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Optimizing Your Recording Room: Sound Control during Tracking

Tracking is what you’re doing when you’re recording. Imprecise sound control, too much or too little sound reflection results in a bad environment for tracking.

When tracking, your goal is to have a room that’s not so dead (in terms of sound reflection) that it sucks the life out of your instrument and not so alive that it over-colors the sound. The determining factors in how much reflection you need in your room are the instrument that you record and the way it sounds in the room.

If your room is too dead (with not enough sound reflection), you want to add some reflective surfaces to liven things up (the room, that is). If your room is too alive (with too much sound reflection), you need to add some absorptive materials to tame those reflections.

You could buy a bunch of foam panels to catch the reflections or install a wood floor or attach some paneling to the walls to add some life, but then you would be stuck with the room sounding only one way.

It may end up sounding good for recording drums or an acoustic guitar, but it would probably be too alive for getting a great vocal sound — which requires a deader space. One solution that works well is to get (or make) some portable panels that can either absorb or reflect the sound.

The illustration shows an absorber/reflector that is in use and has been found to work well. One side has an absorptive material (dense fiberglass insulation), and the other has a reflective surface (wood). They are assembled in an attractive frame and designed to stack easily.

Even with minimal woodworking experience, you can crank out a set of them in a weekend for very little money (about $50 per panel). If you make them (or hire someone to make them for you), you’ll find dozens of uses for them around your studio.

Portable absorbers/reflectors make changing the sound characteristics of your room quick and easy.
Portable absorbers/reflectors make changing the sound characteristics of your room quick and easy.
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