Quitchcraft acoustic treatments, phase one

Phase one of acoustic treatments for the studio is officially underway. It’s officially DIY, because a)it’s all we can afford, and b)it appeals to my punk aesthetic. I’d love to build a gorgeous studio, but I have neither the time nor the budget. But I do need to make the room our studio is in sound good before trying to record an album makes sense.

I was for some reason hesitant to write about it, but truly I have been hyperfocused on studio design and acoustic treatments as of late. So here’s the plan. We are ordering enough material to build 6 bass traps and 6 moveable gobos. We’re going to use acoustical cotton (as opposed to rigid fiberglass or rockwool panels) as the sound absorber in both designs. The cotton comes in thick, dense sheets of 2’x8’x5.5″. We will also need some lumber, and some fabric.

The bass trap design is simple (though technically these will be “broadband absorbers” since they will absorb high frequencies also). Take one of the cotton sheets, put it inside a wooden frame made by 1x3s, and wrap the whole thing in cotton. Add small legs with scrap 1×3 so that it will stand upright, and put one straddling each corner of the room, making a 45-45-90 triangle. This design is simple and should be very effective at helping to smooth the bass. I will also hang 2 of them in the wall/ceiling corners of the studio.

The gobo design is a bit more complex. For this, I will need to build a 4-sided frame out of 1x8s, that is 2′ wide and 6′ tall. A 2’x6′ piece of MDF board will be attached to one side, creating a reflective surface. The other side of the frame will be cloth, covering up another of the above cotton pieces, leaving room for about a 2-3″ airgap (and some reinforcing braces, along with possibly a layer or two of sheetrock for further mass and acoustic isolation) between the cotton and the MDF.

The gobos have 2 functions. During times when I need to listen carefully to the speakers, such as a mix, the gobos will be arranged to create a Reflection Free Zone (RFZ) at the listening position. And, when recording, we’ll be able to move them around to get the area where the person is performing to sound good.

Eventually, I think we will have a total of 10 bass traps and 14 gobos. This allows one bass trap in each wall/wall corner, one bass trap in the wall/ceiling corner of the short walls, and two bass traps in the wall/ceiling corner of the longer walls. The gobos will be placed against the walls unless needed for recording; 4 each on the front/rear walls, and 3 each on the side walls.

In addition, some room construction needs to happen. We need to install 2 doors in a way that makes sense acoustically, finish sheetrocking the room (adding a 2nd layer of sheetrock to the framed walls, and take care of the ceiling.

The plan for the ceiling is to stuff fluffy fiberglass between the ceiling joists, paper side down in the room except for just over the mixing position (part of making an RFZ) and over where the drumkit sits (to help the overhead mics sound better), with a blanket stapled to the bottom of the floor joists, covering the fluffy stuff to keep the fiberglass fibers from falling down. All other areas of the ceiling will have the fiberglass paper side down. Then, the entire ceiling will be covered in fabric.

Once all these steps are finished, we will have a much larger amount of sonic flexibility while recording, better isolation, better sounding recordings, and most importantly, we’ll have a mixing environment whose sound isn’t distorted by sonic energy bouncing endlessly around the room. We’ll be able to trust what we’re hearing, and mix without overcompensating for bad acoustics.

Furthermore, 2/3 of our efforts will result in modular items that can be (relatively) easily moved to other locations.

Real Soon Now, we will have taken our first bite out of this, and we’ll be about 1/3 of the way there.

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