Affordable acoustic treatment solutions for your studio

You have made some basic acoustic treatment to your home studio, and now you realised:

So that is why my RECORDINGS and MIXES sounded so crappy?

Well, that is the wonder of acoustic.

So to get the best POSSIBLE sound out of our bedroom, we have to do our best in terms of acoustic treatment. On the market there are a lot of brands that offer many types of acoustic foams at different price level. At first sight all acoustic foam look similar…BUT….

There is a reason why the price is set differently. They may LOOK similar, but they don’t PERFORM similar. So let’s have a look now on the list of reliable brands, deals and offers you can find on the market and that you will need to get the best treatment for your home recording studio.

Basically there are 2 companies, that stand a step ahead of the competition, when it comes to quality/money ratio: Auralex and Primacoustic. Anyhow, there are also some other brands that we should mention here.

soundproof acoustic 1Acoustic Soundproofing Studio Foam Tiles

This studio acoustic foam will never crumble or harden and will remain soft and in ideal sound acoustical conditions for many years.

Pack of 12. For use in vocal booths, control rooms and studios.

Functions as a full frequency bandwidth absorber for any size room when used in conjunction with corner bass absorbers and male/female broadband absorbers

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acoustic treatmentATS Wedge Foam Acoustic Panels

This ATS WEDGE FOAM ACOUSTIC PANELS can be matched with ATS Acoustic Foam Corner Bass Traps.

Relatively cheap and reliable solution.

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acoustic bass traps foamATS Acoustic Foam Corner Bass Traps

These wedge foam bass traps can be the most cost effective solution for basic sound control and are a reliable acoustic sound absorber. Installs easily using Tape Taps or spray adhesive and are designed to match ATS Wedge Foam Acoustic Panels.

Easy, affordable option for low frequency control.

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auralex studio foamAuralex Studio Acoustic Absorption Foam

This is great solution for spot treating sound studios, home listening rooms, vocal booths and more. Studiofoam wedgies are also a great solution for small echo problem and, when spread apart, yield beneficial sound diffusion off their exposed edges.

Great solution at a low cost from a reliable and popular brand Auralex.

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auralex monitorpadAuralex Monitor Acoustic Isolation Pads

Loudspeakers are usually the most critical components, that you are using to verify the quality of your music production. No matter how good your mixer, mics, preamps, cables, and other pieces of gear that you’ve invested in, you’re not truly hearing what your recordings sound like until you isolate your monitors from their environment.

Auralex Monitor Isolation Pads provide sonic isolation between your monitors and whatever your monitors are resting on, INSTANTLY improving the accuracy of your entire monitoring system. 

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acoustic absorberReflection Filter AcousticAbsorber

It’s important not to let the room affect your mic’s signal. This is the cost effective solution to reduce unwanted audio reflections, especially when tracking vocals. The RF-X features a 4-layer acoustic filter and a lightweight clamp assembly that’s quick to install to almost any mic stand.

Very easy install on almost just about any mic stand.

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auralex diffusorAuralex Sustain Diffusor

For all of you, who want to take their home studio to another level.

Auralex Diffusor will evenly scatters high frequencies to enhance ambience of a room.

Easy to install. Alleviates flutter echo and slap back.

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All in One Packages

All in One are the ideal solution for everyone, who don’t want to bother with “guessing” and rather would buy complete package for the whole room. Usually with buying whole package you save money and headaches 🙂

acoustic treatment for a home recording studioAuralex Roominator Kit

Popular and very affordable solution. Usually it would fit for any normal sized home studio.

Easy to install, your sound will improve immediately.

Complete acoustic control kit, various sizes.

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acoustic treatment home studioPrimaacoustic London 12

Mid-range package for your room.

Everything you need to get your studio sound right.

Also, you can choose from various sized-packages. London 12 is for mid-sized studio.

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DIY acoustic treatment for home recording studio

Nowadays, with technology progress, most of the amateur, but also professional music production happens in the home studios, usually in our bedrooms. It is time to learn how to build perfect control room, right in your bedroom.

The shape of the room

If possible , avoid square layouts. The worst possibility is a cube . Also, long elongated rooms are not appropriate. It is best to have rectangular room.

Placement of furniture and equipment

The most important spot in the studio is the listening position. The acoustic should be optimize there as much as possible. For rectangular room the desk with monitors should be positioned parallel to the shorter wall, ie . it should be perpendicular to the long wall. Due to the accumulation of echos and reverbs of the room, it is not suitable to place listening spot in the middle of the room. Place it closer to the shorter wall. It should be placed about 40 percent of the longer side. Ideal position for studio monitors is separate stands located between the shorter wall and the desk. Studio monitors should be above the table top. If the studio monitors must be placed on the table, it is always good idea to separate them from the table using a special material, so they do not reflect unwanted reflections. This material should not transmit vibrations to the table, so definitely wood is not a good idea. Try to use polystyrene foam or other harder, thicker layer of rubber, in an emergency you can use books.

The tweeter of studio monitors should normally placed at ear level, but it is better to look in the monitor manual, some manufacturers have a sweet point between the woofer and tweeter. Monitors should be at a greater distance from the wall, and certainly not in the corner, because then we will hear enhanced bass frequencies.

On a stand or tabletop slightly turn the speakers so they are pointing to a common point, which is the head of the listener. These three points – left monitor, right monitor and the head of the listener should together form an imaginary equilateral triangle with an angle of 60 ° at each corner. Location of monitors in the studio is the most important thing and it is worth some time to look for the best possibility with the help of the measuring microphone.

credit by http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com credit by http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com

For the acoustics the room symmetry is crucial. The table should be as far away from the wall to the left and right side. If you place furniture along one wall, there should be something similar along the other wall. Also, we place the acoustic elements symmetrically, as if the left part of the room would be mirrored the right. Otherwise you will hear a different sound in the left and right ear.

Noise of computer

Noise computers is a huge problem in the recording room. There are two ways to deal with this problem. Either you let build an entire computer from components, which are the least noisy or you will place comp. outside the recording room. The first solution is very expensive and also never completely resolved. The computer can also be placed in a sarcophagus – lined acoustically absorptive material, but there is a risk of overheating. Therefore, I can see the location of the PC outside the recording room as the final and best solution. Not a big deal to drill a larger hole in the wall, route the cables through a hole and afterwards clog it again with something. For this solution, it is advisable to use an external CD / DVD drive (USB or FW ), located in the recording room , so you do not have to constantly run out.

The room acoustics

We must distinguish the purpose for which the room we want to use. If we want to record instruments and sing into the microphone, acoustic treatment should primarily deal with thumping bass. Mids and Highs reflection can be present, so in the final sound will be powerfully and vividly, not sterile.

If the room is used for mixing, we have to choose a compromise between more vivid and dead rooms, because during the mixing session is desirable to have less reflections. Some engineers and music producers even prefer to mix in the completely dead room.

A separate chapter is, when we want to deal with in addition to the room acoustics also sound leakage inside out. Then we have to basically build a room in the room. First, overlaid on sides (including doors) with a thick layer of acoustically absorptive material (eg mineral wool) and closes all openings, because even the smallest can ruin our work, and afterwars we can deal with the internal acoustics in the inner room according to the text above.

Suitable materials

In the small rooms it is the best form of treatment acoustic absorption, ie . absorption of maximum number of reflections. As a complementary solution we can also install diffusers, which are designed to eliminate repetitive echoes and resonators that absorb specific frequencies, which were calculated. But it is always good to start in a home studio with absorbers.

Generally, a higher frequency (1.6 kHz above) absorbs any material that has a little rougher surface, such as the drapery hooked on the window. Mid-frequency (300Hz – 1 .6 kHz) already require a mass of material and the hardest is to absorb frequencies below 300kHz, where we need to have a good acoustically absorptive material and even a considerable thickness.

For beginners with acoustics is best to purchase a broadband absorber that absorbs everything – bass, mid and treble. The first suitable product with such a properties is a mineral wool. Each of the producers (Rockwool Orsil Knauf and others) has a range of more preferable types of wool for sound absorption and less suitable. It is necessary to look into the catalog. I had a very good experience with the products Orsil Orstrop , Rockwool and Isover Domo Airrock ND.

Another suitable material is the so called acoustic foam, which have open cells, and absorbs sound energy very well. If you have more money you can buy whole acoustic solution set for room treatment.

How thick acoustic material we need

It is true that the lower frequencies we absorb, the stronger must be acoustically absorptive material. Absorber for absorbing bass, middle and treble is necessary to use mineral wool ideally with a thickness of 200 mm. The same holds true with acoustic foam. The thickness of wool around 100m we will not have absorbed frequencies below 100Hz. If you have a low budget, you can install crash absorbers with a thickness of wool around 100m and slightly delay it from the wall. Absorption lower frequencies will improve, but a much better solution is to have a thickness of absorbing material more than 160 mm .

 acoustic-treatment-1

Home made production of acoustic elements

For the homemade production of acoustic elements you have basically a few options:

  1. Make a portable walls, and surround your recording corner. After recording you can always move them somewhere in a corner. Wooden frames filled with mineral wool in foil and covered with textile are usually working well.
  2. Make the elements that will be placed on the walls and into corners, but in the case of migration will be transferable.

Some comments on this:

When working with mineral wool definitely wear a dust mask and gloves. Long-term inhalation of cotton is hazardous to health. That is why I recommend wool absorber placed in a foil (eg large plastic garbage bags) to avoid leakage of small particles of cotton. If you drag a textile over the absorber material, you do not have to worry about the negative impact of plastic bags on the acoustic properties. Mids and bass pass through it without any problems and the Hi will absorbs into the textile.

Where to place the acoustic elements

Let’s start by installing acoustic components in all corners of the room and floor-to -ceiling windows. Due to the accumulation of bass in the corners there should be a maximum thickness of absorbing material – ideally 200 mm and more. Other absorbers can be placed on the wall, which routes the monitor speakers. When you sit at the table, it should be a wall behind you. Absorbers install in locations where the monitors are pointing out. You can choose absorbers with thinner materials (eg 100 mm) and because of the fragmentation of reflection is suitable absorbers slightly rotated.

Next, place the ceiling absorber between your head and the back wall. Afterwards we can measure our treatment with microphone, because it is possible that these adjustments will already be sufficient.

 acoustic-for-small-studios

Measurement

After installation of acoustic elements is appropriate to not only rely on our ears. It is always good to measure the acoustics of the room with microphone. Cheapest microphones for use are a Behringer ECM8000 T.BONE MM1. You can also use another microphone (for example, large diaphragm vocal condenser), but then you must have a manufacturer specific characteristics of your printed piece and have entered into the measuring software. Measurement microphones apart from other mics are characterized by a relatively linear characteristic. If you use other microphone with an unknown characteristic, there is always a risk, that you will see in the resulting graph problem, where in fact it is not.

As measuring software can be used as Room EQ Wizard. The measurement is performed so that the microphone is placed on the stand against one of the monitors. The height should be where is your head when listening. If the microphone has a switchable characteristics, switch to the omni. Other characteristics tend to hide the shortcomings of the room. Run the preamp and measurement software. On the preamp we will set the required gain and run the test. From the monitors we will hear a frequencies from the bass to the  highs, which microphone will record into software. After measuring and generating curves turn the microphone against the next monitor and repeat the measurement.

After the measurement, the measuring softwarewill generate the curve of the two monitors through the entire frequency range. The elevations or depressions in the graph show room problems, which need to be discussed further.

For example, if there is a hump at 150Hz, it means that in the room there are too rumbling bass and you need to install additional acoustic elements. Conversely, if for example there is a suppressed band around 5 kHz, it means that we too many absorbers at higher frequencies and it is necessary to increase the number of smooth surfaces.

With Acoustic modifications and treatments we are always trying to straighten the curve as much as possible . If these differences will result in + / – 15dB, we have suitably adjusted room for recording,  excellent adapted room will result into + / -6dB.

acoustic for small studios2

Home recording studio construction

When building a home recording studio or mixing environment, 3 main areas must be considered:

  1. Sound Insulation
  2. Acoustics
  3. Working Environment

Sound Insulation

Sound Insulation is the prevention of sound leakage: both “outside” sound not coming in and “inside” sound not seeping out.
It helps to think of sound as Light or Heat. Anywhere in our building where Light or Heat can escape or enter, sound can also escape or enter. Therefore, the greatest areas of sound leakage will be doors and windows. The second area to look at is sound transmission through walls.
There are 4 key points to follow to reduce sound leakage:

  1. Increase mass
  2. Make airtight
  3. Add absorption to cavities
  4. Break the vibration path

It is probably wise to remember, at this point, that no matter what you do you will probably always have to compromise in some way or another (unless you have access to unlimited amounts of money, of course!).

Acoustics

Acoustics is the study of how sound travels and behaves within a confined space, such as a room. Acoutics tell us that different sized and shaped rooms sound different, and that the materials that the surfaces are covered with (surfaces being walls, ceiling and floor) also have a big impact on the sound of the room, specifically it’s frequency response. We must therefore understand some basic acoustic principles in order for us to build a room that will sound good, or at least meet our expectations and specifications. Indeed, depending on personal taste and on the purpose of the room (see further), we might want our room to be more or less live or dead, as well as whether the room should have a flat frequency response or not. In other words, we need to shape and treat the room to control how sound will react within this enclosed environment. See also acoustic treatment for home studio.

Different needs for different rooms.

The acoustics of a given room need to be designed to meet the purpose of the room:

  • Control Room: The acoustics need to be very controlled and predictable so that the engineer / producer & the musicians can trust what they are hearing from the monitors.
  • Recording room ( also known as “live” room:or “Studio”): The acoustics may be designed to “enhance” the sound of the recording. You– may- -alz-o want to consider variable acoustics for this space, .for example very live for drums and then fairly tight for vocals. This can be achieved with thick drapes hung on a belt along some of the walls which can be pulled out when needed, rugs and carpets which can also be rolled out when needed, or the more elaborate (and expensive!) “moving ceiling panels”.
  • Church or Theatre: The sound needs to project forward into the room.

Special considerations for Control Rooms.

A control room needs to have very careful!y balanced acoustics.

  • Frequency response: The frequency response of a control room is critical. If the room is too bassy, you will tend to mix in more high frequencies to compensate for the sound of your control room. The mix will end up being too bright and thin when played in the outside world. The same thing is true of overly bright control rooms where mix will become muddy and boomy. As the saying goes: If you can’t take the room out of the mix, you can’t take the mix out of the room!
  • Liveliness: Same concept as above: when mixing in an overly live or dead control room, we will find ourselves adjusting our mix to compensate for deficiencies in the room rather than the recording. So the reflection= must be well controlled and diffused (see latety. Absorption is not necessarily the answer. If all the walls are covered with foam (whose main purpose is to absorb sound energy), the room will sound boomy and we’re back to square one where our mixes will have too much high frequencies and little bass out in the real world. This is because foam is mainly effective at higher frequencies; lower frequencies have larger wavelengths and can travel through the foam, bounce off the wall back through the foam and still come out in the room. The other extreme would be a room with too much bass absorption (see later) causing mixes to sound muddy outside of the studio. Generally, a control room should have only a little less reverb time than the average living room. Dij not over do it: a completely dead room is not the real world and makes it very difficult to get a good mix!
  • RFZ: In the mix position (“sweet spot”) you will wan.: to setup what is known as a Reflection Free Zon’e: (RFZ). In the RFZ you will want to eliminate any eariy’ reflections of sound. By reducing the early reflections  you increase what is known as the Initial Time Delay (ITD) gap. This Initial Time Delay gap is the time between the arrival of the direct sound and the first reflections in the room. The purpose of increasing the 1TD is to allow you to hear the time domain localization cues from the i’ecording room before any reflections from the mixing room come in and confuse the issue.

Guidelines.

To fine tune the sound of a room, we must first look at the shape and relative dimensions of the room.

  • Whatever style we decide on, top of the list is Symmetry: lay out the room so that the left and right sides of the room are symmetrical. This helps with your Stereo balance. This is equally true for all 3 types of rooms described above.
  • Next, we must correct any problems caused by the 3 axial modes in the room: rooms with similar • sized width, length and height create waves at different frequencies which will either be in phase (and thus these frequencies will be amplified • unnaturally at certain points within the room) or out of phase (so these frequencies will now be reduced or even cancelled, in extreme cases, at • various points within the room). These problems are clearly to be avoided at all costs.
  • We must also correct any problems caused by parallel walls, namely “standing waves”. Standing waves are created when you have two parallel facing walls. A frequency whose wavelength is equal to the distance between the walls will fit perfectly and will bounce backwards and forwards between the walls ontop of itself, thus amplifying itself. This will also affect that particular frequency’s harmonics. So you should design a room with non-parallel walls or cure an existing room by making one of the walls absorbant or by breaking up the flat surfaces.

So the 3 ideals we are aiming for are:

  1. Symmetry
  2. 3 complimentary axial modes
  3. No parallel walls.

Techniques.  

There are essentially two ways of controlling :the frequencies and reflections in a room: absorption and diffusion. Absorption removes energy whilst Diffusion spreads out the energy in space & time.

  1. Placement of Absorption and Diffusion: First of all, we must create our Reflection Free Zone mentioned above. A 20ms ITD gap is a good minimum target. Any surface within 11 feet of the mix position could potentially cause a first order reflection, but treating every surface within 11 feet of the mix position is not possible or necessarily desirable. Levels of reflections earlier than 15ms relative to the direct sound should be treated to reduce them to at least 10dB below the direct sound for ; frequencies between 1kHz and 8kHz. In the area of the room between the monito and the mix position, any surface that has a 21.5 fo complete path between the monitors and the m position can also cause a reflection. One way to find the areas that need to t treated will require two people and a mirror (a plast one is preferred since you may have to tape it to pole to reach some areas). To help find the placement location, have or person move the mirror along the side walls of if control room with the other person sitting at the m position. Whenever the person sitting at the m position can see either monitor in the mirror, mark th position of the mirror on the wall. Repeat this process for the ceiling and bac wall. Any of these points that are less than 11 fel from the mix position will cause early reflections an must be treated with absorbant materials.
  2. Live End / Dead End: It is often preferable to not have too mud absorption in your room, otherwise it will start t sound unnatural, uncomfortable and cause difficultie when doing a mix, as mentioned previously. A populE approach is therefore to have one end of the roor (usually behind the speakers) really dead whilst th opposing wall (behind the person sat at the desk) ca be live and retain natural reverb. However, this live end should be diffused i order to make the reverb less focused and les intrusive.
  3. Simple Bass Trap: So far we’ve mentioned a lot about absorbinc which generally affects higher / mid frequencies. Lai frequencies are more difficult to treat, so what can yo do if your room is too bassy? Well there is on solution: the Bass Trap. Bass Traps are best located in corners c angles of a room as this is where low frequencie naturally build up. A simple bass trap is a resonant panel (c diaphragmatic absorber) used to absorb lo\ frequencies. They work by vibrating at these 1th frequencies and turning the sound’s energy into heat. The simple way to build a resonant absorbE is to mount plywood on a 2×4 frame filled wit fibreglass. Leave at least a 1/4″ space between th panel and the fibreglass or else the panel won’t b able to resonate properly! Approximate absorption frequency peaks for differer plywood panel thicknesses (on a 2×4 frame filled wit 3.5″ fibreglass): 1/8″=150Hz, 1/4″=110Hz, 318″=87Hz.

Working Environment

Last but not least, we must carefully decide how our limited amount of space is going to b utilised, and vital considerations such as ventilatior air conditioning, lighting (natural daylight?) and eas access must obviously be added to the equatior Power requirements and future proofing are also very important aspects to carefully consider before launching into the build project! 

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Acoustics treatment for a small home studio

acoustic for small studios2

The moment, when you discover for yourself the acoustic treatment wonder. From that point >

…..your recordings and mixes will never be the same again.

Now it is time to pimp it up. To design a decent setup for your room is definitely not and easy task. If you do it wrong, it is just waste of your time and money. And every room can sound nearly as GREAT as it COULD if done right!

The shape of the room

Firstly, PICK UP THE QUIET ROOM. If possible , avoid square layouts. The worst possibility is a cube . Also, long elongated rooms are not appropriate. It is best to have a rectangular room.

Soundproofing vs Acoustic treatment

Lot of beginners like to use these terms interchangeably. However…

With soundproofing we want to create total acoustic separation, the purpose is the prevention of sound leakage: both “OUTSIDE” sound is not coming in and “INSIDE” sound not seeping out of your STUDIO. Soundproofing is used by the bigger projects, it requires more construction skills, money and time. In a lot of cases you need to rebuild the entire room from scratch.

We use acoustic treatment to change the acoustic within OUR ROOM. In most cases this is very affordable and very “easy to apply” solution  for all home recording studios.

Acoustic treatment for a home recording studios

If you really don’t have money now, you can always DO IT on the low budget. Your aim will be to reduce reverberation as much as possible: for that purpose you can hang carpets or dense blankets on your walls. However, you will never get too close to nearly GOOD condition. My recommendation is to save some money from partying and drinking. Remember, you can always start with something smaller, and later on add acoustic treatment according to needs of your room.

Question: What is the cost of an AWESOME acoustic treatment setup?

For an average home recording studio there is no reason you would have to pay more than $1.000.

Effective acoustic treatment consist of these key elements:

auralex studio foamAcoustic Panels

Basically, you have 2 options: DIY or buy them.
For Do it Yourself see this CASE STUDY.

If you decide to buy ones, here are some tips:

  • Avoid cheap options: there is a reason why they are cheap. While they may LOOK similar, they don’t PERFORM similar
  • Size of the panels: Acoustic panels usually come in 3 sizes – 1’x1′, 2’x2′, 2’x4′. My recommendation goes to 2’x2′. SMALL enough to easily handle, yet LARGE enough that you won’t need many of them. Normal package of 12 is usually plenty for a small project.
  • What brands then? You won’t go wrong with AURALEX or PRIMACOUSTIC foam. Auralex offers a wide range of products for a very reasonable prices. You won’t find the better deal.


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Bass Traps

With Acoustic panels we have just solved all possible issues with High frequencies. However, to avoid sounding your mixes DULL, we have to deal also with LOW frequencies. To get a natural sound of your room, every ideal acoustic treatment should absorb ALL frequencies evenly.

acoustic bass traps foamWe can achieve this by adding BASS TRAPS. Bass traps are made from a THICK foam. The reason for that is to neutralize the power of all Bass frequencies – under 200 kHz. Don’t want you bother with theory of acoustic, but the fact is that all bass frequencies collect in the corners of the room. Therefore, we have to mount BASS TRAPS in all 4 corners. Once applied, you will hear the immediate improvement in the sound of your mixes and recordings. You will be better able to judge the LOW END frequencies coming from your monitors.

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auralex diffusorDiffusors

For all of you, who want to have ULTIMATE room sound. Adding diffusers to small rooms is often questionable. Some can say, it won’t help and that in LARGER room the benefits are more OBVIOUS.

How they work:
Diffusors help to spreads out the energy in space and time. Untreated reflections often get trapped in one spot, they amplify some frequencies while canceling out others. Diffusers scatter reflections, so nothing gets trapped and only NATURAL tones remain.

Diffusors are often applied, when your ROOM sounds DEAD. They allow you to retain some lifeness in your room, rather than creating entirely “DEAD” room – in the way that it sounds GREAT. This is achieved by using a mix of ABSORBERS and DIFFUSERS. Ideal combination depends on the TASTE of producer, anyhow by adding them, the entirely acoustic of any room can be transformed.

I know that it can sound freaky – on one side applying ABSORBERS like acoustic panels on the other side adding DIFFUSORs to spread out frequencies. However, the aim is to make BALANCE and turn any space into WORLD CLASS RECORDING STUDIO. It is a bit of alchemy.

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All IN One Acoustic treatment Packages

Ideal solution for everyone, who doesn’t want to be bothered with getting all these stuff individually. The best brands offer several ROOM kits, that can help you to treat your room in a cheap way and save you from “guessing” headaches.

 

acoustic treatment for a home recording studio

Auralex Roominator Kit

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Very popular and affordable.

Well-trusted brand offer acoustic treatment for the whole room in one pretty small package. It would fit for any normal sized home recording studio. Consist of 24 Acoustic panels, 8 Bass Traps and 5 Tubetak Pro Adhesives. Easy, affordable and will improve your sound immediately.

acoustic treatment home studioPrimacoustic London 12

Mid-range London package from another great brand on the market Primacoustic.

Everything you need to set up your room.

With this package you will get:

  • complete acoustic treatment for home recording studio up to 150 sq feet. Consist of 2 broadband panels, 8 columns and 12 scatter blocks (diffusors) with various mounting hardware. 

Also, very affordable and cheap option.

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