13 April 2013

Home Studio: Primacoustics London 12A Studio Kit: take the control of your room?


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around February/2011. I'm just revisiting it here.
Well, I am still trying to correct the acoustics of my mixing room. I was really scared seen as any mix that sounds ok thru my near field monitors, sounds really bad when bounced to an MP3 file.
The IK Multimedia ARC system helps a bit but, it delivers a "washed" sound and, even that it helps to correct some deficiencies of the room, it cannot get rid of issues derived of excessive early reflexions (fluttering echo, comb filter...) and, cannot work for low frequencies with the same efficiency that a real Bass Trap.

In my recording tests with vocals (and the new Rode NT2-A, that makes everything to pop up in the track), I've notices that some reflexions even doubled some words, with a temporal shift really ugly, making the resulting take a bit blurred. Even that not all the track was affected, there are some parts were the excessive early reflexions created real issues.

The T.Bone Micscreen filter seems to help nothing to protect the mic from early reflexions. The mic is highly sensible and gets everything with ease.

In this situation, I was forced to go an step further and to try to acoustically treat my room; something that I was avoiding because of two fundamental reasons: the high cost and the "aesthetic modification".

But... how to start, when you have not enough technical knowledge?.

After some time reading articles and reviewing prices, it seemed to me an acceptable idea to try to get rid of those problems by purchasing some of those kits for little home studios.

Clearly, no specialist will recommend you to go this way. Most those that "support" the idea, will coincide on that a solution based on high density foam pieces DOESN'T solves anything and, has a durability issue (it seems that the Sun light among other environmental agents attack the foam, which ends getting rid, with a ugly impact in your Studio look).
As a minor evil, they will "accept" solutions not based in high density foam.

So, after browsing several offerings of that kind, it seemed to me that the best option was the Primacoustic London 12A Studio Kit. In first place, the panels were made of glass fiber (instead of foam) and, in a second place, it seemed to come with an anchoring system, what allows you to remove the panels and reuse them in any other room. Since I'm in a rental house, to me is a must to have a solution that can be removable and reusable in any other house.

With a real crack in the credit of my card, I bought the kit and, this is my experience.


The whole kit comes packet in a single box of huge dimensions, which size comes determined by the size of the "bass control panels". It comes well packed and includes 100 studs and 100 screws, to fix the anchoring pieces to the wall and, also a drill (curious!). Finally, all the needed anchoring pieces come included in the pack.

A nice triptych, with lot of propaganda about their wonderful products and, no user's manual or instructions that help you to guess "how to do it". Luckily, they have a guide of installation in their website, very clear and easy to follow, among some demonstrative video and, therefore, the plannification of the installation is clear.


Well, the first thing I wanted to snoop were panels... what are they made about? how are they built? what do they have in special?.

First disappointment. Panels are made from compacted glass fiber wool, coated with some kind of clear substance (epoxy, I guess), to avoid the wool to frying. That panel is then wrapped in a fabric piece (as per their ad, acoustically neutral), which is glued to the back side of the panel.
A curious thing, the product says that the panels were made in China, while the assembling was made in Canada. What do the Canadian people so good that Chinese people cannot do in something so simple?. Is that just a way to justify the high price of a cheap product?.
Well, the square meter of glass fiber in a Depot, costs about 2 Eur!!!.

The 8 "control columns" make about 3 square meters.
The 2 "bass control columns" make about 1,5 square meters.
The 12 "tiles" make about 1,1 square meters.

So, summing it everything up, at 2 Eur / square meter, we are talking about 11,2 Eur !!!.

Ok, then we have the steel anchoring pieces. About 28 of "regular" ones and 8 "special" for the squared panels. Primacoustic sells 24 broadway impalers (that's how they call the anchoring pieces) at 46 Eur. So, a couple of pack make 92 Eur.
The 8 squaring impalers are being sold at 69 Eur.

Summing everything together, with the fiber panels, it means 172,2 Eur.

Let add some since fabric, at 5 Eur / meter and, let say that we will need 3 times the linear meters of all the panels, about 18 meters, at 5 Eur, means 90 Eur.

Ok, that makes 262,2 Eur in material, at the price that is being sold in stores.

So, summing up everything together, with the epoxy rosin, the glue to glue the fabric to the panel, etc., for around 300 Eur, if you have good hands, you can do it by yourself and, you can even put there the fabric that more likes to you because, at the end, those panels can decorate or break the look of your room.

If they were made totally in China, since the price of the human work is negligible and, they send containers of material (lowering the shipping costs astronomically), maybe we had a finished product for about 400 Eur.
Up to the 722 that actually costs... help me to understand the difference?.

To be honest, the look of panels is good, very classy but, they smell really bad. For this price, they could add some pleasant Asian essence.


Well, I have to recognize that, even that it takes its time, it's easy but... is there any need for so much complexity?.

I've weighted panels on hand and, even the huger are lightweight, easy to handle with a single hand.
The anchoring system consists into put one impaler for each small tile, 2 impalers for "control columns" and 4 special impalers for the squared "bass control columns".
The "regular" impalers need 2 screws, the "specials" 4 (but, I've installed those impalers with 2 in diagonal).

Screws and studs are of size 6, what sincerely is unnecessary for the weight of those panels.
If you sum up, 8 columns need 2 x 2 x 8 = 32 screws, 2 bass columns need 2 x 4 x 4 = 16 screws and, the 12 tiles need 12 x 2 = 24 screws. 72 screws in total, 72 holes in your walls!!!.

IMHO, every panels, except maybe the bass control columns, could be placed on the wall by using an industrial Velcro solution, which will reduce the installation time dramatically. The only panels that probably still need the impalers are those squared bass control columns, because of its very special position.

But, if you want to go with the recommended installation way, then be patient.

I've thrown 3 straight lines by using 6 pushpins and a thin rope, that gave the upper adjust level for pannels, the placement for the upper impaler and the position for the lower impaler.

And, once mounted, what it looks like?

Honestly, it gives to the room a very "professional" look. Panels are well finished and, the chosen fabric has a very neutral color that suits very will to the room.

From Theory to Practice

LEDE Studio?

The two basis ideas that "justify" this kit are: stereo balance and the creation of a LEDE room.

What the heck is a LEDE room?

LEDE means Live End / Dead End.
The concept consists into split the room in two very differentiated areas of same dimensions, a live zone (with full reflexions) and a dead zone (with no reflexions).
The most of the kit should be installed in the dead zone (around the hearing spot), to "kill" the early reflexions, that are the bad boys of this tale.
In the living zone, we will install just the little tiles to aid sound diffusion.
All this is very nice, indeed but, everybody has it's own limitations respect of its own Home Studio, usually placed in the less used room and, with different furniture, windows, etc.
So, In my case, I just did what my room allowed me. Even that I understand the theory behind, I've preferred to "put all the meat" in the side walls and back wall of the hearing spot, since neither the front window, the heaters or the two doors leave me space for other kind of arrangement.

So, I recognize that my room isn't so LEDE but, my woman said that it looks impressive.

So good, so nice but... does it works?

After the hard work made with installation, it was too like to test my "new" studio. This and that I was afraid to be disappointed with results, which made me nervous thinking in the amount of credit that I had to restore spent in crap.

Well, it took me one more day to start my tests. I've switched on the audio card, monitors and, loaded the DAW with the mix I was working on before starting all this adventure.

Er?... great part of the "boom-boom" disappeared and, it seems easier to work with reverberations now. I mix with near field monitors and, do a bounce of the mix to an MP3 file.
Nice!. For very first time, the sound of the MP3 is closer to the sound that I've heard thru monitors.
The Mix have some issues still but, this time the mids doesn't seem so inflated and lows doesn't produce me a headache.

Placebo effect?.

My analytic brain gets the control of my heart and, the devil in my left ear says to me: "hey, maybe you WANT to hear some enhancement just because all these costed a kidney. Get that ARC mic and check if equalization issues were corrected!".

So... one more day to start testing with the help of the ARC system.

I mount the mic, start the application and, patiently I am taking the 24 samples around the hearing spot.
And, here we are the two comparison pictures.

Firstly, how everything was before trying to save the world with that Primacoustic Kit:

And, now, the picture after the "treatment":

Comparing both pictures, I don't know if to wear the hat with donkey ears or to hara-kiri myself.
In the Right side of the room, we can see an increase in the mid-low frequencies, respect of the original situation and, this is because I've CENTERED the desk in the room, looking for that nice stereo balance and, now I have very similar issues (very balanced, indeed) in both sides.
More about it, the already existing peaks in the region between 100 - 200 Hz seems to had been increased.

The Orange lines correspond to the deviation of the room sound respect to the target curve (plane eq, Green line). White lines correspond to the correction curve that ARC can achieve.

In my understanding, already existing anomalies are still there and, they even increased.
The only part that seems to be enhanced is the "AIR" band, that seems to be recovered about 6 dB.
It seems also that the zone of mid-trebles, were the second order harmonics and presence is being represented is now bumped up, while they were already OK BEFORE (plain response).
The response in low frequencies seems to had been dimmed, also.


I've got very mixed sensations and thoughts. In one side, it's true that I feel a clear difference to best. In the room the low frequencies were really boomy and, I feel this was fixed in around an 80%. The enhancement is clearly audible, whatever the ARC graphic says. If that enhancement is due to this recovering of the AIR band, I dunno.

Where I am hearing the best improvement is related to reflexions. Clearly, this is working well against excessive reverberations.
Does this kit solves the modal issues?

Every small room suffers of some resonance modes that accentuate frequencies between 120 - 200 Hz (more or less) and, it's clear that the standard control panels aren't able to get rid of this messing issue.
Those modes make the sound very confusing, with bad defined lows, boomy, very ear fatiguing.

According to every expert, only Real Bass Traps can solve this issue.
But, the price of a single Bass Trap is scary, above 400 Eur and, at least, you need two of them.
Do you recommend me this kit?

Sincerely, NOT, I DON'T. Not to this one and no other. You are paying a lot of money for very few enhancement. This kit can help with reverberations and, maybe, it's increasing the AIR band but, isn't able to get rid of the room modes, that are one of the biggest issues to have a good mix.

Since it is clear that with material of high density you can reduce the early reflexions, there are many other ways to achieve this effect at a lower cost and, you can build them by yourself: glass fiber panels, dense curtains, dense carpets... anything very massive, with a very irregular surface that can increase the 3D face of the wall can help to reduce early reflexions.

However, to control the modal issues of your room, it seems that the only medicine are Bass Trap. Bob
Katz (among others) recommend Real Traps by Mondo.
In my honest opinion, spent that money in good Bass Traps and, reduce rest of issues with cheaper and imaginative solutions.
One more thing to take into account.
I wrote to Primacoustic people with an sketch of my room, including furniture and, rest of elements, together with the resulting curves of measures before and after and, asking them for some answers about results and, asking them for some guidance about how to get better results with their kit.

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