Building Folk Cafe Productions studio was a project born out of necessity, desire and and more than just a little bit of curiosity.
I had worked on a number of studio construction projects before this one. All of of these had either a large enough budget to overcome any acoustic issues or lots of compromises in the name of economics. So I knew the financial and technical challenges I faced in wanting to do this right. Still my desire for the best working space possible could not be stopped.
Having long studied acoustics I certainly had knowledge as to what I needed but a course I had just completed on acoustics in architecture added a new perspective and a few ideas to my plans. I was starting to feel like I could achieve what I wanted, a home project studio with excellent acoustics.
Prior to designing my studio I was just finishing building out a number of new productions suites at work using the design analysis techniques I had learned. Because these suites were in spaces built similarly to residential construction, there were many of the usual compromises. As most of these were video suites this was deemed as acceptable. Still decent result were possible even if sound isolation was out of the question. That’s when it hit me. If you concentrate on the acoustics of the space and are not worried about the sound isolation to the outside world, then things become more manageable and far less costly.
I had worked on a number of home studios but all of them were in basements. The problem with this is the acoustic nature of these kinds of spaces. Given that many of these share common dimensions and concrete construction, I have found the inevitable bass issues to be the biggest obstacle to good sound. Concrete and earth provide great mass and isolation but are not useful as absorption in the studio.
While building my new home the additional cost of adding a walk up attic to my two story house was very small. So I had this big empty space just asking that I build something up there. So I decided I was going up and out of the basement with my studio. I had plenty of space and so I was able to build it using a room within a room technique. Using neoprene floats for the floors and walls, rigid fiberglass insulation, sound stop panels, resilient channels, many cases of silicone caulk and multiple layers of drywall I achieved excellent isolation without all the low bass issues.
The idea behind this is simple. With concrete, the amount of acoustic absorption at the mid and low bass range is nil. In fact the the foundation actually reinforces bass frequencies. Short of designing and installing complex Helmholtz resonators and adding lots of acoustic treatment, basements are just trouble. Rarely do they end up sounding right.
With an attic studio however, even with all of the mass that I added with the drywall, most of the lower bass energy passes directly though the walls. Also the resonant frequency of double layer drywall spaced 16” on center aids with some of the mid bass absorption. All other frequencies are effectively isolated and absorbed. The amount of low energy that escapes does not travel efficiently and as such does not bother the neighbors. The isolation in the floor structure keeps the bass levels from being overwhelming in the rest of the house. This let me concentrate on high bass frequencies and above in my treatment plan. There is plenty of absorption behind the drywall and noise from outside is adequately kept out. All the electrical outlets, window and door frames and even the smallest gaps have been sealed using silicone caulk. The control room door has been engineered so only four isolated fasteners connect to the framing. The gap separating the door from the frame has been built out using sound stop panel material and sealed with caulk. The electric heaters had to be reworked as expansion noise while heating was intolerable. The frame and mounts have been isolated using high temperature silicone insulator materials. There are no small details with this type of work.
The sound treatment for the control room is standard stuff. Staggered and offset absorption panels made out of rigid fiberglass covered with acoustically transparent fabric are fixed to roughly 20 percent of the side walls. The front of the control room is treated with enough of these rigid fiberglass panels to make it effectively dead all the way down to 120Hz. The rear wall is only spot treated with panels to reduce direct reflections at mix position. The last bit of kit is a hanging absorption gobo directly above mix position to absorb reflections from the ceiling. The very slight bass bump in around the 100Hz range is handled by two large rear corner absorbers and a bit of processing for the main subwoofer in the monitoring system.
The result of this is a studio I just love to work in. The design work and treatment make this a room that is balanced and gives you a very natural aural sense of space. It is a modified live end-dead end design control room with a sound stage that is set up for recording acoustic instruments with a fair amount of natural room sound. When not working on projects, I make the studio my office and joyfully listen to my music collection while I work. The only down side to this studio is the two flights of stairs.