Putting a home studio in an empty room is to some a dream and to others a nightmare. Recently, I moved into a new space and was faced with this scenario. With a little help from some talented friends and the folks at Auralex, I now have a comfortable, open, and great-sounding setup. Here’s how it went down and what I learned from it.
As you can see from the picture, the room was empty — part home studio, part living space — which is a realistic circumstance in today’s production environment. It was a blank canvas in a typical condo complex with concrete floor and ceilings, sheetrock, and a sun-drenched wall of windows. Since I had deadlines, including a 5.1 surround project, I had to do the whole thing quickly.
The first step was to measure the room and then make a plan. Looking around my previous studio — used for mixing, composing, and surround sound work — I took stock of my current acoustic treatments. I already had some Auralex products: four Elite CT45 ProPanel corner traps, four Elite B24 Pro Panels, four pArtScience SpaceCouplers in a cloud overhead, and four SpaceArrays on the rear mix wall.
I then sent the measurements and info to Auralex for recommendations; they will do a free room analysis for anyone who fills out the online form. Working with Auralex’s director of sales Karen Richardson and design engineer Gavin Haverstick, I received a basic room layout and analysis a few days later.
Analysis & Install
The analysis provided plenty of useful information and suggestions — prime speakers setups and listening placement, how and where to mount wall and window treatments, and what products they thought would serve as those treatments. Using this analysis, I then went to good friend and design engineer Vincent Miraglia from Analog Design Group, who helped build my previous room. We reviewed the material and decided to order only some of what they suggested.
After As expected, budgetary and aesthetic considerations (as it serves as living space, too) dictated my Auralex order. I ended up purchasing two additional SpaceArrays and SpaceCouplers, two B24 Pro Panels, and some MetroFusers (which I ended up not using at all).
Working with Miraglia and his team, we followed the Auralex suggestions and mounted four B24 panels on the front studio wall. These are nice-looking, one-inch-thick panels used primarily for absorption of slap and flutter echoes, which were quite bad in the empty space. Haverstick noted it would be beneficial to mount them away from the wall, as the airspace created by doing so would improve the low-frequency performance of the panels. So we put them on blocks cut from 2 x 4s, evenly spacing them across my center-lined mix position.
Next, we put in three of the CT45 ProPanel corner traps (the rear left wall opens up into the apartment). These are 2 x 4-foot, fabric-wrapped, fiberglass bass traps that fit into a 90-degree corner for extra low-frequency absorption. We ended up placing the fourth CT45 loosely against the front wall just behind my subwoofer, which added a bit of extra low-end absorption. Miraglia then “donated” a set of Auralex Metro LERND triangular Bass Traps, which we put into the floor corners below the CT45s.
Then we hung the SpaceCoupler cloud about five inches down from the ceiling (with small chains), directly centered over my head in the resting mix position. It was slightly back from where Auralex suggested it go; I tend to move around quite a bit off of the “sweet spot” during production. These help redirect energy into the upper portion of the room where it gets diffused.
The six SpaceArrays were then mounted on the rear wall, again centered on my mix position. We needed those to help with the flutter echoes, and, since the wall is quite large, I had to purchase a few more to cover the extra space. These are made of Paulowina wood, and aside from doing a great job of randomizing and reflecting sound, they look quite nice.
Finally, we mounted an additional B24 panel on the wall to the left of my mix position, so it would “catch” the first reflections off the speakers. Auralex noted I should mix with the curtains closed, and that the curtain should be oversized (so there are deep folds even when it is closed).
So that was it; the treatments were up. I placed my two racks of preamps and compressors to the right of my mix position with everything plugging into a Monster AVS2000 Voltage Stabilizer underneath the desk (a simple IKEA table). The Pro Tools HD192 and Creation Audio Labs MW1 DI/Reamper sit in a small rack to my right, with a Command 8 and Grace 906 5.1 Monitor Controller to my left. Pro Tools optically feeds six channels to the Grace, which then distributes to the speakers. When I need to compose, I simply plug in an M-Audio Axiom Pro, which hyper-controls Pro Tools. Like the rear surround monitors, I take it down when not in use. The setup is clean and efficient.
The challenges I face now are to adjust to the new sound and “feel out” the space. Since I changed subs (to an NHT Pro S-20 with M-00 monitors), it’s a new learning curve of sound. It takes a little time to listen, and Miraglia has been helping me tune the room with optimal sub positioning, speaker heights, and so on. However, the fundamental sound is excellent, and the sonic treatments made a huge difference.
Undoubtedly, there will be some slight changes and revisions to the space (we already pulled the desk out a few inches). I may even put up some more treatments if need be. But like any other worthwhile workplace improvement, it takes time, effort, and (most often) a few bucks to do it right. Do some research on your own space; the info is right there online and in books. Simply put, if your room is right, your mixes will sound better. And that leads to more clients.
Rich Tozzoli is a composer, engineer/mixer, and the software editor for PAR. www.richtozzoli.com