Building Acoustic Treatment

I'm falling in love with music all over again. Everyone said this one change would improve your mixing tenfold. I'd always believed them, but since I don't spend much money on my studio anyway, I never gave it a lot of consideration. That is, until I got more and more fed up with my mixes not translating whenever I mixed on my speakers.

So what was advertised to work magic on your music (and has for mine)? Acoustic treatment.
OC703 with frame, and Knuckles, the neighborhood stray.

This is Owens Corning 703, or acoustic insulation. You can get many other kinds of acoustic insulation, but this is one of the best and just happens to be cheapest around where I live. The idea is if you frame these puppies and cover them with a acoustically transparent cloth, you can put them strategically in your studio and your room will stop messing around with the sound coming out of your speakers. It works!

Make 'em yourself

If you build them like I did instead of buying them from someone else, here's what you'll need:
- OC703 - You won't find this at Lowes or Home Depot, but if you call around local insulation or construction distributors, you'll probably find it. They come in 2x4ft batts, and you can get them 2in thick or 4in thick. There are a variety of backings as well; I bought foil-backed batts because they were the cheapest.
- 1x3 lumber - I think it's a leftover cut of wood, because 1x3x8 lumber costs 3 times less than 1x4. But it fits a batt of insulation nicely with a bit of space behind it (which proves advantageous for the effectiveness of the panel!)
- Drywall screws - Cheap and effective. You'll want to pre-drill holes with the thin 1" wood.
- A chop saw, tape measure, pencil, etc.
Chopping some wood to length.
There are a variety of ways you can frame the wood around the insulation; I went with a simple frame covering the sides of the batts since I plan on moving them around. (The studio is being moved to another room to make room for baby #2!) I also made a few different sizes of panels: full-size (2x4) for corners and ceiling cloud; half size (1x4) for side walls...
Some done, lots to go.
and I bought a small bit of 1x4 wood to make a double-stuffed frame that will serve two purposes: as corner bass traps, and as portable gobos.
Double-stuf! Though unlike Oreos, it's really 2x the stuffing.


So how do they sound? I put them up in my current studio but I didn't mount them on the walls, since I'll be moving soon. But even with the panels on the ground, there are significant differences. Here are a few:

- I can hear all the bass (the bass is actually louder and fuller than before)
- Reverbs ring out and sound clear; it's not muddied by reflections in my room. I get a much better sense of spatial clarity in any given song.
- Interestingly enough, Chris Lord-Alge mixes stand out above the rest. In fact, all the big name mixers' mixes sound better and a cut above. That's why they get paid the big bucks!
- After a few mastering sessions this week, I'm realizing that it takes me half as long to get where I want to in a mix because I'm not second-guessing myself all the time. I just hear the music as it is and make changes as I need to.
(sorry for the mess...we're in transition.)
So, does acoustic treatment make me a mix master? No. But does the treatment take my mixes to the next level? Absolutely. This has been the best $250 I've spent so far on my studio. And all the guys are right: if I did it again, I'd absolutely choose acoustic treatment over a new microphone or preamp.