Is Acoustic Treatment Necessary?

Have you ever been in an empty room and your voice would echo?

Well that’s called reverberation and it’s the sound bouncing off the walls before it hits your ears.

This is usually reduced when furniture starts going in.

You might be asking:

“Why do I need to get special foam when I can just put furniture in my room to get rid of that echo, is acoustic treatment necessary?”

Let's find out:

Have you ever been in an empty room and your voice would echo?

Well that’s called reverberation and it’s the sound bouncing off the walls before it hits your ears.

This is usually reduced when furniture starts going in.

You might be asking:

“Why do I need to get special foam when I can just put furniture in my room to get rid of that echo, is acoustic treatment necessary?”

Let's find out:

More...

Furniture just doesn’t cut it.

Everything in your room has many different surfaces and some of them ​can even reflect more sound, giving you even more reverb.

They say you can use:

  • ​Blankets
  • ​Duvets
  • ​Bookshelves
  • ​Egg Cartons

And Even Carpet!

…And while these will reduce the reverb in the room it doesn’t help our ears or the frequencies bouncing around.

They just don’t have the capabilities that acoustic foam has!

To be able to understand why it's important to have acoustic treatment, we need to know more about it and what it does.

That’s what I’m going to show you in this post…

…And once you have finished reading it you will quickly understand why treatment is so important in the studio.

What Does Acoustic Foam Do?

Before we start:

I want to get this out of the way,

Acoustic foam is not sound proofing!

Difference Between Acoustic Treatment and Sound Proofing

They are two totally different things.

Acoustic foam tames certain frequencies while soundproofing blocks the sound altogether.

To put it simply:

Acoustic foam absorbs sound waves and certain frequencies to reduce the reverb in the room.

Doing this will bring down the liveliness of the room to a manageable level and stops noise ​cancellation which allows you to hear your mixes properly and overall produce better sounding songs.

While soundproofing will block the whole sound from passing through and is placed between the walls and not on the surface, this will not stop any reflections inside the room..

Soundproofing is also something that is needed in a home studio…

…Because sound from the outside world can ruin your recordings and ​neighbours will complain if you’re playing music 10 hours a day trying to record and mix.

But for most people sound proofing their studio isn’t an option as the​y're not building it from scratch.

Anyway…

…This is a whole other topic and I should get back to the task at hand.

Acoustic panels will tighten up the sound in your room by absorbing certain frequencies.

These acoustic panels...

Acoustic Panels

...Absorb the mid to high frequencies (250 Hz and up),

Anything lower than that needs much thicker foam, these are called bass traps and are just as important.

I will talk more on that later…

Using acoustic panels and the proper treatment in your room is the only way to know if what you are hearing is accurate.

It’s like the difference between using studio monitors and HiFi speakers.

HIFI Speakers Vs Studio Monitors

HiFi speakers can sound great and sometimes even sound better than studio monitors because of the EQ it has built in.

But the reason we use studio monitors is to get a TRUE sound (no EQ) while mixing our songs.

This gives us a more accurate understanding of what our mix sounds like.


So, How Much Do I Need?

In a perfect world, I would say:

“Get this product and the acoustics in your room will be perfect”

​But unfortunately as we all know this is not a perfect world.

Thankfully:

​It’s not as complicated as you might think.

A good rule of thumb is to get about 50% of your room treated and spread around your whole room.

Acoustic panel placement On The Ceiling

But you can get away with 30 – 40% coverage if you don’t have the budget.

​If you do have that bit extra to spend, I undoubtedly recommend going for the full 50% coverage as it will help and you will notice the difference.

Where To Place Acoustic Panels

Wha​​​​​t Are Bass Traps?

Bass traps deal with the low frequencies.

They are much thicker and denser and sit mostly in the corners of your room.

Foam Bass Traps And Rigid Bass Traps

...As this is where all the bass frequencies love to hang out.

​In my blog post Do ​I Need Bass Traps I go into much more detail why and where to place them...

But I will cover it briefly now.

Have you ever played a song in your room and while listening to the bass moved around from the middle of your room to the corners?

Well if not I suggest you try it.

You will notice the bass getting louder in the corners and then it starts to thin out while standing in the middle of the room.

This proves that your room is lying to you.

That’s why we use bass traps…

…And it’s also why they’re extremely important.

Listen:

Every enclosed space will need low frequency control and you would be foolish to get acoustic panels to kill the high frequencies and not bother about the low end.

The best place to start with bass traps is the corners of your room and having enough bass traps to fill all of your corners would be the best option.

But at the very least try to put one bass trap in the top of all your corners and maybe one horizontally over your mix position.

Final Thoughts

After reading this post you should without doubt know the answer to: “Is acoustic treatment necessary?”

​If you still don't, the answer is: YES!

But:

It won’t make you a master mixer.

And there’s not one magical product that can make you an instant eagle ear guru.

If there was I wouldn’t have a need for this site (or it would be a very small one).

The one thing acoustic treatment will do for you is help you become a great mixer faster…

…By hearing what you should be ​listening to and not all the reflections.

If you’re thinking about getting a new microphone, another piece of outboard gear or anything of the sort.

And you don’t have any acoustic treatment.

You will be wasting your time and money!

It will make life so much harder as you will try to fix all the problems in the mix, and then get frustrated because there is not enough low end or too much etc.

And eventually burn yourself out.

I’m not saying acoustic treatment will solve all your problems.

Far from it.

But it will surely not create any and it may even clear up some struggles you're having within the mix that keeps giving you a headache.

So, if you are thinking about spending $500 on a new microphone or some fancy piece of equipment.

I would highly recommend taking even just half of that to spend on the acoustics of your room and you will see great improvements with your mixes instantly!

As I have said before, it's all about balance.

Scale Equal Weight
Scale One Side Heavy

​What Do You Think?...

I hope I have got you thinking about acoustic panels and bass traps for your home studio.

​Do you think acoustic treatment is necessary?

Tell me about your studio in the comments below.

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