The ceiling of your home recording studio can affect more than you realize. Without realizing the large impact it can have on the sound of your recording, the ceiling is commonly forgotten about.
Treating your ceiling will be the best thing you ever did for your home studio. There are several factors regarding the ceiling to consider when creating your home recording studio: how high your ceiling is and how you can acoustically treat your room to optimize the sound quality.
We will discuss in detail all of these issues and how you can make the best of what you’re given.
Why Does the Height of Your Ceiling Matter?
We are so concerned about distortion from our walls that we often forget about other contributing factors. The first distortions, which are usually reflection issues, actually bounce off the floors and ceiling before they do the walls since they are the closest surfaces. This is why we need to pay more attention to the ceiling and floor than we normally do.
Reflection is the most common acoustics problem. To put it simply, reflection is when the sound bounces off surfaces in your recording room. An echo is a type of reflection from a distance while reverberation or reverb is the effect of several reflections happening simultaneously.
These issues can greatly affect the final sound produced. They can even affect how you hear what you’ve already recorded while you are mixing and editing your music.
Phase cancellation, also known as frequency cancellation, is another problem that comes with low hanging ceilings. Whenever you have two like sound waves that are out of phase they can cancel the sound or volume out either by a great deal or even altogether. Drums cause the most problems when it comes to frequency cancellation while recording or listening.
So, How High Should the Ceiling Be?
There’s a bit of a debate on this subject but the consensus is that the lower the ceiling is, the worse it is for sound. It doesn’t matter if you are recording or listening to what you have already recorded to mix and edit. It can be very distracting, and it can distort your music.
A ceiling that’s at least 10-feet high will eliminate all the issues that can arise. Unfortunately, in the United States and many other countries, the standard ceiling is about 8-feet high, give or take a few feet.
That’s a 2-foot distance that’s going to cause some distortion. Thankfully, if you can’t afford to reconstruct your entire room, there are acoustic treatments that will work just fine and can enhance sound up to 20%.
How You Can Acoustically Treat Your Ceiling!
If you are stuck with a low hanging ceiling, there are ways to acoustically treat your home recording studio (or any room) for the best sound quality. Simply diffuse the sound waves you create to increase sound quality.
Often, acoustic treating is confused with soundproofing but soundproofing prevents the sound from leaving your room or from outside sounds and noises entering your room while acoustic panels work differently. They absorb sound to prevent most distortions. Remember this when you are out shopping for acoustic treatments for your ceiling!
Acoustic Foam Treatment
One technique that’s popular is using acoustic foam panels for your ceiling. Mind you; acoustic foam differs greatly from your normal foam because it’s packed at a high density with more padding and fibers to absorb the sound waves, which stops too much reflection. Normal foam doesn’t have even half as much density.
The most important quality to pay attention to is to make sure the foam you purchase is “fire-rated.” Fire-rated isn’t the same as fireproof. It just means that it can’t be quickly ignited or spread any flames. This is important because when the sound waves hit the foam, it vibrates and turns into heat. This is the energy converting. Cheap acoustic foam can easily catch fire and spread.
It’s fairly easy to install acoustic foam. You can just glue them to your ceiling but if you’d rather attach them temporarily, there are other ways to do that. For instance, you can get creative and use self-adhesive tape and stickers (or Velcro). If you need to remove them for any reason, you can do so easily without residue. Spray adhesive is also a favorite choice for many.
You will want to glue something like cardboard or construction paper to the back of your foam since self-adhesive tape won’t stick very well to the foam itself. Whatever you use, make sure it’s light, so it doesn’t affect the idea of using the foam in the first place!
Acoustic Ceiling Clouds
Acoustic ceiling clouds are another great option that’s growing wildly popular in not only home recording studios but schools and other situations. Ceiling clouds are great for fighting reflection or reverb in your home recording studio. They’re also pretty cool to look at!
They hang horizontally from your ceiling and come in different styles and shapes. They’re usually hung by using hooks or rope. They are very simple to hang, and anyone can do it.
Acoustic Panels Treatment
Installing normal acoustic panels is the most popular way to treat your entire home recording studio, including the ceiling. This is usually the pricier option, and they are generally made of fiberglass.
There are plenty of inexpensive options out there but check these out over at Amazon, they’re definitely some of the best-looking acoustic panels I’ve ever seen.
They stand out less to the eye than acoustic foam but you don’t need to cover the entire ceiling when using fiberglass acoustic panels since they absorb sound waves better than the foam treatment.
You can easily install these acoustic panels with Z-clips or other similar clips. You can also hang acoustic panels like you do the ceiling clouds from the ceiling, instead of attaching them with glue or nails.
Acoustic Panel Hacks
If you are over budget, you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money on acoustic panels or acoustic foam. There are do-it-yourself hacks you can turn to, to help treat your ceiling for distortion.
Soundproofing Tips has a great tutorial on how to build your acoustic panels, so they’re not only cheaper but designed to fit your home recording studio specifically. It can cost as low as $100 to complete your own set of six panels for your ceiling.
You will need some heavy-duty tools for this tutorial like an electric drill and chop saw. Core sound-absorbing material is the most important thing to purchase for this project since it does the actual sound wave absorbing.
Let’s Not Forget About Bass Traps
Bass traps, also known as bass absorbers, differ from acoustic foam and paneling–which treat high-frequency noises while bass traps treat low frequency or bass notes.
You don’t want to just acoustically treat your ceiling and walls. Bass traps are a necessity since bass notes bounce in every direction and at a stronger rate than other frequencies. These traps can make or break the sound quality in your home recording studio.
Bass traps are your greatest treatment when you’re stuck with a small home recording studio. Some frequencies can cause what is known as “one-note bass.” One note bass refers to when every bass note you produce or listen to ends up sounding the same. This can be quite confusing and obviously sound horrible!
With these bass traps, you won’t be applying most of them to the ceiling as you do with the acoustic treatments though that is an option. Instead, your most important bass traps will be applied to specific corners of your room where bass notes have the most problems.
Much like the acoustic choices, the bass traps absorb the bass sound (instead of the higher frequencies) and convert it into heat or energy. The sound waves are too long to trap, despite the name of this type of treatment.
There are a few different places you can apply your bass traps. First, and most importantly, you want to focus on the corners where your wall meets the ceiling. There are bass traps designed to fit perfectly in your tri-corners.
You can also apply them where the floor meets the walls but these corners are not usually an ideal situation for most home studios. They can be in the way the lower they sit. You can also apply them to your walls and ceiling, as discussed earlier.
Audio Undone has a great bass trap hack to make your own bass traps so you can save some money. You can purchase fiberglass panels and space them so there’s an air gap between them. They state that by mounting fiberglass that’s about 2-feet wide, you won’t take up too much space.
What about the Floors of Your Home Recording Studio?
We all know about the importance of acoustically treating your walls and we’ve just learned about how your ceiling can affect sound and how to treat that. But what should you do about the floors in your home recording studio? Should the floor also be a priority?
Yes, your floor should be a priority too! As we discussed earlier, the first surfaces that can cause reflection, or cause the sound waves to bounce around, are both the ceiling AND the floor. You don’t want to treat just the ceiling without a bit of concentration on the floors though floors are much easier to deal with.
There is a great debate on whether your floors should be hardwood or carpet. In my experience, hardwood floors cause too much echo and reverb so I prefer a carpeted floor. However, some instruments will sound better if you have hardwood floors because, in these cases, you want a bit of natural reverb.
It comes down to what works best for you and what fits your budget and specific sound. Linoleum is a cheap option that acts much like a hardwood floor if you are tearing the floor out and starting over in your room.
If you want to stay away from the carpet but want to still cut a bit of echo, there is one easy route that will help slightly. It’s not the best option but it will do in a pinch. The quick fix is to scatter a few rugs on the floor of your home recording studio. That way, you can capture some of the natural reverb without too much of an echo.
There is one other option if you are able to invest a good amount of money into the project. It’s called a floating floor and it has been a big hit in home recording studios. These floors not only deaden sound in your home studio but also can help with actual soundproofing so the sound doesn’t leak out of the room or in the room.
A floating floor is basically how it sounds. They have added structures that are above your actual floor by just a few inches. They usually sit on rubber inserts so the floating floor doesn’t touch the original floor and there’s usually some type of insulation between the original floor and the floating floor.
There are several companies that will sell you kits to build a floating floor or will build one for you.
Never underestimate the importance of the ceilings and floor in your home recording studio. You want the best sound quality you can get, whether you are recording or mixing music.
Avoid as much distortion as possible which includes too much reflection so that you don’t end up with unwanted echo and unnatural reverb. A deadened room is what you want to accomplish.
Plan your budget and keep in mind other factors while treating your home recording studio.