In Part 1, we discussed the misleading paths that every engineer initially faces when the mix doesn’t translate. We also brought in an important ally – Jeff Hedback, owner of HD Acoustics. Part 2 brings in Everything Recording’s new studio space and all of the groundwork you need to lay before even considering what’s going on the walls. With the introductions out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
New house – new mixing room. Although my previous room was treated, I still couldn’t get my mixes to translate. I would hook the phone up in the truck and listen in horror as obvious frequency issues reared their ugly head. I hadn’t skimped on treatment either, spending a few thousand on sound treatment and supplies. My intentions were good, but my execution was misguided. I had thrown resources at the product and not the plan.
Infiltrate, Destroy, Rebuild
Luckily, I have a very understanding wife that let me take the area just off the living room. This came with a few conditions that we will get into a little later. Needless to say, initially, the area was relatively useless in regard to useable space in the home. Luckily, I married into a family that can do anything to a new or existing build.
As you can see, the area was elevated, overlooking the living room (thanks 80’s Texas contemporary architecture). I still have yet to have someone explain what the builders were thinking when they added that area. If anyone can give me an explanation, please email me [email protected] I’d love to know. After a little bit of planning, we tore out the handrail, dropped the floor to match the lower level, and framed out the area.
Determined to learn from my mistakes, I brought Jeff in as soon as possible. While there wasn’t a lot structurally I could do after we framed in the room, there were things I can do organizationally. After all, one of the conditions was that I couldn’t do any more structural alterations. Even though this condition made Jeff’s job a little tougher, I must admit that it served this article and especially you, the reader. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t made of money and do not have the ability to make major changes to a room.
The first step in getting to know the room was measuring out the space. Once the drywall was up, I took a lot of pictures of the area from just about every angle I could. Then, I used a laser disto to measure out the entire area. Although Jeff would have been content with the length, width, and height, I had the ability to measure, then draft the area in CAD. While this could be considered overkill on my part, the more data you send, the easier and quicker analysis will be for Jeff.
This part is where Jeff took over. With all of the measurements, Jeff performed a sound pressure mapping study. He built a single-faced 3D model of the room and virtually placed a single omni sound source in several positions in the room. The goal of this study is to determine the best mix position based on the frequency response of the room. Essentially, if you start with the area that needs the least intervention, you’ll have the best chance of proper treatment.
The software he employs specializes in irregular-shaped rooms and determines various room modes (areas where particular frequencies build up and resonate). Acoustical properties are assigned to different surfaces based on their building materials and Jeff can take a deeper look at individual frequencies. REPLACE IMAGE
Once Jeff analyzed the single omni source in various positions in the room, he determined that the north wall was the best mix location. To verify this position, a “stereo simulation” placed two speakers in the ideal mix position, and frequency response was measured. REPLACE IMAGE
With the mix position determined, I could now get to work organizing the studio. By this time, the room had been painted, the barn doors had been installed, and my wife bought me an incredible five-year anniversary gift – a desk.
After several iterations of furniture layout, we settled on the setup you see in the pictures above. Now that we had a floorplan, it was Jeff’s turn again to analyze the room. This time, we have actual speakers installed at the determined mix position. Using a room measurement mic, we recorded an acoustical sweep at several positions in the room using each individual speaker, as well as both speakers. Just like with the virtual sound pressure mapping, these measurements use actual sound responses in the room to determine the treatment plan.
What we see in the analysis below is: Jeff, could you help me explain what is going on in the room?
Take out 75Hz and show 42 diff between modeled and processed. Explain irregular shape and surfaces
Using all of this preliminary data, Jeff began working on a treatment plan. Because this is a case-by-case step in the journey, Jeff initially got a feel for what type of project I wanted to go with. Because I had access to carpenters, we initially went with a plan to create all of the treatment from scratch. The room definitely had some limitations due to the layout so Jeff had to work around quite a bit. Additionally, one of the conditions for the wife giving me this room off the side of the living room was that it had to look less like a studio. This definitely created a “fashion over function” debacle but I must say Jeff handled it with the patience of a saint. Here is the initial plan Jeff came up with.
This design involved quite a bit of construction but took a modular approach. This would satisfy the “no major construction” condition the wife laid out but would use significant custom work building each piece. As you can see, the layout of the room with the large window on one side and the doorway on the other really limited options for the side walls. After a few more discussions, including which would serve this article best, we decided to go with a slightly different plan. While this plan required more work on Jeff’s part, he was very understanding. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend using HD Acoustics. Jeff is very flexible in approach and understands the give and take of treating a home studio.
I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly this new plan entails, but don’t worry, we will cover it in graphic detail in Part 3. See you then!
If you’re as impatient as I am, in the meantime you should check out Jeff’s website at http://www.hdacoustics.net/. He’s got some beautiful designs along with some very big-name studios he’s designed.