Very Common Mistakes in Recording Studio Design
The following is an excerpt from Philip Newell’s, just published, Recording Studio Design, 3e.
Philip Newell is an international consultant on acoustic design and the former technical director of Virgin Records. He has been involved in the design of over 200 studios, including the famous Manor and Townhouse Studios.
Very Common Mistakes
In an enormous number of cases, prospective studio owners’ purchase or lease premises which they consider suitable for their studio before calling in a studio designer or acoustical expert. They often realise that there could be potential problems, but they believe that they can talk their way around any difficulties with neighbours. They invest considerable money in building something which they deem to be suitable for their needs, and then only call in specialists once the whole thing has been completed but the neighbours refuse to ‘see reason’.
Acoustics is not an intuitive science, and many people cannot appreciate just how many ‘obvious’ things are, in reality, not that obvious at all. It is a very unpleasant experience for acoustics engineers to have to tell people, who have often invested their hearts, souls and every last penny in a studio, that the building simply is not suitable. Unfortunately, it happens regularly. The problem in many of these cases is that the buildings are of lightweight construction and the neighbours are too close. The three things most important in providing good sound isolation are rigidity, mass and distance. Lightweight buildings are rarely very rigid, so if the neighbours are close, such buildings really have nothing going for them except cheapness. Even if there is space to build internal, massive, floated structures, the floors may not be strong enough to support their weight because the buildings are only of weak, lightweight construction. In many cases, such premises will have been purchased precisely because they are inexpensive; perhaps they were all that could be afforded at that time, which often also means that the money for expensive isolation work is not available. The cost of massive isolation work in a cheap building will obviously be greater than a smaller amount of isolation work in a more sturdily constructed building, and usually the overall cost of the building and isolation work will be cheaper in the latter case.
An actual set of plans for the isolation work in a rather unsuitable building in southern Spain is shown in Figure 1.1. It is sited in the ground floor garage of an apartment building.Initial tests with bass and drums in the proposed studio, after it had been purchased, produced 83 dBA in a neighbour’s bedroom. This would have meant trying to sleep with the equivalent of a loud hi-fi system playing in the adjoining room. The almost absurd quantity of required sound isolation work eventually reduced the noise level in the bedroom to around 30 dBA, but the cost was not only financial; much space was also lost.
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