Categories
Acoustic Treatment How To Mix/Master Recording

Acoustic Treatment In A Box??

ARC2 Promo Pic

Hello,

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.

You want to instantiate the correction at the end of the mix on your Master Channel and be sure to remove it once you are ready to render your mix to mp3 or the like.
You want to instantiate the correction at the end of the mix on your Master Channel, as I’ve done here, and be sure to remove it once you are ready to render your mix to mp3 or the like.

 

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.

My room frequency is the orange line. The white line is the correction by ARC. Notice the buildup of bass between 50Hz - 300Hz. Also, notice how unstable my room acoustics are. Ideally you don't want ARC working that hard to give you a flat response. I really need to eliminate as much of that as possible to bring it closer to a flat EQ response and then add ARC.
My room frequency is the orange line. The white line is the correction by ARC. Notice the buildup of bass between 50Hz – 300Hz. Also, notice how unstable my room acoustics are. Ideally you don’t want ARC working that hard to give you a flat response. I really need to eliminate as much of that instability as possible to bring it closer to a flat EQ response before adding ARC.

 

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.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

Categories
How To Recording

Have A Closet? Make An Amp Room!

This past weekend I was hard at work recording guitars on an upcoming EP for a local band. It’s been fun, challenging and long in the hours department. But, when it all comes together in the end it is always worth it. This post is in response to an issue we ran into when we recorded guitars earlier for demo purposes.

The issue is simple: I have my “studio” in a spare bedroom in my house. Room is limited. So the standard procedure is to have the guitar player sit next to his mic’d amp in my 11′ X 11′ “studio” and start to find the perfect tone. The problem? Your ears begin to go numb from sitting so close to the amp, so you can no longer discern the differences in tones. The only way around this is to put the amp in another room… preferably a closet or something similar without a ton of echo flutter… and use the studio monitors to listen for the perfect tone.

My problem with this scenario was that the only available closet that would work was approximately 50 feet away in my bedroom. Most will tell you that you don’t want to record with any cable over 25 ft, because you’ll tend to run into all sorts of sonic issues. But, I’m an experimenter in these types of things and was willing to give it a shot.

We tracked down a 50′ mic cable which gave me hope.  I would suspect a company wouldn’t spend the money on creating a 50′ mic cable unless it actually worked without the sonic issues. The main problem ended up being the instrument cable. They seem to only go up to 25′ because of the sonic issues. So… troubleshooting begins.

I quickly resolved that because the guitarist uses a pedal board, an option may very well be to split two 25′ cables with the pedal board. This way we get a total of 50′ and never exceed the 25′ rule in a single connection. The downside is: the pedal board will reside in the hallway and all settings will require the guitarist to get up and down to find the tone… same with the amp. To me, this was worth the trade off.

We initially used walkie-talkies and had another band member or myself sit by the amp or pedal board and make the necessary adjustments as the guitarist played, but it soon became apparent that the guitarist knew what he was wanting, so up and down he went to find the perfect tone.

All in all it worked like a charm, despite the warnings from all the pro studio staff at Guitar Center. So, I felt it worthy enough and informative enough to share here with this write up and a little video showing the nonsense of cables running through my house. We were able to use my studio monitors at moderate levels and find tones all day long without our ears going numb. That’s how the pros do it and we somehow emulated that experience. Yay for us. 🙂

Here’s the video. Enjoy!

Till next time!

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

 

Categories
How To

5 Must-Haves for Your Home Studio

I was recording some drums a couple of weeks ago for a song I’m working on when it became clear to me that there are a few products and items I use around the studio that really save me a ton of time, headache and, in some cases, money. I thought it worthy of sharing so, without further ado, here is my list of 5 must-haves in the studio to make your time in the studio a pleasant one.

 

1. Wireless Keyboard & Mouse

It was upon using this excellent invention while recording drums that this blog post idea spawned. This is a definite MUST-HAVE. You (and I) are never going to record a drum track or any instrument flawlessly on the first take. So, picture if you will, me sitting behind my drum kit and the computer is waaaaay over there. I play a few bars and… mistake! Now, I have to get up and shimmy my way through the kit around the annoying cables and hit stop on the keyboard. You re-engage the track for recording another take, press play/record, walk around and over the cables, shimmy your way into the drum kit and you now have .5 seconds to get your sticks in hand ready to play before the song starts. Not fun.

A wireless keyboard allows me to keep the control panel for my DAW right next to me. Performing take after take is no problem and instantaneous. This is handy for any occasion that you are recording across the room from your DAW/computer. In fact, I love it so much I’ll mess up takes just to relish in my new-found freedom. Well, okay… that’s a lie. I picked mine up for around $50 at Office Depot.

 

2. Dual Monitors

This is something I don’t see many people do and I don’t understand why. When using most DAWs you will undoubtedly need to see both your edit window AND your mix window. Most DAWs allow you to flip between the two as you’re working, however, I find this tedious. By incorporating one more monitor into your workflow you constantly view your edit and mix windows at all times. I just find this easier to monitor levels and to just really see what the heck is going on while recording or mixing. I picked up my extra flat-screen monitor at Best Buy for $99. It’s not expensive and takes up very little room. Totally worth it.

 

3. Wacom Tablet

These are excellent when you want to ride a fader or tweak a knob ever so slightly in your DAW. Wacom tablets are typically used in graphic design because they allow you to get real intricate and detailed and the response is similar to using a pen on paper. Trust me, it’s real difficult to draw with a mouse. Well, same thing goes for riding faders and tweaking knobs. By using a tablet you are one step closer to actually putting the virtual fader or knob on your fingertips. It may take a little getting used to, but once you have it down… look out music world. 😉

You can pick one up at Best Buy for about $100. Totally worth it.

 

4. Electronic Drum Kit

Here is the scenario: You can play drums, have a spouse in the house or live in an apartment, are limited in space in your studio and can’t afford $2000 + drums. E-kit to the rescue. Many people I know build their drum patterns for their songs in drum programs using loops and then spend gobs of time tweaking those loops to make them sound like a person played them and to make those loops fit the intricacies of their particular song. This is not only time consuming it also almost never works. More often than not, after all that time spent to make them sound like you hired a great drummer… it still sounds like a drum loop. The only way to get your drums to sound like a person played them is to actually have a person play them. Sorry to say. Computers, at this point, are unable to emulate the imperfect energy of a person playing. Within the actual loop itself the drums sounds great, but once incorporated into your song it becomes another story… too robotic, not enough human.

The wonderful thing about an e-kit is you only need to spend upwards of $500 or so for a decent kit, then spend another $300 or less on a drum program such as EZ Drummer or Superior Drummer and you sound like you are playing a $5,000 kit for under $1,000. This is because the patches for the programs are recorded at high quality studios using great mics and professional engineers. The e-kit will send out a midi signal to your DAW and then that midi will trigger the drum program, you make any timing adjustments via the midi notes and oila! you no longer sound like you used loops to track your song’s drum pattern and were able to do so without annoying your neighbors.

Side note: The reason I suggest a decent e-kit as opposed to the high-end ones is simply because I’m only using this kit as a trigger for the drum program. What you’re paying for in the high-end kits are the drum patches that come with that kit. I would save that extra dollar on the kit and spend that extra dollar on the drum program instead. You get better drums patches in the end.

 

5. Hooks & Twist Ties

Part 1: Hooks

Newbie studio owner alert: Cables are annoying! There, I said it.

They are invaluable to the recording experience, but they consistently get in the way, wrap around everything you don’t want them to and can sometimes add a little hiss or hum to your recording (we’ll cover that last issue another day). Solution? Hooks. I believe these little babies are only 25 cents a pop at Home Depot, give or take a cent or two. You just screw them into the wall and your cables are outta the way until you begin to use them. I’ve seen elaborate devices that aim to provide the same convenience these hooks provide at ridiculous prices. You can’t go wrong with cheap. 😉

Part 2: Twist-Ties

You’re sayin’, “Wha?”

I kid you not. Again, there are many music shops and the like that will try to sell you elaborate little straps and whatnot to help you wrap up and organize your cables (before you place them on your 25 cent hooks, of course). But, don’t be fooled people. They are nothing more than glorified twist-ties! 🙂 You can buy a bundle of these babies for $5 or so at Wal-Mart or the like. They come in different colors so you can organize your patch cables from your mic cables from your instrument cables, etc. Or… you could be extra cheap like me and just use the twist-ties that come with everything I ever buy. There is always a twist-tie included in music gear or stuff you buy that has to be put together from IKEA or whatever. I hoard twist-ties like they are the sole survival tool of Armageddon. Simple, but trust me they help keep your cables from entangling while sitting on your 25 cent hooks.

 

Well, those are 5 products that I find are extremely useful in my studio in that they save me time and/or money in the long run. What are some no-brainers that you include your studio? I want to know.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

Categories
Acoustic Treatment How To Video Voice Over

Spare Bedroom? Let’s Make A Home Studio! – Part 3

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.

Without Treatment
[audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2926250/PCV-RAW.mp3]

With Treatment
[audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2926250/APC-RAW.mp3]

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. 🙂

 

 

Categories
Acoustic Treatment How To

Spare Bedroom? Let’s Make A Home Studio! – Part 2

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 1
Screw Driver, Picture Hanging Kit, Brackets (Straight & Corner), Wood Screws, Washers, Tube Tak Adhesive, Bottle Of Your Favorite Wine and Wine Bottle Opener. Work like this is always better with wine (or beer).

 

Step 2: Cut The Wood For The Frames

Step 2
The idea is to build a frame to which the treatment will be glued using the Tube Tak. I forgot the name of this wood, but you can find it in the garden section at Home Depot (I think it's used to make lattice for fences). They cost $1 a piece...I bought 5. Cut these into 2' lengths and we're going to build frames that we will hang on the walls and in the corners of the room. Be sure to use a mitre hand saw, as this wood will shred if using a large tooth saw.

 

Step 3: Build The Frames

Step 3
Here is an example of a corner frame. Three 2' lattice boards bracketed together to make a corner frame. This one is sitting upside down... flip it and it should fit right into the corner of your room. Use the Tube Tak to glue it to the wood.

 

Step 4: Screw On The Hangers

Step 4
Screw the picture hangers into the wood. This wood will split easy, so don't screw too tight. Put one hanger in the corner and two on the ends of the top boards. We'll hang these like a painting.

 

Step 5: Hang It

Step 5
Line the screws in the wall with the hangers and hang it up, like you would a picture. Be sure to line up the hangers and screws BEFORE you put the treatment on. Otherwise, have fun trying to line everything up with the treatment in the way. Hence why I had to add support for the arms on this one. I couldn't line up the screws to the hangers.
Step 5 Continued
Here is an example of me lining up everything first and then adding the treatment. It fits very snug in the corner. Of course, this was the last one I did. lol. Lesson learned.

 

Step 6: Make Your Wall Panels

Step 7
Glue your treatment together, let it dry and then glue the 2' X 2' to one 2' board with the hanger already on it.

 

Step 7: Hang The Wall Panels

Step 8
I used two screws and just hung them like pictures. They are extremely light in weight and very mobile.

 

Step 9: Screw The Rest Where Needed

Step 9
Use your wood screws and washers to screw in the remaining panels wherever you need them. Here is a sample of my ceiling treatment. Again, I glued the panels together and made two 2' X 2' panels and screwed it into the ceiling with just two screws each... one in a corner and the other in the diagonal corner.

 

Side notes:

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.

Till next time…

David (CaliDingo)