Building my own little studio, need some resources

Discussion in 'Mixing, Post-Production, and Effects' started by ThomasNL, May 3, 2019.

  1. ThomasNL

    ThomasNL Thomas van der Burg

    Hey guys,

    I finally got my own little room to make my music production studio, no more working in the living room! ;)

    I am trying to find information, guides and resources that can help me make it a good working place. The thing i find hard is that you can make it as crazy (and expensive) as you want it to be. Because of that I find it hard to find the information i need because i'm not sure what to prioritize. I need someone to put me in the right direction.

    So would love to hear about your experiences, opinions and mostly great resources, from acoustic treatment to desk building, monitor setups, etc!

    Thanks in advance!

    Thomas
     
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  2. burp182

    burp182 Active Member

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    My suggestion would be to prioritize the acoustics of your space as much as possible. If you aren’t hearing things correctly, you can’t depend on any decisions you make. Since you’re starting from scratch, you can plan for proper speaker positioning and spacing and orient your work space to minimize problems within your room before having to correct them with panels and foam. This can save you a lot of money and agony.

    One more thought - plan for at least one expansion of your system. Building in that flexibility from the start will keep you from having to dismantle all your hard work when you add stuff (and you will....we all do!).

    You’ll likely get a million suggestions for the stuff to put in your new room. But start with a plan and you can put anything in there and have the ability to get good work out of it.

    Good luck!
     
  3. erica-grace

    erica-grace Senior Member

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  4. babylonwaves

    babylonwaves Senior Member

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    spend 50% on speakers and 50% the room. not all on the speakers if your room is just a usual room in a flat.
     
  5. Fredeke

    Fredeke Active Member

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    Personally, I wanted to spend little on acoustics and furniture, in order to spend more on gear, which I find more exciting. So here's what I did:

    1. Furniture
    . I bought everything in a department store, like home depot.

    I placed hollow door panels on heavy-duty testles (check their max. supporting weight!). The trestles are height adjustable, however you can't adjust them once everything weighs on them.

    Door panels are cheap, lightweight yet rigid. They make a desk that is about 2m wide, and 65 to 93cm deep, depending on the door model. With enough weight on them (such as your gear) they won't vibrate. You can also staple or glue sheets of cork on their top surface to avoid reflections. The look and feel is rather classy. I used the thickest sheets I could find, which is 6mm.

    Instead of trestles, you could use a pair of sturdy keyboard stands. Check how height affects span, though. And check the max weight the stands can support! It can vary greatly from one model to another.

    I set the height in order to work standing, and got a high chair to rest my buttocks against in still a half-standing position (something like this: https://www.musicstore.de/en_BE/EUR/Mey-Chair-Systems-Stehhilfe-AF6-Kl-Black/art-REC0008420-000 or like this: https://www.musicstore.de/en_BE/EUR...lfe-AF-SR-KL-AH-Black-blue/art-REC0008407-000 , except more expensive - the chair being one of the few things I spent more money on, because I want to preserve my back).

    If you can't fit a 2m-wide desk in the room, then you can go for a thick wooden panel instead of a door. It may not be as rigid, but since it would be shorter, it might not be a problem. Ikea sells desk tops and trestles too, and some of their tops are cheap. Ikea sells regular legs too, which you might prefer to tresltes or stands, but it's a less sturdy solution.

    2. Acoustic treatment: I got a bunch of used mattresses (plain ones, not spring ones!), and strapped a double layer of them across the walls to tame most of the bass. It's not perfect, but it's pretty decent and cost nothing. Heavy curtains and sheets of cork do the rest where there are no matresses.

    To strap the matresses to the walls, I asked a friend to sew velcro tape on light-duty straps, and placed wide heavy-duty adhesive velcro on the walls (which only comes in ugly black, but it's hidden behind the matresses anyway). And now I can hang my spare cables to the straps... It's pretty handy.

    Of course, I abundantly sprayed those old matresses against odors and vermin - a few cans worth of spray was no luxury.

    Now if you want diffusors, you can just use bits of wooden boards or panels (leftovers from other works, if you have some lying around), that you'd cut into erratic shapes, and then screw or nail a few layers of them, erratically arranged, on top of each other, on a back panel for support, or directly on the wall if you don't love your wall too much. The result is pretty heavy, but it's cheap or possibly free, too. You can also combine a diffusor and high frequency absorber by placing a layer of absorbing material (like one of those cork sheets) behind this wooden bits salad, over the back board.

    The only thing I might have overlooked is the floor/ceiling mode. I've heard you can hang a light rigid panel parallel to the ceiling above your listening position, and the low freqs will consume their energy making it vibrate (it must of course vibrate silently, hence the hanging)... But I haven't tried that trick yet.

    And the only thing a bit costly (besides the chair) was some thick carpet, because the floor was bare concrete. But if your room is smaller than mine, and its floor is already decent, I'm sure you could find a bunch of rugs for cheap.

    (In my previous studio, the floor was ceramic. So I got some end-of-roll leftovers from the carpet store and roughly cut them to the shape of the room. It was a quick and dirty solution that worked just as well. The thicker the better of course.)

    See for yourself:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I confess those white cylinders are "real" bass absorbers, but I use them more as speaker support than as acoustic treatment ;). They're also something I had to opportunity to salvage - I probably wouldn't have purchased them new, even though they're affordable.

    Last bit of advice: Avoid acoustic foam if you intend to use that room for years, as it doesn't age well and tends to degrade into a sticky dust over time.

    [EDIT: Oops! This doesn't really answer your question, does it? I thought you were asking how to make a studio on a budget... I should read more carefully. :-/ ]
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
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  6. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

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    I used to build studios, my priority list (which worked for me and my clients, use at your own risk):
    1) room geometry and size - usually not flexible, but if it is get it right from the start.
    2) power and grounding - nothing worse than chasing down noise problems!
    3) isolation - optional, depending on your circumstances
    4) lighting, HVAC, coffee maker - plan for them, you don't have to spend money today.
    5) equipment part 1 - what do you have?
    6) equipment part 2 - what do you want to add?
    7) ergonomics/layout - don't chuckle, it matters
    8) equipment part 3 - once you have a layout how do you connect everything?
    9) acoustics - last in line in the planning stages, probably first in line in the cost category?

    Why do it that way?

    Everything on the list affects what you hear. You can't treat the room and then build it. It would be very nice if you could!!

    Some items - power, grounding, lighting, HVAC, etc - are, or should be, blips on the radar. Address them at the start and you won't have to think about them again.

    Some items, specifically layout and acoustical treatment, are iterative. You place the loudspeakers here and you have one set of problems. Place then there and you have another set.

    What I like to do, when time permits, is spend a fair amount of time playing with layout. You don't even need the furniture to do so (although it doesn't hurt). You will be surprised at how many problems you can resolve by simply moving things about.

    Building a studio is a ton of fun, and two tons of frustration (and three tons of cost?).

    Ignore everything but the fun (as your budget allows).

    As far as resources go, I trust almost nothing on the web. There are some great books out there, look into Michael Rettinger, Jeff Cooper, and Philip Newell as great starting points. Actually, read all three and you'll know pretty much everything you need to know!
     
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  7. aaronventure

    aaronventure Active Member

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    What is your budget? That will mostly determine your gear, as I definitely wouldn't skip some basic acoustic treatment.

    Here's what I learned when I was building my own.

    DO NOT buy foam. Foam has an extremely low price/performance ratio. It might look cool, but that's about it. It falls off drastically at 500 Hz and you're left with all the boom below. Instead buy mineral wool. Owens Corning / Rockwool (US/EU) is cheaper than foam, and performs infinitely better. Get industrial grade if you can (RW3 if I recall correctly—the name may vary in different countries so look up the specs). ~50kg/m3 is the average that you can safely aim at. Get lower densities if you can spare more space and make thicker absorbers. I got all the RW3 I needed for $300 or so.

    They're usually sold in slabs of 120x60cm with a thickness of your choice. I went with 5cm, so I just stuck 2 slabs together to make absorbers for early reflections. I went for 15cm and expanded the height to 140cm (cut and stuck in the frame in a zig-zag pattern). The big floor-to-ceiling bass traps in my corners are 20cm with an airgap behind them. For the early reflection ones and the ones on the back wall, your best bet is to have at least half of the thickness of the panel in distance from the wall. Shelf brackets are a cheap and easy solution for mounting them and securing whatever distance you need.

    Ideally, you'd have the entire room dressed in 100cm of mineral wool for maximal absorbtion, but who can afford the space? Plus, it'll be really, really dead. Some might like that, some might not. But you definitely want to deal with early reflections in your monitoring spot and the corners to reduce bass buildup.

    Once you have it planned out and have sorted out the mineral wool, build the wooden frames yourself or have someone else build them for you, or you can purchase premade frames from GikAcoustics. Then you'll need to find a tailor and pick a fabric (you want something that you can breathe through or rather acoustically transparent; Camira Cara is one choice that looks pretty good) or sew it yourself if you know how. I went with cheaper fabrics and got a good deal from a guy I know, and it cost me ~$150. This can easily get expensive.

    Alternatively, you can buy pre-made absorbers from GikAcoustics (they use mineral wool and Camira Cara fabrics), something like 2 boxes of 242 for early reflections (6 total), a box of 244 for back wall (2 total), and two pairs of Tri-traps for the front corners (they can fit these so that they fit exactly in your room floor-to-ceiling). This is better acoustic treatment than what I've seen in 80% of home studios, and it'll cost you ~$1000 if you're buying from Gik, plus ceiling mounts and/or if you're paying someone to mount them for you.

    Choose the speakers based on your room size. You can easily pick something that's too big for your room. I'm a fan of ADAM Audio, but liked what I heard from Genelec and Focal as well. I wish I could stuff a Funktion-One setup in my room, though :grin:

    After all that, getting Sonarworks calibration is a good investment.

    As for the desk, I built mine myself for a total of $100 some odd 8 years ago. I went to a wood factory, ordered the parts in plywood and put it together. It has a big drawer as big as could be fitted underneath, and that's where my MIDI keyboard is. I've spilled so much stuff over the years (on the desk, not the keyboard), and there's not a trace of anything. It's only a bit faded where I used my mouse without the pad for ~4 years. This thing is 2 cm thick and rock solid, and I got to pick any color I wanted, there is no reality in which I would pay $2k for a studio desk unless it's some handmade hardwood stuff with carvings and shit.

    Again, if you're not a DIY-guy, head into a department store and get a nice plywood desk for yourself, really shouldn't cost you more than $200.

    Now the only thing left is gear, and God knows only sky is the limit here. Or, you know, the heliopause, depending on how deep your pocket goes. You can get some great ADAM nearfields for $2000 like the A77X if you've got the space, or the A8X and then get a Sub 10 (which'll total for a bit more than A77X, and you can get it down to about even if you go for A7X instead) if you're tight on space. Ideally, you don't want to be placed near the wall—you want your monitoring position to be 43% (I think that's the number) into the room.
     
  8. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Thank you!

    I suggest ignoring all other advice about acoustics, no offense.
     
  9. chillbot

    chillbot Sock Muppet

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    In no particular order I think my three most favorite things in my studio are 1) coffee machine 2) walkie talkies 3) soft foot stool. I would put these high on your priority list.
     
  10. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Nothing like a nice soft stool.
     
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  11. chillbot

    chillbot Sock Muppet

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    Well I guess I was assuming there was already a studio toilet otherwise that's going to be your first key to productivity.
     
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  12. gyprock

    gyprock Member

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    Check out this guy's desk (starting at 2:48):



    I'm thinking of building one myself because I like the idea of sliding a cover over a fixed keyboard rather than having the keyboard on a movable stand. It's also so simple in design that any size keyboard can be accommodated.
     
  13. Dietz

    Dietz Space Explorer

    A studio that deserves the name is 60% about acoustics, 20% about monitoring and 19% about ergonomics. The remaining 11% is gear (... which sums up to the necessary 110%, all in all. ;) ).

    ... BTW: The most underrated topic - especially in small rooms - is ventilation, most likely.
     
  14. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

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    I know there is great truth to that. In the dark ages (think tape, large format consoles, etc) we used to joke that the most important piece of gear in the studio was a really good espresso machine! At the time most of the studios where I worked did a lot of work with ad agencies, and for the most part the ad execs really were more interested in the beverages.

    Now, with more personal use studios things have been flipped upside down. It is possible (not sure about practical) to try to address isolation and acoustics out of the gate - if you are building from scratch, and if you are building a purpose built space.

    I'd argue that a comfortable work space still trumps everything else. It is quite possible to adapt the space acoustically, it can be expensive, but it is possible. You can also (at some expense) fix lighting or HVAC problems. You can fix electrical problems too, but that becomes even more expensive after the fact.

    What you can't necesarilly fix is comfort. And if you are not hosting clients then you really need to take that into consideration. Being able to move about the space easily, having everything within reach, these things do matter, and yes, they will likely make the acoustical treatment a tad more challenging.

    I do want to make a couple comments on some of the advice above - my opinions only, worth what you paid for them:

    "Ideally, you'd have the entire room dressed in 100cm of mineral wool for maximal absorbtion, but who can afford the space? Plus, it'll be really, really dead. Some might like that, some might not. But you definitely want to deal with early reflections in your monitoring spot and the corners to reduce bass buildup."

    You do NOT want to cover all the walls with absorption - that will create a room where you can not realistically monitor. While the actual execution has varied over the years - LEDE(tm), RFZ(tm) Phantom Image(tm), Non-Environment Room(tm?) the basic concept remains the same.

    A small critical listening space is non-reverberent, and REQUIRES absorption, diffusion, and reflection. How and where these tools are used varies depending on the philosophy you follow.

    Also, and maybe even more to the point, bass buildup and early reflections are two very different problems caused by two very different mechanisms. You can trace both back to room dimensions and geometry, but the treatments will differ.

    There is also a great deal if evidence that early reflections are not as bad as we once thought, although they do need to be managed.

    And the really controversial topic - tools like Sonarworks have very limited utility. You can not fix time domain problems in the frequency domain. There is a theory, still a theory, that with sufficient horsepower one can correct both time and frequency domain problems for one specific location in a room by using what amounts to an inverse impulse response. If you consider the monitoring system as a whole, and treat the changes to the original audio introduced into the monitoring system as a transfer function you can use the inverse of that transfer function to make corrections. The problem is the transfer function will differ depending on location, and to some degree based on the signal used to excite the room. Sonarworks and similar tools are really very cool for headphone mixes, but they just do not, can not, do what they promise.

    Can/will they make an audible difference (in a good way) in your space? I suppose it can, although the artifacts have been worse than the original problem in the few cases where I've tried them.

    Again my ears, my experience, but I would caution you against recommendations to cover the entire space with rockwool, and suggest that a tool like Sonarworks should be the last piece of the puzzle, and it is entirely likely that when you reach that step you won't need it.

    All in all have fun building your studio!
     
  15. bill5

    bill5 Active Member

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    I would suggest starting off by doing the research. Tons of great sites and info all over the place. This will save you a lot of time and money in the long run and is much more efficient and helpful than asking for some tidbits on a message forum (not that there isn't some great stuff above...).
     
  16. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Okay, this is a historic day - the first time I've raised an eyebrow at anything Dietz says. :)

    Well, deserving the name "studio" is subjective, and I think Dietz operates at a much higher pure audio engineering level than I or most composers do.

    But I say you need to start with really good monitors, and while I don't know what percentage I'd give them, they're a sine qua non. Then you deal with the acoustic problems you hear.

    I think almost everyone here is less concerned with total perfection than with just making our rooms "workable" - another subjective word, of course, but I just mean that your monitoring setup doesn't disorient you in a way that causes you to make bad decisions. Or that makes your brain hurt after working in it a few hours.

    A good test for me is what my voice sounds like. If I'm conscious of it - if it's boomy, ringing, overly bright, if it changes when I move a few inches - then I know the room has problems. And vice versa - if it sounds right, I know the room's probably okay.

    Now, if you're starting from scratch with architects and can decide on room ratios, etc., then of course it's a totally different game.

    [Edit: Dietz isn't saying this.] What frustrates me no end (and my fingers can never resist shouting about) is the typical "you need to buy xxxx 'room treatment' products" advice you get on the Internet. That's like telling someone to have open heart surgery when all you know about them is that they're buying a new bicycle.

    Or something like that.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
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  17. Dietz

    Dietz Space Explorer

    No, I wouldn't say that. :-D ... The more I know about control rooms, the less I would plan one on my own. I'm _not_ suggesting to "buy stuff from the internet" - quite contrary: If you're serious about it, there's no shortcut to proper acoustics, and you need a professional to do it properly (... who knows the stuff that you can't find in books - let alone the 'net! - because s/he built hundred rooms before).

    ... and while I'm not going to pick a quarrel with you, Nick ;) ...: in a good room, you _can_ correct so-so monitoring by means of a Trinnov-device or a Dirac/miniDSP-based tool to a large extent, because this is the time-invariant component. But you can't really correct a so-so room like that, not even with the best monitors money can buy.

    To coin a phrase: Doing music (or any audio-related work, that is) in a mediocre acoustic environment is similar to a painter who works in flickering green light. :sick:

    [edited to correct the names "Trinnov" and "Dirac/miniDSP"]
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  18. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    The funny thing is that we've all - or at least I have - been in commercial studios with control rooms that sound far worse than a decent room in someone's house! There's so much snake oil going around when it comes to acoustics.

    Anyway, Dietz, if you were led into my office/studio blindfolded and told it's Nasenbohrer Mastering's new room... well, okay, you probably wouldn't be fooled.

    But I still think you'd say it's fine.

    All right, at least you'd say it's far better than the flickering green light disaster.

    Okay, okay, let me put it this way: my room sounds pretty good, and it's certainly not my limitation.

    Now, I did do a lot of experimentation, it isn't a total accident, I did get advice from friends who are experts, and I do have some broadband absorption on the front side walls - yes, a commercial "room treatment" ASC product that they don't seem to sell anymore. But I don't have anything especially fancy here.

    I still say you can make a room workable - not Tonmeister level, but pleasant to work in - pretty easily. (Most of it is just broadband absorption at the front.)
     
  19. Dietz

    Dietz Space Explorer

    You certainly can! :) Still I prefer (and strongly suggest) to get a professional to design a new audio room as soon as it's not just a hobby.

    BTW: To judge a control room you don't know it should be enough to sing a few lines of a song you like, and to listen to a few pink-noise-bursts through the monitor systems. Some not-too-fast sine sweeps might help, too, to get an idea about the low-end. After that listen to some music - ideally tried-and tested stuff you worked yourself, and/or music mixed by one of our Masters. Finally, knock on all possibly loose surfaces to identify unwanted sources for rattles and boingy resonances. 8-P

    Now, you won't get fooled again!*) ... :)

    *) ((c) The Who)
     
  20. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Well...
     

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