Whether you’re a musician, podcaster, YouTuber, or anyone involved in audio work, the first thing that you’ll need to work on is establishing an in-house, soundproof studio.
No matter how high-end your recording gear is, if you don’t soundproof your home studio effectively, your audience would instantly know you’ve recorded in a place that isn’t conducive for audio work.
To make high-quality audio, you have to make sure no noise from outside is recorded while you’re working. Moreover, you also have to ensure that your work doesn’t cause disturbance to your family and neighbors.
Not only does the noise from outside impacts the quality of the recorded audio, but the sounds inside a room can also affect the quality of your recordings adversely. This is why you need to know how to soundproof your studio.
Even if you’ve soundproofed your home studio completely, you still might fail at recording professional-quality audio. This is where acoustical treatments step in.
To build a home studio that doesn’t allow external noises to enter and controls the echoes, you have to work on both soundproofing and acoustical treatments.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of soundproofing your home studio, we got you covered:
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- 1 Soundproofing vs. Acoustical Treatment
- 2 Acoustic Foam Panels: How They Work & Why You Need Them
- 3 DIY Acoustic Panels
- 4 How Many Acoustic Foam Panels Do You Need
- 5 Step By Step Guide For Soundproofing Your Home Studio
- 6 Closing Word
Soundproofing vs. Acoustical Treatment
Soundproofing or sound isolation is preventing the sound from either traveling outside or bleeding inside a room. Both of these affect the quality of the recorded audio.
Soundproofing your home studio is much more complicated than acoustically treating it. The only way to achieve a fully soundproof studio is by adding mass.
It can be done by building new walls over the existing ones, provide insulation, and allow air gaps. According to the law of physics, adding mass is the only way to isolate sound from bleeding through the walls.
As far as acoustic treatment is concerned, it is done to control echoes and reverberations. The primary objective of acoustic treatment is to change the sound present naturally inside a room for clarity.
Standing waves, the buildup of low-frequency waves in the corners of the room, room modes, and other issues are all addressed through acoustic treatments.
Soundproofing ad acoustically treating your home is what you need to achieve audio of professional quality.
Acoustic Foam Panels: How They Work & Why You Need Them
Acoustic foam panels are panels made from open-celled foam that reduces the amplitude of the waves present in a surrounding. The energy that these waves lose is dissipated in the form of heat.
Acoustic foam panels can be attached to the ceilings, walls, doors, and other parts of a room to control the vibrations, noise levels, and echoes.
The Need for Acoustical Treatment
To help you understand why you need acoustic foam panels for your home studio, we’ll have to dive into physics.
When you make a sound in a closed room, it is projected outwards, all around the room, in all directions. A portion of this sound travels straight to your microphone and hence is known as the direct sound.
However, the remainder sound bounces between different surfaces of the room randomly. This sound is called “reflected sound.” These reflections make their way to the microphone by chance.
Since direct sound travels to the microphone directly without any interactions with the room, its tone remains unaltered.
However, the tone of reflected sound is changed with every reflection, and the reflected sound that makes it to the microphone has an entirely different sound.
The change to the tone of reflected sound could be small or big, good or bad, which is why there is a need to control these reflections, which you can do efficiently with the help of acoustic foam panels.
How Do Acoustic Foam Panels Work?
Plain, flat, solid surfaces (a concrete wall) block the sound but also reflect it. As discussed above, the reflected sound has an altered frequency and tone that impacts the quality of the recorded sound adversely.
Acoustic foam, on the other hand, prevents these reflected sound waves from interfering with the quality of your recorded audio.
The acoustic foam takes care of the reflected waves in two ways. Acoustic foam has a bubble-like, bumpy, and uneven surface.
When the sound waves hit this surface, instead of getting reflected, they are spread throughout the surface of the foam.
A reflected wave from one portion of the foam may hit another bump that scatters it even further. This way, acoustic foam dampens these waves.
What you need to keep in mind here is that you’ve only talked about dampening or diffusing these sound waves. Their energy is still to be dealt with. It is where acoustic foam gets in play again.
The acoustic foam absorbs the energy that the sound waves lose when they hit the surface of these panels.
When the pressure wave hits the acoustic foam panel, it is converted into mechanical energy, which is in the form of mechanical movement of the particles of the foam.
Acoustic foam behaves as a shock absorber. It first converts the pressure waves into mechanical energy and then converts this mechanical energy into heat waves, which is then absorbed by the foam.
Acoustic foam panels, therefore, dampen the reflected sound waves and convert the sound energy of the waves into heat energy, minimizing the chances of these reflected sound waves to affect the quality of your recorded audio.
DIY Acoustic Panels
You can either purchase commercially available acoustic foam panels or make your own DIY acoustic foam panels.
If you think you’re skilled enough to undertake advanced DIY projects, you can definitely work o DIY acoustic panels.
What You’ll Need
- Nails and Hammers for the construction of the frame
- Glue to secure the insulation panels within the frame
- Scissors and staple gun to trim and secure the outer fabric on the panels
- Mounting brackets for mounting the finished acoustic panels to the wall
- Wood for the panel frame
- Fabric to cover the exposed insulation and to give a finished look to the panel
- Owens Corning 703, a special type of fiberglass
Building Acoustic Panels
- Cut the wood into two 2-feet panels and two 4-feet panels (for each acoustic panel).
- Place all four wood panels up to each other in such a way that 2-feet panels are inside. The final length of the frame should be 4-feet and not 4-feet 2-inches.
- Secure the wood panels using nails and wood glue for extra strength.
- Once your frames are ready, secure the insulation to the wooden frames. Make sure that the padding covers all the area present between the frames.
- The next step is to cover the panel with a fabric that has excellent dampening properties, such as Guilford of Maine burlap. The panel is fully wrapped in the fabric, which is secured tightly from the backside
- You can cover the backside with a fabric of your choice to cover up the messy backside appearance of the panels. However, it is optional, and not covering it with fabric would not affect the efficiency of your DIY acoustic panels.
How Many Acoustic Foam Panels Do You Need
The number of acoustic panels required for acoustical treatment of your home studio is not fixed. Every room is different, and the extent of acoustical treatment varies accordingly.
The number of acoustic panels that you’ll need for your home studio majorly depends on the following factors:
- Size and shape of the room
- The surface materials present in the room (floors, ceilings, walls, etc.)
- Type of acoustic panel
- Location of the acoustic panel
Size of the Room
The larger a room is, the more noticeable the reverberations and the echo will be.
As you know by now, sound waves bounce off the surfaces and are reflected, which are further bounced onto other surfaces in the room until they are dampened or diffused.
However, when the size of the room is large, the sound waves have to travel over a long distance before they finally strike another surface.
It adds to the time, after which the sound waves have hit enough surfaces to be finally diffused or absorbed. Therefore, you will need a higher number of acoustic panels to treat your large-sized home studio acoustically.
The shape of the room also forms an essential factor when it comes to calculating the number of acoustic foam panels that you’ll need for your home studio.
The height of the ceilings, the presence of drywall panels and hard floors add to the time it takes for a sound wave to die off completely.
Surface Materials in the Room
You need to take into consideration the surface materials in the room for calculating the number of acoustic panels that you’ll need.
Whether your home studio has a hardwood floor or a carpet, whether the walls are drywall or concrete, all these questions play an important role when you’re determining the number of acoustic panels for your home studio.
Surfaces like hardwood floors reflect the sound waves more and produce longer reverberations. Whereas soft surfaces like carpet absorb more waves and reduce the duration of reverberations.
You can reduce the number of acoustic foam panels needed to fully control the sounds in your home studio by adding more objects like pillows and plush couches that can efficiently absorb sound waves.
Type of Acoustic Panel
Whether you’re installing commercial acoustic panels or you’re using DIY acoustic panels, their efficiency varies with the size, shape, and type of fabric that you use.
Every acoustic panel has a unique NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient), where 0 indicates that the panel does not absorb any sound, and 1 indicates that it absorbs nearly all sounds that fall on it.
If your acoustic panel has a greater NRC, you’ll need fewer numbers of acoustic panels, whereas, if you’re using acoustic panels with a lower NRC, you’ll have to use a higher number of panels to achieve the desired noise control.
Location of Acoustic Panels
The placement of acoustic panels also plays an essential role in their efficiency. Although there are no critical guidelines about the installation of acoustic panels, specific non-critical instructions can help you get the best results.
Placing acoustic panels at the corners of a room enhances the sound wave absorption. The corners of a room are usually the first places where the sound waves bounce.
Moreover, placing panels on other first-reflection points will also help reduce the noise saturation in your home studio.
Step By Step Guide For Soundproofing Your Home Studio
Now that you know that putting up a home studio for your audio work does not only require you to soundproof it but it also requires efficient acoustical treatment, you’re good to move ahead to our step by step guide.
This guide will help you through the process of establishing a home studio where you can produce the best quality, professional-level audio for your audience.
Step 1: Soundproof Ceiling and Walls
The first step in soundproofing your home studio is soundproofing the ceilings and the walls. The numerous ways of doing so have been listed below:
- Add an extra layer of drywall with the wall stud
- Fill cheap fiberglass in the free spaces in the wall studs. It is highly practical and useful in soundproofing the walls.
- You can use damping compounds between the layers of the studio walls, floors, and ceilings.
- Use sound clips as an additional step. Sound clips have heavy rubber elements that absorb sound effectively.
- If there are any cracks in the drywall, you need to fill them with acoustical sealant or caulk.
- The soundproofing of the ceilings is done the same way as the walls.
Step 2: Acoustical Treatment
Once you’ve soundproofed your walls and the ceilings, the next step is the acoustical treatment for a fully operational home studio. The best set for efficient acoustical treatment has been given below:
- Corners of the room are the most critical parts to treat. Therefore, place bass traps at the junctions where two walls meet the ceiling.
- Wall –wall joints come second after the wall-ceiling-wall corners. Place bass traps starting from the floor and extend them up to the bass traps placed on wall-ceiling joints.
- The above steps are reasonable enough to improve the quality of the recorded audio. However, if you want to go a little extra, you can cover the entire length of the wall-ceiling joints followed by flat acoustic foam panels on the walls.
Step 3: Soundproof the Floors
To keep any noise from the rooms below (if any) from affecting your audio quality, you should make sure that you have soundproofed your floors.
Soundproofing the floors will also stop the reverberations of the sound from the bare floors.
In case there is a room below your home studio, you should consider adding an extra layer of drywall.
The method and material for the installation of drywall to the floors will be the same as drywall installation on the walls. Any empty space should be filled entirely with fiberglass and any cracks with acoustical sealant.
Finishing off with adding a carpet will be a job well done. It will not only soundproof your home studio from the noises from the rooms below but will also help eliminate the reverb.
Step 4: Soundproof the Doors
Even if you’ve soundproofed the walls, ceilings, and the floors, you will still hear the noises from outside through the door, which is why you should always soundproof your door too.
- If you can, replace your hollow doors with solid wooden doors.
- If the existing door has lots of glass elements, you should cover it while you’re recording audio.
- You can use a home studio soundproofing sealant around the frame to insulate the door to your home studio.
- Use a door bottom or door sweep to close the gap that is present between the floor and the door.
Step 5: Soundproof the Windows
If you’re using an existing room as a home studio, it is most likely to have a window. Soundproofing windows is quite challenging but extremely important at the same time.
- Replace the existing windows with double-pane windows. They provide better sound dampening.
- Use the soundproofing seal that you used for insulating the doors around the frames of the windows.
- Use window caulk to seal any cracks in the window frames.
- Heavy sound curtains over the windows offer an excellent temporary solution.
Step 6: Soundproof All Vents and Outlets
If you miss out on soundproofing the vents and outlets present in your home studio, all the previous efforts might go in vain. Even a single hole can produce a massive impact on the quality of your recorded audio.
- Tightly seal the window AC vent using the same acoustical caulk that you used for the windows. You might need to opt for a professional re-installation of your window AC if the existing installation is poor.
- Turn off the central AC or remove the resonating vent cover at the time of your recording.
- You should seal all electrical outlets with foam gaskets.
Step 7: Soundproofing From Objects inside Your Studio
You’ll be surprised to know that the objects that are present inside your home studio, like furniture and instruments, can produce significant noise.
They vibrate when sound waves strike against them. There are numerous ways you can prevent the noise from the objects inside your studio from affecting the quality of your recordings.
- Cover all objects with glass elements during the recording.
- Place irregular objects in the studio to diffuse the sound waves.
If you want a fully functional home studio, just knowing how to soundproof your studio isn’t enough. To record the best quality audio, you need to take care of both the soundproofing and acoustical treatment of the room.
The purpose of both these treatments is different, and the combination of both will help you achieve what you need in your home studio.