Studios are critical listening spaces. The noise levels have to be as low as 10-20 dB.  The hum of the HVAC, the rumble of the ceiling fan, the structural vibrations of all the houses/buildings nearby, the rumble of trucks on the road, the cross talk through the HVAC duct, the hum of the machines, all make a rather big difference to the quality of the sound. Also, since most studios are rather small spaces, the the bass response must be carefully evened out.

I’ve seen studios that have sound leaking in and out of the rooms, studios that are somewhat reverberant because the glass wool sagged over the years, and studios that were about 50m from the nearest bus stop but you could hear the squeal of the breaks and even the horns all the time, even if there wasn’t an obvious air path from there.

The purpose of outlining this scenario is to mention common issues faced by a lot of studios in this area. Structural vibration is the biggest grouse. And increasingly, pavements are laid joining the road and residential areas. This, despite there being a mandate not to do so for longer than a certain width ( wide enough for your car to roll out of your house). This leads to added coupling.

That said, in India, the advantage is that most structures are still brickwork/RCC, unlike gyp/wood partitions in the west. Internal walls are usually 4 inches wide, and external walls are 8 inches. Older houses have thicker external walls.  So, a decent amount of isolation exists between rooms, if you ignore flanking.

All this is was about the sound isolation bit. Now when it comes to reverberation treatment, and the frequency response of the room,  studios again are the most critical sound spaces.  It is vital to even out nulls and peaks for bass frequencies, and diffusers must be optimally used.  If the absorbers are carefully and specifically designed, one gets much more benefit out of the treatment than by randomly experimenting with off-the-shelf stuff. Faulty room acoustics leads to the sound engineer falsely believing the sound spectrum to be something it is not, and equalizing to correct what they think they’re hearing.

Sound technical planning should make sure that you avoid all these pitfalls, and the expensive corrections they entail. The right treatment should make the ambient sound crisp and clear, with accurate and predictable colouration from the room.   The quality of sound you hear can then safely be subject only to the quality of the equipment. I have a personal affinity towards sound studios, because these test so much of our skills, and these are also the places where some of the best works of art are immortalized. As someone whose interest in music primarily led her to acoustics, I do have a thing for these little rooms.  🙂

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