Home recording -- what's the (reasonable) best room environment?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Ferg Deluxe, Mar 7, 2015.

  1. Ferg Deluxe

    Ferg Deluxe Gold Supporting Member

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    Hey folks, I have a situation that I'm trying to rectify with my home recording environment. I live in the city, in a townhouse, and as such my playing-loudly-at-home days are largely over. Over the past 18 months I've made some investments in home recording gear and I have a minimalist little project studio that I've set up in my finished basement.

    I record to a Mac, using a couple different midi interfaces to trigger drums and other midi sounds, and use an Axe-fx II for the guitar and bass tones. I have decent monitors, and a nice audio interface as an alternate to the Axe. My biggest problem, as most home recordists have, is the room that my gear is in. The basement has typical drywall walls, and a ceramic tile floor. This makes it very echo-y and a little bright. I've put down carpets, and there is naturally some furniture, etc down there so it's not like it's a raw room. But I have to take it into consideration as certainly one of the weakest links in my efforts. I've had to learn to listen closely using headphones and listen in other environments to compensate for the sound of the room.

    The room shape is also not ideal, but no point in getting into that here, as there's no way to change it.

    That said, I have the chance to move to the very upstairs of my house, which is currently my office. It's a much more "dead" room as compared to the bright, echo-y room in the basement. It's carpeted, and about 30% larger than the basement, though in the end it's still a square room meant to be a bedroom. There's no way to "fix" this room either, as it will have it's own characteristics and I'll have to learn it's impact on my mixing as well.

    But here's my question: given the following two choices, and knowing that neither of them is particularly ideal, which one would you choose?

    1. The bright, echo-y, tiled-floor, smaller room?

    or

    2. The more dead, carpeted, larger room?

    I'd love to hear some opinions here. Thanks!
     
  2. omfg51

    omfg51 Member

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    Honestly, it depends on how you like the sound of each room. I actually enjoy the somewhat echo-y sound of my living room, with my drums set up almost in the corner. It' provides a kind of a characteristic sound that's different, and I dig it.

    You'll probably have to try some test setups for recording to see how they two rooms differ in sound. You may also have to use different mic placements too if the rooms are that much different in sound.
     
  3. gearscrubs

    gearscrubs Supporting Member

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    All rooms will have reflections and modes. Generally, bigger is better, but pick the one that sounds best. Also, putting up some broadband absorption panels and a few bass traps can significantly improve a small boxy room.
     
  4. stratovarius

    stratovarius Supporting Member

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    With the equipment you have described I am wondering why you are using microphones in the first place. Is it only for vocals?
     
  5. Ferg Deluxe

    Ferg Deluxe Gold Supporting Member

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    For mic'ing, I'm mainly I'm talking about vocals, and acoustic instruments. My main concerns are around mixing in these environments. I should have been more clear about that. My mixes are turning out darker and boomy because of the brighter mixing environment. Also, I think it's affecting the creation and tweaking of guitar tones for mixes.
     
  6. SolidGuitar

    SolidGuitar Member

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    As you've described it, I think I'd pick the dead room. (In an ideal world, the tracking and mixing environments would be different. You probably know this.)

    All else equal, I'd mix in a more dead room.

    You still might want to think about treating the walls and corners. (It's expensive, so you'll have to evaluate the return on investment aspect.)

    BUT, against all this: if you have a laptop available (you didn't say you did or did not), why not try recording vocals or acoustics in different rooms? If you don't have a laptop, I'm sure you can borrow one. There are also several portable digital recorders (e.g., Tascam) that could work to get you mobile. (Then go crazy: record outside, under a pavilion, on your roof...)
     
  7. wahfreak

    wahfreak Silver Supporting Member

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    You can add "room" to a dead space via reverb but you can't subract room. Once it's printed, it's there for good so I vote dead.
     
  8. stratovarius

    stratovarius Supporting Member

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    You might also consider the type of microphones you are using and your location in the room. You don't necessarily have to treat the entire room, either.
     
  9. 56Tweed

    56Tweed Sub-Octave Member Silver Supporting Member

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    As some have said, it an be easier to add sound to a dead room than deal with the issues of a smaller, room with lots of hard surfaces that create all kind of issues.

    Another thing to consider is that you can jump around some when it works to your advantage. I typically do my primary recording in my bedroom office with carpet and some treatment. When I record acoustic guitar though I go down to a big living room I have with tall ceilings and hard wood floors. Unfortunately as much as I would love to, I cannot mike a guitar cab on full tilt in that room without upsetting people.
     

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