Acoustic treatment is a great way to take your home studio sound quality to the next level. Whether you’re recording music, voice-overs, podcasts or streaming audio, acoustic treatment can help reduce reverberation and unwanted noise in your recordings.
A home studio used for recording, production or streaming can be acoustically improved to produce better audio, by using simple acoustic treatments such as absorbers, diffusers and bass traps which need to be positioned appropriately in the studio.
Acoustic treatment also helps create a more natural-sounding environment for mixing and mastering.
With the right materials and techniques, you can easily add acoustic treatment to your home studio space without breaking the bank.
In this guide I will explore how acoustic treatments work, what types of materials are best for treating different surfaces in your room, and how to install them correctly so that they give you optimal results, covering:
- What is acoustic treatment?
- Do you need acoustic treatment in a home studio?
- How do you sound treat a home studio?
- Where do you put acoustic panels in a home studio?
- What’s the easiest way to acoustically treat a window in your home studio?
- What’s the easiest way to acoustically treat floors and ceilings in your home studio?
What Is Acoustic Treatment?
Acoustic treatment is the means of using materials and products, such as absorbers, bass traps and diffusers, to control how sound reflects and propagates throughout your studio or listening environment.
In theory, these acoustic products should be positioned in a way to prevent unwanted room acoustics and audio reflections such as reverberation and standing waves.
For example, too much reverberation in a studio will reduce the audio fidelity when recording.
Standing waves is a scenario where a sound wave is reflected in a way which artificially reinforces the sounds or creates unwanted acoustic effects. For example, a standing wave effect could give the impression that there is a strong bass sound in your audio production when really it is not there at all – it is just the room that is creating the effect.
Types of Acoustic Treatment Materials
The following are the lost of the most common acoustic treatment materials in a studio.
1. Foam Panels
Foam panels are some of the most common acoustic treatment materials. They are typically made from polyurethane or melamine foam and come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Foam panels are typically mounted on the walls and ceilings of a room to absorb mid and high frequencies.
Diffusers are used to break up sound waves in a room, rather than absorb them. They help prevent “flutter echo” which can cause recordings to sound muffled or muddy. Diffusers come in many shapes and sizes, including wooden blocks with curved surfaces or even 3D-printed designs.
Absorbers are used to reduce or eliminate reverberations, which can create a muddy sound in recordings. They are usually made from rigid materials such as Rockwool, glass wool and foam. Absorption panels come in different sizes and densities for treating different frequencies inside the room.
4. Bass Traps
Bass traps are specialised acoustic treatments used to absorb low frequencies. They are usually made from thick and dense materials such as Rockwool or glass wool and come in different sizes for treating different bass frequencies in the room.
Do You Need Acoustic Treatment In A Home Studio?
Creators who are recording or mixing audio, streamers and anyone who is involved in the recording, production and broadcast of audio will benefit from acoustic treatment in their home studio.
Sound moves around in waves. So when you speak in your studio, or you are listening to the audio, the sound is bouncing off the walls within your room and interfering with each other.
Imagine a rubber ball being thrown at speed into your studio. It will bounce off surfaces and walls sporadically. Now imagine 10 rubber balls being thrown into your studio. They will bounce randomly off all the walls and surfaces and will hit each other.
Some of the rubber balls will get more energy as they hit other balls and hard surfaces and some will stop as they hit soft surfaces such as cushions…..this is a good way to visualise how sound moves around your room.
If left untreated, these sound waves bouncing off your studio walls and reflecting off surfaces can result in poor sound in your content.
The Importance Of Acoustic Treatment
A poor-sounding room, with lots of internal sound reflections, can cause reverberations. This type of room could sound like it has an echo or sound may seem like it is getting “lost”. This will decrease the clarity of the recording.
If you’re using your studio to critically listen to audio, for example, to mix or produce sound, having a well-treated studio is important to ensure your room is not adding any unwanted sounds or effects to your music or recording.
When sound waves bounce off the internal walls of your studio, they will interfere with each other. Sometimes, these interfering sound waves could create unwanted effects in what you’re listening to and make you think you’re hearing something that isn’t actually there.
For example, you might be producing a podcast and trying to mix and balance dialogue with music. If you’re not doing this task in a well-acoustically controlled and balanced listening environment your room may create unwanted acoustic effects giving you the impression that your mix is really “bass-heavy” or “has too many high frequencies”. In reality, these perceived sounds may not actually be there on the recording.
The internal interfering sound waves within your home studio could be creating an impression of “too much bass” or “too much treble”.
As a producer, you are naturally going to try and remove this bass or treble sound. However, when you listen to your content in a different environment, for example, a car, you may have negatively impacted your production by removing or adding frequencies that were never truly there.
This is why producers always try to listen to their audio productions in multiple places before releasing them to the public, (such as in a car or in a kitchen), as this will cross-check that they are mixing the audio well and it will sound good anywhere, not just their personal studio,
So whether you’re recording audio, broadcasting audio via streaming or mixing audio, acoustically treating your studio can greatly help all your content and production.
How Do You Sound Treat A Home Studio?
Sound treating a home studio involves the use of acoustic treatment materials such as foam panels, diffusers, absorbers and bass traps to reduce reverberation and unwanted noise in recordings.
Foam panels are typically mounted on the walls and ceilings of a room to absorb mid and high frequencies, while diffusers help prevent “flutter echo” which can cause recordings to sound muffled or muddy.
Absorption panels reduce or eliminate reverberations, which can create a muddy sound in recordings, while bass traps absorb low frequencies.
Additionally, acoustic curtains can be used to acoustically treat windows by reducing outside noise at well as reflecting off sounds from windows.
Acoustic flooring and ceiling tiles are also effective treatments for floors and ceilings that absorbs reverberant sounds resulting in a clearer-sounding room.
How To Use Diffusers
A diffuser is typically a rough or uneven surface that scatters sound waves around your room. True diffusers are carefully designed to scientifically scatter sound waves based on mathematical calculations.
Diffusers can be expensive so some budget-savvy content creators use bookshelves as diffusers to give a similar effect. Bookshelves are typically uneven making a natural diffusion surface.
Although bookshelves will never be as good as a designed acoustic diffuser, they do have a positive impact and are a cheap suitable alternative to an expensive purchased diffuser.
Typically the wall behind your listening position is a good spot for a diffuser. If you don’t want to invest in a diffuser, absorption panels can equally work just as well.
Typically, if the distance to the back wall behind your listening position is very short, diffusers or an uneven surface is a suitable acoustic solution.
How To Use Bass Traps
As the name suggests, bass traps are used to trap and control low frequencies or the bass frequency range.
The corners of your room are typically a good position for bass traps.
It’s not necessary to cover the entire corner of your home studio from floor to ceiling to produce a good bass trap, however the more area you cover the better result you will get as you increase the low-frequency absorption area.
It is also worth mentioning that it’s not necessary for bass traps to be up against walls or sealed. Bass traps can be simply hung from a wall or stand them in the corner and they will work fine.
Some large cushions or armchairs can be a cheap solution to a purchased bass trap as the soft dense material, placed in the corner of your home studio will absorb the lower bass frequencies and stop them from getting onto your recording or interfering with your listening.
Where Do You Put Acoustic Panels In A Home Studio?
An absorption panel is a panel of material that will absorb frequencies. Typically absorbers are designed to help improve mid to high-frequency ranges of rooms.
Absorption acoustic panels should be placed at what we call “the first reflection points”.
These are the walls or surfaces in your room that sound from your speakers will hit first.
In order to easily identify the point of the first reflection in your room and where to place your absorption panels, you could use “the mirror trick”.
What Is The “Mirror Trick” In Acoustic Treatment?
To implement the mirror trick you need an assistant.
Firstly, sit at your listening position then ask your assistant to hold a mirror against the side wall, to the left of your speakers, roughly between your listening position and the speakers.
Next, ask your assistant to move the mirror until you can just see the speaker reflected in the glass – this is the location of your first reflection point – this is where the absorption panel should be placed.
Replace the above procedure for the right-hand side speaker.
Here is a video to help explain:
It can be really useful to place absorption panels on the wall behind your speakers. Treating this area, behind your speakers will improve sound imaging and reflections coming from this wall.
If you are a streamer or recording speech, placing absorption panels in front of your speaking position will also help remove unwanted reflections and help improve audio fidelity.
What’s The Easiest Way To Acoustically Treat A Window In Your Home Studio?
One of the easiest ways to acoustically treat a window in your home studio is to install acoustic curtains.
Acoustic curtains are made with thick, air-resistant fabric that acts as an effective sound barrier.
They can be used to reduce the amount of outside noise entering the room, as well as reverberant sounds reflecting off the windows.
What’s The Easiest Way To Acoustically Treat Floors And Ceilings In Your Home Studio?
One of the best ways to acoustically treat floors in your home studio is to use a heavy rug. Heavy rugs create enough damping to absorb sound, which helps to create a very quiet and “close mic” sound.
Acoustically treating ceilings in home studios can be tricky as the solutions are quite expensive. In addition, it can be very difficult to place acoustic foam on a ceiling as often it needs to be glued in place which is a permanent solution and not the first choice for many, myself included.
It is possible to treat your ceiling by buying an “acoustic cloud” and placing it above the mixing position.
If your ceiling is low, it is best to use an absorption material.
If you have got a high ceiling, using diffusion typically works better to smooth out reverb and decay in your room.
The acoustic clouds that you can buy are best placed right over your listening position for audio mixing and right above your head for speech recording.
If you combine all the standard acoustic treatments such as acoustic absorbers, diffusers and bass traps in your home studio and carefully consider where to place them, you can improve room acoustics and as a result the audio quality of your content.
The problem with acoustic treatment is that all rooms come in different shapes and sizes. Although acoustic treatment is governed by mathematical equations and physics, since every home studio is different, acoustic treatment positioning is often treated more like an art form than a science.
However, by following room acoustic guides you can get the most out of your room acoustic treatment and make your home studio sound very good.
Most manufacturers of acoustic treatment provide great guides on how to use and position their products so when buying an acoustic treatment product always check out the manufactures website for some extra information and help.