Duration: 17 minutes
Featuring: Alan Parsons with Gavin Haverstick (Auralex / Haverstick Designs), Chris Pelonis (studio designer).
Studio Acoustics looks at the principles and processes of how sound works in an enclosed space. As acoustician Gavin Haverstick observes, “Sound used to be perfect. Then man invented rooms.”
This section first examines why you need to deal with acoustics in the first place – especially now in the all-digital age. Well, why do you? The problem is not (so much / only) of having ‘bad-quality’ recordings. Although a recording smothered in noise or wildly fluctuating levels are rarely things to be admired, digital recording is very forgiving compared to the days of analog tape both in terms of level and in terms of being able to ‘clean up’ or fix problems after the event. The acoustic issue is much more about how you the performer or engineer/producer hear the sound.
If you listen to music in a room that emphasizes the bass frequencies then chances are you’ll compensate for this by reducing the bass. The problem is when you take your recording out of that room, the sound or mix is probably going be bass ‘light.’
Studio Acoustics progresses by looking at acoustic principles. Sound is transmitted by sound ‘waves’ of different lengths, shapes, and intensities. Alan looks at how waves behave in an enclosed space and how they reflect or get absorbed by hard surfaces.
The three main forms of sound behavior are examined: Sound Isolation, which is how you can stop your sound going out of the room and also stop sounds you don’t want from coming in. Sound Absorption, which is how sound can be soaked up like a sponge and so deadened. Finally, Sound Diffusion, which is how sound waves are broken up and dispersed. A small room without some form of diffusion will generate what are called room modes, which are build-ups of waves that bounce back and forth without being broken up or diffused. The fluttery pinging sound you hear in an empty room with symmetrical walls is a very easy to hear manifestation of this.
Studio Acoustics then looks at what you can do to improve or enhance the sound of your recording environment. The producers of the series actually constructed a purposed built studio for the making of the program and you get to see the construction process from start to finish including an examination of such things as floating floors, non parallel walls, window double-glazing, lighting, doors, and more.
Although Studio Acoustics takes a thorough look at how sound behaves in a typical recording environment you don’t have to be on the point of building your own recording studio to make use of this information. Alan and acoustic team offer a lot of simple practical advice that can be applied to a bedroom or garage recording space.
Finally, Studio Acoustics looks at how best to place your equipment. This is a vitally important subject. Alan shows how monitors should ideally be placed at ear level, in an equilateral triangle between the speakers and yourself. And he tells you why!
Studio Acoustics and acoustic treatments may not be the most glamorous of subjects but at least part of the reason great studios have produced great records in the past is that they both encourage and help produce great recordings to begin with, and then they let the mix engineer and producer mold those recordings into tracks that sound good in any environment from a car stereo at full blast to a supermarket.