Doctor Sound

In my community I am well known as the local sound doctor. I receive many requests for help to resolve audio problems in fixed installations as well as in personal studios.

I was at a music store last week when I was approached by one of the employees to help him with a problem. He has a small studio in his home. He cannot get his mixes to translate well from his studio. What this means is that everything sounds fine in his studio but when he plays it on another system, say someone’s car, the mix sounds poor.

I asked him to provide me with some dimensions of his space but I already knew why he was not getting good results. Creating a critical listening space where mixes will translate well to other listening environments is very challenging and usually quite expensive. The hobbyist who spends a couple of thousand dollars on a recording chain generally has little appreciation of the importance of the sound of the room.

I put his current space into my magic spreadsheet and little wonder his mixes sound bad. He has so much build up in the low freqency audio spectrum that he likely creates mixes that sound thin and lack energy on other systems.

Here are the conclusions:

1. The control room is much smaller than recommended minimum dimensions to ensure adequate development of a wide frequency range soundfield

2. There is no indication of any acoustic treatment and, based upon generally accepted mode calculations, there is a high probability of significant modes at approximately 100Hz, 112Hz, 165Hz, 190Hz, 225Hz, and 250Hz

3. The mode clusters indicate a high probability of significant standing waves and acoustic interference rendering the control room unusable for critical monitoring and mixing of audio material

Small, square rooms do not perform well. Of course, spending thousands of dollars, often tens of thousands, on the acoustic treatment of a well designed control room is beyond the reach of most home recordists. There should not be an expectation by the home recordist that the end product will sound as good as professionally recorded material. Unfortunately, the marketplace creates the impression that great sounding recordings can be made with cheap equipment in substandard acoustic environments.

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