DIY Studio

About Do It Yourself acoustic treatment and such in The Robot Initiative Studio.

Lets start with a brief history of the studio table. I wanted to place two 24″ lcd monitors side by side on the table. I also wanted to put near field monitors on the sides of the lcd monitors. I also needed deep enough table to fit everything in it. I came up with the measurements 220cm x 80cm would be the needed table top size. Well tables that size didn’t come ready made so I tried to find the next best thing. I did found one table and I tried ordering it, but never got any reply or anything from the company, luckily. So I thought  I was out of luck with the table, but actually I was very in luck.

Time had passed and I had already moved and everything, but I didn’t have a suitable table for my home studio. A friend of mine was working as a carpenter or master guiding carpenter or something at a workshop aimed for the unemployed. He guided people that went there and did what ever was needed, but he also had time to do other things, personal projects. Now this is where my luck turned. He said that he could do the table top for me, just the way I want it.

I did some crude plans for the table top and we went out to buy the wood for it. I had very limited budget at the time so I could only afford 18mm thick glued laminated timber. I bought two pieces since they were 600mm deep and I needed 800mm deep table top. Now in retrospective I could have bought thicker and different kind of wood, but thats in the past now. I also bought black paint and thinner since that table top would be spray painted. We took the timber to the workshop to dry up with his Toyota Corolla if I remember correctly, so now everything was ready.

He constructed the table top. He said that it was a pain in the ass to get the two pieces together straight to extend the 600mm to 800mm, but that I think was the hard part. After the pieces were glued together he made these nice edges from the left out pieces. Looking at the table it looked twice as thick which was a very nice touch. He rounded the corners and edges to make it look nicer. He then painted it black and it was ready after few layers of paint. I had bought four 750mm high legs for it so I had everything to set it up.

We took it to the apartment where I lived at the moment. I can still remember it we took it with his Toyota Corolla. The table top barely fit in and it was slightly over his shoulder. The backseats were turned down and I could just fit in to sit on top of the back seats. It was very difficult to shift gears since the table top was on the way. It was probably quite funny looking when we rode the about a kilometer from the workshop to my apartment. We took the table top to the fourth floor through the staircase because there was no way it could fit in the elevator. I think if I were to go to that staircase today there might still be this black stripe on the wall when one corner hit the wall, but that was the only hit the table top got and we got it nicely to the apartment. The table top looked really nice.

Later that night I screwed the legs to the table and put it in place and I must say that it looked really nice. I was very very pleased with the result. To me it looked nicer than what I had expected. I still today sometimes wonder if the 40 euros was enough for the work he had done. I set most of things on the table that night and thought that it was all worth it, worth the wait to get the table top I wanted. So far I could only find this one photo where you can only see some of my stuff and a bit of the table top.

When I moved to the first studio it was along the same road that where I lived. We carried the table top from the apartment to the studio with my friend who was guitarist for Spex Lab. We had actually once moved my bed the same way when I moved from a student apartment to my own apartment many years earlier.

The friend who made the table top is now playing guitars for Industrial Military Complex.

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I started building the brick stands. First I needed to find the bricks for building them. I found suitable bricks from local store they we 257mm x 123mm x 57mm two of them put side by side would be big enough area for KRK VTX6. I also measured that the stand should be 860mm high so that the tweeter mid point would be in same height as my ears when I’m sitting at mixing position. With little measuring I found that fifteen layers of bricks would sum up to 855mm in height which was very good. Better too low than too high because it is easier to put something underneath that to try and remove something. So I eventually bought 60 bricks, two bricks per layer, fifteen layers per stand and two stands. I put the in the back of my car and bought four wooden sticks to give keep the bricks in place just in case.

While I was taking the bricks from my car to the studio a cranky old bus drove into the yard which looked kind of odd and out of place. It was Finnish bands Haloo Helsinki’s tour bus. It was quite strange because the area isn’t kind where you would expect to see something like that. And the music I had heard that other bands play didn’t sound like shit like that. It turned out that they had a bathroom break and the main reason the bus had stopped there was that one man came out and took a van. There is this company in the building that rents PA and other show technic stuff and probably organize gigs, so it was their van that the man took, probably went to get the PA stuff back.

Later on I bough piece of wood 15mm thick, four threaded rods M10 and shock nuts. The plan was to cut the wood into two pieces that would act as bottom plates for the stands. I drilled holes into the wood and hammered the shock nuts into place. Then I moved the bricks under the studio table and crawled to the other side of the studio table. I then put the threaded rods into place and put few bricks into place. I then tried to put them into position where the stands should be, or at least I tried doing so. I also put the wooden sticks into place. I put two threaded rods and two wooden sticks per stand. I then started piling the bricks keeping them in line with the rods. After I got the bricks into place with one stand I then repeated the process with the second stand. It took some time and my back did notice that I was doing something. I finally got both stands up. I then sawed the wooden sticks from the first stand so they wouldn’t stick out. They were 1 meter long and the stands were 855 mm high. I then started to saw the first threaded rod and it was a pain in the ass, but I got it done. I then started to saw the second rod, but it felt like the saw didn’t bite into the rod. It could have also been that I was running out of power from my hands, I have had very bad leg day that day, basically meaning that my walking was very difficult thanks to diabetic polyneuropathy. So I left everything as is. I was able to put the other VTX6 on the stand although the one rod was still sticking out. I decided that I would continue some other day.

The other day came and I continued with sawing of the threaded rods. This time around I put tapes on the rods to know where to saw. I also added sawed out piece of the wooden rod into the stand to keep the top most brick in place. Previously I had sawed one wooden stick too short. I was able to saw the other threaded rod from the stand that I didn’t do last time. Once again it took very long and felt like the saw wouldn’t bite into the rod. I screwed out the two rods from the other stand so I could saw them in a better place were there would have been more room. I sawed the wooden rods at the same time. After sawing the threaded rod for some time and looking at the result I saw nothing, it was like I hadn’t sawed it at all. I decided to give up. I thought the stand do not need the threaded rods they were there for extra security in the first place.

Now I was able to put both VTX6’s on their own stands and listen to them. They were not positioned correctly and stands were in wrong place, they weren’t equal distance from the wall, but I felt like that the work for now was done and I could just listen to music. I noticed that the right speaker seemed to be quieter. This was something I had to investigate to make sure there is nothing wrong with the monitors. It took me quite a long time to figure out that I could try out switching the monitors to see if there was the same effect. And I noticed that the right one felt quieter still. So it was the monitor positioning that caused the effect. There is also an issue that the back wall has a window on the left side of it. This is something I have to figure out what to do with in later on. For now the main focus were the speaker stands that were ready now. I only have to move them some day so that they are equal distance from the wall.

This one night that we were playing and recording guitars for Scared Of Me I came back to the studio after I had taken the guitarist home. I did some general moving stuff around and thought that now I could move the right monitor stand. I took a piece of wood, left out from acoustic element frame that I am working on. It is piece of eight element frame, I only have rockwool for seven elements at the moment. I put it against the monitor stands wooden bottom plate and started bounding it with a hammer. That thing payed off and the stands were now equal distance from the side walls. I did notice a change in the sound. I also noticed that the bass, panned center, sounded to be little on the left side while listening to Scared Of Me. This could be due the lack of acoustic treatment in the studio. This is an on going process and these massive monitor stands is just one little piece of it. I am going to move the table few more centimeters from the back wall. Then I have to move these stands in the “final position”. Then I have this thing I call The Thing. And I also have the acoustic element project going on.

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Been planning DIY studio monitor stands for sometime now and I have been going through the possibilities. There have been several designs and I have now decided which way to go at least for the first stands.

  1. Metal pipe filled with sand. Crude plans included. This was the first plan I was considering, but it has been way over fifteen years since I last welded anything and would have to wait for the summer to get some dry sand. I haven’t discarded this plan I might some day do this for the near field monitors or for the main speakers.
  2. Concrete stands. Well basically making stands from concrete. This too would have to wait for the summer and would have been messy. Putting concrete and iron into a pipe and let it dry. Well would have been massive and mass is what is needed for the near field monitor stands.
  3. Temporary wooden stands. Basically just blocks of wood with plate on the bottom and top nothing special. The materials would have cost so much that it would have been a waste of money and material because these stands would have been temporary and would have become useless eventually.
  4. Brick stands. Making stands from bricks. Simple yet massive. Piling bricks and putting something in the holes to keep it still or basically securing the bricks just in case. This idea came from a post in John Sayers’ Recording Studio Design forum. Check the post here. This was the stands I chose due their simplicity. As I mentioned with the metal pipe version I still might do those, but for now this is the way to go.

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The current The Robot Initiative Studios is where I will be investing time and money on getting the acoustics the best I can. I am going to make it DIY project to save some money and spend a lot of time. Hopefully I gain some skills along they way.

Creating a reflection free zone is one goal. I will be placing acoustic panels on the early reflection points to reduce the early reflections in the mixing position which is critical. Finding the places where the panels should be placed can found with the mirror trick. You sit on the mixing position and a friend moves a mirror along the walls and ceiling and when you see the speaker element on the mirror thats your first reflection point. If I am not mistaking this is due the fact that sound waves works just like light, they both are waves after all, this is why when you see it you will also hear it. Well you don’t here it but the walls reflects it there. At the time of writing I am building something that I call The Thing. It is kind of reflective surface that is to be installed tilted above the mixing position. The idea is not to absorb the sound as with normal acoustic clouds, but to reflect the sound waves to a new direction so they will go behind the mixing position, not at the position. I can remember from schools physics class that when waves bounce of a surface they leave at the same angle as they arrived. So thats the idea with the tilted surface. Correct me if I’m wrong because I believe that I might be way off with this stuff. I am programmer not a physicist.

The near field monitor stands should be massive to remove resonance. Building the these from bricks is one quite easy and quite cheap solution. Sand filled stands is one very popular way of doing this. I discarded this idea from the original plan and went on with the brick stands.

Bass trapping. Trapping the bass. This is the first things that I found about when I became aware of acoustic treatment. I found a lot of DIY bass trap instructions on YouTube, but they all seemed like the guys where just hyped about making bass traps. I found little information about why and thats when I started researching about acoustics. To make it short bass traps are done for controlling the low, bass, frequencies. Low frequencies can be very troublesome to control and they are also very important. I have read from several sources that this is quite often neglected area of acoustic treatment and the area that probably gives you most value for the money. If you get the low frequencies in control the higher frequencies benefit from this a lot. So this is something that I might spend a lot of time and money to get somewhat right with my limited resources.

Measuring the room is also important. If you do not know what is going on in the room frequency wise you do not know what you should be doing. Here are also some things that I have found that should be taken into account, but people might not think about them. Your speakers/monitors have their own frequency response. Your microphone has it own frequency response. The room has its own frequency response. There might be something in the signal chain that messes with the frequency response. If you measure your room and start to tackle some trouble frequencies and you seem to get no results, try to remember this. It might be something in the signal chain. Do not spend lot of time and energy fighting against something that you cannot fight against. The web is full of forums where professional people help others out. Read the forums. Read the tutorials. Try to understand what something does. Talk to people and try to get another perspectives into your problems. Do not start building helmholtz resonators in wrong scale without understanding what they do and how they work and in what kind of environment. Do not try to fight agains that peek at 100Hz for several years without getting any results. It might be your equipment or something else. Ask before you do. I found this one blog where this guy did acoustic treatment for his home theatre and he fought with a peek at 100Hz. He gave up after few years. First of all he tried doing wrong treatment and it is also very possible that this peak came from the signal chain.

Acoustics is very tricky subject and people that have worked several decades in the field are still trying to resolve issue they have been trying to resolve all these years. There are no magic, no silver bullet in acoustics. Every room is different. Every room needs different treatment. There is only one thing that I have personally found out that the professionals and non-professionals agree on. Trust Your Ears! Do not look at the response graph trying to get it a straight line if the room sounds bloody awesome.

Ethan Winer. He is just one of the professionals who are very helpful on the forums. He has a very good page where he explains shortly and promptly about acoustics. Check it out here.