Room Acoustics (Building a New Studio Part 2)

Posted by on Dec 21, 2018 in Uncategorized | No Comments

In my last post, I’ve shared some exciting news with you: Copilco Productions has a new facility. Now we’re coming to the juicy topic of room acoustics. We’ll discuss why room acoustics are such a critical element and what we’ve done at Copilco Productions in order to get a great room sound. Moreover, you will get some ideas on how to treat your own music production space and where to get more information.

Copilco Productions New Studio Room Acoustics
Copilco Productions New Studio Room Acoustics

Why room acoustics matter

Does this sound familiar to you? You’re entering a studio control room. You see tons of expensive analog outboard equipment, a huge mixing desk, and a chunky flatscreen. It might seem very impressive at first… until you turn on the sound. You’re hearing a strangely skewed stereo image as well as heavy peaks and dips in the frequency response. It’s basically impossible to separate bass and kick drum. You’re struggling to hear how much reverb to add. You can’t decide how much you should compress your signals. All in all: It’s very hard to judge sound in these types of rooms. Don’t get me wrong: I have the highest respect for people who pump out amazing tracks in these types of rooms. I’ve just noticed over the years, that the mixes and masters that are being created there often don’t reflect the quality of the music itself.

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Pseudo-science is not the answer

There’s also another pretty fascinating type of studio that prides itself on having amazing room acoustics. Yet, they’ve never taken professional measurements to prove it. Moreover, you can clearly hear that something’s wrong there. I call this the pseudo-scientific type of treatment. People build absorbers and diffusers using either the wrong materials, wrong (or no) physical formulas, or simply place them where it doesn’t make sense at all.

All of this is not a problem for the typical music producer. You can always double check on headphones and create amazing songs. But when it comes to mixing and mastering, great room acoustics will definitely up your game.

Study, question, study again, implement

If you want to take your room acoustics into your own hands, go for it. But please, educate yourself as much as possible before starting to build something. Some of my favorite resources for starters include:

Read, read, read. Question everything you’ve heard so far by other self-claimed “experts” in online forums and YouTube Tutorials. If you’re having doubts, hire someone like Jesco for a consultation session. It’s more than worth the money. Before even building acoustic panels, try out several listening- and speaker positions in the room in order to get the most even bass response. Make sure you’re using the right material for your absorbers, otherwise you’re only burning money and wasting time. Treat your first reflection points, then your room corners with absorbers. Don’t obsess over diffusors (though they look nice, I admit) because they’re not nearly as effective as absorbers in most typical scenarios.

What about digital room & speaker correction?

In the last few years, room & speaker correction software has evolved a lot. But is it really worth the investment? Can you really improve your room acoustics by digital filters in the last section of your listening signal chain? First of all, I want to make one thing clear: I don’t think it’s the solution to all your problems. Moreover, I disagree with some of the very aggressive marketing techniques of these companies (basically claiming you won’t need any acoustic treatment). BUT: I’m an absolute fan of this type of technology and I’m 100% sure that it’s vastly improving your sound (if combined with a minimum of acoustic treatment). I’m personally using Sonarworks and I’ve been recommending it to many of my colleagues. It’s easy to use, very intuitive, and the results are stunning. Even super-expensive, well-treated mastering rooms all over the globe are now using this technology now. And many have been skeptical a few years ago (which might have been right back then).

Building our new room acoustics at Copilco Productions

I’ve decided to go the DIY-route combined with professional measurements & consultation by my buddy Jesco. I can only recommend partnering up with an acoustics professional to make sure you’re not investing your hard-earned money in the wrong areas. Always keep in mind that there are things which you don’t know that you don’t know. I’ve built all the panels myself using spruce wood, Camira fabric and Rockwool Termarock 40 insulation material. To be honest with you: It’s taken longer to build this stuff than I had expected. I did it in the summer during a period where I didn’t have too many projects lined up, so it was okay. That being said: I’m super happy how everything has turned out and I would love to invite you to a personal listening session here in the studio.

In case you want to read further, I recently gave an interview to dBs Berlin which you can read here.

Drop me a line if you want to come over and spend some time analyzing your new productions. I’m glad to help!