Recording Studio Design

Lets assume we have all the structural issues resolved in our recording studio design and can now focus on the inside of our studio. Our goal is to take the room sound out of our mix, so we are hearing everything that we want to hear and not what the room tells us we should hear in our recordings.

Accurate playback of all recorded information is a must have. We must know what is there and then, begin to correct any “errors”. We do not want the acoustics of our room to add anything of its own to the mix. If we are recording live, we want a certain amount of “room sound”. Just the opposite happens when we play that recorded data back through our monitors. We do not want to hear the room at all. We want to: “Listen to The Music, Without Hearing the Room” Sorry, about that, but I couldn’t resist. Our reputation as engineers depends completely on getting the mix right.

In our recording studio design at the listening or monitoring position, we have the room side wall and rear wall reflections to control along with the reflections off our console. These two acoustical issues really define the impetus behind near field monitoring. If you sit close to the left and right channels, you minimize the impact of the reflections from the side and rear walls. The console bounce is another issue. I don’t think anyone has solved that one yet. If you don’t prefer near field monitoring, treat the rear wall with diffusion and the side walls with absorption. This will go along way to minimize reflected energy impact at the monitoring position for any type of recording studio design.

Building A Studio

Building a studio is a search phrase used on Goggle. I am going to assume it means building a sound studio. It is neat that people want to build their own studio. However, one must get many variables correct from the beginning. Miss one variable in the beginning and the whole studio suffers, forever. It is not an easy task even for those of us in the business.

Room size is first criteria. Rooms below a certain cubic foot volume, don’t stand a chance against low frequency energy. The laws of physics tell us that we must have a certain minimum volume in order to avoid the acoustical evils of excess low frequency pressure. This minimum room volume changes for each frequency from 20 Hz. – 50 Hz. We use 6,000 cubic feet as our starting threshold.

Room build materials must be considered in building a studio. Sound takes on the characteristics of the surfaces that it interacts with. Have a room with a lot of glass windows, get “glass sound”. If you have a room full of wood, you get “wood sound”. Wood sound is preferable to glass sound. All you have to do to test this is to sit in your car with the engine off and listen to music. The best rooms have a balance between all the natural building elements: stone, wood, cotton, etc.

Construction of these materials must be done using sound barrier technology. Sound barrier technology keeps the sound energy that is generated from outside the room outside and the sound energy generated inside the room to stay inside the room and not add to the sound level in the environment. It is already too noisy. Vibrational isolation techniques must be employed between all adjoining surfaces.

Building a studio is not easy. One must have a very good understanding of vibrational and electromechanical acoustics and be able to apply that knowledge to solid materials.

Home Theater Designs

Home theater designs must take into consideration video, audio, and the seating to see and listen. The “comfort” position affects the quality level of the video and the audio presentation.

The video presentation in any home theater design is the central focus of most home theaters. The video display must be large enough to render realism to the video presentation. Choosing the correct screen size in any type of video display unit must be given careful consideration. The proper screen size is usually determined by the room size and the distance between the chosen seating position and the screen. A large screen causes vision fatigue. A small screen does not allow for the realism of the presentation to have maximum video impact. The human eye sees through a 50 mm. focal length. Proper screen height and width must take this focal length into consideration. Imax theater screen designers seemed to have forgotten this number.

The audio presentation in home theater designs is usually given secondary priority. Speakers are usually placed where there is space available, not where they would sound the best. Multiple seating positions require that the audio designer position the audio presentation to cover a broader area. This spreading out of the sound stage and sweet spot over numerous rows and individual chairs is a delicate balancing act and usually involves some type of sonic sacrifice at different seating positions.

Car Audio Installation

Any quality car audio installation must include the electronics: amplifiers, speakers, and cd player. It must also contain damping materials for road noise control and acoustical treatment inside the car itself to minimize interior surface reflections.

The electronics in any car audio installation must include amplifiers. One can obtain amplifiers that will do stereo or multiple channel speaker systems. This arrangement will work well for the middle and high frequencies, but another separate amplifier is needed for the subwoofer. The subwoofer or subwoofers will need their own power source in order to provide the power requirements a subwoofer needs without taking any energy away from the middle and high frequencies. A subwoofer power requirements can take needed energy away from the transient coverage, so needed for quality sound in the mids and highs.

Car audio installation must include damping materials placed in the floor and door panels that can minimize road and wind noise which causes vibrations that translate to increased ambient noise levels inside the cab of our vehicle. This increased ambient noise floor is the reason we turn up our gain control when we are moving and then have to turn it down when we come to a stoplight where there is no road noise from tires and no wind noise from air rushing over the exterior vehicle surfaces. Well, some of us turn it down at stoplights.

Acoustical treatment inside the cab of our vehicle should be a part of any quality car audio installation. Energy reflections off of the glass surfaces in our cars and trucks must be minimized in order to try and create some type of quality sound. The absorptive material manufacturers put inside the vehicles is usually limited to carpet, headliner, and seats. The amount and absorptive qualities of these materials is not enough to control the reflections off of the windshield and rear and side window glass surfaces. Our company test vehicle has speakers installed by the manufacturer that are 2″ away from the windshield. With this type of installation, we need to wear sunglasses for both our eyes and ears.

Best Car Audio

Best car audio is a popular searched for term. What does the phrase” best car audio” mean? Is there such a thing. If so, what does it sound like?

Good car audio is a difficult feat in and of itself. Take your current listening environment and sit in your chair and imagine all the room boundary surfaces closing in on you. It is like the trash compactor, Princess Leha and Hans Solo found themselves in Star wars. After the room’s walls and ceiling have shrunk within about a foot of your body and chair on all 5 sides, now change the composition of your shrunken room’s surfaces to glass. Yes, glass and you can even imagine the ceiling made of glass. Now, you have the space reserved for car audio. Yea!

We are testing our foam technology on every car interior surface and find that all surfaces need to be addressed if one is to have any acoustical chance of making good car audio. Lets don’t even think of best car audio at this stage. Lets shoot for some type of audio, period. The dash holds promise for windshield reflection “control” and I use that term in the loosest sense of the word. The rear passenger windows and back ledge show promise for more control for the rear speakers. No rear passengers allowed. The roof or ceiling in our “car room” shows us that maybe diffusion could help us with presentation and air after we get the reflections tamed.

It is worth the effort to try to create the best car audio for yourself. Forget about the others. Find the emotional connection to your car audio and definitely step on the gas. Music and motion, just can’t beat it. All other drivers please pull to the right.

Hi Fi Shop

The search term hi fi shop gives me hope. The fact that people actually search for the term hi fi shop lets me know that people still think of brick and mortar hi fi shops. I certainly hope so.

Hi fi shops that I used to go to were something I looked forward to. It was great to see all the new speakers and amplifiers. It was also wonderful to be able to sit and listen to the equipment in a room that was similar to my room at home. Sitting in the listening chair and having the salespeople change out the speakers and move a new amplifier in place to listen to was a real joy.

The salespeople were all excited about the manufacturers they represented and the new technologies that they created. They had passion for the companies they represented and that excitement and passion came through when they gave you a demonstration in the hi fi shop. Most salespeople believed in their products that they sold and most of them owned the same products that they were selling.

In today’s economy, brick and mortar hi fi shops are dying. Every hi fi shop that I used to visit is gone no matter what part of the country one considers. Even the biggest shops such as Sounds By Singer in New York are gone. The internet has brought price competition to new levels and hi fi shops with overhead can not compete in this type of environment. When customers shop for price only, something in the hi – fi process has been lost. The goal becomes buying at the lowest price, not hearing the best sound quality.

There is one place that the old school, hi fi shop passion still exists. Trade shows offer individuals the opportunity to sit in a room and listen to speakers, amplifiers, and cables in a real room setting just like the dealer showrooms we used to go to. What’s even better, is that one can walk from room to room, floor to floor, and hear different gear in each room. Everyone is excited and both customers and manufacturers are glad to be there. We even have room service. What more could one ask for.

Car Audio

I have been covering all the interior surfaces of our company car with our foam technology. I have our 2″ foam on the dash board and our 1/2″ foam on the windshield itself. I have our 1/2″ foam positioned between the speaker and the glass to minimize that first reflection point. The problem is keeping the tape stuck to the window when the outside air temperature is 120 degrees in the Sonora desert. There is 1/2″ on the ceiling and the rear windows. My goal is to over absorb this glass “fishbowl” and then peel back certain surfaces and hear what happens to the total sonic picture as far as absorption is concerned. Who knows if over absorption is even possible in a “fishbowl” let alone good sounding car audio.

The car audio sound system is made by bounce energy everywhere Bose and it does fill the “bowl” with sound energy from front and rear speakers. There are adjustments for bass, treble, and even mid range. One can use the fader control and change the energy distribution pattern between front and rear speaker systems. There is also a left/right balance control.

The auto or truck is at best your worst acoustical nightmare. What kind of room is this? Glass windshield front wall. Not only is the windshield made of glass, it is shaped in a convex manner to reduce air flow resistance on the outside of the vehicle and direct all the glass reflections back at the driver and front seat passenger on the inside. Yikes! Our side walls are also made of glass right at the ear level which is that critical listening plane. Rear walls are glass and if you push the right button on the console, the ceiling turns into glass also. Yeah ! more glass.

Stay tuned for sound checks.

What Are We Looking For In Hi – Fi ?

There is a school of thought in hi – fi that subscribes to the ideal that music played through our two channel system is supposed to sound as close to a live performance as possible. We are supposed to be acoustically positioned in the front row, live, with the artists in front of us. Two channel sound, I mean good two channel sound is supposed to recreate the original source performing live. I believe we are asking too much from our two channels and the room we are listening to it in.

There is no way to recreate the sound of a live event held in a large concert hall with current two channel playback equipment. There is no way even with home theater playback equipment. No software or digital program can recreate the sonic ambience of a live venue or the specific sonic nuances a large volume building can do for a 55′ low frequency wave. No rear channel speaker has ever convinced me that it has all the voices of the 60,000 member audience coming from its 6″ driver. None of these big room effects can be recreated in rooms with much smaller volumes. It is just not possible since the current laws of physics do not allow for it.

What we can do is emotionally connect to our playback systems. We do this by setting up our system in the best spot in our room. This will take awhile. We next find that right listening chair: the one that has a high enough back that we can support our heads without blocking the backside of our ears. Place diffusion/absorption on the front wall, rear wall, and ceiling. Middle and high frequency absorption on the side walls. Low frequency absorption throughout the 4 vertical walls; extra behind speakers.

Sit back. Listen at same level for 1 song. Increase level. Listen for 1 song. Increase level. Listen for one song. Did you find your emotion. It is there. Dancing is permitted.

Trade Show Sound

I have been attending audio trade shows over the last 6 months and have sat and listened in all shapes and sizes of rooms. The rooms are hotel rooms that have had ( in some cases) the bedroom furniture removed, so a manufacturer can set up their product and hopefully get some type of quality sonic presentation for customers to hear. My purpose was to try and understand what amplifier and speaker manufacturers are up against acoustically in these hotel rooms.

Moving across the frequency spectrum from low to high, first, we have the low frequency issues faced in all small room environments. They are very present in these small hotel rooms and even have glass windows that rattle from sound pressure. Bass bleed from neighboring rooms must be dealt with through diplomacy. Middle and high frequency reflections from odd shaped rooms causes numerous issues at the listening position. Exhibitors try and set up their systems the best way possible, but it is difficult when the room is L – shaped. Parallel and rectangular room boundaries provide for better and more predictable lateral reflection control at the listening position.

Any product one designs and uses in the trade show rooms must be able to stand on its own two, three, or four feet. The hotel does not want holes placed in their room walls for installing room acoustic treatment. Holes in the carper are fine. Any acoustical treatment must be able to be free standing and not mark or damage the existing room walls.

I would like to remove some of the walls. It would sure make my task easier and I am certain some of the exhibitors would help me. Come to the Rocky Mountain High Fi show in October to see how I did. We are in the Usher room along with six other rooms.

Personal Listening Environment

Imagine a room where low, middle, and high frequency energy is dealt with in a systematic and effective way with all new room acoustic technology. This room would have all the necessary type and amount of low frequency absorbers placed at the proper positions in the room. Horizontal and vertical diffusion will create a two dimensional sound field for the middle and high frequencies on all front, rear, and ceiling surfaces.

The room would have new foam technology to absorb just the right amount of middle and high frequency energy to reduce reflections from the room walls at the listening position. Imagine a room where the ceiling is a blend of diffusion and absorption to give our sound stage presentation height beyond the ceiling boundary.

Our sound stage in our room will have a height, width, and depth that extends beyond the existing room boundaries. Instruments and vocals will have distance and distinct separation between them. There will be air in our sound stage and the visceral connection to the music will be immediate and without effort. You will be taken out of the first row and put on stage with an instrument to play. You will have no choice but to play it. Imagine this room fits inside your existing room with no screws, nails, or sawdust from power tools.

Watch for our PERSONAL LISTENING ENVIRONMENT (PLE) this Christmas.