Room Consistency: A True Story From Windmill Lane
I recall my days in the late 80’s in the legendary Windmill Lane Studio here in Dublin. We had two studios: The original Studio 1 on Windmill Lane and Studio 2 on St Stephens Green in the heart of the city.
Our in-house sound engineers would be working in one of the studios for a spell, before moving to the other for the next project. The phone call would go something like this: “Jim, Jim, Jim, there’s something wrong with the speakers in here, can you get them fixed ASAP?”
Being somewhat younger and inexperienced in those days, I’d spring into action and get myself off to the room in question. Usually, when the artist was on a break, I’d get into the control room, armed with my tone generator.
Sweeping across the frequency range, panning left, right then centre, listening intensely for distortion or impurities in the sound. Change to pink noise, throw it all up on the KT DN60 and look at the response. All to no avail.
I’d brief the engineer on what I had done, explain that I hadn’t found anything abnormal. They’d go back into session, and that would usually be the last I heard about it. I’d log it in the service schedule, and life would continue as before.
It was only in later years that it dawned on me what these episodes were all about or what had caused them.
What was happening?
A mixture of mature reflection and a Master’s Degree in applied acoustics enabled me to develop an understanding of how these incidents originated, and with such regularity. In short, the acoustic environment in both rooms was utterly different. One place was a John Storyk designed the project, the designer of the other was unknown to me.
The in-house engineers (all great guys with a passion for their trade) found themselves having to subconsciously process the information from the different monitoring systems, which served to confuse, and in some cases, shock them.
The human ear is an adaptive organ, it gets accustomed to sound characteristics of a room and adjusts to compensate. Then when, like a jump into a cold plunge-pool, they found themselves in another room, they would struggle to process which way was up, psychoacoustically speaking. Not a particularly pleasant experience. But, after a few days, their ears would adapt once again, internally recalibrate, and everything made sense.
In conclusion, as with many problems, the answer is not black or white. The human ear can adapt and learn. It can (to a degree) compensate and calibrate for imperfections in the acoustic environment in which it finds itself.
However, this adaptation creates an inner belief that what we hear in a given situation is right. It becomes our “acoustic benchmark”. All judgments are then made based on this calibration of our own making.
The only genuine solution, for those moving from room-to-room, is to eradicate inconsistencies between environments.
Not always an easy task agreed, but here at Smart Studio, that’s fundamental to what we do.
We design our rooms – irrespective of size, shape or volume – to deliver a consistent and repeatable room acoustic, project after project, location after location. No nasty surprises, self-doubt or time-consuming remixes as you move from room to room. You are free to concentrate on the job in hand, not be worried about constantly re-adjusting to a changing environment.