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How Much Acoustic Treatment?

This may be a small question but the answer can open up a can of worms.  The reason for this is because no two rooms are alike.  Every room is different in size and construction and the different variables that come with the answer can be overwhelming.  When you have gone to all that expense of building your studio and getting all your equipment in place acoustically treating the room can be quite daunting.  You don’t want to put too much absorption in there, then again you don’t want too little.  Do you place acoustic treatment mainly on one surface or do you cover the walls evenly?  When and where should i place diffusion?  Can i really never have too much bass trapping?  So when answering the original question there are few things that have to be taken into consideration.  The size of the room has a direct relationship to the acoustics of the room.  The construction of the room can affect the way certain frequencies react and travel.  What the room is going to be used for determines what and how much acoustic foam should be installed.  The style of music being worked on also influences how much acoustic treatment is needed and which profile or thickness of acoustic foam would be best suited.  Space availability will also be a contributing factor in determining which products can be used.  If there is very little space for acoustic treatment then we may have to think outside the box, however if the room is quite bare then the job in hand is much easier.

As a generalization a room will require between 25% and 75% coverage of the walls and ceiling.  The coverage depends also on the floor covering as this will have an impact on the rooms acoustics.  So whether you choose to have a hard floor or whether you choose to have a carpet installed this all makes a difference to theacoustic treatment you would install.

As we mentioned earlier every room is different however here is a brief overview of suggested quantities of acoustic treatment:

Control Rooms for rock, pop, rap, hip-hop, R&B, country, techno, MIDI music, etc. usually benefit from 50% to 75% coverage and mostly absorption. Bass Trapping is also an important part of acoustic treatment for this type of room.

Control Rooms for jazz, art (classical), choral, acoustic, world and other forms of ensemble music usually benefit from 35% to 50% coverage.

Mixing rooms usually call for quite a dead area around the mixing desk itself from 50% to 85%. Around the rest of the room it needs a little absorption between 20% and 40% along with some diffusion.

“Live Rooms” will vary a lot. Some well-designed live rooms can get by with 20% coverage (or even less!). Most fall into the 25% to 50% range. The most successful Live Rooms usually have some degree of variability. This is done so that a studio is not limited to a certain number of styles of music. By making the room adjustable it gives the studio a high ability to accommodate different styles of music.

Isolation Booths usually call for quite a bit of absorption – 75% or more. If the booth is to be used for very tight vocal booth then near 100% absorption may be necessary.

Home theatres and dedicated listening rooms do require quite a large area of absorbing foam on the walls. This is mixed with some diffusion on the ceiling also.

Almost never will 100% absorption be needed and neither is it suggested. The room, no matter what it is going to be used for will still need some ‘liveness’ in it. If 100% absorption is used the room will feel very close, tight and very un-natural. The room could come to feel quite claustrophobic and extremely difficult to work in. By leaving a percentage of the area of the walls bare the exposed part can be reflective thus helping to stop your recordings or practice sessions from being overbearing. This will have the outcome of much better performances and recording results.

As we said earlier, every room is different and every room needs its own analysis to workout the correct percentage of acoustic treatment. If it is calculated incorrectly the room will never sound right and will not give your work the justice it is due. That is why we recommend you contact a professional acoustic treatment company who know their products well and know how to best use their products to get the results you need.  The best place to get this information is from Advanced Acoustics.