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Room Acoustics for the common man

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Dolmetscher007 » Sun May 24, 2020 10:14 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:I have a small room, 4 x 4 metres...
Sam Spoons wrote:Forget diffusion in s small room...

This is one of the more fundamental questions I have always had... what dimensions constitute Small, Medium and Large rooms? I imagine, the two extremes are pretty obvious. For mixing audio, I would think Royal Albert Hall would be considered a large room by most. A broom closet would be considered a small room. Everything else in between is not glaringly obvious to me where small becomes medium, and so forth.

Keep in mind, I am talking about room size for mixing and mastering audio only. If you open a reverb plug-in and go have a look at the pre-sets, that is completely different all together. I would never consider my living room a "Medium Sized" room from a reverb chamber perspective, but for mixing/mastering audio, I'd say it's possibly larger than "small," but then again, I really just do not know.

blinddrew wrote:Have a look for the master handbook of acoustics, As recommended by Dr Robjohns.
Thanks man! I just bought this book. Hopefully it will help me get over some bumps.
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby MOF » Sun May 24, 2020 10:17 pm

Fairly dead without sounding dull is a good starting point (or a lovely rich, mellifluous reverb if you are lucky enough to have a huge room)
That is if you have a separate recording space and ideally even that should have variable acoustics.
The control room shouldn’t be reverberant. :D
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun May 24, 2020 10:31 pm

True, MOF :thumbup:

What are the dimensions of the room you plan to mix in?

FWIW my living room is around 28m2 and I'd describe that as small in recording studio terms*. If you work on the basis that any 'normal' domestic room is small you won't go far wrong.

I suppose a room that has it's major resonances below 20 Hz would be the aim for recording most instruments (pipe organs being a notable exception) so major dimensions greater than 17 metres would be desirable. But not many rooms have 17 metre ceilings..... Whatever the size it will need acoustic treatment of some kind to control the natural reverb.

* Reverb patch descriptions are purely subjective in the opinion of the guy who named them and irrelevant in this context.
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Dolmetscher007 » Sun May 24, 2020 11:33 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:What are the dimensions of the room you plan to mix in?

Here is a link to a floor plan, with dimensions, of the room I would like to treat for mixing. The room has six "sides," so I can't easily just give you Xft x Xft. dimensions. The largest section of the room is 14', 5 " by 17'. The ceiling is a standard US 8 ft. ceiling. The floor plan I linked to above shows all the windows and doors so you can have an idea about reflective surfaces etc.

Please keep in mind I am not interested in this room as a "live room" for recording. Almost all of my recording is done direct in. If I ever need to mic up a drum kit, I will most likely be doing that somewhere else.
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun May 24, 2020 11:35 pm

Definitions of small and large rooms vary dramatically depending on whether the Atlantic is East or West of your location...

But I'd suggest anything with a longest wall length of 5m of less counts as small, and anything with a length or 10m or more as large.

While there are exceptions, in general it's hard to make diffusers work properly in small rooms, and they aren't usually necessary anyway.

And as for the back wall position? definitely behind the speakers, not you chair! You really don't want reflective surfaces and room boundaries right behind your head!
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun May 24, 2020 11:46 pm

I'd have thought it's a good size for a mixing room? You probably need a Studio SOS visit.....
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby zenguitar » Mon May 25, 2020 12:06 am

Sam Spoons wrote: You probably need a Studio SOS visit.....

If Hugh needs an assistant, my bags are packed.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Dolmetscher007 » Mon May 25, 2020 12:25 am

Sam Spoons wrote:I'd have thought it's a good size for a mixing room? You probably need a Studio SOS visit.....

Ha!!! Absolutely! I'd even cough up the dough for the plane fair, three gallons of hand sanitizer and a couple of boxes of medical masks. Bring it on! :-)
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby CS70 » Mon May 25, 2020 1:00 am

Framed like this, I understand your frustration. It's hard to know what's "right" or not without actually experiencing it. It's the bane of the modern way to recording, where we can buy incredible kit for cheap money but we have no way to gather direct experience about how to best deploy it by learning from masters of the craft.

However, consider two things. One, the aforementioned masters often started in exactly the same position. As I wrote above, acoustics is a mix of science (physics) and craft. Heck, physics is, for sufficiently complex tasks (the calibration of detectors for particle accelerators, for example). You can learn the principles and the overall applications, but nobody gets the details entirely right. Even the most engineered recording studios are far from "perfect" acoustically. They just sound "good enough" (where good is "pretty good" ad sometimes "amazingly good"). As with most things, the difference is not between 100% good and something lower but between 20% and 80% good.

And how do you know it's good enough? By the second thing to consider: while you cannot witness the methods first hand, you can easily compare the results. You take your mix, put a limiter and A/B with a good reference. Better still, you ask your girlfriend to listen to both one after the other and gather intelligence on what she thought of the sound. Or a third party. If it's not up to scratch, you ask yourself why.

That's how the masters became so: by relentlessly listening, comparing and correcting to try to get to what they thought was good enough. That's for anything to the acoustics of a recording room to the quality of a mix. Not so much agonizing on the theory but finding out what works and what doesn't. That knowledge can be transmitted and SOS is a good place for that.

In very general terms, from what I've seen (but certainly I have seen very little, and surely the fellows at SOS can find a myriad different examples) a regular apartment room is "small" in studio terms - and a small bedroom is usually a "booth" in a studio. An ok-sized live room is much larger, usually say 60-70 square meters, and has a high ceiling (4,5 meters or more).. it doesn't fit a symphonic orchestra (the "large" rooms do) but definitely fits a dozen players or more. It may have facilities for raising or lowering the "ceiling" (on top of a drum kit for example) and of course the geometry, construction and design may have predictable and specific acoustic properties (such as resonators in the walls, folds and lines in the walls and ceiling, room in a room construction etc). But not necessarily so: after the large "studio 1" and "2" (or "A" and "B") many facilities have far smaller studios - definitely apartment-room-sized which can be used for mixing, referencing and of course the occasional vocal recording.
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby blinddrew » Mon May 25, 2020 9:53 am

And if you want to see how to do things with no compromise, have a shufti at these links:
https://www.soundonsound.com/news/amazi ... op-studios
https://www.soundonsound.com/music-busi ... dios-story
I share these just to emphasise that whatever you do, you will only ever be aiming for 'good enough'. But on the positive side, it's relatively easy to get a huge improvement on a domestic room. :)
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon May 25, 2020 10:55 am

Wow.......
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 25, 2020 11:07 am

:D That's what I said when I walked in too!

A weird Marie Celeste of a place... but the sound environments were really something very special indeed!

The site is still 'in business', apparently trying to run training courses of some form or other...

http://www.boprecordingstudios.co.za/index.htm

But as far as I can see all of the images on the website are historical rather than contemporary, and I wasn't convinced when the SOS team visited that the owner had the financial and other resources, or contacts, to bring off his schemes and plans for this kind of business, sadly.
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Re: Room Acoustics for the common man

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon May 25, 2020 12:09 pm

Having read the article and watched the video's I'd be interested in a progress report. I doubt a email from me would get a response but maybe an enquiry from SOS's technical editor?

Back to the OPs question,

I guess you don't have the odd $100m lying around...... So what is your budget for treatment? If it is sufficient a visit from a competent acoustician with experience in recording studio design would pay dividends, doing it 'properly' is not a diy job. If that is simply not possible then have a read of Hugh's own Studio SOS article* where all the basics are covered in a fair but of detail. To paraphrase what blinddrew said, you can get 80% of the way there using common sense and basic physics plus a little reading. You ain't going to get flat down to 10Hz but, as Hugh has demonstrated, you can end up with a very usable space.

* https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/studio-sos-making-small-room-sound-good
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