Architecture and Acoustics - Costs
TAXI is the leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows. WSDG is creating a series of articles on small listening / production room design and acoustics.
This article will deal with the most dreaded subject of all - What do good acoustics cost? This is typically scary stuff and at least in part for good reason. Hopefully we will take some of the mystery out of it. The bottom line (which of course is what everyone wants to know) is that the cost for good acoustics in a small project production studio (TAXI Driver stuff!) have come down during the past five years and will continue to come down. This is good news.
- Playback levels can be lowered, thus not causing any disturbances to surround environments
- Project studios often use no live microphones, thus very low NC (noise criteria) levels such as NC20 are not required.
- Production environments can be located in quiet locations (ie. quiet basement or "back yard" garage).
When sound isolation soundproofing is required, there are few ways to minimize this expense. In general, try not to require extensive work in this area. Choose a quiet site, work at moderate noise levels!
- Room shaping. This can often be the most effective way to organize low frequency standing waves and in general contribute positively to the modal response of the room. Choosing the optimum room ratios has little or no financial impact. Given the choice between creating an approximately 250 s.f. room in a 16' x 16' shape vs. a 14' x 19' shape - obviously we would d choose the second one. This costs no extra money and will save a great deal in that we will need little or no low frequency modal absorptive treatments! No extra money is required for smart room shaping. There are only a few design elements we can consider when creating an optimum listening environment.
- Applied absorption on surfaces. This is typically the most common design "solution" for improving acoustics. When harsh reflections exist (which will cause comb filtering and thus frequency response problems at the listening position), absorption is a good thing - just too much of it. Typically you might need less than 160 s.f. of mid frequency absorption in a room of this size. This would be (for instance) 20 - 2'x'4' (2"thick) fabric wrapped panels or equivalent in acoustic foam. Many companies make this type of product and even using a high quality fabric, these should not cost more $10 /s.f. - thus $1,600. Acoustic foam will run less. Even if one has to add a small number of low frequency absorbers which could cost a bit more, this would only add (at the most) an additional $800 to a room of this size.
figure 1 - shows 2" thick fabric covered 4# / cu. ft. fiberglass absorptive panels on ceiling. These are most efficient at mid frequencies.
- Applied reflection and diffusion on surfaces. This is often the correct treatment for the rear of a small control room or in some instances a ceiling. Very good news here - the costs per square foot for pre-fab diffusors has gone down and is now under $30/s.f. Although is not as cheap as absorption, it is still an order of magnitude of what it was only 3 - 5 years ago! There are a number of companies (RPG, Systems Development Group, etc.) that manufacturer inexpensive surface applied diffusion. Plus, they are lightweight! - which means you can easily apply them and even consider taking these surface treated with you when you move! So, consider a rear wall treatment of approximately 40 s.f., costing about $1,200. Add another $800 for ceiling treatment (not always applicable, but a good idea in low rooms.
figure 2 - note wood diffusors in rear of project studio control room.
- Floor treatment . Probably best to carpet a small room such as this. We really should not include this in a special acoustics treatment package, but we will. You should be able to get good low static carpet for about $25/yd. - thus about $900 installed. (don't ever ask how carpet people go from sq. ft. to sq. yard, an include overage).
- Smart speaker placement. Remember the Taxi article about near field monitors - let's not forget to use speaker stands, instead of placing them on a console (Taxi article #2). So, cost of speaker stands will run a few hundred dollars at the most.
figure 3 - smart speaker placement - avoiding console reflections as well as satisfying 5.1 requirements.
In our small audio control room , the most we will have to spend in interior room acoustics to insure a very good audio response at the listening position is about $6,000. With creative design and a little imagination this can even be less.
|Mid frequency absorption||1,600|
|Low frequency absorption||800|