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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:59 pm 
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Hi

We are building a studio in our school in China, We have just been given the plans below. We are concerned, even though I dont know a lot about studio design I am aware that a square control room isnt ideal at best. There is as lot of money thrown at this and would like a second opinion on the proposal. We will have audio over lan and be able to record orchestras etc in the big band rooms down the corridor. However the plans attached are for the control room and 2 small live rooms. My initial thoughts are 1. The control room is too big relative to live rooms 2. the control room shape isnt good 3. we would be better having 1 larger live room and 1 small vocal booth and smaller control room. - Any thoughts welcome. We will be recording drums through a rolland TD30 so no need for a drum room as such. There will be a floating floor and HVAC is taken care off. THe outside door needs to placed as shown . The outside walls are fixed - we cant go any bigger.The architect is reluctant to change the shape of the control rooms etc. but if the opinion is that the layout is not good, and I can show a better option, that would be great. Or any other advice very welocome! Ive included a few of the plans The rooms will be used for recording rock bands/vocals. The plans show surround sound - we wont have this - just stereo nearfields. Unfortunately the plans are in chinese. The rear corner of the control room is an outside wall and there is an unfortunate window there that cant be changed.

So to summarize - Is the layout OK ? Can we make it ok with some kind of extra treatment? Do we need to radically alter the design? Any help very welcome. Getting advice in China is difficult. I have other plans showing walls etc too and will attach if needed

Thanks


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:57 am 
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Hi there "itsmiked", and welcome to the forum! :)

Quote:
We are concerned, even though I dont know a lot about studio design...

I would say that your concerns are valid. There are several questionable aspects of that design in general, not just the control room.

You are correct that square rooms are not a good idea in general, acoustically. That doesn't mean that it is impossible to have a square room: it means that if you do have a square room, then it is going to need a lot more treatment than a similar sized non-square room. So, even though a square room is not totally terrible, it is always preferable to make the room non-square.

It appears that the design in your plans is an attempt to implement a concept that is know as a "corner control room", where the interior layout is set up across the diagonal of the room, instead of facing one of the walls. That can work, yes, and indeed the "corner control room" concept is valid. However, it is NOT valid when done as shown in the plans you posted. There are so many issues with that layout, that it would not only be a poor room acoustically, but it would also be a poor room operationally.

Here is an example of a correctly implemented corner control room (click here) . As you can see, it is based on a square shape, but it is NOT actually square at all! It is trapezoidal, with the walls angled so that they do not meet at 90°, and one of the corners is cut off to create a large window into the live room in front of it, with the speakers recessed and flush-mounted into vertical "soffits" up each side of the window. So even though the room looks square, it really isn't, and the acoustic response is good.

Here is a plan view of that studio, so that you can see the layout and shape:

Attachment:
FRANK--general-overhead2.png

That room is very nearly complete today: we are in the very final stages of tuning the room this week, and it will be completed in a few days. You can see the entire process in the link above.

There are other ways to do corner control rooms: the one I link above is not the only method. However, the one shown in your plans is not a good implementation at all. It would be uncomfortable to work in, and the acoustic response would not be good.

Another major issue with the plans is the locations of the speakers. I do not speak Chinese, so I cannot read the indications on the plans, but it appears that the speakers are located very high up on the walls, and in the ceiling. That is absolute unworkable. The speakers MUST be located at ear-height, or slightly above. The "standard" stated in international specifications for critical listening rooms (such as ITU BS.1116-3, or EBU Tech.3276, for example), is that the acoustic axis of the front speakers must be 120cm above the floor. The rear speakers can be a little higher if necessary, but the preferred height is still 120cm. In most studios that I design, the speakers are a little higher than that, with the acoustic axis at around 125 to 130 cm, but that is due to the design concepts that I use when designing control rooms. 120 cm is the specified height. I never go higher than about 135 cm, for the reasons below.

If you have speakers raised up higher than that, and then tilted down to point at the mix position, that is a really bad idea: the human ear cannot correctly identify the horizontal direction and the frequency response of sound coming from significantly above the "horizon". There is a branch of science called "psycho-acoustics", which studies how our ears and brains actually perceive sound, and the way our ears work. They are very, very complicated, and the shape of your actual ear pinna, is critical in creating the acoustic clues that your brain uses to determine which way a sound came from, and what the frequency spectrum was. If you mount the speakers up high, and tilted down, then you mess up that mechanism, and your brain can no longer accurately sense the spectrum and the direction. While it is possible to raise speakers a little then angle them down, the angle must NEVER exceed 7° for a successful studio. Personally, I never go beyond 4.7°.

Therefore, the locations of the speakers in your control room design is very poor.

Yes, you do occasional see control room that have large speakers mounted above the front window, but those are NOT the speakers that are used for mixing and critical listening! Those are meant mainly for the producer/director/musicians seated at the BACK of the control room. They are not usually used by the mix engineer, seated at the console. He/she uses other speakers, mounted lower down, when tracking and mixing, because that is the location where the speakers need to be for accuracy. For optimal acoustics, the speakers must still be flush-mounted into vertical "soffits". Free-standing speakers create a large number of complicated artifacts, that can be avoided by flush-mounting.

In addition, the locations of the speakers shown on the plans does not seem to follow any of the correct layouts... not even for multi-channel. The angles are wrong. In addition to being located far too high, they are also located far away from the established, standard locations, and they do not appear to be equidistant from the mix position. I noted that you said the final speaker layout will not be as shown, but I did mention the serious issues with the speaker setup, to highlight the basic problem here: the room is poorly designed in all aspects, for a studio. Perhaps that layout might work for a cheap home theater, but it is no use for a professional recording studio.

Quote:
My initial thoughts are 1. The control room is too big relative to live rooms
Correct. I agree. The control room could be smaller than shown.

However, it would also be a mistake to make it too small. The same specifications I mentioned above, recommend a minimum floor area of 20 m2 for a stereo room, and 30 m2 for a multi-channel room, such as 5.1, 5.2, 7.1, etc. However, those recommendations are for the ideal size, not the smallest possible size. I have designed successful control rooms as small as 9m2, and the size of the corner control room shown in the link above, is 13.4m2: As you can see in that thread, the acoustic properties of that room are very good, despite the small size.

In general, there are "rules of thumb" for setting the relative sizes of the control room and associated tracking room(s), based on the acoustic conditions of the rooms. For a high-end professional studio, the live rooms should contain at least two or three times the air volume of the control room, and the decay times should be at least twice as long. Preferably, where possible, the live room should be 5 or 6 times the air volume, and the decay times should be 6 to 10 times longer, or perhaps even greater than that for some music genres. For the studio in the thread I linked to above, the air volume in the control room is 39m3, and the air volume in the live room is 107 m3 (nearly 3 times the control room). Decay time in the control room is about 190ms, and will be about 500-700 ms in the live room, when the new "variable acoustic" treatment is installed.

The relationship seen on your plans is not ideal. Far from it. This is something your studio design should determine for you: optimize the floor areas and internal volumes of the rooms, for the best result.

Quote:
2. the control room shape isnt good
Correct. See above.

Quote:
3. we would be better having 1 larger live room and 1 small vocal booth and smaller control room.
Probably, yes, but I would only make decisions like that based on the expected usage of the studio. In designing a complete studio, it is very important to consider not just the acoustics of the rooms, but also the practical day-to-day operation of the studio, including aspects such as sight lines (so the mix engineer, the producer, director, and the musicians can all see each other during tracking sessions), traffic flow (so that it is easy for people to get into and out of the rooms without interrupting the sessions), load-in / load-out (so that it is easy to get the musical instruments and equipment into the rooms and set up before a sessions, then easy to get it out fast after the session is over), session setup (so that the mix engineer has easy access to the rooms to set up and tune the mics on the instruments), as well as lighting, comfort, "vibe", aesthetics, etc. All of those are important. I see several problems with those in the plans you showed. Not optimal.

Quote:
There will be a floating floor
Are you CERTAIN that was designed correctly? Do you even need it? You should probably read this excellent article on floating floors: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8173

Quote:
and HVAC is taken care off.
Are you SURE about that? Designing HVAC for a studio is VERY different from designing it for a typical office, shop, school, mall, house, church, etc. Considering that the design in your plans is rather deficient in the basic acoustic and practical aspects of how a studio should be designed, I am wondering if the same is true of the HVAC system. Ask your HVAC designer what the air flow rate is for each room, what the flow velocity is at the registers in each room, and what the insertion loss is for the silencer boxes. Let us know what he tells you, and we can then tell you if the numbers are correct or not.

Quote:
THe outside door needs to placed as shown .
No problem. There are likely better layouts for the entire studio that can be designed around that door location.

Quote:
The outside walls are fixed - we cant go any bigger.
No problem. That is often the case with studios. The studio designer should take that into consideration, and optimize the layout of the rooms within that shell. Once again, in the studio I linked you to above (with the corner control room), the owner had a legal limit on the size of the building, and part of his design brief was to maximize the size of the live room, while still having a good control room, as well as a bathroom, and an entrance lobby. The design you see there is version number 11: I went through a series of ten other layouts before the owner and I were both satisfied that we had the optimal arrangement. That was a special case, due to several restrictions. Normally I go through two or three layouts before "locking in" the basic design.

Quote:
The architect is reluctant to change the shape of the control rooms
This might seem like a silly question, but why is an architect designing the layout of a recording studio? That is not the job of an architect: it is the job of the studio designer! The studio designer has expertise in acoustics that an architect does not. Architects are not trained in recording studio acoustics and optimization. That's not their job, and they are not trained for it. I have a book called "Architectural Acoustics", written by Marshall Long, and used as a text book in many universities to teach the basics of acoustics to architects. The book is over 900 pages long, and covers all aspects of sound that are related to architecture. The section on the architecture of recording studio control rooms, is barely six pages long. Just 6 pages out of 900. That's less than 0.7%. In other words, the total training that an architect gets on all types of acoustics, is maybe 5 or 10% of his entire university education, and then 0.7% of that 10% is specifically about recording studios.

That's why you have the design that is shown on your plans. I'm sure your architect is very good at architecture, and can probably do a wonderful job of designing the building, structures, aesthetics, plumbing, electrical, etc., and also of creating the plans, getting the approved by the relevant authorities, coordinating the construction with the contractors, etc. That's what architects, do, and I'm sure your architect is very capable of doing all that. But does he also have experience in designing recording studios? Is he able to design the rooms to meet the ACOUSTIC specifications that a studio must have?

Just the same as you would not hire an excellent heart surgeon to operate on your brain, so too you should not have an excellent architect designing your acoustics.

The normal process is that the studio designer does all of the design for the actual studio spaces, including the room geometry, layout, acoustic design, etc., then passes that on to the architect, who incorporates it into the plans for the building. The studio design is usually done in the form of a complete 3D model, containing all materials and structures, with enough information that the architect can put that into the building plans. There's a lot more in the model as well, so the architect only extracts the actual structural parts and building materials, for the plans.

Quote:
The rooms will be used for recording rock bands/vocals.
So you will be loud. What is the design goal for isolation, in decibels? That is the starting point for any studio design. The entire construction of the complete studio is based on that single number. What number did your architect use when he designed the isolation system for the studio? What is he legal limit on how loud you can be, according to your local municipal noise regulations?

The design shown in your plans does not reflect the type of isolation that is typically used in rock / pop studios...

Quote:
The rear corner of the control room is an outside wall and there is an unfortunate window there that cant be changed.
Fine, but it will have to be covered up with acoustic treatment. The rear wall of a control room is what defines the entire acoustic response. It is the biggest source of problems, always, and will require extensive treatment. So the windows can stay there, but they will not be visible in the final, competed studio, as they will be completely covered with the rear-wall treatment. It MIGHT be possible to leave a small section of window visible from inside the room, but that is doubtful. The studio designer will be able to advise you on that, after he does the calculations and determines what treatment will be needed, and where it will be needed.

I would suggest using a different overall layout for the studio, where that window is pat of the live room, not part of the control room.

Quote:
So to summarize - Is the layout OK ?
In summary: no, it is not optimal.

Quote:
Can we make it ok with some kind of extra treatment?
I doubt it. Treatment can help with some of the acoustic issues, yes, but it cannot solve the operational issues.

Quote:
Do we need to radically alter the design?
If you want a good professional studio that is functional, operational, and has good acoustics, then I would suggest re-thinking the entire design. Clearly, you are going to spend a lot of money on building this studio, and it would be very sad if you did that, and it turned out to not be very good....

- Stuart -


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:38 am 
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Obviously Stuart is 100%.

You seriously need to completely redesign the studio. Reach out to John Sayers and see if he can help.

Greg

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:46 pm 
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Thank you so much for the reply. So detailed and very welcomed! I have passed on this information to the people in charge of construction. Again, thank you so much for your time.

Mike


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:07 pm 
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Quote:
Thank you so much for the reply. So detailed and very welcomed! I have passed on this information to the people in charge of construction. Again, thank you so much for your time
:thu:

If you need more help with the studio, please drop in again! In fact, whatever happens here in the end, please do let us know how it turns out. It's always good to get feedback on the final outcome of projects discussed on the forum!

- Stuart -

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 8:39 pm 
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Thanks again - I was asked to be a part of this project late in the game as I have had some experience with home studio builds in the past. It does seem like the architect has designed the rooms and the studio engineer was brought in to try to make a bad design work. My limited knowledge set the alarm bells ringing, but I am out of my depth now. Hopefully we can act on all the advice given and maybe even get some formal advice/help from experts here on alternative plans. ill let you know what happens after I see the people in charge of the building next week. Ive added some more of the plans below but Im not sure how helpful they will be.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:12 am 
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I was asked to be a part of this project late in the game ...
That often happens, with poorly designed studios! Sooner or later, the people with the purse-strings and the decision making power start to realize that it doesn't look right, and they call in somebody who actually has some experience with acoustics.... and they learn the truth! It even happens with supposedly "professional" design companies: I've been called in several times to fix poor designs, and notably on three separate occasions for three entirely different clients in the UK, all of whom had paid for a design with the same company! I won't mention names, obviously, but it's very telling that a company who advertises that their people are good at studio design, actually aren't much good at all... and even their non-expert customers realize that the designs are no use.

Thanks for the additional plans: it shows up even more serious issues, actually! I wish I could read Chinese, to get all the details, but clearly there are major, major, BIG issues with the way the isolation system is designed. I don't need to read Chinese to see that! To start with, the walls between rooms appear to be at least three-leaf walls, in some cases four leaf, and perhaps even five leaf! :shock: :roll: What does that mean in practice? Here's the answer, in very simple terms:

Attachment:
2-leaf-3-leaf-4-leaf-STC-diagram--classic2-GOOD!!!.gif

That shows three different ways of building a wall USING THE EXACT SAME MATERIALS, and the resulting isolation. The wall on the left has two frames, with drywall (plasterboard) on both sides of each frame. For people who don't understand isolation and acoustics, that would seem to be a good solution, because you have lots of "barriers" inside the wall that will "stop" the sound... Except that it does not work like that! It only gives you about 44 db of isolation (STC-44). The second image shows what would happen if you REMOVE one of the layers of drywall from inside the wall: even though you now have one less barrier, and you also reduced the total mass of the wall, it now isolate about TEN TIMES BETTER! The isolation has increased from 44 to 53, which is a factor of 10. That wall is stopping about ten times MORE energy than the first wall. Subjectively, you would say that the second wall cuts the sound level in half, as compared to the first level (human hearing is logarithmic, not linear, so ten times less energy sounds about half as loud). With the wall on the right in that diagram, the other internal layer of drywall has been removed, and both of the removed layers have now been placed on the outsides of the wall, over the drywall that was already there. And we get ANOTHER improvement of ten times the stopping power! That wall now stops ONE HUNDRED times more energy than the first wall, and subjectively it sounds four times quieter on the other side... yet it uses the exact same building materials s the first wall: In both diagrams, there are four sheets of drywall and two stud frames. It's not just the materials that matter: it is how you arrange them that matters!

The rule is very simple: a two-leaf wall will ALWAYS perform better than a three-leaf or four-leaf wall, all other factors being equal (same total thickness, same total mass, same materials, etc.)

Your plans show four-leaf walls! :roll:

Therefore, if you build that, you would be paying a LOT of money for materials that you do not need! You could either re-design the walls to get the SAME isolation but using half the materials, or you could use the same materials and get much higher isolation.

The person who designed your walls does not understand acoustics.

Here's a graph that shows, very simply, the difference between 2-leaf and 3-leaf walls:
Attachment:
simple-graph-triple-leaf-vs-double-leaf-two-three.gif

The black line shows the isolation vs. frequency for a properly built 2-leaf wall, and the green line shows isolation for a 3-leaf wall. Your walls would be performing about where the green line is, or worse. If you design them properly, they would perform where the black line is.

It's that simple.

I'm also looking at the "floating" floor part of the plans: that is NOT a floated floor! It will no work. Period. It is a typical INCORRECTLY partly-floated wall, as often seen on You-Tube videos. Let me repeat: IT WILL NOT WORK. In fact, it could make your isolation WORSE, not better. I could go into the technical details of that if you want, but I don't have time right now.

The windows are also designed incorrectly, and will REDUCE the amount of isolation. The design shows that the glass is angled: that's a common mistake, since people who don't understand acoustics see angled glass in studios, and think that it MUST be necessary, but it isn't....

Here's why:
Attachment:
angled-glass-myth-doesnt-work--.jpg

Angling glass REDUCES isolation, and does NOT eliminate reflections. There is no acoustic reason to angle glass: it might be needed to reduce light glare, but not for acoustic reasons. If it is necessary, there are methods and techniques for angling it correctly so as to still maintain good isolation. Your plans do not show that the methods and techniques are being used. In fact, the diagram shows that BOTH glass panes are actually resting on the SAME leaf... an thus there is practically no isolation at all. The glass is also too thin...

The speaker mounts are a joke: No studio designer would do anything like that.

And finally, the overall control room layout is terrible: the mix position faces a door into a hallway that connects to what seems to be office space! There are windows on the side walls that face into the live rooms, but there is no visibility from the mix position through those windows! All you can see is a small part of the rear wall, but you cannot see the musicians. Instead, you can see a door in front of you, and if there is glass in that door, then you can see a distracting, non-pertinent view of people in the office area... NOT the musicians.

If you look at typical studios, there is a window in front of the mix position, that faces directly into the live room. Thus, the musicians and the mix engineer can easily see each other, and use visual signals while recording to avoid interrupting the flow of a tracking session. If they cannot see each other, then the recording sessions do not go well.

Even worse, the musicians in the two live rooms cannot see each other at all! That's terrible. Whoever designed that has no idea about music or musicians, and even less about recording. Musicians MUST be able to see each other while playing, in order to keep the song "tight", with a good, solid rhythm that runs smoothly, so they can all stay together, in-time, in sync. If they cannot see each other, they will not be able to play well together, and you will need a lot more takes to get a good recording.

The more I look at the additional details on those plans, the more I realize that this studio is just not going to work at all. I would strongly advise you to scrap the entire design, and hire an experienced studio designer to re-design the whole thongs from scratch. That's a sad decision to take for you, and especially for the people who are financing this, and for those who want to use the studio. But if you want a usable studio that will actually work to do what you want, and isolate well, and sound good, then that seems to be the best solution. I don't think it is possible to use the existing design at all. Sorry!

- Stuart -


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:02 pm 
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Thanks! - I have passed on the further info and I hope we will go for a redesign - Ill keep you all posted when I know more. Thanks again for everybody's time.


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