Archive for Mix/Master

Acoustic Treatment In A Box??

ARC2 Promo Pic

Hello,

I recently took the plunge and bought IK Multimedia’s ARC 2 System for my project studio. What exactly is this, you ask? Well, allow me to explain.

ARC stands for Advanced Room Correction and a while back I wrote a post where I touched a bit on it while discussing room treatment for my home studio. At the time of writing that post I even reached out to mixing guru, Bobby Owsinksi, regarding his thoughts on the product. He wasn’t too much a fan, but for good reason. I agree with his comment in that one should use acoustic treatment first and foremost and attempt to correct any room issues that way before splurging on some digital gizmo to do it for you. So, I did just that. I added some acoustic treatment first and foremost and it knocked out a large portion of my frequency issues. Hooray! However, my budget and expertise in room treatment is limited and lo and behold, there was still some nagging frequencies roaming my room. Like most home studios, my room is not perfect and it would take some major time, money and know-how to knock out the remaining frequency issues via acoustic treatment.  Enter ARC 2, to polish it all off. The theory is this gizmo will tell me where my room acoustics are now that the treatment is in place and correct the remaining issues for me.

So, how does it work? Essentially, you set up the accompanying omni-directional microphone and it picks up the sequential “chirps” that the ARC software spits out of your speakers and uses this to measure your room acoustics. After each set of “chirps” you move the microphone around the listening spot you are attempting to measure. Once all of those measurements are done, ARC then analyzes the data and gives you a measurement reading of your room acoustics. You’ll see this measurement reading once you open your DAW and instantiate the ARC plugin at the end of your mixing chain.

You want to instantiate the correction at the end of the mix on your Master Channel and be sure to remove it once you are ready to render your mix to mp3 or the like.

You want to instantiate the correction at the end of the mix on your Master Channel, as I’ve done here, and be sure to remove it once you are ready to render your mix to mp3 or the like.

 

The process of using ARC 2 can seem a bit convoluted, but its actually very, very simple and quick to do. Here are a series of videos that do a better job of explaining the process and the product than I could ever do.

The idea is that ARC EQ’s your mix to eliminate the troubling frequencies that essentially hinder your listening space when mixing. So, if you have a huge bass buildup around 300Hz, it will EQ that out in an attempt to make a flat EQ response coming out of your monitors (ideal for mixing). That buildup at 300Hz is the bass bouncing around your room and back to your ears, not the actual mix. If you take that mix and listen through headphones you’ll not hear that bass buildup. So theoretically, by using ARC 2 you won’t be upping the levels of your higher frequencies in order to compete with the lower frequencies that aren’t really present in your mix in the first place. Thus, helping you achieve a better mix more efficiently.

At any rate, I did the measurements the other night and I must say that once I put this plugin on my mix there was a definite audible difference. In fact, I liked it because upon bypassing it I could hear all the bass buildup that it was removing. This can be seen in the photo below.

My room frequency is the orange line. The white line is the correction by ARC. Notice the buildup of bass between 50Hz - 300Hz. Also, notice how unstable my room acoustics are. Ideally you don't want ARC working that hard to give you a flat response. I really need to eliminate as much of that as possible to bring it closer to a flat EQ response and then add ARC.

My room frequency is the orange line. The white line is the correction by ARC. Notice the buildup of bass between 50Hz – 300Hz. Also, notice how unstable my room acoustics are. Ideally you don’t want ARC working that hard to give you a flat response. I really need to eliminate as much of that instability as possible to bring it closer to a flat EQ response before adding ARC.

 

I don’t think my home studio is too far off from your average home studio in regards to the EQ measurement I received: plenty of low end. Ideally, one would want to just add the treatment needed to fix the issues and not mess with any fancy plugins in your DAW. In this ideal scenario, you would just use ARC 2 as a measurement tool only, not a correction tool. But, as I’ve stated earlier, this ideal scenario is beyond most home studio budgets and know-how, which makes the combo of room treatment and ARC 2 a great alternative. I’m pleased with the results so far. ARC 2 does what it says and its actually well-priced. You can pick one up here.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

Spare Bedroom? Let’s Make A Home Studio! – Part 1

So, as I have stated/mentioned in prior posts, I have long had a “home studio” in a spare bedroom in the house. I used the room as is, with just my furniture “cleverly” situated in odd areas. As an example of my odd layout, I decided to put my desk in a corner of the room. Why? Don’t ask me. I guess I was trying my hand at eccentric interior design? Not sure. Plus, I had no acoustic treatment, which didn’t affect the layout, but it did affect the “sound” of the room. As a graphic design / web design office it was just fine. As a music studio? Not so much. Needless to say, over the course of me recording, mixing and mastering audio, I began to realize this room was dishing out all sorts of problems. For instance:

Recording – Too much ambient room noise, and not the good kind. When recording voice overs, echo-flutter was all too apparent. It became a nasty problem once I was in the processing phase, because once I added any compression that echo-flutter was very, up front and center. It made me work harder in the editing phase, attempting to knock out the noise wherever there was a pause in the vocal. I still do this when editing, but I had to get real surgical when dealing with all the echo-flutter. Talk about time consuming, not to mention the echo was still somewhat present during the voice over. Maybe no one else heard it, but I did and I’m the only person that matters…  besides my wife. ;)

Also, when attempting to record, my room had… well, no room, thanks to my eccentric interior design (I wish I would have taken “before” pics. I always forget to do that). The layout was horrendous which led to me pulling cords outta my guitars or knocking over my preamps. I looked like one of the Marx brothers when trying to record.

Mixing/Mastering – This is where the acoustic treatment was badly needed…only I didn’t know it for quite a while. Being that I’m married and my studio is in a house that my wife lives in, I typically use my monitors, KRK Rokit 5s, for referencing only. However, the acoustics in my room made referencing a bit more daunting. The mix from my monitors sounded totally different from what my headphones were telling me. This would lead me go back to the mix and try and fix what the room said needed fixing, only to go back to the headphones and find out that the changes I just made, based on my monitors, sounded off. Once I studied up on acoustic treatment the light bulb went off and I began to understand that my room was playing a dirty trick on my ears.

So, I sat down, did some research and discovered that I needed to change the layout and add some acoustic treatment. Upon realizing how much work was going to be involved I decided to also change the color of the room. You see, I made my home studio in a kiddie bedroom. It had a baseball-themed light fixture and powder blue paint. Perfect for a little boy. But, it has been annoying me since I took the room over as my office/studio. Now was my chance.

Let the work begin…

Getting Ready 2

The tray is filled. Really liked this color on the swatch sheet and liked it in the bucket. I was hoping I'd feel the same once it was on my walls.

 

Old Paint Color

Here is a view of what the old color was like (with patched holes to boot). This is the closest to a "before" pic that I have.

 

Got the first coat on and this pic shows a good example of the color difference. Good call on the color, eh?

 

Here's a better view of the new color. I forgot what it was called.

 

It was cold outside and hot inside my room. Had to fight the moisture monster as the paint up against the window kept running..

 

Finished 1

The "almost" finished room. The walls and trim are all painted and the furniture and gear are all moved into place. Much better use of space, I say. I can actually access the closet. My drum kit was blocking the right closet door before.

 

Finshed 2

The corner where I used to have my desk.

 

Frankie's picture is yet to be hung. I acquired a Paul McCartney painting from my artist brother that will be hung above my desk.

 

Better use of space and the acoustics should be much better with this layout once I apply the treatment. That is the theory at least.

 

My Assistant

Finally, all of this would not have been possible without the undying support of my fearless assistant. He's on salary.

 

Whew! It was a lot of work, but I love the results. Part 2 will cover the addition of acoustic treatment to the room. Let me know what you think so far.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

A check-in and a site to check out!

The Recording Revolution

So, it’s been a while since I’ve checked-in (a little over a month to be exact). But, that does not mean I’ve been sitting idly. Nope. In fact, I’ve been quite busy with a little thing called “the holidays”, not to mention I’ve been steadily revamping, rearranging, re-everything my home studio. Yes, I’ve realized the importance of creating a better atmosphere and overall working environment to the home studio. So, I rearranged the furniture to make better use of space and I repainted the walls to make it more…studio-ish. You’ll see what I’m talking about once the pics are up.

On top of all of that I also installed some acoustic treatment which, not only I, but my wife also noticed how much extra room ambiance this stuff cuts out. It’s truly incredible. I can’t wait to start recording/mixing/mastering in the place now and really putting it to test.

The best part? I documented the whole thing. So, there will be a series coming very shortly (as soon as I compile everything) showing how I did what I did, why I did what I did and what the results appear to be. Mostly this series is a result of me looking for answers and not finding them. :( So, I was left to my own devices to figure out a few things here and there all on my own. But, being a bit of a handy guy, it wasn’t much of an issue. Let’s just say Home Depot and I are on real good terms.

I’ll be starting the series next week, so I hope you’ll come by and check it out. In the meantime, I wanted to plug a blog I regularly go to for mixing advice who is at the moment doing a series of their own. It’s The Recording Revolution and the series is called 5 Minutes to a Better Mix. This is actually the second time Graham Cochran (the owner of the site) has done this sort of thing. I learned a ton from it and anyone out there looking to improve their workflow or general knowledge of mixing will benefit as well, I’m sure.

So, check it out and mention California Dingo sent you while you’re at it. Meanwhile in Gotham City, I’ll be compiling my own adventures on improving my studio environment.

Till then…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

Studio Goodies…Yum.

In the last post, I mentioned that I was to be receiving some studio goodies…including some acoustic treatment for the walls. Well, I arrived at home that evening to find some big ol’ boxes waitin’ for lil’ ol’ me. (Geez, that’s a lot of apostrophes!) Yep. The first shipment arrived. Since then, the other boxes of goodies slowly arrived one after another. Thanks goes to my dutiful (not to mention beautiful) wife who kept bringing them inside off the porch so’s no one would mischievously saunter off with one tucked under their arm.

So…what was in the first batch of boxes, you ask? Allow me to provide a picture guide of sorts as I opened and gazed at each one slowly throughout the evening. It took me an unusual amount of time to “unwrap my presents”, as I often sit and start daydreaming about how awesome everything in the world will be, now that I have ___________ (fill in the blank with the appropriate goodie).

As you’ll notice, I only have 2 boxes of acoustic treatment… the rest being headphones and monitors. As stated before, the other boxes of acoustic treatment came later. I’ll post those soon.

So without further ado, and in the order I opened each goodie…

#1. Sennheiser HD650s. These are truly awesome mixing headphones. Nice recommendation from Joe over at HomeStudioCorner.com

Look at this beauty. I just love opening new toys. lol

A close up of the mighty Sennheisser HD 650s. As Nigel said...'Don't touch them. Don't even breathe around them.'

#2. KRK Rokit 5 Monitors. Near-field monitors to be exact. I felt it alright to get these now that I was going to install acoustic treatment on the walls. Otherwise...would be a waste of mulah.

The packaging.

The Rokits on full display. Somehow I got a really neat glow effect off my kitchen counter. They look even more magical now.

#3. Auralex SDK Wedgies. These are the 1' X 1' kind. The first in a long line of acoustic goodies I'll be adding to the studio.

They're just bursting out of the box. To quote Pato Banton...niceness.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be posting some more pics of my other acoustic goodies I bought soon. Once I have my room set up, I’ll post pics of the end result.

All I can say is, I absolutely love getting new gear/equipment. It’s, it’s … superfly, brother. Very giddy and will sign off now.

Till next time….

David (Cali Dingo)

Acoustic Treatment? … In my studio?? … Could it be??

Hello All!

I’ve recently been doing a lot of audio mastering lately. This has opened my eyes to a little something I’ve heard about from other mixers and mastering engineers….acoustic treatment. What is this you say? Well, I’m not entirely an expert, but in a nut shell, acoustic treatment is treatment you do to your room (adding absorbers and diffusers on the walls) to keep audio frequencies from bouncing back and forth and altering your ability to hear correctly what is happening in the mix. For a more in-depth explanation go here.

All’s I know is that I’ve recently been realizing how much trouble I’ve been having trying to “hear” my processing on a song I’m mastering. I get it sounding great only to take it out to the truck or play it on my CD player in the room and…..I’m hearing all sorts of strange things that weren’t there previously. So, I’ve heard others talk of this mythical thing called “Acoustic Treatment”, saw a little cash lying under the pillow (thanks tooth fairy) and took the plunge.

I’ve yet to use them, you see I’m actually opening the box tonight (10/25). But, it appears that these things should really do the trick (alongside my new headphones & monitors). I’ll get back to you with pictures and let you know how it’s going. It may take me several weeks to get this stuff up…not because it’s hard, but because I’m lazy. True story.

At any rate, upon researching these suckers I’ve also been reading A LOT about digitally altering your room. Yep. Using a “plugin” to “correct” the frequency problems in your room. You can read about that in more depth here.

I happen to have mastering software that let’s you utilize this feature. I’m not interested in using it, but out of curiosity I thought I’d see what a Pro has to say about using digital correction over acoustical treatment.

Bobby Owsinski is pretty darn renown for producing/engineering and nowadays for all the books he puts out on said topics. I follow his blog religiously and have read many of his books. I emailed him and here is what he said:

David,

None of these (referring to several digital room correction products I mentioned) are the cure to a bad room. The better the room sounds, the better they work. I think ARC (IK Mutlimedia ARC System) is a more comprehensive than the ones built into the speakers, but I think you’re still better off to treat your room first. It costs less to treat your room than to try to electronically fix it, and it’ll sound more natural as well.
Personally, I’d rather just determine the deficiencies in the room then learn how to live with them.
Bobby

So, there ya have it. I feel much better about my purchase now. Looking forward to opening the box and will be posting pics soon. Do you use acoustic treatment? Tell me about it below.

Till next time…
David (Cali Dingo)