DESIGNING PEAK STUDIOS
Article By Robin Knox – Owner of Technical Advice & Technical Comparison


Before starting the design process I needed to know the acoustic and soundproofing requirements for the project, and the budget Peak Studios had in place. After talking with Owners Dan James and Roni Szpakowski the following requirements were established:

Acoustics

For the Live Room, Peak Studios wanted to record a variety of musical styles and opted for a reverberation time of 1.8 seconds, with the plan to dampen the reverberation with portable acoustic panels when needed. For the Control Room, we settled on a very low reverberation time at the mixing position and a reasonably lively reverberation at the rear of the room (otherwise known as a live and dead space). They agreed with my recommendation for an overall reverberation time of 0.8 seconds and controlled dampening at the mixing position.

Sound Proofing
Dan and Roni highlighted that they wanted to use the studio 24 hours a day and were concerned about offices adjacent to the studio plot, with only a partition wall (which didn’t go all the way up to the roof). Peak Studios also wanted at least 60db isolation between the Live Room and the Control Room.

Key factors before starting the design process:

  • The Studio is on the second floor and the floor was constructed out of wood
  • Weight was now a factor, which eliminated any cheap materials for soundproofing
  • The area below the Studio was a noisy restaurant kitchen so the studio floor required some attention
  • The space above the Studio was a prefabricated roof and there is a residential property directly opposite the studio Live Room
  • The ceiling of the Studio would also need to be heavily soundproofed
  • As both the Live Room and the Control Room were going to be air tight, a special treated air supply and extract system would need to be designed to meet with building regulations for a new construction


Using the information above I proposed a minimum SRI (Sound Reduction Index) of 60db right across the board. 

This figure was obtained by calculating the weakest links:

  • The wooden floor that would allow sound to transfer under any soundproofing material
  • The wooden doors, which were recycled due to budget restrictions, but could be improved at a later stage

“It is important to know what the weakest point of sound transfer is,
as it makes all over soundproofing above and beyond that, a waste of time.”


Calculating the correct amount of soundproofing

To prevent the sound from both the Live Room and Control Room from disturbing the neighbouring offices, I had to work out the necessary soundproofing required. We then had the maximum usable width for both the Live Room and Control Room. Using the lowest point of the ceiling we calculated the soundproofing needed to prevent sound from transferring into the roof space above, and from disturbing the residential property across from the studio. We then had the maximum usable height for both the Live Room and Control Room. Using the weakness of the floor, we then worked out the necessary soundproofing needed to isolate both the Live Room and Control Room from each other. We then had the maximum sizes that both the Live Room and Control Room could be.

VIEW FROM ABOVE:

SIDE VIEW


Calculating the correct room ratios for the Live Room and Control Room.

After working out the maximum width, height and length for both rooms, keeping in mind the acoustic requirements, the correct sizes for the Live Room and Control Room could be calculated. This was done by running the overall sizes of each room through several complex calculations and decreasing the size of the length or the width or the height until the calculations produced a workable space. Once the sizes for both the Live Room and Control Room had been calculated we knew exactly how they would both sound and what the reverberation times would be. 



LIVE ROOM:

CONTROL ROOM:


Once the calculations were completed, additional recommendations could be made before the construction process started, which established a more exact budget. The following suggestions were made:

  • Both internal ceilings to be angled to increase the overall air volume in both the Live Room and Control room, enabling lower frequencies to fully develop
  • Specific angles given to further enhance the acoustics of each room
  • All floors to be wooded, giving a smoother full frequency range reverberation time
  • A Quadratic Diffuser installed on the rear wall of the Control Room would be effective in making the room sound larger than it actually was. Additional sound proofing to be added to the ceiling of the existing office partition wall and to the space above the partition wall

SCALE MODEL 3D WALK THROUGH:

I programmed a computerised 3D walk through of the studios and had meetings with Dan and Roni to tweak the layout to ensure the designs fitted within their own personal designs from a visual point of view. The width and height of the windows between the Live Room and Control Room were adjusted and other minimal adjustments to door locations were tweaked. Then the final 2D plans were drawn up and submitted to the building contractors.


Ventilation
With the overall volume of the Live Room and Control Room now established, I was able to calculate the volume of air that was needed to circulate within each space. I was then able to design the ventilation system with special sound traps that absorb sound but allow the air to pass through them. I then specified the correct fans and ductwork needed, taking into account flow resistances from the sound traps.

VENTILATION SYSTEM:


Building Contractors


I outlined all the do’s and don’ts with the building contractors, and worked along side them through the initial construction stages. Regular site visits were conducted to ensure that requirements where being conformed to. Particular attention was needed, to ensure there was no contact between soundproof walls and external surfaces. Failure to notice these elements in the early stages would have had devastating consequences later in the project adding delays and strains on the budget. Room Dimension Tolerances were given to the building contractor. This was very important: The Tolerances for the Live Room were only 10mm for the length, width and height, so the room dimensions could only increase they could not decrease. The tolerances for the Control Room were 0mm length or width as to increase or decrease the dimension would drastically affect the sound quality.

“There are certain principles in building a recording studio that don’t apply to building a house,
so it is extremely important that you choose your builders correctly.”

3 months later - The End Result


The Live Room has a very rich, even full bodied 1.8 second reverberation with a very flat frequency response, and I am extremely pleased with the result; it sounds just like it did on paper. Peak Studios will be able to record a variety of different styles and be able to experiment with microphone techniques, which is not usually possible in a studio of this size. The Control Room has a very tight sound but gives the appearance that there is plenty of space for the sound to expand. The rear of the room is an ideal living room sounding listening position. Many studios seem to wear your ears out after only a couple of hours because of the enclosed space, but the Peak Studios Control Room gives a very open natural sound, partly due to the diffuser on the wall but mainly due to the controlled acoustics. I‘m looking forward to hearing many successful projects created at this studio!

If you are thinking of building your own recording studio or you already had a studio and wish to correct outstanding issues, why not get in contact with me at info@technicaladvice.co.uk or visit my website at http://www.technicaladvice.co.uk

Do you want to know what other people think about a product before buying? Check out the Technical Comparison website, for reviews and ratings on all professional audio video and lighting products!

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