Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How To Improve The Sound Of Any Room

My new book The Studio Builder's Handbook (written with Dennis Moody) has just been released and I want to share an important excerpt from it. Most of the time when people are setting up a home studio they tend to throw a computer and some gear into a corner and that's it. The last thing they think about is the room itself, and it make a huge difference in your final product. If you can't hear it, you can't record or mix it.

But contrary to popular believe, it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a lot of money to improve you sound in a big way. All it takes is a way to control the reflections in the listening area. The nice thing about The Studio Builder's Handbook is it shows you how to do that for less than $150. It won't be the Record Plant but it will be far better than you could ever have imagined. There's more to it than what you see below, but here's how to start.

By the way, if it seems like I have a lot of new books out all of a sudden, two different publishers seemed to have released books at a the same time.
To improve the sound of your room you must first control the reflections in the room. It’s not too difficult to do this in the sweet spot of the playback position, but it starts to get expensive as that position is expanded to include more of the room. Regardless of the amount of money that you spend, many designers feel that you’re never going to widen the sweet spot all that much anyway, but in the world of small spaces and limited budgets, a small but much improved listening area works out fine.

Creating A Reflection Free Zone
The key to improving the sound of just about any room is the Reflection Free Zone, or RFZ (see Figure 6.4). As we outlined in Chapter 3, the RFZ absorbs the first reflections from the speakers so that all you hear is their direct sound.
Chapter 6.4 - The Reflection Free Zone

In order to determine the RFZ, sit in the listening position and have a friend move a mirror along the right wall. Anywhere that you can see the reflection of either speaker requires either wall treatment or a sound panel as we outlined in previous chapters. Do the same for the left wall. It’s advisable to treat a larger area than you can see with the mirror so you’ll have the freedom to move around in a larger area without being outside of the RFZ.
Although the ceiling might be more difficult to spot with a mirror, you can 
either hang panels directly over you just at your listening position, or in approximately the same area as the treatment on your side walls.
The floor of the RFZ can stay reflective with hardwood (which everyone likes because it’s easy to roll your chair around) as long as the ceiling is absorbent. Even if you have rug on the floor, you’re still better off to have the ceiling absorbent in the RFZ to eliminate any chance of early reflections from the speakers reflecting back onto the listening position.

You can read some additional excerpts on the Studio Builder's Handbook page on my website.

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