If I learned anything from Cogan and Clark’s book Temples of Sound it is this: studios don’t sound amazing the first day. It takes time and thought — gradually tweaking things, fixing the weak areas — to bring a studio from merely usable to excellent.
I’ve been struggling with monitoring at my home studio. My initial setup was not inspiring confidence, but I couldn’t put my finger on root causes. My first instinct — the speakers were too close to the rear wall, so I pulled the desk an additional two feet away. That sounded a little better, but still wonky. Next I installed some frictional absorption panels, which tidied up the room overall but did not clean up the strangeness I was hearing. I started to suspect my handmade speaker stands made of wood with neoprene pads to help isolate from the desk. I wondered if the isolation was poor. I used some left over packing foam to replace my wooden stands. The upper bass felt so much better, but the lowest lows were weak. It was an improvement but I didn’t like the trade-off. Then I remembered a concept for improving bass accuracy in speakers.
A few years ago I heard a demonstration of the Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizer at a trade show. It made a significant difference in accuracy for the NS-10s they were using in the demo. The idea was so elegant it wasn’t difficult imagining how I might make my own version. Back in my studio, staring at the foam under my speakers, I decided it was time to try.
I went to the hardware store and bought four concrete bricks at a whopping price of $0.47 each. I put two bricks on top of the foam then speaker on the bricks. The concept: if the speaker has more mass the cabinet will move less, allowing a more efficient push/pull of the cone. It’s like giving a sprinter a starting block for a better push off. Sure enough I got my bass back. Not only was the bass full, it sounded tighter and more accurate than any configuration I’ve tried so far. Now one of the consequences is that the foam is carrying a heavier load, which somewhat compromises the isolation; I can feel more vibration in the desk with the bricks. I suspect some additional work on the isolation may further improve the sound.
At some point I’d like to replace these mediocre speakers. But I’ve managed to get some dramatic improvements by simply moving things around and experimenting with low/no cost materials. Which just goes to show that good ideas and the willingness to test them can be far more cost effective than clicking through your PayPal account.
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