The Light at the End of the Tunnel
It has been 11 months since we tore down the original garage/studio and began building. Last November I thought the entire project would be completed by May of this year. (We were originally told March, but in my mind I added a two-month cushion. Yeah, I know—wishful thinking.) Of course, it didn’t help that we had one of the rainiest winters in recent memory. The discovery of dry rot in other parts of the house delayed things further.
The new garage and in-law unit are now done, the addition is tied in to the main structure, and the house is in a livable condition, so we’ve moved back in after a four-month forced hiatus. Our contractor can, once again, turn his attention back to my favorite room: the studio.
The best part of moving in so far has been getting to know the sonic personality of each space. For example, with its vaulted ceiling and wooden floor, the living room has a lovely, live sound, even with two sofas and a rug in the middle. The room is big enough to track a full band, but the acoustics are remarkably balanced enough that a strummed acoustic guitar sounds great in there.
The garage, when it’s empty, has a long, bright decay—perfect for use as a reverb chamber. This potential use will also act as an incentive to keep the garage uncluttered (I’m a notorious packrat).
Next to the garage is a storage room that I had also envisioned using as a reverb chamber, though it has since become home to several filing cabinets. As a result, the room is less reflective, though it does have an interesting sound. The floors in the garage and storage room were treated with a water-based, 2-part epoxy coating from Rust-Oleum (think automobile show room), which seems to have enhanced the reverberance in each space.
All three rooms have tieline channels extending from the studio above them, and we’re just about ready to install the cabling and jack panels to the walls. I had custom panels made with eight XLRs and two TRS jacks for the garage and living room, and a pair of XLR jacks for the storage room. Down the hall from the studio is a highly reverberant bathroom. If I want to use it as an echo chamber, I’ll just run the cables on the floor.
What’s The Buzz
Besides checking out the acoustics in each room, I’ve also begun listening to the ambient noise level in the house, focusing especially on the appliances and how their voices sound in each space. The kitchen, which opens to the living room, presents the biggest potential problem. If I do a session in the living room, I’m going to have to figure out a way to deal with the hum from the refrigerator’s compressor. It won’t be a big deal if the music I’m tracking is loud. For quieter sessions, I imagine I’ll use iZotope Rx to remove any unwanted artifacts that do show up.
So far, the washer and dryer can’t be heard in the studio, despite being directly below the studio closet. The one thing I haven’t been able to test yet is the studio’s electrical outlets. I’m curious to hear if the circuits pick up any noise from the appliances or the neighbors.
Floor to Ceiling
In July, Gyp-Crete was poured as part of the studio floor, which provides a layer of strength and sound isolation. A few weeks ago, the rest of the flooring was installed—a layer of 2-inch Owens Corning 703 insulation, followed by a 1/2-inch of CDX plywood with Green Glue, a layer of paper, and then the oak floor itself (see Fig. 1). These final layers were kept 3/8-inch from the perimeter walls, where backer rod and caulk will be added to isolate the floor from the outer structure (see Fig. 2).
We managed to recycle enough of the house’s original wood flooring to finish off the studio closet, which is large enough to store amps and instruments, as well as cables and stands (see Fig. 3). I wanted to reuse more of the original floor, but it proved difficult to pull up during the initial part of the renovation and most of it was damaged.
At this point, the windows have been installed and their perimeters sealed. Although the studio doors haven’t been installed, the traffic sounds from outside are almost fully attenuated. So far it feels like we have achieved a good deal of isolation from the outside world, and we’re not even done. When the doors are hung and the final wall covering is attached this week, it will only improve matters.
As I mentioned in earlier posts, the room treatment was designed by Rod Gervais. It calls for a layer of Owens Corning 702 insulation to be attached to the drywall, and then covered with Guilford of Maine FR701 panel fabric. This is topped by a pattern of 1×4, 1×6, and 1×8 wooden slats, with a 2-inch gap between each. Gervais has designed a number of tracking rooms like this, and the setup is intended to offer a musical combination of diffusion and absorption that doesn’t require further acoustical treatment.
FR701 was chosen because it is fire-retardant panel fabric that adheres to the ASTM E-84 fire-test standard for construction materials that are installed directly upon a surface (e.g., without an airspace between the surface and the fabric).
Once the wall and ceiling treatments are up, the lighting, tieline cables, and HVAC vents will be installed. Then it’s time to test the electrical system, as well as see what the finished room sounds like when recording. I can hardly wait!
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