Acoustic treatment is usually done in rooms like recording studios, music rooms, theatre rooms, and possibly living areas. However, many people seem to misunderstand the concept of acoustic treatment, and they tend to go overboard with treating their room. Acoustically treating a room can cost you a decent amount of money, which makes you wonder if it makes a difference?
Does acoustic treatment make a difference?
Yes, acoustic treatment makes all the difference. Acoustic treatment improves a room’s acoustic properties, which gives you an ideal place to record, edit, and produce high-quality records and mixes. Each room is unique, which requires different acoustic treatments, but generally, materials like bass traps, acoustic panels, and diffusors are used to treat a room acoustically.
In this article, we will discuss more about the definition of what acoustic treatment is, assess if you need to treat your room acoustically, and a general guide on the materials you might need to do an acoustic treatment.
What Is Acoustic Treatment?
Acoustic treatment is a process that is done to improve a certain room or area’s acoustic properties. This is typically done for studios where you spend a lot of time recording vocals, instruments and mixing different tracks.
The main goal of acoustic treatment is to make the right adjustments for a particular room or area to produce an environment suitable for recording high-quality sound that is neutral and pleasing to hear.
Does Your Room Need Acoustic Treatment?
This begs the question, do you really need acoustic treatment in your living space? If you are an audiophile or do mixing and recording for a living or even as a hobby, then the answer is yes, you do need to do acoustic treatment in your home studio or recording space.
I will give you a few reasons why you need to do acoustic treatment to your home studio or recording space:
An untreated room or recording space will give off uneven frequencies of sound, which would result in you making editing and mixing decisions based on what you hear with the track and how the sound bounces off and reverberates around the specific area you were working on.
Once you play the finished track in a different room, it would be highly likely that the track will sound different because you are listening to it in a different room, which means that there will be a different way for the sound to propagate and reflect.
It might have sounded perfect when you listened and edited it in your recording space; however, due to your editing and mixing decisions highly affected by the room, it became something that sounded good in that particular room only.
So, if you do a lot of editing, mixing, and recording, you will not regret acoustically treating your recording space.
Diffusion and Absorption
There are different ways to treat different spaces because every space is unique acoustically. A minor change in a room component would change the way the room reflects and absorbs the sound waves traveling in it.
However, there are two main pain points that you can tackle to be able to do acoustic treatment no matter what room you are going to treat.
Diffusion is one of the main points you should think about when it comes to acoustic treatment, but what is diffusion?
Diffusion works by dispersing the sound reflections that are ultimately problematic for your recording or mix track directing it to different directions to convert and decrease their negative effects. To treat these problematic reflections, you would need to put diffusors into the room.
Aside from diffusion, there is absorption. This is another thing to consider when you are planning to do acoustic treatment in a room. Absorption helps by preventing unwanted frequencies from bouncing back and forth in the recording studio.
For this, you will need to look into absorbers. These materials are usually made of foam or wool which absorb, or essentially stop the unwanted frequency to further propagate and reflect around the room and ultimately mess up the recording or mix you are working on.
How to Acoustically Treat Your Room?
Now that we know what diffusion and absorption are and how they interfere with your recordings and mixes, we can start discussing how we are going to do acoustic treatment in your room or space.
It is important to know that there are a lot of factors to consider before buying a bunch of products for acoustic treatment. As mentioned before, each room and space is independent and unique to its own. Therefore, you should not follow what others did to treat their room because to detail as minute as the composition of your walls, there would be a difference in how you will acoustically treat the room.
Having said that, I can give you three ways that are generally good materials to consider for acoustic treatment:
- Bass Traps
- Acoustic Panels
I will explain what each of them does to the room’s acoustics and how they help improve your recording studio.
Bass traps are an example of acoustic absorbers meant to prevent the reflection of sound waves. However, these materials are designed to be able to absorb only low frequencies, specifically.
This is an option you can consider when trying to treat your room acoustically. A low-frequency sound corresponds to a longer wavelength, which can be very problematic for your recordings, especially when you are working in a small room because these reflected low-frequency sound waves could cause destructive interferences.
Bass traps are usually pre-built. It is easy to find them at audio stores. However, if you want to take on a craft project, you can opt to make your own bass traps.
Acoustic panels are the same as bass traps. They are also acoustic absorbers. The main difference between the two is that acoustic panels act as broadband absorbers. This means that they absorb a wide range of sound waves, unlike bass traps that only absorb low-frequency sound waves.
These panels address the problem area regarding first reflection points. This phenomenon usually occurs in closed spaces where the source’s direct sound arrives at the listeners’ ears before the reflected sound waves.
Acoustic panels are usually mounted on walls where these initial reflection points converge. These panels are generally rectangular in shape made from materials that absorb sound.
Diffusors are essentially the equipment that does the diffusion or scattering of reflected sound instead of absorbing the sound. These are important to have because if you just place absorbers around the room, then the recording you produce would sound dead.
Diffusors allow for the control of the reflected sound waves in the room without eliminating them completely. These are usually made of rigid materials like wood, plastic, and even polystyrene.
There are different types of diffusors, each with a different strategy of diffusing or scattering the reflected acoustic waves. The function of these diffusors are essentially the reason why they are designed the way they are.
Below are the most common diffusor types that you might encounter when you are studying how to acoustically treat your room or simply listening to an expert’s plan on how they would treat your room:
- Maximum length sequence diffusors
- Primitive root diffusors
- Optimized diffusors
- Quadratic residue diffusors
- Two-dimensional diffusors
When you are acoustically treating a room or area, you have to be able to know where to place these materials to get an optimal result. Otherwise, it would have no desirable improvement on the room’s acoustics, and for the worst-case scenario, it might be the culprit for recordings or tracks that sound bad.
I suggest that you consult an expert as well to get the best out of the materials you are going to purchase and the acoustic treatment of the room overall.
Is Acoustic Treatment Expensive?
Naturally, money is something that could hinder you from acoustically treating your room, and if you are on the fence about making the decision still, here are a few pros and cons you can consider:
PRO: Enhance acoustics of the room
This is the whole point of acoustically treating the room. The difference between an acoustically treated room and a regular one is night and day, especially if it is your first time doing this.
PRO: Improves room design
Aside from having a better quality of tracks and records produced, you can also tap into your creative side and get different colored panels and materials to style your room the way you want with these materials.
CON: Not going to reap significant effects if incorrectly placed
You cannot just buy a bunch of materials for acoustic treatment and place them where you want. There are certain problem points in different areas of the room you are going to need to consider, which influences the amount and type of materials you will buy for the room. You have to do your own research on properly acknowledging problem points and how to solve them.
CON: Added fire hazard
Some of these materials are made from flammable materials, so consequently, once you place them around your room, there is an added fire hazard to be considered for the room. However, for this con, making sure that there are accessible exit points and emergency fire extinguishers in the room or just taking extra care of playing with materials that could start a fire would do.
If you are now set on getting an acoustic treatment, then we will discuss the budgeting part. The expense of acoustic treatment depends on the room’s size and the materials you are going to use.
Bass traps from Auralex, for example, costs around $177 for 2-packs up to around $800 for 12-pack corner fill ones. Tri-corner bass traps cost around $120 for a 2-pack, while panels range from around $200 for panels that have 2-inch widths and $400 for 6-inch ones.
For diffusors, the price ranges from below $100 up to $1500. The price depends on the size of the diffusor, area coverage of the kit, and the material used for the diffusor. The budget that you could have for a room that is less than 25 sq ft big is up to around $500, while a room that is around 25 to 50 sq ft could have a budget of up to $1000.
Lastly, for the acoustic panels, a room that is around 50 sq ft and below could have a budget of up to $500 for the acoustic panels. At the same time, a room that is around 50 sq ft above could opt for a budget as low as $500 up to $1500.
Apart from the materials, you might hire someone to mount and install everything in the room.
It would be better to reach out to an expert to give you a more accurate quote. You can also get suggestions from them on cheap but good quality materials or alternatives if you are on a tight budget.
Acoustic treatment is a great investment, especially when you need a room to record vocals, instrumentals, and edit tracks.
When it comes to acoustic treatment, there are a lot of pre-built materials in the market. However, it is an improvement that requires you to invest quite an amount of money because of the small market these vendors cater to.
If you work with editing, mixing, and recording, this would be worth it because there is a significant difference in the sound quality of a track produced in an acoustically treated room compared to a regular room.
It is important to try and do your own research on these things and set a budget so that it would not hurt your pocket when you do decide to acoustically treat your room. Moreover, consultation with experts would be advisable because they know best since it is their expertise, they might give your alternatives and other tips to make the most of it.