“Why do many of the top studios have hardwood floors?”
A lot of it is aesthetics and “vibe.” But there’s more to it than that. Though this might sound a little counterintuitive, hardwood flooring is often a good choice for acoustic reasons as well. There are a few primary reasons for this:
Many musicians and engineers subjectively like the sound of wooden spaces. The sound of hard floors is sometimes called more “natural,” however, the line between this and the overall “vibe” is sometimes a thin one. In recording rooms wood floors can help produce better performances from musicians because they are more comfortable or just “feel” better.
In control rooms, the hard floors provide a reflective surface that can balance nicely with the absorptive and diffusive treatments on the walls and ceiling. Some studies have shown that floor reflections tend to be “rejected” by the ear-brain mechanism. Therefore, they may not affect critical listening like wall and ceiling reflections do.
Carpet on the floor can be very detrimental to the overall sound (depending on the acoustics of the rest of the space) Carpet acts as a sort of low pass filter: it will tend to absorb higher frequencies to a much greater extent than lower ones. This can cause the room to sound “boomy.” And because the low frequency artifacts tend to be more obvious, low frequency treatment may not appear to work as well in all areas of the room. There are many, many professional studios, built by folks with “golden ears,” who swear by hard floors in the control room.
Rooms with hard floors don’t necessarily require any additional treatments versus carpeted rooms: walls, ceilings, and other reflective surfaces must be dealt with either way. The rooms with hard floors will often sound better after the other treatments are added.
What kind of hard flooring works? Hardwoods are great, but parquet, tile (vinyl or ceramic), laminate, bare concrete and even linoleum are all acceptable so long as the rest of the room is handled correctly. It is usually best to choose the flooring that fits your budget and your “vibe.”
If you can possibly fit it into your budget we strongly recommend professional consultation for your room acoustics and design. If you really need to ensure yourself a great sounding space it’s well worth the added expense.