Many people believe that buying expensive gear and plugins will give them the tools to create the album of their dreams. We see advertisements everywhere that promise that this new plugin has the best “circuit to circuit emulation” of a 60-year-old piece of gear and think; “This is what my mixes have been missing!” I will admit I get caught up in the hype too. I have way more compressors than I will ever need. However, the most important thing in your studio is the room your sitting in. Have you ever thought your song sounded great in your room but when you go out to play it in the car it sounds awful? The reason is your room is lying to you because frequencies are building up in parts of the room, making it difficult to accurately hear what’s going on. So without further adieu, here are 3 ways to make your home studio sound professional.
The easiest fix is the speaker position. You want to have an equal triangle from speaker to speaker and from you to the speakers like the picture on the right. Just this alone will make a huge impact on your stereo image. You also need to place yourself correctly in the room. Try putting the speakers as close to the front wall as possible and see how that sounds. Then try pulling the speakers a foot back from the front wall and see how that sounds. Lastly, try pulling the speakers back so they are about 38% away from the front wall. You never want to be dead in the middle of the room but the 38% rule tends to work well. After you try these 3 positions go with the one that sounds best to you. The final note about speaker position is try and have the equal distance between you and the right and left wall. That way sound will bounces off each wall at the same time.
When we talk about acoustic treatment we are talking about taming frequency build-up in parts of the room not soundproofing. The first question is what treatment do we use? The easiest way to tame mid and high frequencies is to buy some Owens corning 703 and fabric to wrap them with. Then you want to place those at the first reflection points. The best way to do that is to have a friend take a mirror and run it along the wall. When you see the closest speaker, that’s your first reflection. When you see the next speaker that’s your second reflection. Place your baffles in those places. The second and perhaps biggest problem is bass build-up. You can buy traps from the guys at GIK Acoustics or any other online acoustics vendor. Or you can build them yourself. There are tons of online instructions on how to build these. Once you have your bass treatment ready you want to place them in all four corners of your room. This will help tremendously with your low-end build-up.
Room EQ plugins are relatively new. The way they work is you take a bunch of measurements with a reference mic and the plugin “tunes” your room. I must admit when I first heard about them I was skeptical. But after trying the Sonar Works monitor reference system I was sold. As you can see even in my well-treated room there was a huge improvement. It not only helped the low end, which was my biggest issue, but it made the stereo image quite a bit better. Now while I think that room treatment and correct speaker placement is still very necessary, this is a new frontier in audio that I think will only improve and get better. As for me, before using this plugin I knew what the problems were in my room and could compensate for it in the mix. But having this plugin makes mixing way more enjoyable knowing what I’m hearing is much more true to what I’ll be hearing in the real world.
As always, I hope this helps some of you! Please share and reach out if you have any questions or need your songs mixed or mastered!