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In the Studio: Acoustic Treatment Vs Digital Room Correction

Can digital room correction fix all problems...or is acoustic treatment necessary as well?

By Joe Gilder August 8, 2014

Article provided by Home Studio Corner.

A while back I had the pleasure of attending a seminar given by Gavin Haverstick of Haverstick Designs.

The topic of the seminar was how to measure the acoustic issues of your room. He talked about various measurement techniques and devices.

All of this was very interesting, but the most fascinating part for me was during the question-and-answer section at the end. Someone in the audience asked Gavin to give his opinion on digital room correction.

Let me take a step back and explain what I mean by “digital room correction.” There are several products on the market now that can tune studio monitors to the room they are in. For example, if the room is causing a boost at 200 Hz, these products will use a digital EQ to attenuate 200 Hz. The end result is (ideally) a flat frequency response.

The way these products go about measuring the room is by using an omnidirectional measurement microphone to “listen” to the room while the system generates white or pink noise through the studio monitors. Since the generated noise has the same amount of energy (or volume) across the frequency spectrum, the system can then intelligently “hear” when certain frequencies are being either boosted or cut by the acoustics of the room.

There are three main products that come to mind that incorporate digital room correction:

—JBL LSR 4300 and 6300 Series studio monitors. These are very nice studio monitors with room correction DSP built into the speakers themselves. They ship with a measurement microphone for tuning the room.

—IK Multimedia ARC (Advanced Room Correction) system. This is a plug-in designed to be inserted on the master fader of your DAW, just before the audio is sent to the studio monitors. It ships with a measurement microphone, and it stores the room correction settings inside the plug-in itself.

—KRK ERGO (Enhanced Room Geometry Optimization). This is a hardware box designed to go between your audio interface and studio monitors. It employs the same basic principle as the other two options above, but it simply does so in a hardware box, rather than in the speakers themselves or as a plug-in.

The audience member who asked Gavin about room correction actually owns a pair of JBL LSRs, but he has no acoustic treatment in his home studio. He was basically wanting to know if he could “get away with” just using the room correction feature on the loudspeakers without buying any acoustic treatment.

Two Parts of Acoustics
When talking about acoustically treating a room, we need to look at two different aspects of sound. You can’t focus on just one and negate the other. Likewise, correcting one won’t fix the other. Those two parts are the frequency domain and the time domain of sound.

Frequency Domain
This is the most obvious side of acoustics. We’re all searching for this fabled “flat frequency response.” We know that the size and shape of a room contributes significantly to the frequency response of the room. Ergo (forgive the pun), we must address those frequency issues by altering the frequency response at the source.

This is done with some sort of equalizer. In the past, engineers attempted to do this buy using some sort of graphic EQ. They would send the outputs of their mixing console through an EQ, which they tuned by ear, out to their studio monitors.

Today we have very accurate products, such as the once listed above. These digital products can EQ a signal with surgical accuracy, but is that enough?

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About Joe

Joe Gilder
Joe Gilder

Sound Engineer
Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.


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