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What's the best way to make an acoustically dead room for pretty cheap?
Old 15th June 2009
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

What's the best way to make an acoustically dead room for pretty cheap?

Maybe this should go in low end thory, so maybe I'll post there too but I've really appreciated the advice on this forum.

I've decided to try to make a small room I'll be recording in completely dead acoustically. I'll add reverb/space to the recordings later so I want to make it as dead as possible. The room is a small square so I don't want to hear any of the room sound if possible.

I'm wondering the best way to go about doing this. I don't have a lot of money to spend on it unfortunately. I know that high quality acoustic treatment costs a lot so I'm not expecting pro studio results but I want to make this room as dead/dry/neutral as possible without spending too much. I'm open to a range of suggestions but would like to spend a few hundred dollars or less.

I've done some reading that people on this board have been nice enough to suggest, so I imagine I'll need bass traps as well as some mid/hi absorption on all the walls.

Thanks for any ideas and help!

p.s. I don't really care how the stuff I use looks. I'm the only one using this room and it's not a big deal to me... in case that makes a difference.
Old 16th June 2009
  #2

Removing the walls and ceiling is the cheapest way....

Short of that, lots of 4 inch rockwool or fiberglass everywhere. You'll still have some boxyness, though...




-tINY

Old 16th June 2009
  #3
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by newpollution View Post

...The room is a small square so I don't want to hear any of the room sound if possible....
What will you be recording in there?

While this is not a "solution", it will help:

Depending on what you're recording, keep the mic(s) CLOSE to the source... as close as possible. The closer the mic is to the source, the less room sound will get picked up. Like, if you're recording an acoustic guitar, put the mic right on it, not 2 feet away. If a "close-mic sound" is not your bag, well, it's way better than hearing a small square room with poor or no treatment.

But even close-miking, close reflections from the room can still cause serious problems. So, to help reduce this issue... just buy like a mere four properly made 2'X4' bass traps (at least 4" thick type)... hopefully you can at least afford four... put one on the ceiling directly above you, and hang the other three on stands (or prop them up on chairs, whatever) so they are immediately surrounding the source being recorded. You will effectively be creating a ultra small "mini sound booth" made of traps. This way you need not cover the actual room itself with traps which would mean buying a lot more than four traps.

So if you surround the source as closely as possible with GOOD traps, and then close-mic the source, this is probably the best way to reduce the horrible sound of the room without spending a lot of money.

If you are tracking something large, like a big drum kit, then you'll need a lot more traps, period. Hopefully you're just cutting vocals or acoustic guitar or the like.

But I like Tiny's idea the best... just REMOVE the walls and ceiling... seriously... consider doing takes outdoors if at all possible... I'd personally much prefer hearing a few bird sounds in the background or whatever as opposed to having some horrible small room sound coating the entire recording.
Old 16th June 2009
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for the ideas guys.

Outdoor recording definitely interests me, but unfortunately I live in a city with the usual noise (traffic, planes, lawnmowers, etc.) and I don't think it'd be practical for my daily recording.

To answer your questions, 666666: I'll be recording a pretty big variety of sources. Lot of voice, guitars, some keyboards, a variety of percussion/drums (though not a whole kit at once). I think close miking will work for a lot of it but obviously I want to improve the sound of the room too.

I like your miniature sound booth idea. I'm mostly going to be recording only one instrument/person at a time, so having a small (or tiny) recording area would probably work. So the best way to do this would be to just try to make an enclosure of thick bass traps? That seems possible and obviously way cheaper than coating the room. I'm a little confused though.. are bass traps for controlling not just low frequencies, but mid and high too? Or would I want to get some other materials as well.

Thanks again for the help. Any other suggestions are much appreciated. I'm fine with unconventional, just trying to get a set up that can work for me.
Old 16th June 2009
  #5
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by newpollution View Post
...So the best way to do this would be to just try to make an enclosure of thick bass traps?...
It need not be a solid "enclosure" of bass traps, but I'd think that as long as you have bass traps pretty much surrounding the source to be recorded (even if spaced apart), you are going to be pretty well "protected" from at least a good degree of close-reflections. The more traps, the better, but the main point is that the traps will be more effective if they are closer to the source, at LEAST IF the source is to be CLOSE-miked. However, if you were going to place the mic back a ways from the source, then having some traps up close might not be good as the room itself will still have a nasty sound and it will get into the mics. If you want to pull the mic back a bit, you really need to treat the entire room... and do it well.

Vocals for instance will be easy... place one trap on the ceiling above your head and extending out toward the mic, place one trap in front of your face (behind the mic obviously), and then place a trap on each side of you, in the area between the mic and your head... hang `em or place them on stands or whatever. This way the immediate area around your head (the source) and the mic is "treated". Then if you keep the mic close to your face and sing with gusto, I'd think you would get a fairly clean, tight, dry sound into the mic. It may not be "perfect", but I don't think it will be terrible.

If you tried doing this with zero bass traps, you could have a close reflection issue that will wreak havoc. And if you tried this without bass traps and with the mic 16" away as opposed to up close, it would be so horrible that the audio police might bust into your room and arrest you.

Best of luck. Let us know how things turn out.
Old 18th June 2009
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for elaborating on that idea 666666, that sounds like a good solution considering that I need it to be cheap.

One more question: if I did your idea of surrounding myself to some extent w/ some bass traps and keeping the mic close, would I want to get any other materials to handle a wider range of frequencies or would bass traps be the only things i need.

Thanks again for the help.
Old 18th June 2009
  #7
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by newpollution View Post
...One more question: if I did your idea of surrounding myself to some extent w/ some bass traps and keeping the mic close, would I want to get any other materials to handle a wider range of frequencies or would bass traps be the only things i need...
A well designed "bass trap" should give you a fairly even response, broad range, thus you would not need any extra materials. The trick is to get "proven", tested bass traps. Check out the bass traps sold by some of the vendors that post on this forum, can't go wrong with this stuff. But of course, stay away from any "foam" etc or lesser known products, foam will give you a very uneven response, will suck away all the highs and leave all the lower-end "mud", and anything else "unproven" or untested may or may not work well at all.
Old 18th June 2009
  #8
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

You really don't want an acoustically dead room, it's unnatural and really inhibits performance.

You want an uncolored room in which things sound really good.
Old 18th June 2009
  #9


I've done some traking in a very large, very dead room and had decent results. Adding reverberation later is mandatory, though.



-tINY

Old 21st June 2009
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
You really don't want an acoustically dead room, it's unnatural and really inhibits performance.

You want an uncolored room in which things sound really good.
Well from what I've heard, it's really difficult to make a small square room uncolored and good sounding.

And I'm just recording myself. I don't think an acoustically dead space would inhibit my performance in any way, so I'm not really worried about that.
Old 21st June 2009
  #11
MrT
Gear Addict
 
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If your on a zero type budget find anything soft and reasonably big, if you can look for an office that's going under or something and scoop up some big soft cubicle walls. The soft type are usually made to absorb sound anyhow. You can usually get them for a song if you find the right seller. Other than that, couches and matresses work well. good luck... oh and don't forget the ever popular moving blanket.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #12
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by newpollution View Post
Well from what I've heard, it's really difficult to make a small square room uncolored and good sounding.
Yes.
Quote:
I don't think an acoustically dead space would inhibit my performance in any way
Well, most musicians will indeed be inspired by what they're hearing as they perform. If you're really excited about what you're hearing, you will likely perform that much better.

One potential solution: if you are performing while monitoring other music and/or yourself via headphones, just pre-treat your instrument in the monitoring path while recording. Add some reverb per taste. Make it sound exciting to you. Of course you are not recording the reverb effect at this point, you're just hearing it in the monitoring path. You may find this a more inspiring way to perform... at least verses hearing your instrument bone dry.

In the last ultra small room I had, I was not able to monitor my instrument in the headphones so I could not take advantage of this trick. At first I did find it a bit of a challenge in terms of overall "inspiration", but I've gotten good at "hearing the excitement" inside my head. You just have to focus and find that magic place where things are grooving inside your head, even if what you're monitoring isn't "perfect". If you're well experienced at the instruments you'll be playing, this shouldn't be too difficult... but it IS very important that you enter that "magical excitement zone" inside your head before you start trying to lay down final takes. I'll sometimes even imagine I'm on a big stage in front of several thousand screaming fans while I'm tracking... it helps.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #13
Deleted User
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Recording on a budget in a small room is not that hard, getting a good sound is though. Here are the things you can do for free.

FIRST . you need to designate a spot for using live mics and treat the room to optomize that spot.

If you have a closet designate the spot in front of the door as the spot. Open the door and hang a lot of clothes in it. This will 1) break up a wall. 2) act as an absorber. Try both facing the opend door and facing out into the room. try different distances from the door (standing on the threshold or a little out ect)

get a couple of Auralex 4" 2'X4' pieces of foam and treat the ceiling above your vocal spot

if the door opens out, do not put it parallel to the wall leave it at an angel to further break up the room. Drape some blankets over the closet door (lots of them) to further damp the sounds. put your epuipment in open rakes rather than typical box racks...boxes reflect. get a CHEAP bed mattresses or two to create a vocal space using the closet and closet door (given you have one) if you do not have a closet 3 single mattresses will make a great vocal booth.

Hang a heavy drape/packing/blanket/beadspread/comforter an inch or two from your longest wall.

put heavier curtains on windows. make sure all furniture is padded..

do not line books up on shelves with all of them even (break up ALL flat surfaces when you can) .

Bass cabs with 2X15 works as a nice low freq abasorber if you put is tangentially in a corner ( the speakers move and the cab has a resonant freq)

Put carpet on the floor.. if you have carpet already put a throw rug on it.

keep in mind that you have to control a 1/4 wave to control a freq. (1000z aprox 1' so 3" of treatment will control that) it takes something a foot thick ( or a resonation device ) to controll 250hz

do not soundproof.. that will cause reflections in your space.. let the sound escape the room and you will not have to deal with that portion.

GET A GOOD SET OF CANS TO MIX IN

my former space was an 8X16 with 8' ceiling... talk about a resonator!!!!.. I put 3' of soft stuff against the back wall. did some amazingly good recordings there. but it was a LOT of work

best of luck
Old 22nd June 2009
  #14
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

What the performer hears determines a great deal about the sound that comes out of their mouth or fingers. I've recorded music in all manner of rooms and always found that people perform much better when they hear themselves sounding great acoustically in the room. It's the difference between competent and stunningly great.

Sure everybody wants to believe that it shouldn't matter.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post

Sure everybody wants to believe that it shouldn't matter.


Yep, it's all about coddling the talent. A lot of players need a good room to feel comfortable (acoustic types anyway).



-tINY

Old 22nd June 2009
  #16
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

If the performers are even thinking about the room or the gear, the results will always be compromised by the distraction.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #17
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
What the performer hears determines a great deal about the sound that comes out of their mouth or fingers. I've recorded music in all manner of rooms and always found that people perform much better when they hear themselves sounding great acoustically in the room. It's the difference between competent and stunningly great.

Sure everybody wants to believe that it shouldn't matter.

+10, 000!!
Old 23rd June 2009
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
What the performer hears determines a great deal about the sound that comes out of their mouth or fingers. I've recorded music in all manner of rooms and always found that people perform much better when they hear themselves sounding great acoustically in the room. It's the difference between competent and stunningly great.

Sure everybody wants to believe that it shouldn't matter.
Well, I hear you and I think that could effect a lot of performances. I'm just not really worried about it. I'm the only one who will be recording here and don't really mind hearing a really dry version of what I'm recording.


So, I'm thinking about trying to create a kind of small isolated area like 666666 was talking about. Basically I'd be partially surrounding myself with a few bass traps to record one source at a time. As mentioned, this would be cheaper than trying to treat the entire room. Kind of a make shift isolation booth I guess.

Anyway I have a few questions about this idea.

Would it be best to block the sound source/mic from as many directions as possible?

Would it matter if the bass traps have a hard backing (like ply wood), or would it be better for them to just have a rigid frame and nothing on the back.

Finally, how big would I want to make this enclosure or semi enclosure. I'm wondering how far away the bass traps should be from the sound source and mic. I'll be recording mostly: voice, acoustic instruments, assorted percussion. Keep in mind, I'm basically trying to get as dry a recording as possible with this.

Thanks for any help with this questions and for all the feedback so far!
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