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Glass-walled studio - opinions! Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 14th February 2019
  #1
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Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Hi all,

First post here. I’ll get straight to it. Having moved from UK to Ecuador, about to purchase an apartment with incredible views. Planning on building a studio on the terrace with entirely glass windows, to take advantage of the views (normal ceiling, not glass), but want opinions as to whether it’s a stupid idea or not.

1) I’m a composer, so predominantly concerned with the space being a writing space. I do record, but no particularly loud instruments:
- Acoustic Guitar
- Violin
- Electric Guitar (DI from head)
- Electric Bass (DI)
- Vocals
- Keys (again DI)

2) I do most of my monitoring on cans (HiFiMan HE400i), and occasionally on my monitors (Genelec 8020s). But 99% of the time on cans.

3) I want the space to be suitable enough for recording the acoustic instruments listed above, with a good sound, so without horrid reflections from the glass etc. I’ll be building a vocal booth for the vocal recordings.

Given the above circumstances, I don’t feel sound proofing is necessary, as I won’t be making much loud noise in general (and vocals will be cordened off with booth). My biggest concern is sound treatment. As I am hoping to take advantage of the amazing views, my plan is to build suspended sound panels from the ceiling, to avoid fixing them to the glass walls. I would also be able to retract them on some form of curtain rail to the rear of the studio when not needing them, to enable the space to function within the house itself (see plan below).

I would have blinds on the inside of the windows to help with early-day sun, and an outdoor pergola will provide additional vertical shade from the intense Ecuadorean sun to avoid baking inside...!

Not considering more specific design considerations in terms of dimensions etc, does this sound like an achievable goal? Plan of apartment with intended studio and plan of studio below (not to scale).

Cheers!

EDIT: apparently I can’t add images yet. Will try update soon!
Old 14th February 2019
  #2
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Starlight's Avatar
Steve, I think you need to have written about half a dozen posts before you will be able to post photos.

Which direction does the glass wall face? I would not want wooden instruments in a room where the sun can either raise the temperature of the room a lot nor quickly, nor wher the sun can shine directly onto these wooden instruments.

In an apartment, unless the building has an oustanding design that includes a good degree of sound isolation (ie. what you call soundproofing) between apartments, then it will be an issue. My neighbours will not be yours but I can hear my neighbours arguing, their dog barking at all hours, their vacuum cleaner, furniture when it scrapes across the floor and much more. Your acoustuc guitar, violin and vocals will travel, although to quite what extent, we cannot yet tell.

That is a clever idea to have curtain-rail mounted traps. The other, more common option, would be to mount them on wheels. Either way, great thinking!
Old 14th February 2019
  #3
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We gotta see a snap of this view!
Old 14th February 2019
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by drunmersteve View Post
EDIT: apparently I can’t add images yet. Will try update soon!
Using something like Imgur: The magic of the Internet should do the trick.
Old 15th February 2019
  #5
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I’ll try post the photos via a Dropbox link, see if that works. It’ll be a lot clearer if you’re able to see..

The main sitting position will be facing southwards (sun rising to the left) so there will be sun early-morning. By midi morning once the sun is higher, the planned pergola to the side of the studio will shade direct sunlight from the windows. Then midday the sun will be directly above, and with a solid roof there won’t be an issue (I might have a roof light, but I’ll use appropriate glass to minimize the direct rays if I decide to do so) By the afternoon, the sun disappears behind hills etc so no more direct light. Intruments-wise, I would plan to avoid direct sunlight shining on them of course. I’ll also install interior blinds that can be drawn to minimize direct light on particularly sunny days.

Building is a new build, 5 years old but very solid construction (it’s literally built into the hillside hense the views). 3 apartments per level, ours being at one of the ends. The solid concrete floor of the terrace feels very substantial, however i was thinking of raising the floor a few inches to treat it in some way. Similarly, the ceiling would be treated, to try and minimize sound leakage where I can.

As you’ll see from photos, the two sides of the studio open onto more of our own terrace space. The rear of the studio backs onto our own apartment, with rooms and walls between any adjacent apartments. Vocals would be sectioned off in the booth, as I think this will be the loudest sound source (aside from our two barking dogs!)

I also planned as a nice touch to wrap the sound panels in some hand woven Ecuadorean textile, so they act more like hanging pieces of art against the windows, so they’d also look nice from the outside looking in. I’d need to test it’s suitability first, but it’s an idea.

I have a photo of the view but it doesn’t do it justice!

Plan of apartment: Dropbox - apartment plan.png

The ‘studio’ is currently open terrace, and the orange sections are planned pergolas, green is open terrace. Space to the right is a smaller private terrace for my wife and I, the other side is communal terrace w/ bbq etc. Nothing is to scale as I have no measurements, I think the studio will be longer and narrower.

Plan of studio: Dropbox - studio plan.png

Probably space for more panels ultimately, and once the space is established I’ll want to consider placement of said panels, maybe a diffuser, or whatever may be required to make the room work as a tracking room.

View: Dropbox - Terrace.jpg

On a clear day you can see the Cotopaxi Volcano in the distance. As mad as the idea is, why would I want to box myself inside with minimal windows when I could be sitting in front of this being inspired every day?!

Thanks guys!
Old 15th February 2019
  #6
Glass is pretty much the worst acoustic material on earth.

I’ve always been told to minimize glass at all costs anywhere you will be recording or mixing music.
Old 15th February 2019
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post
Glass is pretty much the worst acoustic material on earth.
Fully aware of this, but as a composer and working there every day of the week, I also want to take advantage of the inspiration that exists around me, and really enjoy my working environment, hense my attempt at trying to find solutions and compromises.

I’m not a mix engineer, I get my stuff mixed in a studio in London by a great mixer as and when it needs the final polish, and as explained I almost exclusively use cans.
Old 16th February 2019
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by drunmersteve View Post
Fully aware of this, but as a composer and working there every day of the week, I also want to take advantage of the inspiration that exists around me, and really enjoy my working environment, hense my attempt at trying to find solutions and compromises.

I’m not a mix engineer, I get my stuff mixed in a studio in London by a great mixer as and when it needs the final polish, and as explained I almost exclusively use cans.
My best advice then is minimize glass while recording.

Build or buy some portable gobos that you can position as needed. It will make a world of difference.
Old 16th February 2019
  #9
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Jason Foi's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post
Glass is pretty much the worst acoustic material on earth.

I’ve always been told to minimize glass at all costs anywhere you will be recording or mixing music.
Glass is mass, nothing more, nothing less, so theres no reason it would perform worse than any other material of equal mass. The only disadvantage would be cost. If substantial isolation is required at low frequencies, the cost would become overwhelming quickly.
Old 16th February 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post
Glass is pretty much the worst acoustic material on earth.

I’ve always been told to minimize glass at all costs anywhere you will be recording or mixing music.
Yup. I'm neck-deep in that situation now. My studio is about 24' x 16' and one whole 24' wall is floor-to-ceiling double-glazed glass. And not the good kind of "studio glass", just the normal double-paned glass that you find in a minimalist modern house.

I have the usual resonance at around 108hz that you'd expect, but when I brought an acoustician over to see where we should put some bass traps, he did some calculations, listened to some music, played a piano sound at various low notes, then said, "The numbers aren't adding up to what I'm hearing."

So then he had me play some low synth tones and he went outside, pressed his ear to the glass, came inside, did the same thing, frowned, and announced:

"I won't sell you bass traps. They won't fix your problem. This glass has to go. Replace it with solid concrete, or at least let's get you a zillion-dollar, triple-glazed set of windows where each layer of glass is a different thickness."

He explained that what I was experiencing could best be described as "acoustic / mechanical pitch shifting" which translates into "smearing" at the resonant frequencies in the room. A simplified explanation of what's happening is:

- Play a kick drum, and the speakers excite the air in the room within a range around 110hz.

- Inner pane of glass resonates at 108hz, thus exciting the air gap between panes at 108hz.

- Outer pane of glass resonates at 106hz, returns some of that energy to the air gap between the panes.

- Inner pane of glass is excited at 106hz, returns some of that energy to the room.

Voilá - put out 110hz, get back 106hz = mechanical shifting of the pitch of the audio in the room. He said it was a fairly rare phenomenon and that I was one of the unlucky few. Think of it like the two panes of glass acting like the top and bottom heads on a drum that's not quite tuned properly. The only solution is to replace the glass with a material or structure which behaves differently, like purpose-built glass which use three different thicknesses of glass specifically chosen to not resonate at adjacent frequencies.

But he preferred if I just tear out the walls of glass and replace them with filled concrete block. Yeah.... that's not happening. Adding gobo-like structures in front of the glass might help a tiny bit, but then why have windows at all? So in my case it's not so much the acoustic reflections from the hard surfaces of the glass, but rather it's the glass acting like a giant drum head.

Not ideal.

For OP this may not be such an issue but in my case it was an education in unusual acoustic phenomena. Then again I'm pumping some serious bass energy out of the speakers and wondering why the room was swallowing up 88hz and resonating 108hz, and why the low end sounded so blurry.
Old 16th February 2019
  #11
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Interesting how double glazed glass can have such unpredictable effects.. I suppose you are dealing with much higher levels of energy than I will be.

I’ve not really considered any form of sound proofing for the glass, for a number of reasons:

1) being in Ecuador, the level of specialism for this kind of task will be harder to come by, and therefore more expensive (both for expertise and materials)

2) cost - compared with reasonably successful results when doing DIY walls, I’d imagine without even researching much that doing DIY sound-treated glass walls is something way beyond my DIY capabilies, and indeed way beyond my budget as well.

3) necessity - most of the concerns aired here are when dealing with high-energy sound sources (bass frequencies etc), which as described really isn’t my intended use. 99% of the time, I am on cans, and only recording lower-energy instruments (and even then it won’t be all that often). Occasionally swapping to my Genelec 8020s, which themselves aren’t the biggest speakers (although they do have surprisingly good low end given their size).

My biggest concern is, vocals aside, will I be able to successfully record said instruments with the use of panels on windows, and maybe even a smaller more localized panel when recording the guitar, without the glass being a bitch?
Old 17th February 2019
  #12
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Yes, my application is very different to what you describe for your studio. I'm doing film scores that often have big, low tones, very heavy war drums, and sub-bass booms - and I have a pretty large subwoofer. Also, my glass walls are very large uninterrupted panes - there are multiple panes, each 8 x 8 feet, so they vibrate more easily than smaller ones would.

All in all, my case is a worst-case scenario - but I thought I'd mention it in response to the post about glass being the worst acoustic material there is! I thought it would be an easy fix - just throw up some bass traps tuned to the right frequency range. When the acoustician diagnosed the weird phenomenon I thought it was actually pretty interesting - mechanical pitch shifting! I never thought such a thing was possible. But now when I hear people talking about "smearing" in the bass frequencies it makes sense to me how such a thing could happen.

Admittedly it was a pretty minor part of the issues with my room, and there are other factors that I have addressed that have helped a lot - making sure the speakers are not half-way between the floor and ceiling, adding treatment to the ceiling as well as bass traps in two corners and absorption on the back wall have helped a lot.

Still, it was interesting to hear it described to me in such detail.
Old 17th February 2019
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
But he preferred if I just tear out the walls of glass and replace them with filled concrete block.
Maybe look into solid glass block-

Seves Glassblock | Pure and solid glass blocks

Also you might be able to glue some clear mass loaded vinyl to one side or the other...should both change and damp the resonance. It will yellow in the sun over time.

Last edited by RyanC; 17th February 2019 at 06:28 PM..
Old 17th February 2019
  #14
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Interesting. I also do film scores, but my current and past living circumstances has meant all my writing has to be done on cans. Whenever anything is needed to be mixed, I go to a studio that I’ve worked with for many years with the 5.1 setup. I don’t need that level of ability, as my space is almost exclusively for writing (and a bit of tracking).

Having been looking at various videos etc, and still with my limited knowledge; I thought of perhaps constructing some double-glazed windows myself within sodden frames. I’ve seen people do it online, and whilst it looks tricky, I’m sure with an experienced carpenter I could achieve it. I could have the windows raised off the ground by a few feet, extending to the ceiling, but keep the panes smaller by using more uprights. Smaller lanes may assist with vibrations as you’ve described, and also probably make the cost better (as I assume larger panels are harder to manufacture and thus more expensive).
Old 17th February 2019
  #15
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Starlight's Avatar
Steve, I am sure you are clued-up on this bjt to make sure you don't overlook it: if possible, it would help if the two panes in double-glazing were of different thicknesses. So long as one is not a simple fraction or multiple of the other, each pane's resonant frequency would not excite the other pane.
Old 17th February 2019
  #16
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Originally Posted by Jason Foi View Post
Glass is mass, nothing more, nothing less, so theres no reason it would perform worse than any other material of equal mass. The only disadvantage would be cost. If substantial isolation is required at low frequencies, the cost would become overwhelming quickly.
I think the general acoustic problem with glass is that it doesn't have studs/framing, or generally the thickness, to restrict it's resonance. So on the one had that's true, in general practice it does present some challenges.
Old 17th February 2019
  #17
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...Well, y'all know how crappy all the stuff comin' outta this joint sounds, right?:
.
Old 17th February 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
Steve, I am sure you are clued-up on this bjt to make sure you don't overlook it: if possible, it would help if the two panes in double-glazing were of different thicknesses. So long as one is not a simple fraction or multiple of the other, each pane's resonant frequency would not excite the other pane.
Yes thanks for this Starlight, depending on what route I decide to go down, I’ll make sure to fully research and implement all the various aspects fully. Only doing this once! I think for a starter I’m just trying to establish if it’s feasible, and if so what the best method of approach is.

I’m now starting to think rather than greenhouse-style glass top to bottom, Better would be to have a timber frame, with smaller windows broken up with custom-built framing, all double glazing. This should also help with the heat, and the areas there are walls I could treat to a certain extent (as mentioned sound proofing isn’t the goal, but it won’t hurt for the times I do want to play through speakers).
Old 17th February 2019
  #19
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Starlight's Avatar
Something like Georgian windows?
Attached Thumbnails
Glass-walled studio - opinions!-georgian.jpeg  
Old 17th February 2019
  #20
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Not that small. I mean something more like this:

Dropbox - Photo 17-02-2019, 16 15 27.jpg

Without the windows against the floor at the bottom. Something like that, rather than glass from top to bottom.

Last edited by drunmersteve; 17th February 2019 at 10:17 PM.. Reason: Fixed link
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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I'm building a studio (my 3rd in 26 years) in a glass penthouse, so I can relate...

Whilst I build my sound proof rooms, I'm temporarily working (i.e., mixing) in the main "view" room, floor to ceiling glass on 3 sides, 11.2 M x 4.6 M. I'm currently set up so my mixing console and monitors are in the corner of this long room, but facing the long windowed side (the view!). Glass directly in front, glass to my right, fresh air for miles to my left and a plaster wall 3 meters behind where I sit.

Sounds like a nightmare, right? Especially after I have sat in pro designed room my entire career (my last 2 studios). Here's the thing, it sounds fine! Glass can sound harsh when high frequencies are reflected off it, but when the glass is behind the monitors, it just isn't a problem. You just need to get your monitors very close to the glass though to get your SBIR into the 200's (hertz).

The other cool thing about not having thick walls around you is that the windows and back wall absorbs more than they reflect. As for the expected "glassy" sound, I ran some tests where I blinded myself while my assistant put up 2" think absorbent panels (tontine), and then took them away from various points along the glass in front and beside me. I couldn't hear a difference! So I asked him to (he's much younger and might have better hi freq response with his hearing). He couldn't pick it either.

So the take home message is believe your ears! Play chromatic sine waves from 30 hz to 200 hz and make a note of the peaks and dips (you'll have them, everyone does). Now, bass traps and absorption can come partially to your rescue here, but will make the room ugly. Is there another way, well yes, but it's considered taboo, but here goes... EQ your monitors! Yup, I know of several big name studios that do it, yet home recording guys tend not to because they read somewhere that it's a no-go zone. The wisdom says that while it's easier to tame peaks rather than fill in holes with EQ (nulls remain nulls etc), you make other parts of the room worse than before the EQ. And it's true, but guess what, you don't judge your mixes from other parts of the room (although your clients might!). If things sound good in the sweet spot (where you're sitting) then you can get to work. To get some confidence, listen to reference material you know very well, for days. Try to identify (by playing with an EQ) what seems to be lacking and what seems to be abundant, across at least a dozen recordings. Find an EQ setting that seems to flatter everything, then check your setting against the chromatic sine wave response graph you made (you can go all REW if you must). Hopefully you will notice some coincidence (yay! that 120hz peak I dropped by 6 dB) but chances are you will have chosen to make some EQ choices by ear for your references that don't match the sine wave test findings. That's OK, it's called a "personality curve"!. If all kinds of music sounds good and balanced to you from your sweet spot, then you just make your own music sound equally as good and you'll be close enough for your mastering engineer to even it out a little from there. If not, then he'll tell you where you got too much personality and you modify accordingly.

Sounds really unscientific, and the boffins will laugh down their sleeve but I say **** 'em. If any one should be a snob about this stuff it should be me, after all, I traded on my "perfectly tuned" rooms for years. But the secret truth is my work sounds just as good in my temporary, makeshift glass house control room as it did in my million dollar rooms.

Believe your ears, and if your ears are no good, figure out how to get 'em good, or find another job! (BTW, anyone else ever noticed how acoustic experts hardly ever (despite a couple of exceptions) come from a successful career in music (performing or production)?.

Last edited by princeplanet; 4 weeks ago at 08:17 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
... A simplified explanation of what's happening is:

- Play a kick drum, and the speakers excite the air in the room within a range around 110hz.

- Inner pane of glass resonates at 108hz, thus exciting the air gap between panes at 108hz.

- Outer pane of glass resonates at 106hz, returns some of that energy to the air gap between the panes.

- Inner pane of glass is excited at 106hz, returns some of that energy to the room.

Voilá - put out 110hz, get back 106hz = mechanical shifting of the pitch of the audio in the room. .....
Have you considered window film? (various kinds for heat and / or UV refelection etc). This should either alter or tame the resonance of one or both panes. Hard to calculate, but you can always try a single pane and test it. 2" foam is usually used between the panes to help with resonance as well, in case you don't have that already...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
Have you considered window film? (various kinds for heat and / or UV refelection etc). This should either alter or tame the resonance of one or both panes. Hard to calculate, but you can always try a single pane and test it.
That's a good idea. I will look into that solution.

In any case it's not such a huge problem - the acoustician who didn't want to sell me bass traps was just trying to avoid selling me stuff and then having me complain down the road - but he's usually outfitting mastering rooms and far more critical environments for people with far more critical needs (and ears!) than mine. I put in some treatments that are helping quite a bit.

I only thought I should mention the phenomenon because I had never heard it explained to me so well, and when I asked the dude if this was what people meant when they talk about "smearing" of low frequencies he said, "exactly".

Turns out having one 24-foot wall of your control room acting like a poorly-tuned drum isn't a good thing!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
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charlieclouser's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by princeplanet View Post
Believe your ears, and if your ears are no good, figure out how to get 'em good, or find another job!
I agree with eq-ing the monitors - every studio we had in the NIN years had the mains eq-ed with a White graphic eq strapped to the mains and set up by Coco Brandon with his magical tone generator and magical ears, and a big label on the eq that said, "Do not touch or Coco will punish you!" There was always an eq on the mains.

I recently tried some Genelec 8351's with a 7380 sub and their GLM+SAM setup, which is a bit like SonarWorks but built into the DSP of the speakers, and... WOW. Switching between flat and calibrated responses in my room was like night and day, and the calibrated response sounded GREAT. Way better than my Dynaudio AIR system which has DSP and programmable parametric EQ but not as many bands as GLM and not auto-calibrating. A friend uses the Trinnov system on a pair of large BlueSky 3-ways, and switching that in and out is like night and day. So I am a believer in eq, especially if it's auto-calibrating and better yet built-in to the DSP on the monitors.

But the acoustician, after diagnosing the problem with my glass walls, said, "So, are you actually mixing music for release in this room?" I had to laugh - my response was, "Only the scores for fifteen feature films and about 250 hours of network television... nothing too serious!"

His response was "Oh. You'll be fine."
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlieclouser View Post
I agree with eq-ing the monitors - every studio we had in the NIN years had the mains eq-ed with a White graphic eq strapped to the mains and set up by Coco Brandon with his magical tone generator and magical ears, and a big label on the eq that said, "Do not touch or Coco will punish you!" There was always an eq on the mains.

I recently tried some Genelec 8351's with a 7380 sub and their GLM+SAM setup, which is a bit like SonarWorks but built into the DSP of the speakers, and... WOW. Switching between flat and calibrated responses in my room was like night and day, and the calibrated response sounded GREAT. Way better than my Dynaudio AIR system which has DSP and programmable parametric EQ but not as many bands as GLM and not auto-calibrating. A friend uses the Trinnov system on a pair of large BlueSky 3-ways, and switching that in and out is like night and day. So I am a believer in eq, especially if it's auto-calibrating and better yet built-in to the DSP on the monitors.

But the acoustician, after diagnosing the problem with my glass walls, said, "So, are you actually mixing music for release in this room?" I had to laugh - my response was, "Only the scores for fifteen feature films and about 250 hours of network television... nothing too serious!"

His response was "Oh. You'll be fine."
Yeah, I guess the caveat with monitor EQ is that a novice needs to be sure that the EQ is flattering all reference material, and not just his/her mixes! I hear a lot of work from home studios that are abysmal. No doubt because of room modes/refections or monitor placement issues (apart from questionable skills ), and you know that if you eq'd their monitors for them, their work would probably improve a little. But if they tried to EQ it themselves, there's a real good chance they'd just make things worse. It's a lot of trial and error innit?, gotta educate those ears ...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
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Not stupid idea studio with great view sound lije dream studio to me.

, glasses are not that bad for acoustics. They are just reflective kind of surface if you have space you can make RFZ control room with glass

How about parallel glass?

i've been to a studio that 3sides are glass and behind speakers is hard wood. All walls are parallel. Sound bad isn't it ?but It sound really good meassurement result is great too

The designer told me that if you cant do anyting with walls do everything you can on cieling

Behind cloth on cieling there are many kind of acoustic treatments not just aborbing.

Pic: Kullavat's studio
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Glass-walled studio - opinions!-fb_img_1550703322768.jpg   Glass-walled studio - opinions!-fb_img_1550704074368.jpg  
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