Diffusion is different from other room treatments, such as absorption, because it helps liven up sound whereas treatment tends to stop it in its tracks (ideally for the better of course). But there are so many misconceptions about diffusion, that many newer producers tend to avoid it or remind willfully ignorant of all it entails.
We wanted to right these wrongs so that music producers of all levels can find serious benefits in using diffusion in their music-making rooms.
To do that, we interviewed Chad King of Audomod, a company that makes high-quality custom diffusers for home and music studios. We skipped the technical details and instead relied on Chad’s professional insights to help you simply get the best results possible, quickly.
Check Out Audomod’s Quality Diffusers
Audomod makes some of the best diffusers in the industry.
How do I know this? Well, they were nice enough to send me a small diffuser for my own bedroom-sized studio for review and after following Chad King’s advice outlined below, the sound quality of my room improved drastically.
The customization options allow you to get a professional-level diffuser for less than you think, so check out the various options on Audomod’s store below.
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What types of studios benefit most from having a diffuser in them?
Most recording and mixing studios can benefit from added sound diffusion. Well-placed sound diffusers can help add a feeling of space and life to recordings in mixing rooms, live rooms, and vocal booths.
Small rooms can be made to feel larger, or ceilings can sound like they’re taller with the correct sound diffuser placement. Once low frequencies and reverberation times have been reduced with sound absorption, diffusers can add energy and liveliness to a recording while limiting additional reflections.
Diffusion generally comes second after absorption when treating studio acoustics.
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How much does the placement of diffusers in music studios matter?
Placement is critical in the functionality of sound diffusers.
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Diffusers receive and redirect sound energy, so it’s important for them to be aimed toward the action. Generally, a sound diffuser will be placed at a point of the first reflection between the sound source and the monitoring or recording position.
Placed elsewhere in a well-treated studio and the diffused sound will likely get absorbed before it’s even heard. Each sound diffuser also needs to be far enough away from the monitoring position to give the lowest octave of diffused sound distance to fully form.
The lower frequencies are physically longer, and if this distance isn’t maintained the listener could experience phase issues or other anomalies.
Where is the most common place to set up a diffuser in a room or studio?
The size, shape and intended use of the room often help determine the sound diffuser placement. Usually, diffusers are placed at points of the first reflection, or mirror points, between the sound source and monitoring or recording position.
You can find these by having someone hold up a mirror on the wall and sitting in the monitoring position. Where you can see the sound source is a mirror point. If the room is narrow, or the ceiling is low, often diffusers will be placed at the sides or overhead to help remove these limitations from the recording.
Small diffusers are sometimes placed on the front wall behind monitors in smaller mixing rooms, but that generally works best with higher frequency range diffusers so you can maintain that needed distance between the diffuser and the listener. In a live room where there may be multiple sources of sound, or the source may move around, diffusers can be placed on a back wall to add a feeling of depth to the space.
What are common mistakes producers consistently make when installing diffusers?
Many newer producers think that once they hang a diffuser somewhere up on the wall, their acoustic problems will be over.
They underestimate how many additional reflective, parallel, untreated wall surfaces exist in their space. Sound diffusers are powerful tools when developing a soundscape, but they are only truly effective if you’re able to address the initial low frequencies and a majority of the reflections, generally with bass trapping and absorption.
Some people try to use deeper diffusers in very small rooms, where the diffuser is located too close to the listening position and can’t effectively diffuse those lower frequencies. Other producers mount diffusers too high on the wall where the diffused sound bounces to the ceiling and won’t be picked up by ears or microphones.
How do you know which diffuser is right for the room you are making music in?
Every room has a different acoustic profile and will need unique sound treatment to be an effective listening and recording environment. The final size, number, and placement of sound diffusers often come down to personal preference, but here are some tips to get you in the right ballpark.
For very small rooms or tight situations where the listener will be located close to a diffuser, opt for a shallow, higher frequency range diffuser. If your listening position is limited to a small area, such as one individual sitting stationary at a desk, smaller diffusers at your reflection points will work.
If the listening position is a larger area including multiple people, or people sitting and standing, you’ll want to make sure that your diffusers account for that larger space at the reflection points. Try to keep your diffusion symmetrical when possible, installing in the center of the front wall, rear wall, or ceiling, or mounting in pairs on the sides. Listen for trouble spots in your room.
Odd-shaped rooms, concrete walls, free-standing pillars, fireplaces, and other features can cause unwanted reflections that may be best addressed with diffusion.
Sound diffusers are best at addressing unwanted reflections and maintaining a lively feel while avoiding the disorienting “dead” sound of a room with too much absorption.