Take the 2-minute tour ×
Sound Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for sound engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Here's my problem: I live in a small apartment downtown São Paulo - it's noisy as it can be.

Loud traffic, people screaming and buses circulating day and night. This was never a problem - I usually end up mixing and mastering late at night when it's more quiet.

But then again this new apartment I moved in has a larger living room (it's a single bedroom apartment). I can't have my living room as a simple home-studio and I need to share it with my S.O.

My main question is: I'm pretty sure the room is crappy, I'm not having any major problems but I know I can make it sound better. My question is how. Can I can I test my room to see if there are problems? Can I make calculations? Are there CDs to use as a test? Or even software? Or maybe hardware?

And most importantly, can this be easily be done by myself? Or should I hire a audio technician?

PS.:

I want to simply treat the room. I have no current need of soundproofing it, it's an old building with thick walls and I don't record sound - I only use soft synths (all my recording is done 'offshore'). I just want it to sound dryer, every time I get up to drink something I feel that there's some bass sounds I wasn't listening properly. Also, I feel like the high frequency reflections are messing up the final master - my latest songs seem to sound a little 'lo-fi' with little top end.

share|improve this question

migrated from avp.stackexchange.com Jan 24 at 12:01

This question came from our site for engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts spanning the fields of video, and media creation.

1  
It's not clear if you are asking about sound proofing the room to keep the outside noise out or if you want to improve the acoustic properties of the room for making live (with a mic) recordings, or both? –  filzilla Mar 5 '12 at 19:17
    
I made an clarification on the original question, is it clear now? It's more like making it a main mixing room, than a recording home studio. –  Johnny Bigoode Mar 5 '12 at 21:43
    
Thanks. You are looking for ways to optimize listening to your mix in this room using studio monitors vs headphones? You're suggesting the room is too wet, perhaps too alive is another way of stating this. Have you tried the following: rugs on the floor, cover the walls with a blanket, hang a blanket from the ceiling, all in an effort to dampen the sound as in make it flat. Traditionally, the mixing room should not color the sound in any way, allowing the engineer to hear everything with the same emphasis as to assert which things need attention in the mix. –  filzilla Mar 5 '12 at 21:53
    
Yes this is more what I'm looking for. Would rugs and blankets help that much? How to I 'install' them? Like... just put them there? I'm really not very secure about doing this. –  Johnny Bigoode Mar 5 '12 at 22:00
    
Sorry for the delay, your question is very clear now and looks like you have some great answers too. Regarding blankets etc, I was thinking of something that you might already have handy to test and see how it makes a difference. Try hanging some blankets on the walls, and place a rug or blankets to cover as much of the floor as possible. You don't need to buy a calibration CD, learn to trust your ears. –  filzilla Mar 7 '12 at 23:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You should check out this site. He is very helpful but you must read his requirements for activity on his forum very carefully. http://www.johnlsayers.com/phpBB2/index.php. Also this http://www.ethanwiner.com/acoustics.html

Bass trapping is the main place to start. I wont explain bass trapping here as you could spend months studying it but I can tell you that it's the number one way to clean up a room sound. You can apply bass trapping quite cheaply and there's lots of DIY methods on the net. A large mattress for example is an effective bass trap. Another good tip is unopened rolls of rockwool, yet another is a closed plastic drum filled with rockwool. ( the outer skin in these examples helps stop dampening high frequency reflections and this is usually preferably because if you were to dampen all the low with just heavy mattresses for example you would also remove all the high and mid and this is most likely not what you want as it's not representative of a typical listening environment ) There are several very different types of bass traps that you can use, some more ad-hoc, some more professional but like I said you will need to research all that yourself as it's a phenomenally big subject, and the basis of audio treatment from the little I know.

Flutter echoes and other strange sounds You really just need to have the confidence and patience to actually 'listen' to the room and work the problems through one by one. Make transient sounds in the room and listen and try to figure if there are any flutter echoes or strange sounds that may require spot treatment. You could treat these with something like some hi or mid dampening ( like a thin cushion or a professional version of the same thing ) .... or diffusion ( like a bookcase or some other irregular surface ... or a professional version of the same thing )

Hi and mid damping I think you would apply this last if you still find the room too live. In general studios go for the soft ceiling hard floor approach, but in my case I needed to go for hard ceiling soft floor ( carpet ) but if you're not recording it wont matter as much, but you'll probably need one or other to have some hi frequency damping and it's preferable to have a wooden floor with some cushion like material in spots on the ceiling as it's more controllable and you can get more into the mid range without killing all the highs as carpet is too thin so it tends to have the effect of killing all the highs and leaving all the mids which may not suit you.

Diffusion You can add diffusion if you want. I don't know a lot about it but I know lots of studios have a massive diffuser right at the back - it tends to make the room appear more open, sonically. I think if you're mixing position is near a wall ( behind you ) then you'd want to consider one or two. Home made ones can look good if you're good at woodwork.

Hiring Someone As an amateur myself who is happy with my own results I would say that there's no need to hire anyone, but as with everything a professional should bring a better result so if you have the budget go ahead. It is likely to get expensive though as I cant see professionals using ad-hoc methods ( even thought they work fine )

Software and Testing I bought a reference mic to do this and never bothered as I was happy. I have no intention of bothering myself with it at this stage but I can tell you that it depends on how sonically accurate you want your room to be. People go to great lengths to check and get things 'just so'. I would advise you to leave the measuring till last though ... at least until you have put in your bass traps. There's no need to measure before then ... most rooms require more bass traps than anyone's prepared to put in them. There are however 'nodes' which you can calculate and/or measure and you'd ideally have these for bass trap positioning. I'm sure there's lots of info on room testing on johnlsayers or ethanwiner's sites.

Speaker position very important. There's a lot to research here but in general you don't want them stuck against the wall. Leave at least a couple of feet behind and around them if you can. You also may want damping directly behind them, and possibly put them on some neoprene rubber or something to stop vibrations.

Noise I know you say you don't need soundproofing but your ears will be affected by noise, even subtle things like your pc's fans. You should do everything you can to keep noise down.

PS I notice there are suggestions of blankets and getting the room so that it doesn't colour the sound. I am not an expert but I do know that blankets are likely to cause you problems and also that you may not want a totally dead room. In theory it would be possible to suck all the sonic characteristics out of the mixing room but I don't think this is preferable. There is debate about this, but it's not usually possible to deaden a mixing room effectively anyway. Also note that if you use blankets, rugs, egg boxes etc you are likely to be masking the problematic bass frequencies making you think that the problem has gone. Ultimately you are looking for a clean room first ( no flutter and a balanced r60, not full of bass like most rooms are ) . Then you can decide how much more dead you want to make it. ( google optimum R60 for mixing your particular type of music )

share|improve this answer
    
It is preferable to bring some of the info into your actual answer. If the link ever dies, there is very little here. –  JoshP Oct 13 '12 at 19:28
    
Yes I agree but it's such a huge subject and dependant on each scenario and I didn't really put John L Sayer's site up for the resource value as such but because John himself actually helps people directly, but I will try to add the little that I know. –  byronyasgur Oct 14 '12 at 0:56
    
@Josh Got a bit carried away ... I seem to know more than I realised ... thanks for your suggestion. –  byronyasgur Oct 14 '12 at 1:39
    
cheers, well done :) –  JoshP Oct 14 '12 at 4:09

Ideally you want to use a sound absorbing foam on the walls and ceiling - like this. You can buy panels already made, which will look better, but even just attaching foam like this to the wall will help deaden the sound.

Use a carpet on the floor, and have thick curtains or rugs to hang over the windows.

All these things will help absorb sound.

share|improve this answer

There's an awesome tutorial on SoundonSound on this.

This is more like what I was looking for, I should've just googled it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.