Our world is imperfect. Good organizations can’t deliver on every promise. The weather doesn’t always cooperate. And the roads will never be in full repair. Power will go out at the wrong time, the new car might have a rattle, and at some point in life a friend will let you down. Imperfect doesn’t mean “bad,” and it doesn’t mean “wrong.” It’s simply the way things are. This is life. The magic of life. Each and every one of us imperfect. Each and every one of us trying our best.
Because we chose to live and work in an industry that is found- ed in Science and run by Art, the drive for perfection exists right alongside the realities of imperfection. Science, it can be argued, defines and brings order to a perfect world, presumably one without humans around to muck it up. Art, then, becomes the means by which humans strive for some form of perfection, knowing that we live in an imperfect world. This happens across all industries, all generations, all countries and all lives, just on different scales. But it is especially profound in music production.
The drive for perfection in recording often includes the recognition, and celebration, of imperfections—in a vocal, say, or a slightly out-of-time snare. That’s the Art. But in studio design, the theme of this month’s issue, it’s all about taming the imperfections in search of the perfect-sounding room. Which is also the Art.
In fact, with all due respect to console designers, preamp manufacturers, speaker makers and the like, nowhere do the art and science of recording come together as they do in studio design. A flat room across all frequencies might be the goal, and it might be achievable in Pure Science, or approachable in an anechoic chamber, but rooms are built by humans, materials come from the earth and the lab, and sound can behave differently depending on simple things like whether the HVAC is working properly. There is Science in the acoustics, electronics, physics and wave calculations. There is Art in taking an empty space and making it sound Perfect.
That’s why these 17 rooms featured in our annual Class of 2017 are so special. That’s why these featured designers are hired to build them. They are all striving for something close to perfection, even if that simply means perfect for the client, the artist or the audience. And these are the best of the best, with names like Storyk, Berger, Manzella, Pilchner and Schoustal, Genfan, Lachot, Munro, Grueneisen, Malvicino and more. They understand Science; they are steeped in it, but to each of them, each of the rooms is a work of Art. If you are building a studio or performance space or even a home theater and you have the money, hire one of them. Their talents are worth it.
Still, for those without the money to hire a professional, those starting out in their career or those who prefer to roll their own, there are a number of ways to create your own version of Perfect sound. The expertise among the handful of Acoustic Treatment manufacturers, along with the range of products and solutions they provide for any kind of problem under the sun, means that anyone can apply the basic principles of absorption, reflection and diffusion to their space. And they can be assured that there is Science behind the Art. It might look like a simple lightweight
2x2-foot panel with some fabric tightened around the edges. But it might help to break up an issue you’re hearing at 3 kHz or to solve a bass buildup problem in the converted shed behind your house.
Looking back at the opening sentence, it sounds so cynical: We live in an imperfect world. But we do. And I, for one, celebrate that. It keeps life interesting. But I’m also grateful that I work in an industry where we are all seeking some form of Perfect, if even just for our own selves, and our own ears. And that studio designers are leading the charge.