

Post by mjau » Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:04 pm

billiamwalker wrote:
drumsound wrote:
billiamwalker wrote:How much does the acoustic of the room actually affect the sounds of insturments like the vocals and drums and guitars.

A TON!!!
So, speaking in terms of someone with a great ear and decent equipment... will it totally make my recording go to crap? I'm recording in a small (20 x 20 x 9) room with no acoustic treatment. jsut half concrete, half carpet floor and cheap wood for walls. Will this be one of the main reasons my recording isn't grade a?
Professor's points are great on this. Generally speaking, my philosophy on home-, guerilla-, budget-, etc-recording is to play to your strengths and work around your weaknesses - and for many of us, the room can be a major weakness (unless you want the sound of that room to show up in your recording...), so learning how to best use your stuff in your space can be vital.

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Post by billiamwalker » Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:11 pm

Flutter reverb, yes, muddy bass frequencies yes.

but, i can only notice the flutter reverb on the stick click for the count off on the beginning of the song, buti don't see it playing a major downside in my recordings.

Bad bass frequencies, i do get this pretty bad, but i'm able to fix levels and compression and stuff to kind of take care of this. but i don't think it's really killling my recordings.

One thing i DO want though, is that true, live, drum sound. When i get off work i'll make another post with a small demo of my band and i'll let yall decide if i'm getting by ok or if there are some real problems i have to deal with.

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Post by lee » Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:35 pm

my experience: one room can be give you good sound, the other, bad sound. a few years ago, i used to record in this 4' x 6' bathroom (very tiny). it was impossible to play in there without smacking a guitar against the wall. anyways, i thought that if i played in a more reflective room it woud sound better. recently i took a trip down memory lane and listened to all those recordings. there is a huge spike around 200-300Hz on every track.

ive been recording, recently, in a more appropriate room that ive treated myself (home-made bass traps, a few pannels of high-density foam...) ever since i began to record there my recordings sound more real, not so dead with weird freq's.

a room is another link the chain. its the same as a mic, a pre, ect... they're all different, and each one brings a different color to your recording.

so, yes, its important, but not more or less important than everything else.

if you dont have the option of recoring in a nice room, so what. make due until you do have the option. if you listen to those recordings in the '70's, they're all recorded in random rooms with a hundred feet of deadening foam! that way you can never have a bad room (or a good room, but hey...) you can always find a way.
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Post by jajjguy » Tue Feb 07, 2006 3:56 pm

Big time!!!

However, it is not necessary to have a place specially designed to get a good sound. The main bases to cover are:

1. Low background noise. (traffic, air conditioning, etc)
2. No harmful reflections. (absorption or diffusion where necessary)
3. Appropriate level of reverberation. (absorption is part of the picture, so is size of the space, this is where it can get complicated.)

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Post by brian beattie » Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:41 pm

I think it's your two 20 foot dimensions. Your going to get funny build-ups of some pretty specific frequencies agin and agin. If you LOVE the sound of room ambience, then your rooms particular dominant frequencies will come back again and again on your recordings. You might LOVE natural, ambient drums, but your room might not give you just what you need. The wood is good, lots better than sheetyrock.... Unless it's just cheap paneling.. Have you got any windows in the room?
in general, I think if your room has a cruddy sound, the best thing you can do (besides scientifically determining your problem frequencies and treating them specifically...) is to just fill your room up with your stuff. Shelves, cabinets, amps, recording equipment, instruments, chairs, rat turds, one smelly couch, people.... When I left my garage space recently, I was ASTOUNDED how bad the empty room sounded compared to when it was filled with my krap.
brian

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Post by kayagum » Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:42 pm

Definitely read the articles of Ethan Winer at http://realtraps.com
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Post by Knights Who Say Neve » Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:55 pm

Acoustics, like mic placement, is one of those areas where knowledge is definately more important than funding. You can go a long away by reading a good book on the subject, understanding the physics, and applying common sense. Just moving furniture can improve things.
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Post by logey » Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:14 pm

brian beattie wrote:I think it's your two 20 foot dimensions. Your going to get funny build-ups of some pretty specific frequencies agin and agin.<snip>
Yeah, I agree with brian...I dont think a 20' x 20' x 9' room is that small really, but your dimensions could give you an issue. a pair of 10' waves will pile up nicely in your room...10' translates to about 113hz. The fact that the dimension is the same wide as deep will create a pronounced mode at that frequency. Add in the 9' dimension (125hz) and things could get thick down there. If you are on a budget there are lots of DIY bass trap plans online...a little more work, but a lot of savings. Just something to be aware of.

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Post by BeatleFred » Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:15 pm

Interesting comments I'm reading by everyone who has contibuted so far.

I am considering to have my entire basment remodeled and I want to make sure that whatever is done, the final result will be that the room acoustics are good for audiophile music listening with my hi fi system, and I can also make decent sounding recordings with my recording equipment (analog Teac/Tascam open reels and mixer).

The basement is rectangular-shaped, about 30 ft long and 17' wide. The houses on my block are all attached to each other, so I am unable to expand the width. The walls are bare concrete and fairly thick, so I can play music at a decent volume without any neighbor complaints, but I generally dont crank it up anyway. I would like to remove the dropped ceiling tiles, get rid of the flourescent lights, and add some type of insulation to the wooden floor joists so that anyone upstairs wont hear too much sound (something that a future wife would probably appreciate :)

When the house was built in 1928, they did not make basements very high, so with dropped ceiling tiles, the height from floor to ceiling in the basement is only 6'4". I'm 5'9" so I can get by, but when taller people such as my brother come by to visit, his head barely clears the ceiling, so it can feel a bit confining down there. So, I was just curious what are some good things to do in terms of which materials would be ok to use without affecting the sound in a detrimental way - is sheetrock on the ceiling and walls ok? What would be best on the floors? I like the look of nice hardwood floors, but would tiles/rug or carpet be better?

Do the requirements for a good music listening room, and a recording area for your own music share alot of common, and are they significantly different such that the basement would have to be divided into a separate area for the hi fi music listening, and another area for recording? I am not looking to record professionally, its just as a hobby for fun, but I would like to obtain some decent-sounding results. (I play guitar, so drums would probably come via a machine or software, not an actual drum set in the basement).

The remodeling project can get complex and costly, as I am still pondering if I want to excavate the basement floor and have it dug lower to create more height.

My speakers are Infinity Renaissance 90's, and I really like them alot, not sure if anybody else here is familiar with them. I have them set up in front of the long wall of the basement, about 10' apart which is good, but my listening spot at the couch is very close to them, only 5' away. I cant move the couch back further because there is a drywall right behind it that encloses the gas furnace, electric service panel, and water tank. Actually, when I listen to music, the sound is pretty good, I suppose because the speakers themselves are excellent, but perhaps being up close to them is good in a way in that Ive heard it said, by being up close, you are hearing more of the direct sound of the speakers, rather than the influence of the room where the speakers' sound can get lost (no soundstage).

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