Talk to any audio engineer, producer, or musician, and they’ll tell you how they wish they would have acoustically treated and soundproofed their room or studio space earlier.
But while there are some methods that can quite quickly break the bank, it doesn’t have to be so expensive!
In this article, we show you exactly how you can soundproof your room cheaply. Taking the expense scare out of the process and giving you a cheap soundproofing solution for studios both big and small! More importantly, if you’re just getting your feet wet with acoustic treatment, you can get started for under $100!
- Why soundproof your room?
- What are the benefits of an acoustically treated space?
- Why is acoustic foam so expensive?
- What is the best material for sound absorption?
- What is acoustic foam made of?
- How can I soundproof a room cheaply?
- The Final Say
Why soundproof your room?
If you’re like me, you love your studio monitors. You probably saved up to buy them, and the minute you did, you felt like you leveled up in your music production journey. So why do so many of us who take the leap end up putting them in an untreated workspace?
The thought of soundproofing and treating your room can be a daunting one. First, you’ve got the science, the apparent expense, as well as the labor involved. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a job that only experts could pull off, but it’s so much easier than you think.
Above all, having an acoustically treated space is worth its weight in gold, and you’re guaranteed to progress so much faster. So let’s get into it!
What are the benefits of having a treated room
The main goal of acoustic room treatment is to achieve a “neutral sound balance”. Where frequencies are neither exaggerated nor deficient, allowing your ears to perceive the source material as it was meant to be heard. With this, comes a whole host of benefits.
More than anything, having a treated room is going to give you the ability to produce a better sounding mix. Ensuring your songs sound great no matter which pair of speakers you’re playing on. You’ll be able to listen to every detail with clarity and make critical mixing decisions with ease. As a result, you’ll save so much time not having to compensate for a poorly treated room.
Why is acoustic foam so expensive?
There are a few reasons why something as seemingly simple as foam can be priced so highly. But the first reason that comes to mind is the fact it’s a small, specialized niche market with not enough competition to drive the prices down. When the demand is there, it’s no surprise companies can get away with bumping the prices.
In saying that, another reason contributing to the high price of acoustic treatment is the cost of the machines involved in the process. Manufacturers need access to machinery that can effectively produce the material in the exact shaped mold. These machines can be extremely costly, so it’s no surprise the retail cost makes up for it.
But like everything, if you look in the right places you’re able to find soundproofing solutions that offer a much more affordable alternative to acoustic foam bunnings. Thankfully, DJ City stock a wide range of soundproofing including the popular range of AVE Acoustic Foam.
What is the best material for soundproof & absorption?
It’s commonly confused with soundproofing, but sound absorption actually differs quite a bit. It works like this. When sound encounters an object, it’s either absorbed (sound-absorbing) or reflected back (soundproofing).
If you’re someone wanting to improve the acoustics of your studio, you need sound absorption. Essentially, this reduces the echo in the room due to being absorbed and you’ll get an audible, clear sound within the room.
But unlike soundproofing, your music will still be audible in the next room. Given the fact sound-absorbing material purely reduces echo rather than blocking it altogether.
One of the most commonly used materials for sound absorption is acoustic foam. It’s easy to install, affordable, and some of the most effective at absorbing sounds. Typically, acoustic foam consists of aesthetic fabric design with different patterns that all contribute to the aesthetics of your home. So unless you’re in a massive space, acoustic foam is going to be your best bet for small and middle-sized rooms such as bedrooms, offices, and recording studios.
What is acoustic foam made of?
Acoustic foam can be made from a variety of different materials, including:
- Convoluted Acoustic Foam – These foam panels feature an egg-crate design that’s specifically used in recording studios. Not only is it aesthetic but it’s also effective at reducing sound and correctly treating your studio space.
- Aluminum-facing Panel – Aluminum-faing panels are specially designed for high-heat spaces and environments. With the strong material providing extra protection from the heat.
- Fabric-Covered Foam – Fabric foam panels enable acoustical performance everywhere, including large rooms and theatres. Offering easy installation and maintainable fabric exterior.
How can I soundproof a room cheaply?
There’s no question that soundproofing a room isn’t always a cheap job. But, where there’s a will there’s a way! This step-by-step guide is ideal for intermediate users who’re on a budget, but still happy to spend on the right products. Therefore, giving you longevity as well as quality in your recording studio!
Step 1. The Small Things
The first thing you want to do on your quest to have a soundproofed and acoustically treated room is to fill all the gaps. If air can travel, so can sound. So it’s a good idea to rubber seal your windows and doors using weather strips you can pick up at bunnings for less than $10.00.
Additionally, you’ll want to use your speaker placement skills to ensure your studio monitors are placed in the optimal spot. Because there’s no use spending up on acoustic foam if the simplest things haven’t been done right to begin with!
It’s important to note, that once you’ve chosen your new studio monitors. You can’t just put them anywhere your studio has room for them, power them on, and call it a day. Assuming you’re operating in a typical small studio or bedroom, you’ll be looking at a pair of nearfield monitors. Specifically designed to sit close to your ears, they’ll ideally be placed in an equilateral triangle between you and the monitors. Without any obstacles blocking the way that could possibly impede the sound waves coming from your drivers and ruin the integrity of your sound. This also includes the surrounding walls, as sound waves will bounce of nearby walls and colour the audio signal that you’re hearing.
Another way to enhance your monitor’s accuracy is by placing them on a set of monitor pads; isolating your speakers from whatever surface they’re sitting on. While a set of studio monitor stands can help you place your speakers in an optimal location if you’re limited with studio space.
Alternatively, if you’re in a bigger room; midfield monitors are designed to be placed further away, at a further distance apart. While professional studios usually feature even bigger, full-range mains speakers.
See the below infographic for a guide on good-practice studio monitor placement.
Step 2. Choose Your Acoustic Foam
When choosing your strategy for adding acoustic panels, you basically have two options. Either buy some ready-made acoustic foam or build your own. If this is your first studio and you don’t have much experience with acoustic treatment, we’d recommend starting with at least 1 set of foam panels. It’s going to give you the best advantage to get a proper understanding of how an acoustically treated room should sound.
Head to the soundproofing section on our website, and you’ll find a number of different options. When choosing acoustic foam, there are generally 4 main features you want to compare.
Typically you’ll find acoustic panels in thicknesses of either 5cm or 10cm. Although traditional wisdom states that thicker is better, in this case, 5cm panels are considered the industry standard. They won’t absorb frequencies as low as 10cm panels, but Bass Traps will take care of these.
Size & Number
Packs of acoustic panels range from 10 packs, 20 packs, 50 packs, all the way up to packs of 100. But you’ll also have to take into account the dimensions, as that’s what’s going to make up the total surface area and wall coverage.
Another thing to consider with your acoustic panels when soundproofing is the Noise Reduction Coefficient rating (NRC). An NRC of 0 indicates perfect reflection. While an NRC of 1 indicates perfect absorption.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the type of 3D pattern found on the outer surface of your panels. Whether it’s eggshell shaped, pyramid, wedge, grid or something else. At the end of the day, the sonic differences between these patterns are minimal. So the best thing you can do is choose what pattern’s going to make your room look the best!
So which acoustic panels are best?
For the price, AVE’s range of acoustic foam offers some of the best specifications around, all at an affordable price. When compared to other cheap acoustic foam, a lot of the specs just don’t stack up! So you can’t go wrong with the AVE range in stock at DJ City!
Assuming you’re looking for a 10-pack of panels to start working on your home studio, you can’t go wrong with the following popular products.
These panels all have an NCR rating of .5, are fire-resistant, and have been rigorously tested. So you can be sure they’re going to do the job, all without breaking the bank. The only downside to the selection by AVE is that there’s currently no complete room package like you see from companies such as Auralex Acoustics. Although you’ll definitely pay a premium price if you decide to go that route.
Step 3. Work out where to stick your acoustic foam
Assuming you’ve purchased some acoustic foam, the next thing you want to do is cover your walls. Depending on the acoustic problems in your room, the ideal wall coverage could vary anywhere between 20-80%.
However, the only way to really know how much coverage is necessary; is to constantly re-test the acoustics after installing each panel using the clap test.
Generally speaking, many home studios have fewer than an ideal number of panels. Some even skip the maths and just place them in an aesthetically pleasing pattern. At the end of the day, some are better than none!
The Clap Test
The clap test is a quick and cost-free way to get a good idea of what you’re dealing with in your listening room. This can be done simply walking into the middle of your room and clapping your hands with a single sharp clap. But first, you’ll want to train your ears so you know what you’re looking for.
So first, do the single clap outside where you’re a substantial distance away from walls that could reflect the sound. Notice you’ll hear the cap and nothing else (No echo or any sound of the clap occurring after the initial clap).
Then, go back inside and try the clap. You’ll probably be able to hear your initial clap as well as additional reverberation from reflecting off walls and other objects. If the sound has a lengthy duration, this likely represents some acoustical problems. If it dies out quickly, it probably relates to better sound quality.
Practice the clapping test in different rooms to see if you can hear the difference!
Finding the optimal placement – Mirror Trick
The easiest and most effective method for finding the ideal positioning for your panels is by using the mirror trick, with the help of a friend! How do you do this you ask? Well, it’s actually quite simple!
- Sit in your listening position
- Have your assistant move a mirror across the wall surface in between you and the speakers
- Using a pencil, mark the beginning and endpoints where the speakers are visible in the mirror
- You’ll want to view both the left and right speakers in your mirror
- This is going to give you the area that’s going to be most ideally treated
- Then, repeat on the opposite side
- Get your acoustic foam up on the wall!
Step 4. Hang your acoustic foam on your walls
Assuming you have a small studio looking to make a start on improving your acoustics and soundproofing your room cheaply. You’re going to be looking at a bare minimum cost of $95! Which isn’t that expensive, all things considered.
Acoustic Panels – From $45
Cardboard or Project Board to stick on to – $30 Total
Glue/Adhesive Spray – If your panels don’t already come with adhesive – $10
Removable Adhesive / Command Strips – $10
TOTAL COST: $95
How to hang them without damaging your walls
It’s quite easy to hang your acoustic foam to your walls without damaging them using this simple method. While also preserving your foam for when you happen to move studios.
- Step 1. Spray the backs of your panels with adhesive
- Step 2. Press the foam against your project board / cardboard
- Step 3. Let the glue dry
- Step 4. Cut off the excess board or cardboard around your foam
- Step 5. Use removable command strips to stick them to your wall
Soundproof a room cheaply – Bass Traps
Another thing you’ll want to look into if you’re serious about soundproofing your room is getting some bass traps! Acoustic foam panels are effective for mid to high frequencies, although they fall short when trying to absorb the more powerful low-end waves.
Low-end frequencies have very long wavelengths, meaning you’ll need more foam to absorb these frequencies. That’s why bass traps are important for any room that’s going to be used for recording, mixing, or mastering. These low-end frequencies have a tendency to build up in the corners of a room, which is why you’ll most commonly see bass traps placed in the corners of a room.
Thicker foam = more expensive; and most homes and small studios don’t have space or funds to treat an entire wall with thick, bass trapping foam, and you wouldn’t want to do that either.
Build your own Bass Traps
There’s no question that bass traps are the most expensive part of soundproofing your room cheaply. So you can either pick up a set of four to keep in the corners of your space. Or alternatively, you can head to bunnings and build your own at a fraction of the price.
You’ll need acoustic insulation, some timber, and light fabric to layer over the top. Again, head to your local hardware store and you’ll be able to pick up everything you need to build your own.
The Final Say – Soundproof a room cheaply
That’s it! Follow the steps in this article and you’ll be on your way to soundproofing a room cheaply. We’ve included some extra quick tips below to make sure you’ve covered everything!
- In a typical small room, you might place an absorber panel at each side of your listening position. Covering the mirror points we talked about above.
- Where possible, also put another panel on the ceiling above your head and covering the mirror points. You might also want to put panels on the walls behind your monitors.
- Place bass traps in whatever corners are accessible to absorb those heavy low-end frequencies.