Have you ever thought that there was something lacking in your home studio or recording room:
That ‘something’ is most likely:
Your acoustic vibe.
But what is an acoustic vibe?
The acoustic vibe is how the acoustics sound in a room. You could have the best instruments, best microphone, and recording equipment, superior mixing equipment, and the best coffee machine, but without the best acoustics, you are missing out.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to achieve the perfect acoustic vibe, but before that, let’s get to know the imperfect vibe a little better.
You could have the best instruments, best microphone, and recording equipment, superior mixing equipment, and the best coffee machine, but without the best acoustics, you are missing out.
What Affects Your Acoustic Vibe?
What do you know about the way in which sound travels?
When you have a sound source, the sound waves travel out in all directions from the center of that source. That is what you want. Sound traveling in a straight line is a good sound. You know where you are with that direct sound.
If you have a microphone placed somewhere in the room, in direct line of sight of the sound source, then there is some direct sound which is going to travel from the source to the microphone. Pretty simple stuff so far.
Now, that direct sound has a certain frequency balance. If that were the only sound reaching the microphone, you would be fine, but when you have multiple sounds hitting the microphone at the same time with different frequencies, you ruin your acoustic vibe.
So, how does that happen?
When sound travels from a source and hits an obstacle in its way, it reflects and changes direction.
Your direct sound will hit the microphone and, a moment later, the reflected sounds will also hit the microphone. These reflections are known as reverb.
How To Remove Reverb From A Room
If you have ever been in a professional recording studio, you have probably noticed the ridged foam panels on the wall. While they look cool, that is not their main function.
So, what do they do?
These foam panels are installed to absorb the sound as it hits the foam. This stops the sound from reflecting and creating reverb. All you get is the direct sound, and that is what we want, right?
Well, not quite.
If you remove all of the reverb, you end up with a sound which sounds a little ‘dead.’ You do not want all of the reverb, but you do want some to liven the sound of your music. What you need is some diffusion.
What Does Diffusion Do For Your Acoustic Vibe?
While you want to remove some reverb with absorption (the foam panels), you also want to let some of the reverb reverberate. This is achieved through diffusion.
The natural frequency and sound of your music are often destroyed or canceled out by reverberations becoming trapped or being reflected from the same place, resulting in a concentration of reverb.
The key is to add some diffusion to your room, along with absorption. By taking out a lot of the reflection while leaving some in, you can create a sound which is undisturbed and not dead sounding.
Easy in theory, but how do you apply that to your home?
Getting The Acoustic Vibe
Giving your room the acoustic treatment is often confused with soundproofing. They are not interchangeable, and both should be done separately (check out our soundproofing guide here).
First, you want to make sure that outside sounds do not get in, and then you want to make sure that you have the acoustics covered.
Follow our 4 simple steps for the best acoustic vibe.
1. Start With The Basics
If you have started your own studio, then you have probably stripped down the room so that you can put in your own equipment or soundproof it. Starting with a bare room is the best way to figure out how to achieve the perfect acoustic vibe.
Stand in that room and clap your hands. Listen to the reverb around the room and think about how much acoustic treatment you will need. If you hear a metallic sound, then you might need a lot.
If you have a large room with high ceilings and many irregular surfaces to diffuse the sound, you might not need much.
This is a good way to choose the perfect room too. Go between the possible rooms and clap in each of them. Listen to how the reverb sounds and choose a room based on that.
You have your room, so what is next?
2. How To Add Bass Traps
When you are adding acoustic treatment to your room to achieve the perfect acoustic vibe, bass traps are a great place to start. In fact, if you are only going to do one thing, then we would recommend doing this.
Bass traps are ideal for absorbing bass frequencies but actually trap high and medium frequencies too. Adding these to your room can sometimes do all the work and give you the acoustic vibe without having to add any more acoustic treatment.
Small studios, which you probably have, can suffer a lot from low-frequency reverb, so these bass traps are a must.
3. When To Add Acoustic Panels
Now that you have added the bass traps, you can check the sound of your room. If you are still getting too much reverb, then adding acoustic panels is the next step.
When you see a professional studio, these will likely be what you see on the wall, but that should not fool you into thinking that these are the answers to all of your problems. Acoustic panels should be added after bass traps and are supplemental to them.
Acoustic panels are bad at absorbing low frequencies. If you use them alone, you are not going to achieve your acoustic vibe. Install the bass traps first and then these.
Bass traps are primarily located in the corners of a room and cannot negate the reverberating sound waves which bounce between opposite walls. This is where acoustic panels come in. This is where they shine.
The great thing about acoustic panels is that they offer great wall coverage and affordability.
Add the bass traps, check the sound, and then add acoustic panels as needed.
Once you have done that, you can move onto the next step.
4. Do I Need Diffusers?
If you have a small home studio, then you may not have to use any diffusers. There are many people who have home studios which have zero diffusers and swear that they are not needed. That is entirely true.
If you have a small recording room, you probably do not need diffusers, and even if you do, you probably will not even notice that you do. Unless you are wanting perfect sound, or have a large room, you can probably forgo this step entirely.
If you feel that your acoustic vibe is not yet perfect and want to invest in diffusers, then they can only enhance your sound.
Make sure to add bass traps first, acoustic panels second, check your sound, and add diffusers last.
The Keys To The Perfect Acoustic Vibe
Getting the perfect acoustic vibe in your home studio is easy to do. It may cost you a little money, but you cannot put a price on your superstardom.
When you are thinking about which absorbers and diffusers you want to add to your room, it is important to know which areas to focus on first. There are three key areas to look at, and we have listed them in order of importance.
1. Trihedral Corners
As the name may suggest, this is a corner where three surfaces come together. This will be where two walls meet the ceiling or where two walls meet the floor.
This is the area where you want to add your bass traps. Bass traps offer the widest range of absorption, and in these corners, you have the most reverb. Put some bass traps in each trihedral corner.
Easy! Let’s move onto the next area.
2. Dihedral Corners
This is a corner where two surfaces meet. This could be where two walls come together, a wall meets the ceiling, or a wall meets the floor. They have sound reverberating from two directions and do not need as much acoustic treatment.
For this reason, acoustic panels work just fine.
Instead of investing in expensive corner panels, you can take regular flat panels and curve them so that they fit in the corner. You will have an air gap in behind, but you are not going to be using that space anyway. The air gap will actually help with some of your absorption.
3. Flat Surfaces
Flat surfaces reflect sound, and you can have problems when two flat surfaces face each other. The sound can be reverberated back and forth, causing frequencies to be amplified or canceled out. You do not want that when you are searching for the perfect acoustic vibe.
To get the best absorption, and to save yourself some money, you only need to place acoustic panels on one wall. Where two walls face each other, stagger the panels to cover part of one wall and the opposite part of the other.
Imagine that your wall was a chess or checkerboard. Place squares of acoustic panel to represent the black squares and leave the wall bare to represent the white squares. Reverse the pattern on the opposite wall so that you have acoustic panels facing bare wall.
How To Diffuse The Situation
By adding acoustic treatment to your walls, you are going to take care of most of your problems. If you have high ceilings, you probably do not need to worry about adding diffusion.
Diffusers can be expensive, and you probably want to save your money to invest in something else. Many people skip diffusers in their home without noticing any effect on their sound.
If you have low ceilings and the absorption is not doing what you need, then you will have to add diffusers.
Diffusers are generally added to the ceiling and above head-height.
How To Cheat And Add Home Made Acoustic Treatment
Don’t do it!
Homemade acoustic treatments do not work. Many people try adding foam, carpet, egg cartons, and other stuff, but, the truth is that these cannot compete with professional equipment.
If you try to wing it and do it yourself, then you are wasting your own time.
If you are out of money and cannot find the perfect acoustic vibe, follow our 3 top tips for the best acoustic vibe.
1. Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Mic Closer
If you want to increase the direct sound from an instrument or vocals, place the instrument or person as close to the mic as you can.
Direct sound is increased, and the reflected sound is decreased.
It is not an ideal method but can make a slight difference.
2. Take A Dynamic Approach
Dynamic mics are not as sensitive and will not pick up as much ambient noise as condenser mics. If you are working in a room with poor acoustics, then a dynamic mic will make a big difference, especially with the vocals.
3. Take Time To Reflect
If you cannot afford a full acoustic treatment, then you might want to think about a reflection filter. Instead of adding panels to your room, you place the reflection filter around the mic to stop any reflections before they get to a surface.
While reflection filters do not work as well as panels on the wall, they will make some difference and may be a smart option when you are just starting out.
The Final Note
There are many ways to achieve the perfect acoustic vibe. Some cost a lot of money, and some are more affordable. The more you spend, the better your sound is going to be.
If you can afford it, go for as professional a sound as you can. If you cannot afford it, work with what you have got, and get booking those gigs.