Music To My Ears.

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Too Many Notes
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
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34,761
Location
Michigan
You can have all the best gear in the world in a studio, but none of it matters if the room sounds bad.

And most rooms sound very bad, especially in home studios. Sure, they can look great, and cool, and be loaded with gear. None of that matters except as eye candy. It does nothing for the gear.

Not only is very bad a bad thing, even slightly bad is a bad thing. None of the gear matters if you can't hear it accurately!

And every room that isn't designed for acoustics has problems in MANY frequencies with suck-outs and standing waves, and will not give you an accurate picture of what's really happening with your work. That's why it's hard to get mixes to translate to other rooms, your car, your headphones, and wherever else you listen to music.

In world class facilities, people spend millions on acoustics, special construction, hire acousticians, measure everything, spend 100K on monitoring systems, have the room measured and EQ'd several times a year, etc., etc. That's easy.

But in most studio spaces, there isn't anywhere near the budget for even 'close but no cigar' let alone 'great'.

In the last year or two I've spent a lot of time and energy with acoustics in my studio space. I've run pink noise tests. I've used measurement mics. I've invested in lots of bass traps and first reflection control. And I've been both hoping I got it right, and thinking maybe I do have it right after extended listening tests.

But that's just been my opinion. The proof is in the pudding.

I have a friend who's not only the best composer I have ever worked with on projects, he has a studio that's as well-equipped as a world class facility, with gear that makes your ears water. He's been in the business longer than I have, and I've always valued his input on all things music and audio. His work is astounding.

The sound quality of his work is also wonderful, and like me he has plenty of experience working in world class facilities and knows what they're supposed to sound like.

Last week he asked me to work with him on a project, and in the course of the work came over to my place on Saturday.

He hadn't visited since I really began my acoustical treatment journey. He recently tore out & replaced his old acoustical treatment, flooring, etc., and reoriented his mix position, so as things often happen he's been interested again in acoustics and monitoring solutions.

As we were working, he said, "This room sounds like a mastering suite. It's great, I can hear every detail."

He wanted the details on how I did it.

Honestly, clients have been over, and have liked the sound quality, but they don't have much of a frame of reference compared to folks who live in the studio 24/7 as my friend and I do. So I was really excited that he made that comment! It was all the proof I need that the room is finally worthy.

I have to give much credit to Ethan Winer at RealTraps, who helped me figure out how to solve the problems with certain frequencies, bass build up and suck outs, reflection points, etc.

But...what the heck...I'll also give myself a pat on the back for following through with it and putting together an accurate monitoring system.

So...why is the room working well now? A few things that work together. You want to treat both the front and back of the room. It's important to find the right location for any acoustical panels you're using, hang them at the right height, and listen, listen, listen to every single change in the configuration. Walk around with an SPL meter as pink noise is coming out of the monitors, and measure various locations where bass is building up or being sucked out. Put the monitors at the right height, the right distance from the side and front walls, position them properly, and measure and listen again.

This process has taken me years. I've made every mistake in the book along the way! But I've been persistent in aiming for a good sounding room to work in.

I use a combination of reflection absorbers, bass traps, and diffusion. I've tried to set up the room as symmetrically as I can, and where I can't, I've used acoustical treatment as well as I can in order to minimize asymmetry. I've put the monitors in a good spot.

Is the room perfect? No. In any room standing waves in the low frequencies are a problem due to simple physics, so you can stand in different spots in the room and hear differences in bass depending on where you are. But from the mix position, the problems are minimal, and I've been able to minimize the standing wave problems in other parts of the room. A proper acoustically designed room - not talking soundproofing here, we're talking the physics of how the audio bounces around inside a room - will sound a bit more accurate.

Here are shots of both sides of the room, the mix area and the recording area (it's one large room, about 33' x 14'). You can see how I've hung the acoustic treatment. The front hasn't changed much in a year, but the back has changed a lot.

Back of room:

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Front:

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It's a fantastic looking room; very simple, which can often not be said of studio spaces. I assume the guitars are kept elsewhere?
 
It's a fantastic looking room; very simple, which can often not be said of studio spaces. I assume the guitars are kept elsewhere?
Yes, I keep them upstairs, cased. One of my amps isn't showing in the pic, either. I should have taken a wider shot. I also moved the mic stands for these beauty shots. ;)

I try to minimize clutter because it gets in the way, but unfortunately I seem to be unable to resist the nicknacks that make it look more like a den than the high tech room I'd ideally like it to be.

This is due to a Pottery Barn addiction for which I am on a 12 step program. :)

My studio is in a basement. I don't trust basements. Too many risks and issues. It's a shame I have to keep the amps and other gear down there, but that's all too heavy to carry up and down the stairs.

I use a dehumidifier in my storage/HVAC room where I don't hear it, and an air purifier in my studio. Both are always on. Thankfully, they keep the room from suffering from 'basement stench'.

I really hate basements. But it's a good sized room, it's quiet, and has an 8 foot ceiling which most basements don't have. Those are good, I suppose.

I had a large format console and analog gear, including tape machines, for a long time, but went in the box in 2010 because client time demands made constantly re-setting the analog gear to accommodate picture changes impossible.

My brother and I built the studio desks and keyboard stands 25 years ago! They've really held up. We built 'em like tanks, and even welded the legs ourselves.
 
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This process has taken me years. I've made every mistake in the book along the way! But I've been persistent
Sounds like the 'iterative approach' that SpaceX takes on their rockets. Learn as much as you can then apply it in the real world. And repeat till it works. Took them 4 tries to get the original Falcon rocket to orbit and will take at least 2 for Starship. Fortunately your mistakes probably don't result in, as they call it, rapid unscheduled disassembly.

Congrats on the results. It must feel really good, especially with confirmation from someone who also appreciates how good it is. Knowing how much of a difference monitor and listener placement makes I have a taste of how much better it must be going beyond that by minimizing the reflections and standing waves and I'll bet a waterfall plot from the listening position looks really sweet.

Also, IIRC your monitors are Event Opals. The only other person that I'm aware of with those is Cliff Chase from Fractal Audio. A few years back he noted that if he had to replace them he'd probably go with Gelenec 8050B/8350A. Thoughts on what you'd pick to replace yours?
 
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Also, IIRC your monitors are Event Opals. The only other person that I'm aware of with those is Cliff Chase from Fractal Audio. A few years back he noted that if he had to replace them he'd probably go with Gelenec 8050B/8350A. Thoughts on what you'd pick to replace yours?
They are indeed Event Opals. Actually, they replaced a set of Genelec 8040s, and those in turn replaced a great set of Genelec 1030 As.

What distinguishes the Opals is not only the drivers and configuration, it's the headroom. There're gobs of very clean power.

Between the woofer and tweeter, each speaker sports 500 Watts of power, which is why they weigh a lot more than the comparable Genelecs. They're twice as powerful as the 8050s, and that's very clean power, so the speakers never crap out. Ever. It means they can reproduce lower frequencies without working up a sweat.

It's not about volume, just clean power. It makes for a more accurate presentation.

I don't know how Event kept the price as reasonable as what it was. These were cost-no-object designs, but within a reasonable price point, though the price per speaker had gone up about $400 each by the time I bought mine. I'd guess Event/Rode stopped making them because they were simply too expensive to produce.

I have only a slight idea of what I'd replace them with. Comparables are much more expensive, but I'd consider the newer concentric-cone Genelecs, the ATCs, the PMCs, the Swiss PSIs, and the Focal Trio 6 BE, I guess. Honestly, having heard these, none would be a sonic step up, but they'd all be comparable.

I'd also look at B&W 800 series speakers and a high powered separate amplifier; they use the older ones from that line at Abbey Road Studio, and I used to use B&Ws as near fields in my room at one time with a Krell power amp. I forget the model I owned, but they were used at George Martin's AIR studios in the early '90s as near fields.

On the other hand, the speakers could easily outlive me, and I'll never have to deal with replacing them!

Then again, the oil in my car's engine will probably outlive me, so that ain't sayin' much! ;)


 
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Between the woofer and tweeter, each speaker sports 500 Watts of power, which is why they weigh a lot more than the comparable Genelecs. They're twice as powerful as the 8050s, and that's very clean power, so the speakers never crap out. Ever. It means they can reproduce lower frequencies without working up a sweat.

It's not about volume, just clean power. It makes for a more accurate presentation.

I don't know how Event kept the price as reasonable as what it was. These were cost-no-object designs, but within a reasonable price point
Makes a lot of sense. I'd seen one review of the 8050 which noted distortion with the low frequencies at moderate/high levels. I usually stay with a pretty low volume to save my ears.

After reading those references, those Opals have and amazing amount of innovation and I can see how the costs could escalate quickly for something nearly custom built. Congrats on having something that is simply not available now!
 
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