The Drum Condo--Does it Work?

Well, now that the site is back up and moving at something close to normal speed, we'll get back to the drum condo series. First, in answer to the above question, the short answer is yes! To some extent, that's the best I've got, as I've not yet had time to get any actual readings on how much attenuation we're really getting. So what I'm about it say is anecdotal.

Any discussion of the effectiveness of anything has to start with what it was intended to do. With that in mind, we'll once again return to our design goals and tackle one at a time.

Attenuate drum volume significantly (meaning >20 dB SPL; >30 would be even better).

Goal met? Yes! I can't tell you for a fact we're hitting our 20-30 dB SPL reduction, but I can tell you I've stood right outside the condo and had a conversation at normal levels, without straining, while the drummer was playing full out for level check. We could hear the drums, but they sounded like they were in the next room. Given that a live kit is easily going to be in the 90+ dB SPL range, and a conversation is around 70, I'd say we're easily getting 20 dB.

More importantly, the drums in no way overpower the rest of the band, the vocals or the congregation singing. We need to mix them into the band, which means we have pretty much full control over the levels. We no longer have to try to mix over the drums, and the folks in the front row aren't getting killed by the cymbals or the snare. It does mean our mix and room EQ needs to be on, however.

Modular construction so it could be taken apart easily and moved out of the room.

Thankfully, we haven't had to test this out too many times. My boss and I were able to take it apart and move it pretty easily (and put it back an hour later), however. With the exception of one wall, it's pretty easy to move around. A couple of guys who are more buff than we are could easily move it down the hall to the storage room. And if we did have to move it every week, I'd build skates for it to make it easier. So again, goal met.

Visually appealing–it should look built-in (we were hoping we might not have to move it if we made it pretty enough)

Within a half hour of us taking it down, the host church's pastor came in and said it looks better there than a stack of chairs so, let's just leave it up. Goal met! And we've had several people comment on how built-in it looks (see the comments section of the previous post). Goal met again!

Big enough to hold our standard 2 tom, 3 cymbal kit

Cost less than $1,500.

Easily built with stuff we could by at Home Depot.

Yes, yes and yes. I haven't seen the final tally of the cost yet, but I think we're somewhere around $1,200. It could be done for a few hundred less if you didn't side it with 1x4's. Those are surprisingly expensive. And you need a lot of them. We could have also used cheaper foam, but I figured if we were going to spend $250 on foam (for the cheap stuff), we may as well spend $350 and get the good stuff. I think it was worth it. In fact, that was the only thing we didn't get at Home Depot (Sweetwater).

When it comes to the size, I originally thought it would be way too big, but once the kit gets in there, and we put all the mics around, and add the fan, and the music stand (with the Aviom mixer) and the metronome stand, it's pretty full. The good news is that at the end of the night, we can move a few things around and store all our music & mic stands and other assorted audio gear in there out of harm's way. It's a win-win.

I guess the best criteria is how the drummers (and the rest of the band) feel about it. On this count, I think everyone's happy. Both drummers have commented on how good it sounds in there (and in their ears), and the rest of the band is happy. I am convinced the condo is one of the biggest reasons the room sounds so good.

So there you go. I'm very happy with it, as is the rest of the congregation. I might change a few things the next time around, but that's another post.