Show 156 – Acoustic Treatment Demonstration and The Audio Expert

This week Jon demonstrates the effectiveness of various materials for acoustic treatment in a terrible room. We also chat with Ethan Winer about his upcoming book, The Audio Expert.
Our guest host this week is Ethan Winer from RealTraps.

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This episode is sponsored by TC-Helicon.
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Ethan Winer
The Audio Expert Book
Realtraps “Hearing Is Believing” video

19 thoughts on “Show 156 – Acoustic Treatment Demonstration and The Audio Expert

  1. Thanks for show and all the consistent help!

    Acoustic treatment (and diffusion, etc.) is so important but can bend the brain a little, especially when working in the imperfect spaces most of us have to use, and in using the space we do have as multiple use areas (recording, mixing, living).

    I want to develop a flexible acoustic treatment approach to the few rooms I can use and from your suggestions the best bet seems to be home made acoustic panels and moving blankets, and after hearing Ethan’s comments, possibly diffusion. Could you refresh my mind on the purpose and best use of moving blankets, acoustic panels, and diffusers in an imperfect environment?

    Also, how heavy a moving blanket are you talking about? I see blankets out there from 6-10 lbs a piece. One last thing, is there a big difference in the acoustic properties of mineral wool vs. rigid fiberglass vs. ecoustimac insulation?

    Thanks again for being the repository of great info you have become!

  2. Awesome show!

    It was hard to calm the sophomoric spider monkey spastically clamouring in my head waiting for the joke that would tie together the effect of carpet on the clap. thankfully i was able to stop it and only had to rewind once.

    One of the hardest things about being a novice in recording is seeing (or rather hearing) the key differences that things like treatment make. I am aware of the value of treating a room but had yet heard the drastic difference it makes. Previously i had been going through the motions of room treatment because i knew it mattered but had not been able to put a finger on the qualitative nature of its effect. It was an eye opener (or ear opener…) to hear how much it tightened and opened up the characteristic of the instruments. This one is a game changer for me fellas, thank you very much.

  3. Guys, was gong to remain silent for a while, but some of the opening comments about sample rates when recording were so completely off base, once again I find myself compelled to offer some insight and friendly corrections.

    First, I didn’t take the time to do any research on your guest to find out his back ground and experience, but I can’t help but wonder if he is using Pro Tools because “it’s what the real pros use” when he is recording at 44.1. With that in mind, here are some comments to hopefully put real answers to the question of what sample rate to use.

    First of all, I’m not sure where he got the idea, but your guest made the comment most people think higher sample rates are better because they can capture higher frequencies. Well, he is sort of correct….sort of. While it is true higher sample rates will capture higher frequencies, that is not the reason why one would use higher rates but instead is a function of the real reason it is almost ALWAYS better to record at at least 48k but preferably 96K. Higher sample rates have a much lower noise floor and much higher headroom. And that is why higher sample rates do in fact sound better. You do not have to push the gain so hard when recording which leaves far greater headroom for mastering. Using the same equipment at the same settings, the higher sample rates will always sound better because they will have a lower noise floor right off the bat. Why do you think all higher end interfaces/converters explicitly advertise their ability to run multiple tracks in and out at 96K and above?

    Next, Ryan, you are right, if you plan on doing anything video the standard is 48k. Which brings me to my next point: If there was no usable or noticeable difference then why are DVD’s done at 48k? It’s a rhetorical question. There is far more “stuff” happening in the audio in a movie, and especially loud noises, explosions, etc. as well as much greater dynamic extremes and the higher sample rate allows a much cleaner signal with better articulation within the expanded dynamic range.

    Then there is the issue of plug ins. Each plug in adds noise to the signal chain and obviously, cheaper plugs will add even more noise. Also, they eat into the amount of data that can be “absorbed” dependent on the sample and bit rate. (should note here, bit rate also affects headroom). Remember, sample rate isn’t just about “sound”, it is also about the amount of data that can be read and processed. If you are using a lot of plug ins, higher sample rates make an huge difference in sound. This is why when Jon uses Amplitube he records at 96K and as he reported, gets a better sound. Now expand that to numerous plugins on a given project and well….

    That brings me to my last comment about sample rates: conversion and dither. First of all, if you have decent conversion software and/or a decent DAW, it probably has decent dither algorithms which generally are triangle and rectangle. However, many mastering plugins such as Izotope, Bias, etc. have much better dithering algorithms. Luckily for me, Sonar uses Izotope’s POWR dithering 1,2,and 3 which are excellent. Point is, if you do everything in the box and then only apply dither when down converting (you should always avoid dithering multiple times), because much of the extra sample rate is used for head room, you really shouldn’t be able to notice it when going from 96k, 24bit down to 44.1/16. However, there is an even better way to go from 96k to 44.1k WITHOUT ANY CONVERSION AT ALL. You record at 96k then when you are ready to down-convert, instead of converting you simply record to another software DAW, wav recorder, etc, set to 44.1k/16 bit and voila, no dithering, no conversion. And yes, it really, really works….

    The bottom line, 192k is more for professional archiving and I doubt many studios record at that rate unless they are archiving and/or recording orchestras, etc. And for what it is worth, I used to always record at 48k. However, because I have a quad core i7 processor, I now record almost exclusively at 96k and believe me, you CAN tell the difference, especially after using 96k for a while and then comparing it to 44.1 or even 48k. And in my experience, any of the better studios and with most people I know, 96k seems to have become the default standard. If you record 44.1 and end up working with someone using anything higher, you are going to have problems. An acquaintance of mine insisted on doing everything at 44.1k/16bit until he got a chance to work on a local movie soundtrack. They asked for 48k/24 bit stem files and he was out of luck. The reality is, if your hardware can handle it, you are almost always better off using higher sample rates and at least 48k than you are 44.1 any day. Like I said, there are very real and very good reasons the higher end converters and interfaces are capable of sample rates of at least 96k and generally on up to 192k. But 44.1???? If I haven’t given enough good reasons to record at higher sample rates already, all I can say is a modification of the compression “burnt steak” metaphor applies here. You can’t add back in what wasn’t there to begin with….

  4. Another great topic – Jon, thanks for that demonstration.

    I overlooked acoustic treatment for years. I figured since I usually close-mic’d everything I “removed” my room problems. It wasn’t until I bought a UA 710 preamp and found that even this $800 preamp couldn’t remove the boxy quality from a close-mic’d guitar. UGH.

    There was a PSN podcast back in 2006 where Slau was talking about the importance of room treatment and talked about a company called Ready Acoustics. Slau was also nice enough to take the time and give me additional advice offline (thanks again Slau!).

    The bottom line is that I did a semi-DIY project. I bought the frames and pre-cut rigid fiberglass from Ready Acoustics. I sent photos and blue prints and they recommended the types of panels and where they should go. I ended up with a total of eight 6″ super bass traps and another eight 2″ panels. I bought my own fabric, did all the cuts, and the assembly. I probably saved about $800 not buying the completed panels.

    My room is not perfect I’m sure, but I notice more accuracy in the bass frequencies when I mix. I have extra panels to use as gobos when recording and that is where I notice the biggest improvement – which makes the mixing part easier.

    My recommendation is to resist buying a new microphone, preamp or plug-in bundle and buy some room treatment. It’s been my best investment. Maybe just pick up a few panels to use while recording.

    An appropriate analogy would be that while it might seem to make sense to spend your last $20 on that Nina Hartley compilation, you’d be better served to buy food.

    Thanks for another great show!


  5. I just won an auction on a Yamaha M406. I can finally use the famous secret HRS sound chain, a F98 through a M406! Though I should be used to record a reamped signal (using, of course, the Line2Amp), originally recorded with a guitar with new capacitors and the impedance matched after hours of trial and error. Am I getting it right??

    P.D. There is no fucking way you have leart from the audience half as much as I have learnt from you. No fucking way.

  6. Hi Guys,
    Good show on sound treatment. I just bought a house and I’ve been getting my recording space in order. The “live room” doubles as rehearsal space and storage (it’s about 1/2 of my basement). As far as sound treatment goes, is it good, bad, or indifferent to have amps, cabinets, guitar cases, boxes, a workbench, etc, in the room, in addition to some carpet, foam, and gobos. Thanks!

  7. Wow, what a difference the treatment made!! Jon, how were you hanging the treatment, or was it just leaning on a wall? I’ve yet to find a great way to hang treatment. Any opinions?

    As for the diplomas – do it! You dont even have to physically mail it, just email a pdf file. 😉

  8. @E.scarab-
    I haven’t taken the time to research YOUR background, but I would be much more inclined to believe ETHAN WINER over someone who self admittedly has never heard of ETHAN WINER! Sorry, I may have entered trolling mode on that one.

    But in all seriousness, good job with a great show guys. Acoustic treatment is a no-brainer, you will without a doubt make a bigger improvement on your mixes with $400 of mineral wool or rigid fiberglass than $100,000 of Neve channel strips. Not hyperbole, just a truth that more home recordists should know.

  9. Great show guys. Thank you.
    In response to a listener’s comment early in the show – why does Ableton Live get this bad reputation for recording “regular” (non-electronic) music?
    Is there something specific about live that actually makes it inferior to protools or logic? As far as I know it operates with the same sample rates. The music I’ve recorded with Live sounds fine to my ears, but I get nervous that I’m missing out on a more professional sound by not using a bigger name DAW…
    Thanks again!

  10. Hey fellas, great show as always. I don’t have anything to add about acoustic panels, it’s a no brainer, do some research and get some. But I did want to tell you that I truly appreciate you guys and look forward to listening to your podcast as a part of my regular Saturday morning routine. Keep up the great work!

  11. Hi !
    Don´t know why ableton gets bad reputation. Its a powerful DAW and an instrument. So if it works for you than go for it. I really like Live8 for non electric music.

    Great show a usual, gentlemen ! It´s fascinating how you gather one nice guest after the other in your show !

  12. I think the perception of Live is that it’s workflow is more suited to electronic music creation, with the added ability of audio recording. Where as most DAWs are the opposite. I don’t think sound quality has ever been in question, just efficiency.

    But honestly I don’t know how Abletons work flow is at all, that just seems like the general perception.

  13. Long time listener, etc. After recording at home for more than a decade, I just went through a songwriting, recording and mixing attempt that sounds like my best stuff yet, thanks in no small part to the bits and pieces I pick up each week from HRS.

    Here’s a question that may be a little outside your wheelhouse, as it’s about live studio broadcasting instead of home recording.

    The situation is this: A talk show with a host and a guest across a table. The room is treated properly, but the studio window is behind the guest. Both people are in front of RE-20s. The host mic alone sounds perfect. But when both mics are on, the room sound suddenly comes through in an unpleasant way.

    Some part of me imagines that flipping the polarity on the guest mic would kill some of the extra reflection or otherwise improve the sound, what with two mics in opposite directions and one of them probably picking up reflection off the studio glass.

    Am I delusional, or is an extra-roomy-sounding room just a consequence of having two live mics pointed in opposite directions?

    All the best, gang.

  14. I was just casually listening to the HRS as usual and when the guest host was announced, Ethan Winer, I almost spit out the water I was swallowing. Wow, what an awesome guest you guys got! Ethan and his free acoustic resources was my number #1 reference source when building my first studio. Nearly everything I’ve learned about acoustics has been from him. So thanks to him! His new book sounds very interesting too. It’s a shocker he hasn’t published one yet.

    Thanks for the great guest and episode guys.

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