Justification for an untreated room? How dare you! Now that I got your attention, let’s talk about it. Almost everyone with a studio has a treated room. Most have bass traps and wall treatments at their speaker’s first reflection points, perhaps a ceiling cloud above their mixing position. These room treatments deaden, disperse, and absorb unwanted frequencies to create a more realistic and accurate listening environment, making your studio more conducive for recording, mixing, and mastering. However, if you look at the walls of my studio, you’ll find I have no acoustic treatment, just the odd shelving system. So why have I abandoned wall treatments altogether? I’ll explain.
My room is almost perfectly square; to make things worse, it’s small for a studio. Now the word small is subjective; small compared to what? So I’ll be more specific, my room is approximately eleven feet long by eleven feet wide. Once my main production desk is against the wall, I sit in the worst position imaginable for mixing and mastering. My home studio is in a four-level split, which means, like many homes of that era, two of my walls are average (straight up from the floor to ceiling), and the other two have foundation ledges. The external wall of my studio has windows running its entire length. These windows are great for light but horrible for acoustics. In other words, I’ve got a big acoustic mess on my hands. The problem is so dire that no matter how much foam I stick on the walls, the studio would look horrible, and my studio would only sound marginally better.
Having a small square-shaped studio doesn’t mean you’re down for the count. It simply means taming the acoustics in your environment becomes much more difficult. Search for setting up your mixing position; tons of videos and articles dig into the subject in great detail. Others can do a better job of explaining the situation in depth. It boils down to the movement of sound waves in your room; this creation of standing waves and reflections tricks your ears into hearing a misrepresentation of how your music sounds. So when mixing, your studio may produce exaggerated bass frequencies, so you bring the bass frequencies down in the mix, bounce your track to audio, play it on another system in another room, and your track lacks bass. Why? Because the room exaggerated the bass frequencies, making them sound louder than they were, you mixed them down, almost eliminating them from your mix. While this bass frequency explanation is frequently used, this concept happens with most frequencies. You need to trust your mixing environment or understand how it’s affecting your mixing decisions to trust your mix.
I admit I’m not being entirely honest when I say I have no room treatments. I’ve placed shelves filled with uneven items around my studio to diffuse the sound waves, which works well. In my studio, my mixing position is in the worst place imaginable; using room treatments would mean the walls would need adjusting, and treatments would take up my shelving space. If I wanted, I could put up wall treatments and a ceiling cloud, but it would dramatically change the look and feel of my studio, which is also very important to me and wouldn’t change the sound substantially. Because I’m not recording from mics in my room, my room can be the way it is. I mix and master through headphones (covered in another post); I feel I can get away without treatments, still leaving my studio very functional.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t acoustically treat your room; if your studio needs it and it’s vital, that should become a priority. However, if your studio is like mine, where acoustic room treatments are neither critical nor practical, learn to work around it, enjoy your studio, and keep being creative. My other blog posts on “mixing on headphones” and “workarounds for acoustic treatment” provide more details on this subject. Thanks for reading; I’m just a music teacher having fun; catch ya on the next one.