Inner Portal Studio Upgrades 2014 – Part 1

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Well, 2014 has barely started and I’ve already been pretty busy with some important changes for my studio.  The biggest is ordering some custom Tyler Acoustic D2x monitors to replace my Event Opals.  I love the Opals, but for a long time I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a larger, full-range speaker more ideally suited for mastering.

Tyler D2 03(A D2x unfinished cabinet next to the larger D1x)

Unfortunately, these are build to order, so there’s a 3-4 week wait for them to be fabricated and tested.  Hopefully I will have them in the studio in the next week or two though, and I can’t wait!   More details in a future blog post once they arrive.  🙂

In the meantime, I decided that adding more bass-trapping would probably be a good idea, especially since I’m upgrading to a much larger monitor.  As you can see in the top picture, I had already installed some GIK Super Bass Traps in an old closet area at the back of the studio.  The shape of the closet walls worked well with the traps in the corners like that, it reduced a lot of the bass build ups in my room just as it was.

Still, in smaller studios like mine, you can almost never have too much bass-trapping to tame the low end.   After shopping around online, I found a store called Buyinsulationproducts.com that had some really good prices on the bulk insulation types used for most acoustic treatment.   Using the noise-reduction data I found in the link below, I was able to compare various types of insulation and how they absorb sound at different frequencies:

http://www.bobgolds.com/AbsorptionCoefficients.htm

I initially was going to purchase cheaper Roxul (Rockwool) material for the bass traps, as it’s ever-so-slightly better at absorbing the low end compared to the more common Owens Corning 703 insulation typically used.  But the downside of Roxul is that it’s less rigid than 703, so you pretty much need to make frames for it to work best.  There’s a chance I’m moving to a larger studio in a few months, so I didn’t want to make a bunch of frames that might be the wrong size for the new room.  In the end, I decided 703 was the best way to future proof this investment, so I ordered 8 cases of this:

Owens Corning 703 Panels

If you order from the site above, and are ordering more than just a couple cases, be sure to call them about discounted shipping rates.  It’s MUCH cheaper than the calculator on their site says.  So then, time to build!

IMG_2676(5 of the 8 boxes of 703 in total that I ordered)

The basic plan was to pull the shelving units out of the old closet area, and build a (roughly) 20″ thick wall of solid 703 aross the whole back wall, then put the shelving units and GIK traps in front of it.  Overkill….. yes!  🙂   Because these panels would not really be seen, I didn’t need to use fancy fabric to cover them.  I ended up using weed-blocking cloth from a home improvement store, which cost me only $10 for a roll and was more than enough for the job.

The first step was to stack the panels making one thick panel that I could wrap with a few layers of the cloth, before being placed in the studio.  Pro Tip: If you need to cut the insulation, an electric carving knife makes the job really easy!  Same with any foam (like Auralex) for your studio, the electric knife cuts it like butter.

IMG_2678(The ends of the bundles were covered first, then I wrapped the
middle with multiple layers of cloth to hold it all together.
T-pins were used to fasten the fabric to the insulation)

IMG_2674(Almost empty closet)

IMG_2680(New panels in place, with one more layer of cloth to cover them
and prevent any insulation fibres from becoming airborn)

BassTrapWall

(The final result, doesn’t look much different than it did at first – as planned!)

All together it took me only a few hours to get all the insulation bundled, wrapped in fabric, and placed in the studio.  A few people have asked me if there was any smell from the insulation, since I was using such thin fabric to cover them.  There was a slight smell for a couple hours, but by later that night it had dissipated and hasn’t returned.

I’ll be honest, I was a little curious how much of a difference this would make since I was trying to do this fairly cheap.  And because I wasn’t able to make these proper panels, since my shoulder surgery means no carpentry right now. Plus not knowing if I was even staying in my current room for more than a couple months.

Happily, there was a HUGE difference in sound once I was able to give things a listen!  A much bigger difference than I even hoped for in fact, the low end is incredibly tight in the studio now.  Notes across the low end are even and clearly heard, and the sweet spot for my monitoring increased dramatically too.  All in all the difference was immediate, and obvious to the ear.  All that mass stopped a ton of reflections from being directed back into the studio, my whole back wall is like an audio black hole now.  🙂  I might need to get a diffuser for back there now in fact!

Of course, it wasn’t until AFTER I installed all that bass-trapping that I thought about measuring the low end in the studio using the reference mic and software that came with my Opals for just this purpose.  So unfortunately I only have the “after” results, I don’t have any readings from before the treatment, sorry.

Opals Flat - Post Bass Trapping(Not too bad at all!)

Overall I’m plenty happy with the way this part of the studio upgrade turned out, it really made a much bigger difference than I expected.  And best of all, it really didn’t take that long to do either.

The next step for me is to space my current GIK 242 panels a little bit off the wall, likely just an inch or two to improve how well they work at absorbing the lower-mids.  And then of course, I have some new monitors coming in a couple weeks too.  I don’t think I need to say how I excited about that I am.  Well, except for the part where I have to carry 155 pound (each) speakers up two flights of stairs.

Check back for more pictures and a run down of the speaker install in Part 2!

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