This is one of the toughest questions to answer.
Not because of this question, but because of the inevitable follow up – “or should I buy this new (insert mic/plug-in/instrument here).
And that’s why my answer is usually a “yes and no.” It’s up to you, but you should be educated before you make the decision.
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When you talk about acoustic treatment, it can mean a lot of things.
It can mean a few panels on the walls, or a multi-thousand dollar installation. So let’s narrow it down.
If you’re working in your home studio, a little bit of acoustic treatment will go a long way. The best way to cheaply treat your room while still getting great results is to build panels out of fiberglass reinforced panels and cloth and hang them on the walls. (Simply wrap the panel in cloth.) You can also use thicker panels (4 inches) as bass traps and set them in the corners of your room.
These panels are on the cheaper side, but can still cost a chunk of change depending on how many you need. It is a good idea to start with enough panels so that it covers your wall with about 1-2 feet between each panel. A 4 inch bass trap in each corner is also a good place to start.
The slightly easier method, but much more expensive, is buying pre-made panels from a company like Auralex. This will relieve you from having to build them, but you’ll certainly be paying for them handsomely.
So now that we know what acoustic treatment usually looks like in a home studio, let’s figure out if that is right for you.
If you’re working in a very live room (hardwood floors, not much furniture, hard surfaces, etc.), you’re probably going to want treatment. No matter how cool that new piece of gear looks in the magazine, it’s a smarter choice to improve your listening environment 99% of the time.
Now, if you do most of your work on headphones and still do not have all of the tools you need, like a decent vocal mic, then you should continue building your gear closet. Treatment isn’t going to instantly make your recordings better, though it can help once you reach a certain level. If you’re not yet to the level of having all the gear you need to make a good recording, then keep working to get there before sinking time and money into acoustic treatment.
That’s usually my answer – what do you think you’ll do with it? Are you planning to treat your room any time soon? Or maybe buy a new piece of gear instead?