When it comes to the sound of your studio, the proper application of room treatment — absorbers, diffusers, bass traps — is one way you can tame problematic acoustical phenomena and balance its overall frequency response. Any treatment you add, of course, should be carefully considered based on adequate measurements, if you want actually hear an improvement and not waste your money.
But no matter where you’re recording or rehearsing, there is a range of portable and relatively low-cost acoustical products that are designed to solve issues found in home-studios, rehearsal rooms, schools and houses of worship everywhere. That is, to increase the acoustic separation between nearby instruments, to decouple drums and amps from wooden floors and stages, and to minimize mic bleed when tracking or amplifying instruments in a live situation.
On the other hand, if you are interested in building a recording or practice space with significant isolation and a balanced sound, I highly recommend Home Recording Studio: Build It Like the Pros by Rod Gervais (2nd Edition; Course Technology). It is by far the most useful book for anyone interested in temporarily or permanently modifying a room or designing a studio from scratch. (Our recent interview with Gervais, which includes his thoughts on the importance of HVAC in a personal studio, can be read at emusician.com/how-to/five-questions-studio-designer-rod-gervais.)
VIBRATION AND ISOLATION
Have you ever noticed how a live microphone onstage or in a studio picks up low-frequency rumble as musicians walk around? When a vibrating object — such as a bass drum or speaker cabinet — sits on some type of hard surface (wooden floor, drum stand, speaker stand), its vibrations can be transmitted through adjacent hard surfaces. In recording studios, as well as high volume performance situations, the low rumble is not only annoying but can muddy up the sound of an instrument or result in feedback.
Among the host of products designed to reduce or eliminate structural-borne vibration are the Primacoustic TriPads ($29), a set of 3 pads, each of which is notched to accept a tripod leg of a mic stand. The company also sells the KickStand ($74), a weighted stand with padded bottom that is floor-level and designed for miking a bass drum, as well as the Kick Plate ($69), designed to sit on the inside of the kick-drum shell and hold a boundary microphone.
The Auralex solution is PlatFeet-II ($22), a set of three Platfoam blocks that can support tripod legs or round-based mic stands. They can also be used under the legs of a percussion instrument, such as a floor tom. (The company also sells Platfoam and PlatSheet for adding isolation between stage risers and floors, and for other decoupling situations.)
The Auralex Aural-Xpanders pack ($69) includes a set of six PlatFeet, as well as several triangular and trapezoidal foam wedges, that can be situated on the tube of a mic stand, next to the microphone, in order to lower direct sound reflection from nearby sound sources. They work well in live-recording situations, as well as concert situations where you need to minimize bleed beyond what the mic’s polar pattern provides. However, if you’re doing any critical recording, be sure to A/B the sound you get from the instrument with and without these wedges near the mic. In some cases, they can affect the sound of your main source, and you’ll want to know what you’re getting when you hit record.
The Primacoustic CrashGuard ($39) also attaches to the mic stand, near the microphone. However, it physically covers the mic to reduce bleed and provides strike resistance when you’re miking a drummer, thanks to its ABS plastic shell.
And for a truly portable gobo that can be used on a variety of instruments, have a look at the Primacoustic SplashGuard ($69). This mic-stand-mounted design has an ABS plastic shell and measure 14.25x9.75”