If you subscribe to the Music App Blog’s weekly email newsletter, then you will know that I’ve recently completed a personal project studio build for my own music production work. To cut a long story short, this is a ‘room within a room’ built within a barn and, while on the inside, it looks like any 4x5m domestic room/office, it is pretty well sound isolated (yay! no noise gets in or out).
Of course, like any room used for audio production, sound proofing (if required) doesn’t mean that the quality of the acoustics inside the room – which is the important bit in terms of just how easy the space is to work in for tracking and mixing – are actually any good. That requires some acoustic treatment….
Once the building work was completed (in January), for the next few weeks, that was what I spent most of my time doing; positioning a combination of acoustic foam, bass traps and diffusors in order to optimise the ‘sound’ of the room. The idea is to get the frequency response within the room as even as possible….. no booming bass frequencies, no swamp of low-mid mud and no mid-high ‘ring’, all of which can imprint themselves in your audio recordings made in the space and interfere with your decisions as you attempt to mix.
This is always a bit of a mission impossible in a small(ish) space as the room dimensions – and the laws of physics – can not really be beaten into submission. The best you can hope to do is tame the worst of the rooms excesses and learn to live with what remains. However, in order to do that, you need some way of testing the acoustic behaviour of your room in the first place…..
Enter, stage left, AudioTools from Andrew Smith. This is a universal iOS app that will run on iOS6.1 or later, is a 160MB download and priced at UK£14.99/US$19.99. The app provides a number of audio and acoustics measurement options including an SPL meter (great for getting a general idea of whether you are listening to your mixes too loud and in danger of making yourself deaf) and a test signal generator/recorder (great for finding the frequency lumps and bumps your room creates at your mixing position).
These tools – which are the only ones I used in testing my own room – are, along with a few others, included in the base price of the app. There are, however, a comprehensive suite of further options you can add via IAPs if you get the audio testing bug.
And why mention this today? Well, the app has been updated to v.9.4. This brings a few of the usual bug-fixes to improve performance but also adds a couple of new features that more advanced users might find useful (for example, you can now import audio files into the SPL Graph module IAP).
There is other acoustic analysis software available that you can use to test your acoustic space (for example, the excellent Room EQ Wizard for Windows/OSX and that’s a free download) but the beauty of AudioTools is that, by using the built-in microphone of your iOS hardware (and the app is calibrated to work specifically with the response characteristic of Apple’s various mics), it is a self-contained system. All you really need is the ability to send the audio out from your iOS device to your studio monitors if you are using AudioTool’s test signal generator feature…. and a simple stereo cable from the headphone jack to your monitoring system does that trick very easily.
Anyway, don’t under-estimate the impact that the acoustic properties (deficiencies) of your recording space will have on your recordings – iOS or otherwise – and being aware of those issues, even if you are not in a position to do very much about them, is useful in its own right. AudioTools will not ‘solve’ those problems for you but it will allow you a pretty decent first pass and measuring them so you can either modify your recording/mixing processes or start to think about treating them. If you are serious about improving your ‘studio’ – whether that’s a dedicated space or a corner of a shared living room – AudioTools is a very useful utility to have around.