A busy weekend was had by the Dingo as I ventured to Visalia and participated in the annual CAPA Conference. This is a conference for paralegal organizations throughout the state of California. So, you maybe asking yourself, “why in the world is California Dingo slinging schlock at a paralegal convention?”. Good question. The truth is, I actually have a few organizations that attended this event that are clients of mine via my web design services. What can I say, I have the best prices and service in town when it comes to non-profit organizations. It’s always nice to step out and say “hi” to all my clients in one setting. I love schmoozing. lol. But, enough of my selling my services on my blog, let’s get to the matter at hand.
Audio is one of my favorite things in the whole world. I believe the reason is because I am fascinated by audio and how it can be manipulated and enhanced and essentially be used to trick our ears into thinking we are hearing something that really isn’t there. It’s just plain fascinating to me. For instance, when you listen to a live album, chances are… it’s not really live. It was re-recorded using some of the live elements, but that guitar solo? Um… no. It was recorded after the fact in a studio and processors were added to make it fit in the “live” sound so you have no idea that the dude is actually sitting inside a 10 X 10 recording room.
You see, this is common practice and has been since at least the 70s. Nowadays there are plug-ins that perfectly simulate a church hall or small studio, etc. These developers have really gotten good at it, so there really isn’t a need to go to an actual church hall and setup your mics and attempt to get the effect of a church hall when your singer is belting out your latest hit. It ends up costing more time and as we all know… time is money. Anymore, I think folks that do go to the actual environment to record do so, because like me, it’s fun to attempt to capture those sounds in the real environment. But, its not necessary.
Regardless, it is so interesting to see how real environments can effect sound. The following video shows a guy trying out the actual environments and it really is fascinating to see how just echo flutter and sound bouncing around a room can effect the mood of any given source. Check it out and I hope you find it as interesting as I do.
I recently took the plunge and bought IK Multimedia’s ARC 2 System for my project studio. What exactly is this, you ask? Well, allow me to explain.
ARC stands for Advanced Room Correction and a while back I wrote a post where I touched a bit on it while discussing room treatment for my home studio. At the time of writing that post I even reached out to mixing guru, Bobby Owsinksi, regarding his thoughts on the product. He wasn’t too much a fan, but for good reason. I agree with his comment in that one should use acoustic treatment first and foremost and attempt to correct any room issues that way before splurging on some digital gizmo to do it for you. So, I did just that. I added some acoustic treatment first and foremost and it knocked out a large portion of my frequency issues. Hooray! However, my budget and expertise in room treatment is limited and lo and behold, there was still some nagging frequencies roaming my room. Like most home studios, my room is not perfect and it would take some major time, money and know-how to knock out the remaining frequency issues via acoustic treatment. Enter ARC 2, to polish it all off. The theory is this gizmo will tell me where my room acoustics are now that the treatment is in place and correct the remaining issues for me.
So, how does it work? Essentially, you set up the accompanying omni-directional microphone and it picks up the sequential “chirps” that the ARC software spits out of your speakers and uses this to measure your room acoustics. After each set of “chirps” you move the microphone around the listening spot you are attempting to measure. Once all of those measurements are done, ARC then analyzes the data and gives you a measurement reading of your room acoustics. You’ll see this measurement reading once you open your DAW and instantiate the ARC plugin at the end of your mixing chain.
The process of using ARC 2 can seem a bit convoluted, but its actually very, very simple and quick to do. Here are a series of videos that do a better job of explaining the process and the product than I could ever do.
The idea is that ARC EQ’s your mix to eliminate the troubling frequencies that essentially hinder your listening space when mixing. So, if you have a huge bass buildup around 300Hz, it will EQ that out in an attempt to make a flat EQ response coming out of your monitors (ideal for mixing). That buildup at 300Hz is the bass bouncing around your room and back to your ears, not the actual mix. If you take that mix and listen through headphones you’ll not hear that bass buildup. So theoretically, by using ARC 2 you won’t be upping the levels of your higher frequencies in order to compete with the lower frequencies that aren’t really present in your mix in the first place. Thus, helping you achieve a better mix more efficiently.
At any rate, I did the measurements the other night and I must say that once I put this plugin on my mix there was a definite audible difference. In fact, I liked it because upon bypassing it I could hear all the bass buildup that it was removing. This can be seen in the photo below.
I don’t think my home studio is too far off from your average home studio in regards to the EQ measurement I received: plenty of low end. Ideally, one would want to just add the treatment needed to fix the issues and not mess with any fancy plugins in your DAW. In this ideal scenario, you would just use ARC 2 as a measurement tool only, not a correction tool. But, as I’ve stated earlier, this ideal scenario is beyond most home studio budgets and know-how, which makes the combo of room treatment and ARC 2 a great alternative. I’m pleased with the results so far. ARC 2 does what it says and its actually well-priced. You can pick one up here.
This is the final submission to my little Star Wars-esque trilogy. I quickly realized that pics and text weren’t going to do it for showing the final result of my treatment installation in my home studio. So, I opted for a video. I probably ramble a bit, here and there and I realized afterward that I don’t seem to have a “good side”. So, please be kind. I’ve never done something like this before. 🙂
But, I think it is clear that the treatment (and studio in general) work very well. I am pleased with the results.
Here are some before and afters to help show the impact that the treatment has when recording voice-overs. I’m using the raw files, because I think they showcase the echo quite prominently. The final, in my opinion, is far better than the first one. I was thrilled when I did my first VO in the treated room. Money very well spent. Check out the comparison.
Well, without further ado, let’s watch my directorial and acting debut showcasing the new home studio.
Thanks for sticking around through the series. I hope it helps someone out there attempting to do the same thing.
Till next time…
David (Cali Dingo)
Incidentally, you may notice these nice little “sharing” buttons on the bottom of the posts. Feel free to use them. Share away as much as you like. 🙂
To continue with my saga of creating the perfect home studio, we come to the final piece of the puzzle which happens to be the stuff of legend…acoustic treatment. Yes, I’ll admit, in the beginning of all of this I was looking at the big box holding all this treatment and thinking to myself, “Did I just get suckered outta my hard-earned money? Will I even hear a difference?” I’ll report the final verdict later.
First, let me recap why I decided to throw down some cash and sweat a little to put this stuff up. Upon doing voice over work and just general acoustic recording, I began to notice that when I processed my audio (ie: compressor, limiter, etc.) I had a little problem with what they call echo-flutter. The mic was picking up my voice, however… it was also picking up the echo of my voice bouncing off the walls around me. As I stated, this was most notable once I applied compression or the like to the audio. So, I ended up spending enormous amounts of time getting REAL surgical with my audio edits to help alleviate the issue. But, to no avail.
I’ve heard of acoustic treatment and what it could do for a room, however it runs in my nature to be skeptical about everything… even when I have nothing to lose. But, I had lost my patience and decided to give it a whirl. I embarked on the good-ship internet, located what treatment would be good for my room and began my research as to how to put this stuff up. Well, low and behold, there weren’t that many blogs or articles describing exactly HOW to put these things up. There were plenty talking about how you should include these in your studio, just nothing telling me exactly how to actually do it. So, I realized it was up to me to get a little creative and see what I could come up with.
There were a few off the cuff remarks on how some people did it such as gluing the treatment to particle board or gluing it to ceiling tile and then screwing it onto the wall or ceiling. The one thing I realized, however, is being that you are putting several pieces of treatment together to create the bass trap or what have you, it can eventually add up in weight. Coupled with 2′ X 2′ particle board or ceiling tile that weight continues to go up, which means now you have to anchor these suckers into your wall and quite frankly I was beginning to see that I would have to actually work to get these up. I don’t like work.
I just painted my room and fixed all the anchor holes that were left by the prior owner, so the idea of adding more holes into the wall didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to use as few screws to hold these up as possible, which meant I needed to lessen the weight. Also, I wanted to keep the cost down in regards to the supplies needed to get these up. I just spent some money on the paint supplies and not to mention the treatment… I was done spending money. So, I had three rules I wanted to adhere to: Cheap, Minimal Holes, Light Weight.
Here’s how I accomplished it…
Step 1: The Tools
Step 2: Cut The Wood For The Frames
Step 3: Build The Frames
Step 4: Screw On The Hangers
Step 5: Hang It
Step 6: Make Your Wall Panels
Step 7: Hang The Wall Panels
Step 9: Screw The Rest Where Needed
The Tube Tak takes a while to dry when using it to glue the treatment to wood. I was surprised by this. I ended up letting it sit all night and by next day it was stuck good. Also, for extra support, glue the treatment to each other as well as the frames when constructing your bass traps and wall panels.
Be sure to use washers when screwing the panels directly into the walls. The screw has a tendency to disappear into the hole in the treatment and not secure the treatment to the wall.
In Part 3, I will be posting a video of the final product with some before and after samples. My room sounds great and the flutter echo is greatly reduced. Will it compete with Capital Records’ Studios? Um.. no. But, it improved my home studio enormously and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I bought my treatment either on sale or from a lesser known company and I’m happy with the results.
I hope this helps someone out there looking to do the same with their home studio. If you have any questions on anything I didn’t cover, just leave me a comment. I might just have an answer.
So, as I have stated/mentioned in prior posts, I have long had a “home studio” in a spare bedroom in the house. I used the room as is, with just my furniture “cleverly” situated in odd areas. As an example of my odd layout, I decided to put my desk in a corner of the room. Why? Don’t ask me. I guess I was trying my hand at eccentric interior design? Not sure. Plus, I had no acoustic treatment, which didn’t affect the layout, but it did affect the “sound” of the room. As a graphic design / web design office it was just fine. As a music studio? Not so much. Needless to say, over the course of me recording, mixing and mastering audio, I began to realize this room was dishing out all sorts of problems. For instance:
Recording – Too much ambient room noise, and not the good kind. When recording voice overs, echo-flutter was all too apparent. It became a nasty problem once I was in the processing phase, because once I added any compression that echo-flutter was very, up front and center. It made me work harder in the editing phase, attempting to knock out the noise wherever there was a pause in the vocal. I still do this when editing, but I had to get real surgical when dealing with all the echo-flutter. Talk about time consuming, not to mention the echo was still somewhat present during the voice over. Maybe no one else heard it, but I did and I’m the only person that matters… besides my wife. 😉
Also, when attempting to record, my room had… well, no room, thanks to my eccentric interior design (I wish I would have taken “before” pics. I always forget to do that). The layout was horrendous which led to me pulling cords outta my guitars or knocking over my preamps. I looked like one of the Marx brothers when trying to record.
Mixing/Mastering – This is where the acoustic treatment was badly needed…only I didn’t know it for quite a while. Being that I’m married and my studio is in a house that my wife lives in, I typically use my monitors, KRK Rokit 5s, for referencing only. However, the acoustics in my room made referencing a bit more daunting. The mix from my monitors sounded totally different from what my headphones were telling me. This would lead me go back to the mix and try and fix what the room said needed fixing, only to go back to the headphones and find out that the changes I just made, based on my monitors, sounded off. Once I studied up on acoustic treatment the light bulb went off and I began to understand that my room was playing a dirty trick on my ears.
So, I sat down, did some research and discovered that I needed to change the layout and add some acoustic treatment. Upon realizing how much work was going to be involved I decided to also change the color of the room. You see, I made my home studio in a kiddie bedroom. It had a baseball-themed light fixture and powder blue paint. Perfect for a little boy. But, it has been annoying me since I took the room over as my office/studio. Now was my chance.
Let the work begin…
Whew! It was a lot of work, but I love the results. Part 2 will cover the addition of acoustic treatment to the room. Let me know what you think so far.