Talking Acoustics with Auralex President Eric Smith


 

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We are lucky enough to have Auralex as a sponsor at Dark Horse Institute, if you are unfamiliar with Auralex, they are the premier manufacturer of acoustical treatments in the world.  Our studios at the Institute have Auralex everywhere you turn.  We are also very lucky and grateful to have the President of Auralex, Eric Smith, speak to our students about Auralex, the physics of sound and how to properly uses on a regular basis.

We had the opportunity to ask Eric a few questions for a blog and leapt at the chance.

DHI: How did Auralex come about?

Eric Smith: I was an accomplished drummer from a very young age. Music got me interested in radio and I began working in commercial radio in the late ’70s. At the same time, I began a long career as a mobile and nightclub disc jockey. The problem was that the radio stations and clubs all had bad acoustics, but couldn’t afford proper treatments, of which there were precious few in those days. Being entrepreneurial in nature, I ascertained a need in the marketplace and set out to fill it. That was 1977, which sometimes seems like yesterday and sometimes seems like a million years ago. A lot has changed in the music industry since 1977, but the physics of sound hasn’t. At Auralex, we do our best bend the laws of physics every day.

Auralex President Eric Smith  talk to students at Dark Horse Institute in Franklin.
Auralex President Eric Smith talk to students at Dark Horse Institute in Franklin.

DHI: What is the most common mistake, in your opinion, that professional or home studios make in regards to room treatment?
ES: People put up treatments that only control the mids and highs, but they neglect to implement bass trapping, either at all or not nearly as much as they truly need to attain linear, broadband control. Low frequencies are the most important ones to control, and are the ones that will have the most detrimental effect on your ability to monitor and record accurately, so it’s of paramount importance that they be adequately controlled. The Low-Frequency Paradox™, as I termed it years ago, is that regardless whether you have too much bass in your room or perceive that you don’t have enough, you need bass trapping. It is adaptogenic in nature, which means that regardless whether you have too much bass or too little, trapping will level you out.

With regard to construction, a huge mistake we see far too often is that people try to reinvent the wheel when building their studio, when in fact all they need to do is follow our time-tested instructions, which have been proven to yield quantifiable results that work. Life is a lot simpler for people if they just follow our easy-to-understand diagrams instead of going their own way and substituting different materials.

DHI: Room size and shape aside, what would you recommend for a Home Studio with a small budget to do to improve sound and reflection?
ES: Control early reflections in your control room by putting treatments behind your monitors, on (or suspended from) the ceiling above your mixer or work surface, and on the left and right walls between you and your monitors. Put the strongest bass absorbers you can afford on the middle of the back wall, or, if you can’t afford those, implement stand-mounted absorbers behind your mix position, especially when doing critical work. Treat your vertical corners with bass traps if you can afford to. There are room treatment kits available that incorporate all the products you need to accomplish what I just described. They’re much more affordable than most people think. Plus, the treatments (assuming you choose your manufacturer carefully) will last for years and years, so your investment will be amortized over quite a long period of time. To paraphrase an old advertising adage: Accurate sound doesn’t cost. It pays.

DHI:Auralex appears to be very passionate about teaching the importance of Acoustics with your Acoustics 101 and Auralex University. What advice would you give a student or young engineer on how to approach acoustics?

ES:Thanks for saying so. We work hard to give back and to share all our decades of accumulated knowledge with as many of the next generation of engineers as possible. My advice? The sooner you realize that acoustics is not a black art and does not have to be nearly as technical as many people attempt to make it, the better off you’ll be. I have seen far, far too many people

Blue Sky Studios in Atlanta Georgia
Blue Sky Studios in Atlanta Georgia

get in the weeds with regard to acoustics, which just makes me shake my head. That’s what happens when they read too many books or, especially, too many online forums, where there is a l-o-t of misinformation. I encourage people to read my ever-expanding publication Real-World Acoustics™, which is full of really practical advice and is super-easy to understand. Read it and Acoustics 101™, which has been called “the best couple dozen pages ever written on studio construction,” and you’ll have an excellent grasp of the concepts that govern proper room acoustics and construction. No fluff, no smoke, no mirrors, no sliderules. Just cut-to-the-chase advice that normal people can easily understand and implement in their own facilities.

DHI: What is one of the most unique spaces you have ever installed Auralex? What is your Favorite (Aside from DHI!)?

ES: We once did a high-end home theater for someone who had a photo he took at the 50 yard line at a famous football game. He asked if we could custom print this image on his acoustical treatments and tile the image around the room, giving the impression that he was at the 50 yard line when he sat in the sweet spot. We did. We also once custom printed treatments for our tradeshow booth so that the booth’s walls looked like they were made of used brick. If you hadn’t touched the cloth image, you wouldn’t have known it wasn’t real used brick. These projects are fun, but some of the most fulfilling ones we do are the charitable ones, for example having to do with facilities for at-risk kids or children’s hospitals. As I said earlier, we’ve been blessed with nearly 40 years of success, so we enjoy paying it forward whenever we can.

My favorite space? The next one!

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Thanks Eric for taking the time to speak with us, and we would like to thank you for all your generosity!

For more information on Auralex, Acoustics 101 and Auralex University check out their site at Auralex.com

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