Recording Studio Design [NOOK Book]


Recording Studio Design is essential reading for anyone involved in building, renovating and maintaining recording studios. Good acoustics in a recording studio is crucial to the success of a project, and the financial implications of failure means getting things right first time is essential. In straightforward language Newell covers the key basic principles of acoustics, electro-acoustics and psychoacoustics and their application to studio design. Fully updated to reflect current technology and practice ...
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Recording Studio Design

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Recording Studio Design is essential reading for anyone involved in building, renovating and maintaining recording studios. Good acoustics in a recording studio is crucial to the success of a project, and the financial implications of failure means getting things right first time is essential. In straightforward language Newell covers the key basic principles of acoustics, electro-acoustics and psychoacoustics and their application to studio design. Fully updated to reflect current technology and practice additional sections include digital signal processing, design for soundtrack mixing and foley rooms, providing a complete reference offering real solutions to help improve the success rate of any studio.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Intended for recording professionals, this guide to the design of state of the art recording facilities provides detailed technical instruction on the creation and optimization of all facets of the modern studio. Beginning with a discussion of general acoustics and sound principles, the work covers topics such as neutral room design, variable acoustics, control rooms, studio monitoring, power conditions and main supplies, and analogue audio interfacing. Chapters include numerous technical illustrations and photographs, and this third edition is fully updated to reflect current technologies in use in the recording industry."--Reference and Research Book News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781136115332
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/6/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 832
  • File size: 33 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

International consultant on acoustic design, former technical director of Virgin Records. Has over 30 years experience in the recording industry and has been involved in the design of over 200 studios, including the famous Manor and Townhouse Studios. He is also author of Project Studios, Recording Spaces and Studio Monitoring Design, all published by Focal Press.
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Read an Excerpt

Recording Studio Design

By Philip Newell

Elsevier Science

Copyright © 2012 Philip Newell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-240-52241-8



General Requirements and Common Errors

This chapter lays out the fundamental requirements of premises for professional recording purposes, including: common underestimation of need for good isolation; avoidance of disturbance from plant and equipment noises; influence of location on isolation requirements; consideration of artistic needs; control room monitoring basics; types of buildings to avoid; and the need for adequate space and building strength.

1.1 The General Requirements

Some of the things that set a professional recording studio apart from a personal studio are listed below:

1. The ability to work during the chosen hours of use (in many cases 24 hours per day) without disturbing, or being disturbed by, anything or anybody in the local community.

2. The studio should be able to record musicians without delays or impediments to the needs of the musical performance.

3. Studios should inspire confidence in all the personnel involved in any recording.

4. The achievable quality of recording should not be limited by the inadequacy of the studio design or installation. Even a modest studio performing optimally may well outperform a much more elaborate one that has been poorly conceived and installed.

5. The studio should always provide an adequate supply of clean, fresh air, in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. (See Chapter 9.)

So now, let us look at these points in some more detail.

1.2 Sound Isolation and Background Noise Levels

In the enthusiasm that often accompanies the idea to build a recording studio, the lack of experience of the people involved often leads to a tendency to fail to realise the need for good sound isolation. In far too many cases, people believe that they can work around most of the restrictions which poor isolation imposes. This is a dangerous attitude, because once it is realised that the compromises severely restrict the success of the studio it is often too late or too financially burdening to make the necessary changes. The result is often either a ceiling placed on the ability of the studio to develop, or financial ruin. In 2001, European banks reported bad debts on over 20,000 studio project loans, and this has made things difficult ever since. Optimism must be tempered by reality.

Isolation is a two-way problem. The most obvious need for isolation is to prevent sound escaping from the studio and disturbing any noise-sensitive neighbours. Almost everybody realises that repeated disturbance of neighbours is probably going to lead to complaints and, if nothing is done about it, cause the closure of the studio. Conversely, noises from the local community activity entering the studio can disrupt recordings and disturb the creative flow of the artistic performances. Sound isolation also sets the dynamic range limit for a studio. This latter point is very important in a professional recording situation, but it is often woefully under-appreciated.

1.2.1 From the Inside Out

If a studio only has an effective isolation of 40 dB, then any sounds above 75 dBA in the studio will risk annoying neighbours. The resulting 35 dBA reaching them would certainly be considered a potential noise nuisance, at least if the studio were to be used after 10 pm and was sited in a residential area. For example, one cannot turn down the volume of a drum kit. Playing quietly is no solution, because it produces an entirely different tone quality to playing loud. Realistic drum levels are more in the order of 110 dBA, so 75 dB of isolation (the 110 dBA SPL [Sound Pressure Level] of the drums minus the 35 dBA acceptable to the neighbours) would be a basic requirement, though this could be reduced at low frequencies, as will be discussed in Chapter 2.

Many people decide that they can mix in the control room at night in rooms with reduced isolation, in the belief that they can work with the monitor volume controls reduced below their daytime levels. It soon becomes apparent that if the studio is to be used commercially, it is usually the clients, not the studio owners, who decide at what level they wish to monitor. If they cannot work in the way that they wish or need to work, they will perhaps look elsewhere when planning their next recordings. In addition, when the ability to monitor at higher levels is denied, low level noises or distortions may go unnoticed, only to be heard at a later date. This may result in either the work having to be done again or the bill for the wasted session going unpaid.

Even more disturbing (see next chapter and Figure 2.1 for reasons), mixing at a relatively quiet SPL of 75 dB is at the lower end of the preferred range for music mixing, because it is already descending into a region where the ear is less sensitive to the upper, and especially the lower, frequency ranges. Mixes done at or below this level may tend to sound excessive in bass when reproduced elsewhere at higher SPLs, as would often be the case. Therefore, mixing at a low level so as not to annoy the neighbours is not really a professional option.

It is true that for a voice studio for publicity or radio recording (and especially when the end-product is not likely to be listened to from an audiophile perspective), 40 or 50 dBA of isolation and a 75 dB maximum operating level may suffice, but such conditions would certainly not be suitable for music recording. In conditions of poor isolation, frustrating moments of lost artistic inspiration can be frequent, such as when a good take is ruined by an external noise, or when operating level restrictions deny the opportunity to do what is needed when the moment is 'hot'. Professional studios should be ready for whatever the musicians reasonably require, because capturing the artistic performance is the prime reason for their existence.

1.2.2 From the Outside In

Background noise levels of below 20 dBA (or NR20 or NC20 as variously used) were the norm for professional studios. In recent years, cost constraints on air-conditioning systems, together with the appearance of ever more computer disc drives in the control rooms, have pushed these levels higher. These problems will also be discussed in later chapters, but background noise levels above 25 or 30 dBA in either the studio rooms or the control rooms seriously begin to encroach on the recording operation. Twenty dBA is still optimal.

Most musical instruments have been designed to have sufficient loudness to be heard clearly over the murmur of a quiet audience, but if the background noises in a recording room exceed around 30 dBA there will be a tendency for the extraneous noises to enter the microphones with sufficient level to degrade the clarity of some recordings. Much important low-level information in the tone of an instrument or voice may then be masked by the noise. In the control rooms, we should reasonably expect a background noise level at least as low as that of the recordings. Otherwise, when monitoring at life-like levels similar to those produced by the instruments in the studio, one could not monitor the background noise level on the recording because it would tend to be masked by the higher background noise level in the control room. The number of so-called recording studios which now have 50 dBA or more of hard disc and cooling fan noise in the control room, with monitoring limits of only 90 dB SPL, is now reaching alarming proportions. That represents a monitoring signal-to-noise ratio of only 40 dB. It is absurd that many such studios are promoting their new, advanced, 24-bit/96 K recording systems as part of a super-low-noise/high-quality facility, when the 100 dB + signal-to-noise ratio which they offer cannot even remotely be monitored. One cannot trust to luck and call oneself professional.

1.2.3 Realistic Goals

The previous two subsections have outlined the basic reasons why good sound isolation is required in recording studios. The inside-to-outside isolation is usually dominant, as few studios are sited next to neighbours producing upwards of 110 dBA. As the 30 dBA region is reasonably close to the limit for tolerance of background noise by either the neighbours or the studio, it is principally the 110 dBA or so produced in the studio that dictates the isolation needs.

Of course, a well-judged choice of location can make life easier. Siting the studio in the middle of nowhere would seem to be one way of reducing the need for so much isolation. However, the owners must ask themselves if their clients are likely to travel to such a remote location in commercially viable numbers. Furthermore, one should be wary of other likely problems. One expensive studio was located in a place with little sound isolation because it was so remote from any neighbours. Three months of unseasonably strong winds and heavy rain almost drove them to ruin because of the weather-related noise entering the studio. At great cost, improved sound isolation had to be added after the studio had been completed, which proved to be far more expensive than it would have been had it been incorporated during the initial construction of the studio.

It is client convenience which often drives studio owners to locations in city centres or apartment buildings. Convenient for the clients they may be, but high property prices and/or high isolation costs often cause the owners to look for premises which are too small. Often there is simply no room for adequate isolation in their chosen spaces, even when very expensive techniques are employed. This subject will be dealt with in greater depth in Chapter 2.

1.2.4 Isolation versus Artistry

Artistic performance can be a fragile thing. Curfews on what can be done in the studio and during which hours can be a source of great problems. No matter how clearly it is stressed that the working hours are 10 am to 10 pm, for example, the situation will always arise when things are going very well or very badly, where a few extra hours of work after the pre-set deadline will make a good recording great or perhaps save a disaster. In either case, using a studio where this flexibility is allowable is a great comfort to musicians and producers alike, and may be very much taken into account when the decision is made about which studio to use for a recording.

1.3 Confidence in the System

A professional studio should be able to operate efficiently and smoothly. Not only should the equipment be reliable and well maintained, but also all doubts should be removed as far as possible from the whole recording process. This means that a professional studio needs recording rooms with adequately controlled acoustics and a monitoring situation which allows a reliable assessment to be made of the sounds entering the microphones. This latter requirement means reasonably flat monitoring systems are needed, in control rooms that allow the flat response to reach the mixing position and any other designated listening regions of the room. The monitoring systems should also have good transparency and resolution of fine detail, uncoloured by the rooms in which they are placed or by the disturbances caused by the installed recording equipment. Where doubt exists about the monitored sound, musicians may become insecure and downhearted, and hence will be unlikely to either feel comfortable or perform at their best.

The decay time of the control room monitoring response should be shorter than that of any of the main recording rooms (dead isolation booths may be an exception), otherwise the recording personnel may not know whether the decay that they are hearing is a part of the recording or a result of the monitoring environment. This subject can arouse many strongly opinionated comments from advocates of some older control room design philosophies, but the fact remains that adequate quality control monitoring can be difficult to perform in rooms with typically domestic decay times.

Excerpted from Recording Studio Design by Philip Newell. Copyright © 2012 by Philip Newell. Excerpted by permission of Elsevier Science.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

General requirements and common errors; Sound, decibels and hearing; Sound isolation; Room acoustics and means of control; Designing neutral rooms; Rooms with characteristic acoustics; Variable acoustics; Room combinations and operational considerations; The studio environment; Limitations to design predictions; Loudspeakers in rooms; Flattening the room response; Control rooms; The behaviour of multiple loudspeakers in rooms; Studio monitoring: the principal objectives; The non-environment control room; The live-end, dead-end approach; Response disturbances due to mixing consoles and studio furniture; Objective measurement and subjective evaluations; Studio monitoring systems; Surround sound and control rooms; Human factors; A mobile control room; Appendices; Glossary of terms
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