Over the years I’ve had a studio space set up in different rental properties I’ve lived in. It meant I couldn’t put holes in the walls to hang professional sound absorption panels as it just wouldn’t fly with the landlords! BUT NOW………..I AM THE DAMN LANDLORD, after recently purchasing my own home. Woohoo!
I would like to share with you how I went about acoustically treating my home recording studio.
Note The intention of this process isn’t to sound proof the room but instead change the sound within the room.
Why Do I Need Acoustic Treatment And How Will It Help Me?
In a nutshell – in an untreated space, sound waves from the speakers are bouncing off the walls, returning back to your ears at different time intervals and bass/low end frequencies build up in the corners of the room. This colors what you’re hearing and gives you an untrue representation of what’s really happening in the mix. Remember, the song will be listened to in different types of environments not just the one you are working in, so the goal is to try and make a balanced mix that will sound good anywhere.
An untreated room can also be an issue at the recording/tracking stage too. For example when recording vocals, the microphone not only captures the voice but will also pick up undesirable sounds in the room.
By installing sound absorption panels at the points in which the sound bounces (these are called reflection points) and bass traps in the corners of the room, I will get a more accurate representation of what’s happening in the mix, which will help me make better decisions and capture a more present and desirable sound from what ever source I am recording in the room.
Researching Into Acoustic Treatment
I needed to find a solution that fitted within my budget and the space I had to work with. Spending the time and energy on DIY sound treatment panels was not an option for me (but it might be for you).
I knew very little about treatment, so I spent a lot of time researching online and sifting through mixed opinions trying to work out what products to buy and where they should be placed in the room.
In between COVID-19 lock downs, I was doing some recording at Orange studios and had a brief conversation with Scott the sound engineer (at 1.5 meters away of course) who recommended a home grown business right here in Melbourne, Victoria that produce sound absorption panels called TomTom Acoustics. They source all materials locally and manufacture all products in house. AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE!
Turns out good old fashioned word of mouth is what really helped me in the end.
A few days later, I rang Tom to discuss his products and the possible options. He asked me to send through the budget I had to work with, photos, dimensions and what I use the space for i.e mixing, tracking or both (which is how I use it). He came back within hours armed with a plan within my budget of how I could best treat the room. He made a suggestion to move my workstation/listening position to the wall where the window is for better symmetry and that in itself made a huge difference to the sound even before the panels were up. Great advice, THANKS Tom!
Products and Installation
- 4 x P200-T (For the corners)
- 7 x P150-T (For the walls and ceiling)
- 5 x Nylon wall anchors and screws (to hang the panels to the walls)
- 8 x Spring toggle hooks, eye wire straps and chain (to hang the 2 panels from the ceiling)
My order was made and delivered by Tom himself at the end of the week, no mucking around! It was a really exciting day, helping unload the well crafted panels into my garage and realising I was another step closer!
Not long after the panels were delivered, Melbourne went into Stage 4 lockdown. This meant, the tradesman I’d organised for installation was unable to come, for at least a minimum of 6 weeks anyway….It was very disappointing!
My Fiancé Mahney who was excited for me and didn’t want to wait either said, ‘why don’t we do it ourselves?’ That was that and so we took on the challenge!
The process was especially grueling as we’d never done it before. We were very particular, making sure the panels were perfectly placed and in alignment and we didn’t want to make any mistakes. We didn’t have access to the modern fancy lasers just an old fashioned floppy measuring tape, a calculator and a pencil!
- Hand held mirror
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Tape measure
- Sticky notes
- A sheet to protect equipment from dust/drill debris
Corner sound absorption installation
This was the easy part, stacking 2 x P200-T panels on top of one another in both corners behind the speakers (4 in total). Tom recommended sliding a piece of cardboard underneath the bottom panel to lean them back slightly for extra stability. No need to anchor them to the corners which was great and they were up within minutes.
Wall sound absorption installation
Firstly we needed to work out where the early reflection points were, for the left and right walls. We did this by using the mirror trick. *Google the mirror trick if you’d like to know more about it. Once we found the reflection points with said mirror we marked those points with sticky notes. We then hung 2 x P150-T’s vertically on the left wall and then another two on the right wall with the mid point of the panel at ‘sitting ear height.’ We then hung 1 x P150-T behind the speakers, centered, horizontally with the mid point at ear height also.
Note We first made a pilot hole and then wall anchors were hand screwed into the plaster board. Then the screw is screwed in with roughly a centimeter hanging out. The panel rests on the screw and sits flush against the wall.
Ceiling cloud installation
We were really nervous about the final and most difficult part, hanging the two ceiling panels!
We first used the mirror trick to find and mark the reflection points in the ceiling. We took our time when measuring and making sure we had the correct calculations all worked out before we started drilling the 8 holes (1 for each corner of the panels). This was not easy to do whilst climbing up onto my work desk and measuring over head with the measuring tape flopping around everywhere, especially with our higher than normal ceilings.
Once we were confident we had marked out all of the points correctly we started drilling and then inserted the spring toggle hooks and screwed them in. By the way, we love spring toggles, what a great invention!
Next step was to screw in by hand the eye wire clamps along with the chain to each corner of the two P-150’T panels and then voila they’re ready to hang onto the spring toggle hooks!
I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hang these final two panels to the ceiling. We hugged with joy, relief and looked up to the ceiling with huge smiles on our faces! We were really proud of ourselves… we did it, the room was finished and it looked UNBELIEVABLE!
And yes, it’s been a week and they’re still hanging securely, PHEW…
The End Result
For listening and mixing, the room is a lot more balanced now. Not only will this be better for a more accurate mix but it’s also more enjoyable and less taxing on the ears when you’re working for long hours.
Since having the panels installed I’ve had the opportunity to record vocals. The vocal sound achieved is upfront, present, full and defined. I’m very happy with the result.
These panels also look fantastic and bring such a vibe to the space, which makes me want to spend as much time as possible in the studio. Having a tidy, functional and professional space, is so important for my creative process.
I couldn’t have done this without my wonderful fiancé Mahney! Thank you for helping me get this done!!!!
Now to get back in there and continue making music!
I hope you enjoyed this blog and maybe even learnt a thing or two!
Stay safe out there and wishing you all the best during this crazy time.