Small Rooms Big Sound - Part 1: Let's Get Comfortable

Small Rooms Big Sound - Part 1: Let's Get Comfortable

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Practical Methods For Studio Acoustics At Home

Anyone who has paid attention to how music is produced over the past few decades understands that the way most of us are working has shifted profoundly. While project studios have always existed in recorded music to some degree, at least going back to Les Paul’s early mobile multitrack recording experiments in the mid-20th century, personal project studios have evolved from a curiosity into the way the vast majority of music is made today.

There’s no doubt that mass access to the means of audio production has tremendous benefits for creative people, empowering them to realize the productions they envision. At the same time, there are some espousing the opinion that recorded music peaked in the 1970s, an opinion usually shared by folks with a love for the state-of-the-art analog recording technology of the time. You know: 6- or even 7-figure recording consoles, 24-track tape machines, and all the classic compression and EQ circuits still in use today.

I think there is another, usually over-looked factor in why recordings of that era sound so good: they were made with all that beloved gear, but they were recorded in rooms that were designed from the ground up to sound good. At the very least, most of those facilities had a good, accurate control room for monitoring and mixing, and a variety of rooms for different-sounding recordings, like a big room for ambience, and smaller, deader rooms for overdubs or the trademark dry drum sound of the time.

These days, most of us aren’t working in such rooms, at least not regularly... leading to the unfortunate closure of so many great facilities from that era. Most of us are working in our homes, in normal household-sized rooms that weren’t designed and built with great sound in mind. In my career in acoustic design—full disclosure, I work for GIK Acoustics, so I hope no one will mind that I’ll be referring to their products and services in these articles—I’ve seen literally thou-sands of such rooms where my clients are trying to make great music.

Now I find myself in this situation as well, dedicating a room of my home to my work in audio—and like many of my clients, I find that the room I have to work with is way less than perfect on several counts. Still, since I’m going to be in this house for at least a few more years, I’ve decided to try to push the envelope and see what results I can achieve in a suboptimal room.

In this 3-part series of articles, I plan to document the challenges presented by rooms like this, and the strategies and techniques I will employ to overcome them. The entirety of this studio build will come down to one question: I accept that this room will never be perfect, but how good can I make it for audio?