Acoustic Treatment for AllA WEALTH OF OPTIONS FOR OPTIMIZING YOUR STUDIO'S SOUND 6/01/2006 8:00 AM Eastern
Just like life itself, audio production is grounded in balance. Great mixes translate the same sonic balance to any playback system. But in this brave new era of home recording, a lot can go wrong. Trustworthy near-field monitors and sharp ears can only do so much; an accurate room response is equally critical.
Controlling your studio's acoustics involves realizing an optimal balance of absorption, diffusion, isolation and reflection. It's difficult to achieve an optimal room response using a single method of treatment, and each space requires customized solutions.
Luckily, with the explosion of producer-owned facilities and other high-end “home” studios, manufacturers have responded with a wider variety of acoustic treatment options than ever before, with options ranging from all-in-one DIY treatment packages to new lines created in partnership with top studio designers.
If you're currently designing and building a studio, or if you're planning to upgrade an existing room, the guide below presents a sampling of currently available surface treatment products, highlighting the newest offerings. For more complete information on product options — as well as for expert, practical advice on acoustic treatment — visit the manufacturers' Websites.
Acoustic foam, although not designed for soundproofing, can resolve a number of issues. Foam attenuates specific mid- to high frequencies, and minimizes reverberation and early reflections. Foam is available in a variety of dimensions, surface patterns, compositions and colors.
Illbruck Acoustic (www.illbruck-acoustic.com) SONEX panels are designed to reduce reverberation and standing waves by absorbing sound evenly over a broad range of frequencies. SONEX panels can be affixed to walls, partitions or ceilings using acouSTIC adhesive. Individual panels are available in dimensions of 24×24 or 24×48 inches, and vary from one to six inches thick. Illbruck also offers FABRITEC fabric-wrapped wall panels, which are available in dimensions of 24×24 or 24×48 inches at one or 1.5 inches thick.
Markertek (www.markertek.com) is a manufacturer and developer of an extensive range of pro audio products, including MarkerFoam acoustic-treatment products. The company's Bass Trap Low Frequency Acoustic bass trap comprises acoustic foam diffuser blades that measure 23.5×11 inches, are cut in a triangular profile, and mount on walls and room corners. Blade Tiles offer sound absorption and measure 16×16 inches each. They can be installed with adhesives, Velcro or double-sided tape and are suited for studios, rehearsal spaces, auditoriums or industrial use.
Silent Source's (www.silentsource.com) HushFoam line includes anechoic wedge — design panels offered in 24×48-inch sheets that are one, one-and-a-half, two, three and four inches thick; pyramid designs, sold in 24×24-inch sheets that are two, three and four inches in thickness; and Max Wedges, which come in 12×12-inch sheets and are six and eight inches thick. Silent Source's FireFlex panels are available in the same depths and made of a special, open-cell, lightweight acoustic melamine material for high-temperature applications or buildings that require Class-1 rated materials. FireFlex panels are likewise available in anechoic wedge, pyramid and Max Wedge configurations and as 6×12×12-inch units.
Acoustic panels provide diffusion and/or absorption, taming reflective surfaces by reflecting sound at different angles, and eliminating standing waves and flutter echo while keeping sonic energy intact. Diffusers are constructed of a range of materials, such as Fiberglas and wood, and are wrapped in fabric. They are available in a large variety of sizes and densities.
The Acoustics First (www.acousticsfirst.com) QuadraPyramid is a variation on the traditional, offset pyramid-shaped diffuser. The QuadraPyramid is optimized for use in recording and broadcast studios, theater and performance venues, and houses of worship. Four pyramids create 16 angles of reflection on the surface of a single 2×4-foot panel that is 2.75 inches thick. It generates a uniform polar response over a broad frequency range and can be mounted directly on walls or ceiling, or dropped onto a T-bar grid.
Auralex Acoustics (www.auralex.com) has recently introduced three new wall-panel offerings that comprise the company's pArtScience product line, which features designs that were conceived by studio designer Russ Berger specifically for Auralex.
AudioTile is a series of tessellated panels designed with varying thicknesses for broadband absorption, blending in diffusion and reflection for an optimum acoustical balance. AudioTiles come in four different shapes that combine for an aesthetically pleasing appearance tailored for the desired acoustical performance.
SpaceArray diffusers are 24×24 inches each and combine hemispherical acoustical diffusion with solid-wood panels made of Paulownia wood (which is used in musical instrument construction).
The SpaceCoupler, which also comes in 24×24-inch solid-wood panels, is intended for creating a big sound in a small room. By providing an acoustical boundary interaction between loosely coupled spaces, the SpaceCoupler generates a low-level reverberant tail to create a full, well-developed sound even in small spaces.
ClearSonic's (www.clearsonic.com) S2 SORBER panel is a 22×24-inch section of 1.5-inch thick, compressed Fiberglas that can be used as a wall treatment for studios, basements, church sanctuaries and more. SORBER products can be attached to a variety of surfaces using standard wall screws and fasteners, or, in some cases, Velcro.
ESR (www.zainea.com) in Athens, Greece, offers the Roundffusor1 (or R1) for diffusing middle and high frequencies and absorbing frequencies below 250 Hz. Each panel comprises three 3-D shapes and a fourth diffuser, and slides into two wooden rails that are mounted on a wall or ceiling surface.
Golden Acoustics (www.goldenacoustics.com) Sonic Equalizer Panels are designed to equalize the sonic energy in any space, as well as absorb unwanted frequencies. The idea is that equalized sound will be uniformly distributed throughout the room, and it isn't necessary to treat entire walls and ceilings to achieve the desired results. Panels are mathematically designed with varying conical shapes made of polymerized gypsum.
Lay-In Equalizer Squares diffusers are designed to diffuse sound from multiple sources and directions. They focus on mid- to high frequencies and install in existing grid systems, or mount directly to the wall. Equalizer 9 Full Panels are nine inches deep and can be applied to ceilings or walls. They are designed to diffuse sonic energy in the high, middle and low ranges (down to 70 Hz) and attenuate room peaks to create a more even, comfortable listening environment. All of Golden Acoustics' panels may be customized.
Intelligent Acoustics (www.iacoustics.com) offers I-Panel fabric-wrapped Fiberglas acoustical panels for control of mid- and high-frequency sound reflections. The company manufactures I-Panels with the Guilford FR701 fabric of the user's choice, and can manufacture them with straight, mitered or beveled edges. I-Panels can be mounted with Velcro or Z-clips. I-Panels are available in six size configurations: the IP221 (2×2 feet at 1 inch thick), IP222 (2×2 feet at 2 inches thick), IP241 (2×4 feet at 1 inch thick), IP242 (2×4 feet at 2 inches thick), IP481 (4×8 feet at 1 inch thick) and IP482 (4×8 feet at 2 inches thick).
MSR's (www.studio-panel.com) SalonAcoustics line of decorative absorption panels are engineered to offer a high degree of absorption down to 500 Hz. They feature stock artwork, or custom artwork is available upon request. The panels are two inches deep, and standard sizes are 16×24 inches, 22×28 inches and 24×36 inches. CloudPanel units for ceilings measure 2×4 feet and have a uniform 1-inch thickness. They include built-in cable hoops on back that allow them to be suspended from the ceiling.
Primacoustic's (www.primacoustic.com) Broadway series panels represent a non-petroleum alternative to open-cell foam. Panels are made of a durable fabric-covered, high-density encapsulated Fiberglas with hardened edges. The Broadway product line is available in square or beveled edges and comprises 12×12-inch Scatter Blocks, 24×24-inch Control Cubes, 12×48-inch Control Columns and 24×48-inch Broadband Panels.
Silent Source's (www.silentsource.com) Skyline LP is a diffuser with a high-density, flame-retardant polystyrene core that is four inches deep and tailored for low-frequency absorption in smaller project studios. Acousticore fabric-wrapped panels are composed of high-density mineral fiberboard and can be mounted on walls and ceilings and are available in any size up to 4×10 feet.
In addition to designing and manufacturing acoustic-treatment solutions, Steven Klein's Sound Control Room (www.soundcontrolroom.com) also provides consultation, construction and installation services. Its 2×4-foot Quadratic Residue Diffusor is constructed of medium-density fiberboard and designed to diffuse low frequencies. It also offers Class-1 fire-rated fabric-wrapped panels that measure 2×4 feet and are one inch thick. Guilford FR701 fabric is stretched over the face of these panels and affixed to the back of the metal edging.
Baffles, bass traps, pads, gobos (“go-betweens”) and wedges are versatile and portable options for providing a combination of absorption and diffusion, minimizing reverberation and controlling leakage between instruments.
Acoustic Sciences Corporation (www.acousticsciences.com) manufactures a cylindrically shaped gobo with a tripod base called the StudioTrap. The StudioTrap absorbs bass frequencies on one side and reflects treble frequencies on the other side. Its flexible, modular design allows it to be arranged in a variety of applications and configurations, such as the company's trademarked Quick Sound Field (QSF) acoustic environment that surrounds a microphone, or as an Attack Wall in combination with Acoustic Sciences' MonitorTraps. Each unit measures nine inches in diameter by 49 inches long and can extend from a height of 54 inches to 74 inches.
Bag End Loudspeakers (www.bagend.com), a manufacturer of speaker systems, entered the acoustic-treatment market with its new E-Trap, a tunable electronic bass trap that is scheduled to go into production in June. E-Trap is a closed-loop, controlled acoustic dampening system that adds acoustic damping to low-frequency standing waves. The E-Trap measures 13×18×10 inches (W×H×D).
MSR (www.msr-inc.com) developed the StudioPanel SpringTrap to complement its mid- and high-frequency absorbers and describes the SpringTrap as a “true” bass trap that works on frequencies between 30 and 100 Hz. The SpringTrap is a precision spring-loaded triple cavity resonator.
MSR's IsoPanel absorber is a gobo that provides mid-frequency isolation in the 35dB range and is optimized to provide sound isolation in an easily movable partition. IsoPanels can be used in tracking sessions with multiple instruments as well as in orchestra pits. Sizes are 3×3, 4×3, 4×4, 4×5, 4×6 and 4×8 feet. The RollaPanel is a portable absorption panel equipped with sturdy wheels and bases for spaces that need flexible acoustical properties; it is designed for lowering reverberation time in spaces where permanent acoustic treatments are impractical. Sizes are 4×4, 4×6 and 4×8 feet. IsoPanels and RollaPanels are available in six stock fabrics with an additional 42 fabrics available for a minimal additional cost.
Primacoustic (www.primacoustic.com) offers its Freeport series of portable gobos: the Freeport XT, made of 3-inch thick Primafoam Z-Foam high-density open-cell acoustical foam for maximum absorption in the mid and upper bands; the Freeport SD, made of 2.75-inch thick Primafoam Wedge tiles; and Freeport GT, also made with Primafoam that is mounted on a solid PVC frame.
The company's IsoWedge is a monitor speaker isolation kit comprising four pieces of high-density, low compression foam, each of which measures 12.8×4×2 inches. The IsoPlane is a multipurpose acoustic isolation kit for use with monitor speakers, turntables, CD player/burners and other devices. Each kit contains four pieces of high-density, low-compression foam that measure 12.8×4×1.5 inches. IsoPlane pads are placed under the device that you want to acoustically isolate or provide vibration protection for. Sold in master packs of four and 10 kits.
Besides manufacturing and selling acoustic treatment products, RealTraps (www.realtraps.com) also offers technical information about small-room acoustics and treatment on its Website. Its products are real membrane bass traps that also absorb mid- and high frequencies. RealTraps are made with rigid Fiberglas and metal, are Class-A fire-rated, and mount with one or two hooks. They can be placed flat on walls, or they can straddle corners or mount on inexpensive microphone stands for portability. Its MiniTraps measure 2×4 feet, are 3.25 inches thick, weigh 18 pounds and are designed to absorb low frequencies. The comapny states that the newer MondoTraps absorb twice as much as MiniTraps below 100 Hz. They are 2×4 feet wide, nine inches tall and four inches thick, and weigh 28 pounds. SoffitTraps absorb frequencies below 200 Hz and are designed to mount high up in ceiling corners and look like a built-in soffit. They are 12.5×16.25 inches by 4 feet long and weigh 8 pounds.
Steven Klein's Sound Control Room (www.soundcontrolroom.com) offers the Oak Trim Gobo, a freestanding device that can be used to separate players in a room and for room tuning. Because of this product's depth and ability to be moved away from walls, the company states that it creates a very efficient absorber for lower frequencies.
Taytrix Productions (www.taytrix.com) manufactures the modular, lightweight StackIt gobo system. Panels are available in three types (Plexiglas, fabric and a combination of fabric on one side, and birch/maple plywood on the other) and two sizes (30 and 15 inches). Their rounded edges allow for flexibility in angling the gobos, and they're available in full or half sizes so that they can be stacked to the desired height.
COMPLETE TREATMENT KITS
Some acoustic materials manufacturers have responded to the proliferation of personal and project studios (and new recordists) in recent years by creating complete, all-in-one packages that take the guesswork out of treating sonic deficiencies. Studio kits are available at increasingly affordable prices, and some new products debuted this year.
Acoustical Solutions (www.acousticalsolutions.com) and RPG Diffusor Systems (www.rpginc.com/proaudio) teamed up to offer a series of studio-in-a-box packages. Each includes image tools for controlling comb filtering arising from strong reflections; spatial tools for increasing the diffusion in small rooms; and bass tools for minimizing low-frequency room modes and speaker boundary-interference distortion. These foam packages include four levels of performance (bronze, silver, gold and platinum) designed to fit various budgets. Each level is available in two grades of foam, for home and commercial studios. Standard packages are designed for studios that measure up to 14×10×8 feet (W×H×D); additional products are available for larger spaces.
Auralex Acoustics (www.auralex.com) offers a range of prepackaged acoustical control kits for rooms measuring from 6×4 feet up to 20×20 feet with its Designer Series and Performance Series Roominators systems. Each kit comprises different combinations of Auralex's Studiofoam absorbers and LENRD bass traps.
Markertek (www.markertek.com) packages a MarkerFoam Studio Kit, which includes 24 2-inch blade tiles, six Markertrap corner bass traps, four tubes of specialty-foam adhesive and an application gun. The MarkerFoam Studio Kit provides optimal coverage for rooms that measure less than 100 square feet.
MSR's (www.studio-panel.com) StudioPanel acoustical treatment kits are designed for most project-studio room sizes. The kits comprise wedge-shaped absorber and diffuser wall panels that measure 2×4 feet, are 1.5 to 3.5 inches thick and are designed to be placed side-by-side. Higher-end kits also include bass traps. Absorber panels have a mineral wool-clad core in a Fiberglas lining that's wrapped in a flame-retardant Guilford FR701 fabric, and are said to provide absorption down to 250 Hz. Diffuser panels are made from a low-resonance styrene wrapped in flame-retardant fabric and are said to provide even dispersion down to 500 Hz. MSR's Bazorber bass-trap panels are made of slotted low-resonance styrene with mineral wool fill wrapped in a flame retardant fabric. Bazorbers are designed to provide a Helmholtz-engineered absorption of sounds from 250 Hz down to 100 Hz.
StudioPanel kits come in small, medium and large configurations (the SP442, SP552 and SP664 models, respectively). At the 2006 Winter NAMM show, MSR introduced two entry-level kits: the SP220, which includes two each of the company's absorber and diffuser panels, and the SP502, which includes five absorber panels and two Bazorber panels.
From its inception, Primacoustic (www.primacoustic.com) has designed and marketed modular panel systems for project studios. In 2004 the company redesigned its line of acoustic foam to enhance its “room-in-a-box” concept. Complete kits are offered for control rooms and studio environments. Primacoustic's Studio in a Box kits include the London Series (for control rooms and project studios), Montreal Series (for larger rooms), and New York Voice-Over Booths.
SPECIALIZED ACOUSTIC TREATMENT PRODUCTS
Finally, some acoustic-materials manufacturers offer products for specific applications that fall outside of the categories already covered here. Here are a few products for special, targeted applications.
Gretch-Ken Industries' (www.soundsuckers.com) Class-A fire-rated BS Barrier Curtain offers sound absorption and acts as a noise barrier. It can be used in acoustical curtain enclosures, as partitions or to line perimeter walls. It's made up of a non-reinforced, one-pound, PSF-loaded vinyl barrier sandwiched between two layers of vinyl-coated, Fiberglas, cloth-faced, quilted willtec foam absorbers. Curtain panels are constructed with grommets across the top and Velcro along the vertical edges. Rolls are 4 feet wide and 25 feet long, and they can be supplied with bound or unbound edges.
Intelligent Acoustics (www.iacoustics.com) addresses the often-overlooked need to isolate studio doors with its IDoor Wood Acoustic Doors, which are available in full glass, partial glass and no-glass versions. The IDoor's standard size is 3×7 feet, and custom sizes are available. Standard wood finishes are cherry and guatambu (light wood); other woods are available. The IDoor can be right- or left-swinging configurations, and comes with standard handle, saddle, perimeter and drop seals.
Steven Klein's Sound Control Room (www.soundcontrolroom.com) offers the Rubber Floor Decoupler, an inexpensive floor-floating device designed for easy application that will grip any 2x lumber. The product was designed with medium density for ideal vibration control.
Matt Gallagher is an assistant editor at Mix.