Room Treatment on a Budget

The environment that you record your podcast in is just as important for the quality of your recording as the quality of your equipment and your mixing skills. In this article, will we cover some easy and inexpensive ways to treat the room you work in to improve the sound of your recordings and make your job easier when it comes to mixing.

Room Shape

The shape of your room will drastically affect the way things sound. While it is prohibitively expensive to alter the shape of your room, if you have the option of one room over another it is worth taking several things into account. A room that is a perfect square is the least ideal for recording. The sounds waves will bounce off of the walls and recombine to cancel each other out, or create nodes of build-up. Low ceilings and windows should also be avoided if possible. Corners can also be problematic for bass build-up and should be treated when possible (see Diffusion & Absorption). 

Reflective Surfaces

Surfaces like windows are highly reflective and create unwanted tininess in your recordings. Hard surfaces in general will be quite reflective and should be treated with absorptive materials when possible. Try moving your mic around the room and getting test recordings from different locations to see which sounds best.

Diffusion & Absorption

Diffusion scatters sounds waves and absorptive materials absorbs them or deaden reflections. To dampen reflective surfaces in your room, try putting moving blankets with thumb tacks. They work wonders and are inexpensive. Any blanket will do if you don’t have moving blankets. An expensive alternative is to use a product called Auralex, try looking in dumpsters behind recording and rehearsal studios, as I have often found people throw out Auralex and sound proofing materials when moving. If you are in need of diffusion, a great natural diffusor that you probably already have is a bookshelf full of books. It is worth placing a bookshelf in the corner to avoid bass build-up. If you’re handy with carpentry you may also try your hand at creating a skyline diffusor. These can also be prohibitively expensive but are relatively easy to build using the schematics found here:


If you are using more than one microphone to record, phasing can become an issue. Because sound moves at a finite speed, sound from a single source will reach your microphones at different times. When this happens it causes phasing, or certain frequencies to be cancelled. You can move the mics around and try to avoid this by trial and error, or by putting the mics at odd number distances from each other. There is gear available to adjust phasing, but it’s easier and cheaper to handle the situation with good mic placement.

Speaker Placement

If possible, you want to have your monitoring speakers and mixing desk a few feet away from the wall. Doing this will give you a more accurate picture of the sound and a way to make sure that your podcast will sound great on multiple systems and speaker situations. It is also worth checking your mix on a variety of sound systems: headphones / earbuds, and in the car. Every listener will have a different listening environment and it is worth doing some tests to make sure that your podcast sounds good from one system to another. 

Ultimately there is no way to create the perfect recording environment without spending a lot of money, but there is a lot you can do to improve the recording environment and this will show in the quality of your recordings. Many of the expensive items available for studio diffusion and absorption can be built by hand fairly easily if you’re willing to spend the time and a little elbow grease. You don’t need a perfect studio to produce great recordings but taking whatever steps you can to improve the environment will pay off and help your work to sound the best that it can. 

Jean-Paul L. Garnier

Jean-Paul L. Garnier lives and writes in Joshua Tree, CA where he is the owner of Space Cowboy Books, a science fiction bookstore, independent publisher, and producer of Simultaneous Times podcast. In 2020 his first novella Garbage In, Gospel Out was released by Space Cowboy Books and in 2018 Traveling Shoes Press released Echo of Creation, a collection of his science fiction short stories. He has also released several collections of poetry: In Iudicio (Cholla Needles Press 2017), Future Anthropology (currently being translated into Portuguese), and Odes to Scientists (audiobook - Space Cowboy Books 2019). He is a two time Elgin Nominee and also appeared in the 2020 Dwarf Stars anthology. His new collection of SF poetry, Betelgeuse Dimming has just been released and is available as a free download audiobook / ebook at He is also a regular contributor for Canada’s Warp Speed Odyssey blog. His short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in many anthologies and webzines.