Category Archives for Home Studio Building

Building a Home Recording Studio – A Practical Guide With Construction Tips and More

When I was building a home recording studio, I took my time and did things carefully. It wasn't that hard, but took careful planning. 

I did the planning and considerations, and here are some things that helped me. I hope they can be of use to you.

Some first things. How much can you remodel your space? If it is a home recording studio, you are probably remodeling a room in your home. But it could be a shed or other building (even one you rent, with the permission of the landlord, of course!). 

If you can do a lot of renovation, building a home recording studio is fun, because you can control things like double walls, sound proofing, U-boats and RC-8 channel, and double drywall layers. Even if you cannot do much renovation, simple things that don't cost that much can be easy to install and very effective.

The ideas on this page are organized in three sections. First come basic construction ideas relating to building a recording studio. Second are specific things related to acoustical design in the construction. Third, we look at acoustical treatments that can be applied to walls, corners, and ceilings after the main construction phase is complete.

Basic Construction

This is the "building" of building a home recording studio. This section is for folks that can do some remodeling and hiring a contractor (or do it yourself).

When building a home recording studio, use basic common sense for constructing walls, floors, and ceilings that will block as much sound as possible. Remember, there are two ways sound can travel - in and out. In is the most critical for us, because we don't want extra sound popping up on our recordings. But considering out will help to keep the family or neighbors happy.

It would be good now to brush up on the subject of acoustics now, because we'll make use of it going forward. Remember the two ideas of sound transmission and sound reflection.

In the construction part, sound transmission rules. The goal is to build a wall that blocks as much sound going through as possible (within the constraints of space, time, and money). Building a double wall, one that leaves a few inches of airtight dead space, serves as the ultimate sound proofing solution. But it's usually not practical. So we improvise.

Walls. Building a home recording studio requires good walls. Mass is the key word. But be smart. Do things like glue the drywall to the wall studs, caulk everywhere you can from the backside to make the wall airtight. Fill it with insulation (see below). Don't make many holes for wires and stuff. Put on a second layer of drywall (and maybe use RC-8 channel, see below). Maybe use some Sheetblock on it (also below). You can go to the trouble of using a 2x6 wall, and 2x4 studs that are alternating between the two sides of the wall (see picture). I did not - it's too much bother. The picture shows the blue wall studs attached to one side and the green ones to the other (diagram is looking down at the top of the wall).

Insulation. Key idea to consider: fill the walls with cellulose insulation (the kind that is blown in, instead of fiberglass that comes on rolls). The result is much more sound blocking (sound transmission). I checked on the STC ratings of them both when I built my studio, and it was much better. The other option is to go with an acoustical insulation, like one provided by Auralex. See below.

Also, put insulation everywhere you can. In the walls, the floor, the celing, everywhere. See picture below, showing cellulose in the walls and fiberglass in the floor. A related tip is to caulk ALL the joints where studs meet the outside wall. This makes the wall airtight, and increases the sound proofing. (This is perhaps the easiest tip for building a home recording studio. Just make it airtight.)

Windows. You will probably want a window if you plan to make use of two rooms. Trust me, it's worth it, unless it is simply a computer closet or something. To make a window, plan to leave an airspace in between to panes. 

  1. For the window panes, just go to a local glass store (ask at a hardware store if you can't find one) and get 1/4" or 3/8" glass panes cut to the size of your window. 
  2. Wait till the wall is framed up and the drywall is on (but before any trim is on). 
  3. Get a 1x8 from a lumberyard and rip the width down to the space of the window (make sure it covers the two sets of drywall). 
  4. Nail that to the wall framing (it might be helpful to put a rubber decoupler there, like sheetblock). This serves as the basic frame (1). 
  5. Next, rip another 1x8 into two small 1x1s (3) and leave the remainder for the middle. 
  6. Nail the middle piece (2) onto the basic frame. 
  7. Now put some window/door weatherizing strips onto the middle piece (2), the frame (1), and the small pieces (3) where the glass pane will touch them. 
  8. Clean the glass well, and place it against the middle piece resting on the frame, and screw or nail the small pieces to the frame, thereby holding the glass in place. 
  9. Repeat for the other side.
  10. Voila, a professional window! You wil probably want to either stain the middle and small pieces, or put a piece of scrap carpet in it.

Ceilings. If you have upstairs rooms, this will be the hardest. Frankly, I don't know of a way in building a home recording studio to eliminate sound from above, apart from building a separate, detached ceiling. But who has room for that? The only way I've found to take care of the sound is to make sure that no one goes up when I'm recording. But here is what I did. We put big floor joists in, 2x10s or 2x12s (I forget which), and filled the entire cavity with insulation. It helps, but is not foolproof. The ceiling also got two layers of drywall and one layer of Sheetblock.

Acoustic Design

By "acoustical design" in relation to building a home recording studio, I mean those things you do in construction that are specifically designed for acoustical applications in building a recording studio. These are not things like foam panels and acoustical treatments (that comes in the next section), but things like insulation, floor support, and drywall hanging aids. Here are the common options available to someone looking at building a home recording studio.


U-boats. These little things are fun and pretty good. The work to decouple the floor joists from the subfloor. The principle is simple - load these boots around the floor joists and set them on the existing floor. The rubber dampens any vibrations, and takes care of wandering shocks that want to get into the recording. Here is a picture showing them in use.

Drywall hanging channel (RC-8 Channel). If you are building a home recording studio and are putting on walls, definitely give this little tool a shot. As mentioned earlier, an airspace between two walls is very effective in adding to the STC or sound proofing factor of a wall. RC-8 channel is an easy way to achieve this without building a second wall. 

Here's the deal. Screw these to your existing wall, running perpendicular to the wall studs. Then screw new drywall to the tracks. They ensure a 1/2" airspace and are the easiest way to put an airspace in a wall. Here's a picture of them in use (I installed them against a wall with cellulose insulation, and a mesh to hold it in place).

Insulation. We talked about insulation before, so nothing new here. The special acoustical part is the Auralex Mineral Fiber insulation, which I chose not to use in my studio. 2" thick, and 4" thick. I'm sure it works great, but for me the cost did not justify upgrading from cellulose insulation.

Sheetblock. Ah yes, everyone building a home recording studio should know about Sheetblock. This is a rubber sheet that comes on a roll. The goal is to introduce more mass to the wall in a thin, small package. This product gets glued to the wall, usually in a layer inside the wall. Sheetblock adds considerably to the STC level of the wall but is very thin. This makes it ideal for a small but effective treatment. It's heavy. See some sheetblock on the window construction picture - it's the black rubber stuff between the boards.

Acoustical Treatments

Building a home recording studio is not over yet! After the construction part is finished, a studio usually needs some kind of management on the walls and ceiling to control reflection inside the room. The solutions above are trying to control sound coming into the room (sound transmission), these are for sound already in the room (sound reflection). These acoustical solutions apply to those problems.

Foam. This is what most people think of first for acoustical treatments. It's an easy way to help tame a room. Does it sound too bright and echoey? Use foam to calm things down. A lot of companies make foam, and I don't know them all. But I know the best one, can you guess... Auralex! Auralex foam is what I used in building a home recording studio, and I recommend you do to. (Make sure you read the easy solution to treating a studio below.)

But it comes in several varieties: different panel sizes, like 2'x2', or 2'x4', or 1'x1', and different thicknesses, like 2" or 4". Of course, colors are up for grabs. I got a kit that worked out well. Here is a small Auralex foam kit.

Bass traps. These boys come in many varieties and can be hard to figure out. Sometimes people actually build them into the structure, and they can be quite complex. Think spaces here, sound absorbtion there, block the low frequency waves here, and so on. There is a simpler way to do it. 

Did you ever notice that the low frequencies tend to gather in the corners of a room? Try singing to yourself, and slowly move into a corner. The bass sounds will get stronger. I don't know why; they just do. Anyway, if you put a bass trap built from foam (Auralex calls them Lenrds) into the corner, it stops those low frequency sounds from running around. It doesn't seem like it should work, but I can say from personal experience that it does work.

Diffusers. Where foam tries to stop sound from reflecting, a diffuser keeps it going but in a special way. The reflections are diffused, or split up. Think of a laser light on a mirror - that's like a sound wave that bounces straight away. But what happens if the light is reflected in a wide spread instead of a single beam? That reduces the power and concentration of the light. Think about a prism.

It works the same way for sound. A diffuser spreads the sound out, smoothing out the echo or reverb of the room. I have these behind my listening position, to diffuse the sound from the studio monitors so it doesn't echo right back to me. I also put them on the ceiling in random spots. They work great to liven the room after all the foam went in. See some Auralex diffusers.

This is an overview of the acoustical treatments in building a home recording studio. Also see the acoustic foam page for more discussion on Auralex products.

Whew!

So, after that exhausting ride on building a home recording studio, what are your thoughts? I'd love to hear if this has been helpful, or if I am missing something here. We went from talking about how to build a recording studio in the construction phase, to talking about specific acoustical products for construction, then to some on acoustic treatment. What a workout! But relax, building a home recording studio should be fun.

So get out there, and start doing it. What do you need? If you cannot do any remodeling, look at what treatments you can put on. That is the best way to make a room sound much, much better.

Return from Building a Home Recording Studio to Home

Here is a site with good information about how to build a home recording studio, talking about selecting equipment.

Note: some links on this site that go to other websites may be affiliate links. What does this mean? Nothing, really, except that if you choose to buy from that link, I'll get a small credit for referring you over. It's a way for you to send a little compensation for the value you received. And it's no extra cost to you. So I thank you!

Recording Studio Furniture – A Guided Tour

What can you use as recording studio furniture, and how should you set it up? This is something that doesn't come to your mind right away when you think about setting up a home recording studio, but in reality it is important. The way the furniture is set up is the way you will interact with your equipment. This can make recording a joy or a pain.

For some of us, it's not that big of an issue. The recording studio furniture is kind of limited by what is in the room that we are working in. When I started, I set up the computer and equipment in my bedroom, on a makeshift desk that also functioned as a dresser. 

Not very pretty, is it? But it worked, and I learned a lot about recording in the years since. In other words, you don't need fancy equipment to get started. You can learn about recording without something that looks pretty and sophisticated.

But it sure does make it easier to have a setup that makes things easy to use and work with. My current setup includes a desk I bought at a bargain office supply store, and a rack kit for some audio gear. It still isn't that pretty, but it works great for what I need it to. 

The one nice thing that I have that I recommend to others starting in the home recording business is a rack mount. You can see it in the bottom left corner of the last picture. It is simply a box with an open front and back, and rails along the sides to screw in various pieces of audio gear. This holds it in place, and makes for a great way to keep all the stuff together. As an added plus, the connections that go from unit to unit stay put when you move the rack. And it offers a little bit of non-prime desk space, great for other things, like my printer. 

You can find a rack kit in several different sizes, ranging from small, being 2 or 4 spaces, to large, with over 20 spaces and casters on the bottom. I like the Raxxess Economy Rack Kit,which is the one I got. For not much money you get a very usable rack. They range from 4 to 14 spaces. The last time I checked, you could get any one of them for just over or under $100.

Another piece of recording studio furniture I saw that might be very useful is a kind of desk. It's called a workstation, and it looks very customizable for different users. It is called the On Stage Total Pro Workstation, and has room for all your recording equipment. There are monitor stands, a spot to put the computer, a desk space, a place for a keyboard, and even a few rack spaces. I would be interested in this if I didn't already have something that works.

In lieu of a big workstation type desk, you can get a simple and quick rack system. On Stage, the same company as makes the workstation, also makes a simple 12 space rack. You can't get much simpler than this - just to L shaped pieces of metal that are connected.

Finally, one last piece of studio furniture that may be handy are monitor stands. In my studio, you see the monitors (studio speakers) are setting on cute little stands at the edge of the desk. The On Stage Workstation includes 2 sets of monitor stands as well. But what if you need a place to set monitors? Consider a pair of monitor stands, which are floor setting stands on which to set monitors and optimize the position so your mixing position gets the best sound. Raxxess has a good set of these. You can fill the center post with bagged sand to add to stability and sound quality.

So recording studio furniture is not difficult, but once you know what's available, it makes it a whole lot easier. Is this all that is available? By no means - there are much more elaborate and expensive setups out there, but for someone looking to start a home recording setup, this list will serve you well. Check out these offerings, and see if they don't give you what you need.

Recording acoustics – how sound works

All about recording acoustics

The study of recording acoustics is a fascinating but intimidating study. However, we'll break it down into several principles that can be applied to help the bedroom recording studio function properly. 

Here's the course of action: we split the subject into two topics as it relates to the studio, sound transmission and sound reflection. We'll discuss how they are relevant to the recording studio, and then ways to implement them. 

Since I am not a recording acoustics expert and have only worked on one studio (my project studio), I will hand the ins and outs of retrofitting a studio for proper acoustics to people who have more experience. In other words, I'll give you links to research the matter further. 🙂 

Very simply, recording acoustics is the study of how sound works - looking at how sound waves bounce or pass through different objects and what amplifies or attenuates (diminishes) them. How does that affect the recording engineer? In several ways. 

  • First, you have to worry about sound coming into the studio from outside. 
  • Second, you have to think about the reverberation or "sound" of the room, if it has flutter echo, long decay, nasty decay, etc. (Decay is the reverberation of a sound after the original sound stops until it dies away.) 
  • Finally, you might have to think about others outside the studio who might not want to hear what's going on inside. 🙂 

#1 Sound Transmission

If you've done any kind of recording, you will have some sort of noise on it, likely from some external souce. It could be rain on the roof, birds singing outside, an air conditioner downstairs, or footsteps overhead. Any way you dice it, noise happens. That is half the reason that recording studios are so concerned with construction and using the right materials. 

Everything transmits sound to some degree. Sound is vibrations (something you can feel at lower frequencies), and it is transmitted by transferring the vibrations to surrounding air or materials. When a sound wave encounters an obstacle its energy is split two ways - some of the sound is absorbed and transmitted by and through the object, and the rest is reflected back by the surface. However the denser the obstacle (or wall) is, the less it will transmit, or the more it will absorb. 

Our job is to find and place materials in the walls of the studio that will absorb as much sound as possible. There are various materials used, from concrete to drywall, in the walls and floor, as well as different strategies in using them, like building a double wall, hanging two layers of drywall, and filling the wall with insulation. 

I prefer to focus on simply recording, which keeps me busy enough. But when I built my project studio I researched somewhat extensively online on the proper principles to use in constructing a studio. I'll include a few that were helpful to me below in section 3. Check them out - they have a lot of good info to absorb. 

#2 Sound Reflection

The second part of our survey of recording acoustics deals with the way sound behaves in rooms. In the first part we looked at how sound is transmitted through obstacles, but that is only half the story. When a sound wave encounters a barrier, some of the energy is transmitted and some reflected. 

If you don't believe me, cup your hands to make a tunnel from your mouth to ear, and shout something really loud. As you recover your hearing, let's think about what happens to the sound. It is reflected many times over until it reaches your ear, and it was still quite loud when it got there. 

It's that way with a room as well. Whatever you sing or play is reflected off the various walls until it simply loses energy and dies away. Normally this happens with in a second or two, unless it's in a big room (like a cathedral). However for recording we don't want such a large reverb (usually). If it is a big decay time, we have to tame it down somehow. 

There are a multitude of ways to achieve this, both cheap and expensive to varying degrees of success. You can put carpet on the floor to absorb the high frequency sound, or put curtains up. This can help some, but most common materials combat high frequency sound, while leaving the low stuff run free. We need some solution to take care of the wide band problem. 

Fortunately, some relatively simple options exist. Acoustic foam comes in various shapes and sizes, and even does bass trapping. That is the simplest, most effective way for a small studio/room to get acoustic results.

I can't profess to know all about recording acoustics and solve all the problems. However, others can, and I can point you to them. Stay tuned for part 3. 

#3 Links

OK, I've bored you enough with my less than exciting attempts at explaining recording acoustics to you. Here I will pass the baton to other websites that have gone this road before, and done a much better job. 

If you are building your own space or renovating a room, be sure to check out www.acoustics101.com. They have an excellent book on building a room, and what to think about in the structural elements of things. They refer briefly to Auralex foam products for the sound reflections (#2) part of things. I use Auralex products, and am well pleased with them. They offer a wide range of treatment products, from various thicknesses of foam to bass traps and isolation platforms. Check them out at www.auralex.com, or look at some of their products at zZounds.com or at FullCompass.com.

When I was building my project studio I referred to acoustics101.com a lot, and took a lot of ideas from it. Maybe I can describe my studio later, and what all I used in making it. 

Another article I found helpful is arts.ucsc.edu/ems/music/tech_background/TE-14/teces_14.html. It has a description of the principles of acoustics, and goes on to talk about practical application of them in an actual room in a house, a bedroom recording studio if you will. 

Do you have a link that should be here? Please give it to me, and if it will work for here I'll add it so everyone can benefit. 

#4 Conclusion

This is meant to be a brief (and Very Brief!) introduction to recording acoustics and the recording studio. I just want to get your feet wet, so you can study everything for yourself. The web has a lot of good info available, and this page is designed to help you get started. 

Why you need acoustic foam

Acoustic foam is special foam that is engineered to provide the optimum amount of sound absorption to make a recording space sound better. Acoustic foam or acoustical tile is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to retrofit a room with acoustic material to improve the recording quality of the room.

All rooms have inherent acoustical problems, such as standing waves and room modes. Without getting technical, this has to do with the shape and size of the room, as well as what is on the walls. Suffice it to say that these problems can negatively impact the sound of your recordings.

Any room will benefit from some acoustic material, in whatever amount you can give. You can do this in several ways. First, you can put some acoustical foam on some walls to cut down on the extra reverb or nasty slapback echo. Second, you can use a bass trap to level out the room’s response, and make the whole spectrum more accurate. And lastly, you can put some other acoustic material, such as a diffuser, on the walls or ceiling to further diffuse and scatter the sound.

All these things will make the room sound much better for recording, because the echoes and inherent problems are being taken care of.

Why you need it

The sound of the room dramatically impacts what kind of recording you will end up with. Think about the difference between a bathroom and a gym. Huge difference, right? Maybe a more fair comparison is a a tub/shower and a walk in clothes closet.

The tub, because of the hard surfaces and small area, is much more “live” and reflective than the closet. However, the closet still doesn’t mean that recording will be fine. Because of all the clothes and carpet on the floor, it tends to absorb high frequencies. Low frequencies bounce around, untouched by what is there.

If you do a recording in one of those rooms, you may get your desired response, but usually it won’t be. It may be:

  • Too heavy on the bass.
  • Sounding dead.
  • Maybe ok, except for a note or two that just jumps out at you.

(Actually, you can test that in a shower – just hum or sing up in pitch like a siren from your low range, and listen for which note jumps out at you.)

This is why you need acoustic treatment.

What acoustic material to get

There are two basic kinds of acoustic foam that I recommend getting. First an acoustical tile, or a small tile that you can fasten to the wall. Auralex is a company that makes these, and here is what they call a “wedgie,” a 2’x2′ piece of acoustical foam. They have various kinds of foam, and I use two different kinds in my studio. While you’re on that site, do a search for Auralex, and see what else they have available.

Bass Trap

The second kind of treatment I recommend is a bass trap. This is simply a piece of engineered foam that you put in the corner of a wall. These corners are typically the place where low frequency pockets congregate. Just try humming some low notes, and move toward a wall corner. What makes it worse is that these low frequencies are the hardest to control. That’s why Auralex has a such great product in their LENRD bass traps. I use them in my studio, and they work wonderfully.

Diffuser

The last main kind of acoustic treatment is one that many people won’t need to use. It is the diffuser. If acoustic foam absorbs the sound frequencies and stops them from reflecting, a diffuser reflects as much of them as it can. But instead of reflecting everything the same way, like a wall, an acoustical diffuser tries to do this as randomly as possible. This way the higher frequencies are reflected and distributed in the room. The result is a more even room.

Installation of these materials is fairly straight forward. You can permanently adhere it to the wall with glue ( TubeTack that comes in a caulk tube, or Foamtak that comes in a spray bottle and is easier to use). The diffusers require a bit more work, like stuffing the back with insulation for extra benefit, and using contact cement to glue it to the wall or ceiling.

So, outfitting a room for better acoustics for recording isn’t hard. Some simple acoustic foam will get you well on your way.