Updated: Apr 11
Setting up your studio can be difficult sometimes, especially if you just started out and don't really know where and how to start! Trust me I know this, I spent the last 6 years creating studios and helping other independent artists in making one in a home environment.
Yes, I did study physic of sound and I have a degree as sound engineer and over the years
I discovered a real passion in this context as it really satisfies me for obscure reasons!
But honestly? You don't really need to study the whole science behind if you don't want to!
In fact, the secret it's all hidden behind a few simple rules that come
with a bit of knowledge in the field.
With the technology being frequently more available and therefore cheaper due to massive demand, anyone can actually make a great sounding studio out of a bedroom!
You can create great music in your bedroom but most importantly, you could Mix music in a space that is not necessarily created for this purpose as a professional studio might be; without the expensive isolation system and acoustic treatment! As long as we follow certain rules. ☺
Disposition, Arrangement & First Decisions
"The best possible room would be a rectangle,
where you face the shortest side with your desk, speakers and gears".
This kind of room allows bass frequencies to expand throughout the longer side and It's less prone to create stationary waves, which will inevitably influence your perception of the audio that is coming out from your speakers to your ears! (*The studio above is a great example)
When I say the best room, I mean the easiest one to work on. You are halfway there if you have a rectangular room, true, but don't despair if your room is a perfect square or a different kind of weird shape that doesn't have a name either! One of the most important things here is to be quite symmetric at least with your speakers/walls!
So if you have a square room,
I would probably try to place the "audio workstation" as the picture are showing.
If you can't or don't want to, just try to stick in one of the walls but you'll have to position the speakers in the most symmetric way possible and perhaps the listening won't be so bad. This depends on many factors!
I am going to explain in details the importance of having our audio system with precise distance between walls and ourselves and why it is so important to follow these easy but fundamentals rules.
In order to have the correct stereo image and balanced listening, you will have to make sure that the audio, which will inevitably reflect on your walls, will at least do it with same timing! Doing so means positioning the speakers in the most symmetric way towards the walls and yourself. This will give you the best possible perception as the audio is also reaching your ears with exact same timing and there are no differences created by distances between left and right speaker.
You should also consider to always position the speakers at a certain distance from the wall behind them. Now, this topic would bring a lot of theories but essentially the bigger is your room the bigger should be the gap speakers ↔ walls behind them. I recommend you to try with a short distance at first (5/10 cm), listening to a song that you know perfectly (take notes), therefore increase 5/10 cm and listen again. Do this until you reach your max distance allowed by your desk/room and decide which one might work for the best. Read this for more
The Mixing Position
When we are mixing we make decisions, one after another, based on the information that we are perceiving. The Mixing Position is an important requirement in order to perceive the complexity of the stereo image and within certain scenario, it is the only thing that separates us from having good listening and perception of the audio we are listening to, or at least it is a good starting point. No doubt! The mixing position should be based and rely on the speakers position. We should therefore recreate the equivalent of an equilateral triangle, where each distance is equal from speaker L - R and our self. So if your left speaker is 1.5m away from the right speaker, you should as well be 1.5m away from both speakers; easy :>
Once we set up our speakers on our desk or with the apposite stands, we have clear information of where we should listen with accuracy, aka The Mixing Position!
This will also allow us to easily calculate the first reflections or echo created by the enormous amount of waves bouncing around the room and adding colour to the audio source.
A little bit of fun & useful theory
I am not going to write in depth about theory here, but when you play music in your room, tons of waves are coming out from your speakers with different energy and length (wavelength). When they hit hard material such as walls and furniture, they will act as light would when hitting a mirror! Soft and porous material instead, will absorb the sound and help to reduce the echo in your room (sofas, bed, books, foam and so on). With that being said, at this point, it should be easy for us to calculate where the first reflections are coming from based on our Mixing spot.
In this picture we can clearly see our defined Mixing Spot and therefore important points on the wall where the first reflections will inevitably hit before bouncing back into your ear, corrupting your perception against the direct sound that is coming out of your speakers. The ceiling will also be affected with the same principle (duh).
I personally love to always draw the space I am working on, I use squared sheets and refer to each square as a 10cm unit, making the proportion right is very important.
Conclusion - Mixing Loud vs Mixing quietly
Online you can find plenty of ways to calculate your first reflections but I didn't want to get too in depth and honestly that is pretty much it! Putting soft material on these points will definitely improve the quality of listening as you are partially getting rid of "colour" naturally added by the geometry of your room and material. Don't despair if you can't do that if for instance you are renting or you just don't want to. Softwares such as Sonarworks are a great starting point for those who don't have an acoustic treatment and for those who can't completely rely on a cheap acoustic treatment solution. One thing I should say though is that Volume will always be your friend, the louder you mix and listen and the more colour and corruption you are adding to the audio source you are working on. Mixing at high volume will add energy to your direct sound and proportionally add unwanted information bouncing left and right inside your room. I think this is not only going to improve your listening skills and mixing skills but also protect your ear from ear fatigue which is a serious issue especially for those who work in the audio industry!
Thanks for reading and leave a comment if you want, I always respond :)