Acoustic Treatment? Hell yes!

I recently renewed my 2 year sub to Sound on Sound magazine.  Each month they have a column entitled Studio SOS where they go into someones home studio and make it better.  Without fail, one of the main things they do is apply some kind of acoustic treatment.  I have been reading this for over two years now and done nothing myself.

Sure I'd been thinking about it.  Even talking about it.  Even promising myself not to buy anything new until I did some acoustic treatment.  But it was work.  I'm a messy guy and this involved some cleanup, some money, and some time.  All major impediments.

The mess before
My room is fine, I'd tell my self.  This is a hobby.  I don't want to deal with mineral wool or fibreglass.  Auralex is really expensive.  Bass traps are even more expensive.  And did I mention my room was fine?

Chatting with some friends online, I learned of a green insulation alternative called Ultratouch made of recycled denim.  Hmmm.  Some searching on the Intertubez led me to a supplier within semi-sane driving distance.  Their website listed a bag of the stuff containing 5 sheets of 24"x48" (x8" thick) for under $90.  This started the wheels turning...

So over the holidays, while my fellow Canadians rushed around insanely looking for Boxing week deals on TVs and other crap I finally got my ass in gear and went to visit Eco Building Resource to have a look at this Ultratouch stuff.  (Apparently, I 'm not the only musician type to have come through there)  Wasn't long before I had a big bag of the stuff in my truck.

Next stop, a fabric store.  After wandering around like an idiot, I asked somebody for the cheapest black cloth and ended up with $15 worth (5m of black broad cloth).

Next, I went to a hardware store and got some cheap board (1/2"x5 1/2") and had it cut to the 2 and 4 foot lengths I would need.  I also needed a staple gun and some vapor barrier (plastic sheeting).  Spent another $60ish there.

Then took a break for some oysters with my sweetie (fade to black).

The next morning I realized that I'd proably also need some L brackets, screws and some anchors for the hanging.  After dropping another $30 there I was ready.

As you might expect, not all the wood was exactly the same length, so I took some time to identify pairs that we closely matched.  Then banged in three finishing nails on each corner and had a box.  I then drilled pilot holes and screwed on the L brackets.  Without these brackets, the box would be flimsy and the nails would easily work loose.  And the pilot holes keep the wood screws from splitting the boards.

Now with a completed box, I stretched out a double layer of vapor barrier over the one side and stapled it down.  I bought super cheap vapor barrier which was quite thin so I ended up doubling up.  I suppose I could have something else here, like that stuff you see on the back of your sofa but I wasn't that smart.

Next I spread the cloth on the floor (I had previously cut it to size) and put a sheet of the insulation onto it.  I then lowered the box over that.  I could now staple the cloth to the box.  I arrived at this order of operations after wrestling with the first one a little (first one, I put the insulation into the box, put the cloth overtop and then had to flip the whole thing without it all coming apart).

After building all five panels, I set about worrying about how and where to hang them.  I decided that it would be best if I hung them in "landscape" with the 4 foot side being horizontal.  I put anchors into the walls and a screw into the anchor such that it protruded about an inch then simply hung the panel on the screw.  Totally sleazy and definitely not earthquake proof but hey, we don't really much of that here.

I now have 4 of the 5 panels hung.  I still have to work out how to hang the final one from the ceiling but that's going to involve doing something creative with the light fixture and thus will wait for the next surge of energy (which may never happen).

So I'm out around $200, my back is sore, was it worth it?  ZOMG!  Yes!  I'm sure you've all read the audio geek terms about improved stereo separation etc.  I'm going to try to say this in English.  The difference is profound, amazing, fill in your favourite gushing adjective here.  First thing I notice is that I can hear bass.  Previously I was thinking that someday I'd need a sub(-woofer).  Bull cookies.  I have loads of bass, I just couldn't hear it before.  I might even have too much and will need to think about bass traps.  Not sure yet.  Second thing I notice is that I can hear without straining where things are panned (ah, so this is what they mean by improved stereo imaging).  Finally, I'm noticing new details in music I thought I knew.  Presumably that's because those details aren't being masked/buried by early reflections...

Quite simply this is the best $200 I have spent on this crazy journey.

The slightly improved mess
Studio kitteh


You're Comin' Along

Pretty soon it will be 2 years since I started taking guitar lessons.  My goals have not really changed too much.  I've become enamoured of semi-complex chords and nice jazzy sequences.  I've also been sucked into my looper.  So much that I have not been recording too much...

Last Sunday, I played at the T-Rox Jam Night. Aside from the terror of going first, I think it went alright:

By way of comparison, in July 2009, I played live for the first time:

Obviously, I still have a very very long way to go. But it is really really cool to be learning new tricks.