Swedien's Westviking Studio
Date completed: March 1, 2003
Studio Design: Arthur Noxon
Acoustician: Bruce Swedien
Bruce at work in front of his ASC
Here's what Bruce said about the design:
"In recording room acoustics the most important
rule to remember is - avoid “like dimensions”. In other
words, a "square" room will make a poor studio.
Another important rule is; avoid large parallel
Both of these conditions produce "standing
waves" and "flutter echos." In cube shaped rooms
with parallel surfaces, sound waves, at critical frequencies, can
be reflected back and forth across the room with surprising intensity.
This effect can occur between walls or between the floor and the
ceiling. The condition appears as a machine gun, "rat-tat-tat"
sound when you firmly clap your hands together oncewhile standing
in the center of the room. This condition must be avoided in studio
design and construction.
Ideal dimensions for recording rooms can be calculated
by using the following ratios:
#1 Small rooms > Height=1, length=1.6, width=1.25.
In other words, to build a small music studio, the
ceiling should be 10 feet, the width 12 1/2 feet and the length
16 feet. Using these dimensions, with non-parallel walls, floor
and ceiling, and with a good amount of full range acoustical treatment,
you will have a fine small studio.
When choosing dimensions for a studio or evaluating
an existing design, it is imperative to have major dimensions that
are not related to each other. Even with non-parallel surfaces this
is extremely important.
Related dimensions produce resonances or peaks in
a room's response. Related dimensions are divisable by each other,
or a root number. In other words, a room with a ten foot ceiling
height that is 20 feet wide and 30 feet long will, predictably have
standing waves, flutter echos and will not be suitable for a recording
studio. Related dimensions produce a hang-over effect at critical
Ideally, in studio design, the most important goals
to achieve are, a good distribution of natural resonance in the
room, coupled with absorbtion and diffusion of reverberation over
a wide range of frequencies. The real key to achieving a great sound
from a studio is acoustical design. Fine studios are rarely an accident,
they are carefully planned and thought out.
The same factors apply to control room acoustical
design with one exception. The control room should be approximately
25% more "dead" than the studio. This must be in the form
of wide range acoustical absorption. By making the control room
more dead than the studio it is far easier to hear the sound of
the studio itself by removing the coloring effect that a too reverberant
control room would add to the sound of the mix.
Acoustically a control room cannot be made to be
absolutely without peaks and valleys in its response. Even with
the finest monitor speakers and power amplifiers there may still
exist strong peaks that may be quite noticeable. To compensate for
this condition measurements must be made with the control room monitor
speakers and a calibrated microphone system. The peaks and valleys
are noted on a graph covering the usable range of the control room
The dimensions I have suggested may be varied somewhat
to fit existing spaces. Adhering as closely as possible, however,
will avoid tremendous problems when laying out over-all studio sizes
and shapes, or in fact, any room in which music is to be performed.
Sound travels through materials of different density
at different speeds. Using several different materials in wall construction
will help to isolate a wide range of frequencies.
It is not necessary to use acoustical doors in studio
installation. A solid core exterior door, properly hung, gasketed
and sealed all the way around makes a fine acoustical door.
High frequency absorption is usually vastly over-done
in uninformed studio design. The inevitable result is a muddy, lifeless
sound that sounds tlike an "audio closet." Removing the
high frequency resonance of a room by over-use of acoustical tile
and/or sprayed on rock, wool, or asbestos, or any other method,
spoils the harmonic balance of any music performed in the room by
reducing the intensity of harmonic over-tones, thereby destroying
their relationship to the fundamental tones.
This effect is minimized somewhat by close-miking
techniques, but the false relationship andharmonic imbalance that
is the result of high end loss is clearly evident."