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Q. Are office dividers effective as acoustic treatment?

I record in three untreated rooms and I'm aware that some sort of acoustic treatment would be handy. I recently bought an SE Reflexion Filter, which works well on a single microphone, but I'm considering more options. I was thinking about adapting ready-made office dividers. Would these be suitable as a basis for acoustic screens?

Chris Newman

Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: First we should differentiate between soundproofing and acoustic treatment. What you are describing is a system intended to 'dry up' the overall acoustic of the room, but it won't do much to prevent sound escaping from the room. If you're recording vocals or solo instruments, hanging a duvet behind the performer will help a lot, and putting your Reflexion Filter behind the mic works very well. Office screens are designed primarily to provide some visual privacy for people working in an open-plan office, and secondly to help reduce the transmission of speech frequencies. They have relatively little absorbtive material, are quite thin, and tend not to be very effective at controlling mid- and low-frequencies, which means they are of limited use in recording applications.

However, it is quite easy to add additional Rockwool absorbers, then re-cover the whole thing. But if you plan to do that, you'd be better off buying second-hand frames rather than brand-new ones. You're looking at spending in the region of £200 for a new screen, but there are companies around who supply recycled office equipment at good prices. At the time of going to press, had 1200mm x 1100mm floor-standing screens for around £42 each (excluding delivery), and I'm sure a trip to some local charity organisations would yield some worthwhile results. 

Published February 2007