Can 40-odd lbs. of fiberglass panels change the way your recording room sounds? The simple answer is yes and the Primacoustic London 8 Acoustic Room Treatment Kit may be one of the most effective small room kits on the market. Everyone and their cousin market acoustic foam for room treatment and these are effective — for middle and upper frequency reflections. Conventional foam just isn’t very good at containing lower frequencies. It’s not a design problem on the part of foam solution manufacturers, it’s an issue with the foam itself.
Bass frequencies are the freight train of the audio spectrum. They plow through most everything, their long wavelengths cutting through and bouncing off walls, floors and ceilings. It’s difficult to rob these frequencies of their energy. It’s the reason why foghorns hit deep, deep notes to cut through dense sea fog.
That’s what Primacoustic was after when they turned to fiberglass for their London acoustic treatment kits. Creating greater absorptive density in the same space targets a wider frequency range compared to foam products. The London 8 kit targets rooms around 100 square feet — or about the size of the average bedroom home studio. Small bedrooms with parallel walls are, acoustically speaking, horrid. The big problem is primary reflections. These are sounds from studio monitors that bounce off a surface and reflect back to the listening position. When walls, ceilings and floors are close together, these reflections can be substantial enough to interfere with the sound passing directly from speaker to listener. But that’s only the biggest issue. Flutter happens as reflected sound bounces without interruption between parallel surfaces. The room dimensions themselves give a resonance, and certain frequencies collect in certain spots, so the sound of the room changes depending on where you are. Even small changes in listening position create major problems when your ears move in and out of these troubled areas.
The bedroom studio can’t simply be re-shaped, not in an affordable manner, and those who record in rented space such as apartments may have even more restrictions on alterations. Primacoustic’s London 8 solution deals with the problems of the small room.
The London 8 room kit consists of four 36-inch control columns and eight 12-inch square scatter blocks. There are 20 mounting pieces, called surface impalers, along with anchors, screws and even a drill bit of proper size to set the anchors.
How you mount these panels depends largely on your room. The best advice uses the ‘live end-dead end’ arrangement, also known as LEDE for short. It’s a concept where the dead, acoustically treated end is by the primary monitors and the opposite end is relatively untreated, or live and reflective.
Let’s assume that the room is a rectangle and the listening position is at one narrow end. The control columns are likely best placed on the side walls, on either side of the mix position. The scatter block place on the wall behind the monitors. Primacoustic’s examples often arrange the scatter blocks in checkerboard fashion for this kind of application as a way to break up the general reflection pattern of this wall. The room behind the mix position remains as is. This is a typical LEDE application.
Though it might not seem like a lot from a written description, the London 8 kit, arranged in this manner, not only absorbs many of the primary reflections on their way to the side walls, the scatter blocks artificially create the effect of a non-parallel surface behind the monitors, randomly bouncing frequencies in a variety of directions to avoid sound wave reinforcement leading to standing waves. With these primary reflections now absorbed and re-directed, the available energy into the back, live end of the room is greatly attentuated, so the sounds now reflecting to the rear of the mix position have lost their gusto and can’t mess with the direct signal from the monitors.
For rooms that push the 100 sq. ft. dimension, Primacoustic has other London kits targeted for greater room size. Starting with the London 8 kit should demonstrably improve the sound of a small room, but further improvement may be possible. There are ceiling solutions as well, which may be added as an option for users who can alter the listening room to that extent. Apartment dwellers with cement ceilings may not be able to drill into the building for ceiling supports, for example.
With the absorption and scattering effects of the London 8 panels, sound directly from your monitors no longer has to wade through sonic junk. You hear more of what’s happening in your mix as it is leaving your speakers, not colored by interaction with reflections.
This offers a clearer perception of how your recordings actually sound. Panning placement becomes more obvious. Every instrument sounds more discrete. The actual sound of reverb and delay effects become clearer, since room reverb and delay reduces. Your ears spend less time separating real and reflected sounds. This makes everything just nicer to listen to, a sign that the London 8 kit is doing its thing.
Homemade fiberglass acoustic treatment is possible, but it’s difficult to seal the fiberglass. It’s prone to a flaw called dusting, where acoustic flexing allows fibers to escape with time. Homemade solutions too may not come up to fire codes for your municipality.
All of the Primacoustic London-series panels are fire-rated and certified against negative environmental and human health interactions. You won’t be inhaling fiberglass particles from these panels. While the panels are more hefty than their foam counterparts, that heft represents density, a key reason why the Primacoustic product affects frequencies down to about 100 Hz, far below the effective range of foam acoustic panels.
Kits are available with black, beige, gray and paintable white finishes.
Reviews are limited for the London 8 kit, however they are consistent. Nothing less than 4.5 out of 5 stars and raves from users. Echoes and pings from a variety of rooms were eliminated with the addition of the panels.
Primacoustic’s reputation as a maker of affordable acoustic treatment is solid. Among seasoned engineers there’s no questioning the effectiveness of Primacoustic products. These simply work, and next to speaker isolation pads, a kit such as the Primacoustic London 8 Acoustic Room Treatment is the best way to make an improvised studio space work.
Those who think they should be getting better results from their recording gear, but who haven’t addressed rooms sounds owe it to themselves to try the London 8 kit. If you’ve never worked in an acoustically treated space, you’re in for a treat, because these panels deliver the magic. Strongly Recommended.