Step 2:

So you want to design your own studio, all by yourself? Great! But where to you start? What's the process? Over the next weeks and months I'll be writing a series of articles about that, t in this area of the forum, focusing on three very different types of home-studio: 1) treating an existing room in your house, 2) building a studio in a garage, basement, or other room, and 3) building a studio from the "ground up", on an empty piece of land.
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Step 2:


Postby Soundman2020 » Mon, 2020-Jun-22, 21:25


Step Two

(If you haven't already done so, first read: INTRODUCTION TO DESIGNING YOUR OWN STUDIO, and also Step 1, then come back here to read this).

After reading the intro and Step 1, you can move on to Step 2, which is:

Figure out how to achieve your goal(s)

In "Step 1", you set the goals for your home studio, so at this point you have a fairly clear idea of what you want to achieve in your studio: you have thought it through carefully, and written a lot about your lofty goals and dreams for your studio, home theater, music room, etc., and you have refined those to be a little more reasonable. You have also pulled an imaginary number out of thin air and called that your "Budget". The next step is to start bringing this down to earth: put together a rough outline of what you will need to do to achieve those goals.

There are several points that you should consider at this stage. Not all of these are applicable to all studios, so you can skip the ones that don't apply in your case, but at least read through the list completely: you might be surprised to learn that you DO need some things you hadn't even thought about. Here's the basic list:

  • Isolation (Step 3): (sometimes incorrectly called "soundproofing"). Stopping sound from getting in and getting out. Ask yourself if you need to do that, and if so how much isolation do you need. It is important to decide on an objective number here, in terms of decibels. I'll show you how to determine that later in this series, in Step 3. Here in Step 2, just make rough notes about how much isolation you expect you will need.
  • Dimensions: If you are able to choose or change the length, width and/or height of the room(s) in your studio, then under some circumstances it can be important to select those dimensions carefully to maximize acoustic performance. For example, the relationship between the dimensions has a direct effect on the "modal response" of the room, and that can be important for a control room.
  • Layout: Where to put things. If you are planning a studio with more than one room, this includes deciding roughly how to divide up the space you have available between the rooms. Even for a single-room studio, it also includes deciding roughly where to put windows, doors, speakers, equipment, the desk/console (in the case of a studio control room), musical instruments (in the case of a live room, rehearsal room, performance room, etc.), other furniture.
  • Geometry: For some rooms, the geometric relationship between things in the room can be important. Especially in control rooms, for example, where the relative locations of the speakers, listening position, and desk are very important for the overall acoustic response.
  • HVAC system: Meaning: Heating, Ventilation, Air-C onditioning. For rooms that are isolated, you do need it (here's why your studio needs proper HVAC.), and it is often recommendable, even for rooms that are not isolated. So you'll need to plan where to put the ducts, silencers, registers, equipment, etc.
  • Acoustic testing: In some rooms it is useful to check the acosutic response of the room you intend to use, to plan the layout or treatment, or even to see if it is usable at all for the intended purpose. (For example: How to calibrate and use REW to test and tune your room acoustics )
  • Acoustic treatment: ALL rooms in your studio will need this! The smaller the room, the more treatment it needs. At this stage, you only need to make notes about how you want to treat it: not in terms of what type of panel to put where, but rather in terms of acoustic response... what you want the room to sound like. This is often dictated by the room itself: Control rooms, for example, MUST have neutral, transparent, flat acoustics: they should not "sound" like anything, and that is defined in several documents (such as ITU BS.1116-3, for example, which you can find here, in the forum document library). For a vocal booth, the needed acoustic response is also clear. But for a live room, it is personal and individual... So describe what you want for that. Not how to achieve it! Just what it is you are aiming for, in subjective terms (eg: warm, tight, bright, dull, sweet, smooth, loose, solid, fat, airy, dry, punchy, thin, boxy, etc.). In some cases, the description might just be "variable":
  • Electrical system: You will need to provide electrical power for the equipment, lights, and other gear in your room. That might be as simple as plugging your laptop into the wall outlet for a bedroom studio, or it might require major work by an electrical contractor for a large studio, but this is still something you need to take into account and plan for. It is also often advisable to set things up so that you have clean power for your audio gear. First-time studio builders often overlook the need for power.
  • Lighting: Sort of related to your electrical system, but this is more about where you will put the lights, and where they should aim, and what type of lights. For simple bedroom studios, this might consist of just the switch next to the door and a single light-bulb, or it might involve dozens or hundreds of fittings in a large facility, with each one carefully selected, positioned, aimed, and dimmed to provide the desired atmosphere. It is becoming rather common to have lighting where both the color and intensity of individual lights can be changed to adjust the "mood". Some people get even more fancy with automated moving sequences of lights (personally, I find those distracting, but some people seem to like them).
  • Decoration: Even a simple studio should look nice! It isn't pleasant to work in an dull, dingy, ugly, environment. Planning color schemes and materials should be on your list of things to do, even for a bedroom studio! For example: what type, texture, and color of fabric will you use to cover your absorptive treatment panels? What type and species of wood will you use to build your diffusers (if applicable), or for the decorative trim on panels? Even if you just want to paint the whole room off-white (or bright green, or hot pink, or pitch black, or whatever...), put that in your notes, so you have a written plan.

Each of these is an entire topic by itself, and not everybody needs to read all of them (for example, you don't need to read about isolation if you only want to do basic treatment in your bedroom, and you don't need to know where to put the console if you are only building a rehearsal room for your drum kit), so I'll put each in a separate article.

But before you start looking at those, first spend a little time writing down your thoughts and plans for each of the above points, as it applies to YOUR room... (even if you just right "Not Applicable" next to it)!

This is your master list! Think about each item in turn, the think about how you plan to address each of them. At this point, you don't need to go into a lot of detail: just the basics. You will come back to each item repeatedly later on, adding to it and modifying it, probably several times. So save the list some place where you can find it easily... and keep a backup copy, in case you lose it!

- Stuart -

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