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Old 15th November 2019
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Originally Posted by thechrisl View Post
The more info the better. But, I'd definitely like to see what the designer's philosophy is on "small" rooms. The more I research this the more I realize they truly require a different approach from traditional acoustic spaces.
Laws of physics are the same in small and large rooms. Same maths apply, just scaled in some aspects. Small rooms are just very impractical to work in due to their dimensions, expensive per surface unit and difficult to build. They require very good building skills. When it's even possible to get that amount of treatment in there.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, you can't float them, you can't work a proper shell geometry, you can't load the structure. You can't bring HVAC in properly. You'll often sit close to your speakers in a nearfield setup, so can't use the good stuff which is mostly 3 ways since it won't be coherent at that distance. In acoustics engineering terms, it's a perfect storm of major constraints.

The smaller the room, the more you will lose room volume to treatment. Start with 220ft² 20m², end up with less than half of that if you want results approaching Pro rooms.

You can use optimization tricks etc, but at one point you're eventually going to hit a glass ceilling.

Originally Posted by thechrisl View Post
You won't find a designer with a true "small room philosophy"
That's because you need to meet minimum distances to boundaries criteria for all psycho-acoustic models to effectively work. Whether it's LEDE/RFZ, NE, MyRoom, or our FTB. They will have different parameters thresholds, but they all have clear limits in terms of acceptable minimum room size. It's like any other field of engineering, there are no miracles. Anyone telling you otherwise is taking you for a ride.

Unlike some "hard" parameters of room acoustics, Psycho-acoustics aren't scale-able. The brain's response to environment is a system with a set range of values and behaviours. If you look at the population, it's pretty much a narrow Gaussian distribution. You can't change that, we are hard wired that way.

You must understand this if you're to understand the limits of small room designs and why what you're asking for isn't realistic.

You can't sit 1.m/3ft away from a QRD diffusor and not expect issues. You can't use PRD diffusors for Self noise cues like in FTB if the the feedback value is over a particular threshold (i.e. there is a minimum distance to diffusor) or outside a very particular frequency bandwidth (i.e. physical size / bandwidth of the diffusor).

You can't expect true broadband absorption from 8"/20cm. It takes at least 3x as much, using membranes and other pretty expensive tools to manufacture.

Which brings me to my last point: the die hard myth of a home studio that sounds like a pro room, meets pro room criteria, for the price of a home studio.

It's the biggest lie in this industry. This is day dreaming on the end user side, supported by misleading marketing on the provider's side. If it were true, pro studios and facilities would not be investing sometimes over 7 figures in pro rooms. I'd be out of a job, and all these mix and mastering engineers / facilites would work at home from a spare bedroom.

A pro room will need a compliant space and a budget in the 6 figures for the build alone.

Now, you can very much optimize a home studio / small room so it performs as good as it can. The best way to do that budget wise is via educated DIY (read a lot on the subject), followed by a period of "trial and error".

Some designers provide consulting services for such projects to help get the best out of the space, but no one should expect them to go beyond the "room response clean-up" stage. Since going beyond this means the design fee will start to be very substantial (it is a myth that small rooms are faster to design than large rooms) and build costs and complexity follow the same path. For a ROI that is diminishing fast due to the space's very real limitations.

Originally Posted by thechrisl View Post
And maybe there's a thread on this somewhere in the ancient past, but it seems there should be a set of realistic expectations, based on room dimensions and budget, known by both parties before proceeding. Things like Noise Criteria, Room Response, RT60, IDTG, etc. that may be X but will never be Y -- and is that OK?
There is no general answer to that question for a home studio. Only particular answers based on a specific project's size, budget and location.