How To Soundproof A Room Cheaply – For DJs & Music Producers
Every professional that I speak to from audio engineers to producers and musicians say that they wish they had treated their space earlier. Acoustical treatment is a science based on some pretty intense maths. You can tune your space, and dive right into the rabbit hole, there are programs to help you and then engineers that can tell you exactly what you’ll need. It can be expensive, we have been researching how to soundproof a room cheaply to try and,
a) Take the expense scare out of the process
b) Make treating your room accessible to studio’s and producers big and small.
Because, it seems as though everybody gets paralyzed after seeing how deep the rabbit hole is, and never/ or eventually get around to treating their room.
We are firm believers that no one should be lost in reflections!
I don’t know about you… But I love my studio monitors, I know them, I saved up to buy them, they were my most expensive piece of kit, and committing to a pair felt like I had leveled up in my production journey. Then, like so many other producers I put them in an untreated workspace. I was daunted by the science, the apparent expense, I rent, etc etc… My prized possession wasn’t given the space to perform its best.
With the saving involved and pride I have for them, it seemed pointless to carry on without treating my space. I planned to go through the process gradually, as I built up funds and knew what I was going to need next.
My mentors had told me time and time again the having a controlled space is like gold, your production will progress so much faster. And, your listening space will be MINT.
Benefits of a treated room;
- Produce a better sounding that sound great no matter where you play them.
- Hear your mix, not your room. Hear the details with clarity, so you can accurately assess audio through critical listening.
- Have the confidence to charge your clients more for any audio production services you offer.
- Save time during production by working in a space with controlled acoustics. Stop having to go back to compensate for a bad sounding recording or an unbalanced mix.
- Listen to music the way it was meant to be heard. Enjoy the subtle nuances. Experience a beautifully layered sound stage with realistic depth and vivid stereo imaging. Close your eyes and feel like you’re in the room with the performers.
- Capture organic, lively recordings with natural reverberation.
- Hear your musical performances with clarity and beautiful ambiance that enhances the natural sound of your instruments.
SO, How to soundproof a room cheaply?
Cheaply is a big word when it comes to acoustical treatment.
Audio-based technology has 3 tiers;
- Beginner, the cheapest with products aimed at allowing you to learn and get a thirst for an upgrade.
- Intermediate, quality sound and builds, every item will need to be saved and planned for, premium grade without the epic premium pro costs.
- AND the Pro tier, the big boy expense, all the bells and whistles, your studio is a floating room within another room, your audio interface cost you $3000 and you have a club system in your studio to practice on.
Since this is my first attempt at the acoustical treatment I am going to use foam, I fall into the intermediate category, I’m on a budget but will spend on the right products. I am aiming for longevity as well as quality in my current studio.
Fill ALL the gaps. If air can travel, so can sound. You can an acoustic gap filler, at this point just fill all your gaps! Then rubber seal your windows and doors, it’ll cost you about 7 bucks from Bunnings.
Find your listening spot, and use your speaker placement skills to find the optimal spot.
***** Be sure to have your speaker either above or below the halfway point between the floor and ceiling!
Off the wall is best generally, a gap of 0 to 20 cm between your speakers and the front wall is a good starting point. But, check your loudspeaker specs for a recommended minimum distance.
Set up your speakers so that the tweeters are close to your head height. Although most speakers are designed to be used with the tweeters aimed directly at your head, it is worth experimenting with their ‘toe’ angle to try to maximise the imaging stability and the size of the listening area sweet spot. Sometimes you’ll find they work better when turned outwards to point just behind your head, though sometimes they may give better imaging if aimed to meet slightly in front of the listening position — it all depends on the dispersion of the speakers and reflections from local surfaces such as the desk, mixer, computer monitors and so on. Unless the speakers are designed to be used on their sides, stand them upright, as this will give the widest sweet spot and the evenest frequency response.
You want the same distance between your speakers and your ears, an equilateral triangle.
Choose a Strategy
The 2 basic strategies to add acoustic panels to your studio are:
- Build your own – which requires a trip to Bunnings, and some carpentry skills, get bunnings to do the cuts for you… You will save some money, and you will have to be organised.
- Buy them – which requires less work, but is also more expensive.
If you consider yourself the handyman type, you’ll probably be inclined to build your own, if it’s your first studio and you have zero experience with acoustic treatment, starting with at least 1 box of commercial panels is going to be easier. You’ll get an understanding of how an acoustically treated room should sound.
Commercial Acoustic Foam 101
The 4 key features to compare are:
- Acoustic panels typically come in thicknesses of either 5cm or 10cm. And while 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 that’s OK. Because Bass Traps will sort out those frequencies.
- Standard bundles normally come in packages of: 6 /12 / 24, in dimensions of; 30cm²/ 60cm² / 60cm × 120cm. Specs are more important together as they make up the total surface area of wall coverage. Coverage will vary a good starting point for most home studios is around 14m².
- Many starter packages include 1 of 3 combinations:
- 48 – 30cm² panels
- 12 – 60cm² panels
- 6 – 2 60cm × 120cm panels
- Using smaller panels in your home studio will cause less damage! They are lighter and can be more-easily mounted using non-permanent adhesives.
- NRC Rating
- Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating” between 0 and 1, which measures its effectiveness at absorbing sound. The higher the number, the greater the absorption.
- Surface Pattern
- Most panels will have some type of 3D-pattern on their outer surface…wedge or saw and pyramid are the most common. The sonic differences of the patterns are minimal. Choose what pattern appeals to you the most!
This acoustic foam from AVE has some of the best specs I’ve been able to find, at an affordable price… Most of the lower acoustic foam market, ie Ebay, Kogan and more, simply state that it’s foam. Nice one guys, I picked up on THAT!
The AVE ISO-Wedge in Black, Burgundy or Purple and AVE ISO-Grid have an NCR rating of .5, are Fire resistant, have been rigorously tested, they are light, and premium but not break the bank expensive. They dont have a complete room package, which is a convenient feature from larger companies such as Aurlax Acoustics.
Cover every surface with soft furnishings, and depending on your room’s acoustic problems…
The ideal wall coverage could vary anywhere between 20-80%.
In your room, the only way to know how much coverage is necessary…
Is to constantly re-test the acoustics after each new panel, using the clap test
And while it’s not likely, it is possible that you won’t even need all your panels to reach the sound you want. Generally, home studios have fewer than the ideal number of panels… Some are much better than none!!
So to get best results from the panels you have set them up like this:
**Covering an area of one wall, leave its reflection point open on the opposite wall…because one panel is sufficient to kill standing waves in that spot.
Sound travels like this;
Thanks to the mathematicians in the world we know how to find our reflection points without having to crunch numbers! The mirror test, free and spot on. Here’s how to do it…
The Mirror Test:
For optimal placement, the easiest and most effective was to position the panels is to use a mirror. ** The Mirror Test is a 2 man job!
- Sit in the 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 end points where the speakers are visible in the mirror
- Note that you will want to view the left and right speakers (and center if used) in the mirror
- This will define the area that would be ideally treated
- Repeat on opposite side
This is where you’ll place the acoustic foam!
How to soundproof a room cheaply?
I have come up with my most cost-effective and quality method for sound treating my studio, in my rental house.
Here’s the breakdown;
My space is 15m2.
The Auralex Acoustics site has a room sixe guide that I followed and the ALPHA-DST pack will have everything I need, 32 WEDGE panels, 4 bass traps, and Tube Tak Pro, or glue! This solution comes in at $809.
I have been thinking about building my own bass traps, with my small space I would like a light colour in the corners and I need a removable solution due to renting, so The Tube Tak Pro is unnecessary.
The smaller Auralex Pack D36 comes in $259 (sale price of $249 at the time of writing this), I’ll need 2… Which will cover 2x 3.35m2 6.7m2 and cost $498 (on sale!).
The NCR rating of the included panels is .6 & .65.
The AVE Packs I’ve discovered cover 1.6m2 each (10 pieces in each pack). Which means I’ll need 4 packs, costing $49 per pack my total cost will be $196. That is a $300 saving, the NCR rating is .1 under Auralex, competitive factors to consider!
In my position, I feel as though the .1 is worth the saving… This is my first studio treatment project, I have produced without any treatment until now, AVE also has a local support team that will be able to answer all my questions. Plus, I’ll be able to build my bass traps with the spare cash.
I have gone with using a moving blanket to cover the window which I also bought at Bunnings for 30 bucks. I bought 3 Project Boards to glue my foam onto, at 9.90 each. Totaling $30 and I grabbed some of this glue to be sure the foam would stick to plastic… $21 and I hung my panels with some picture hanging strips, 15 sets of strips for $16.
Medium density panel AVE ISOWEDGE Pack 2x $49 ea discounted to $89
Higher Density Panel AVE ISOGRID Pack 2x $49 ea discounted to $89
Project board 9.90×3= $29.70
Glue = $21
Strips = $16
Door seal = $7
Moving blanket = $30
No more gaps for my Windows = $9.75
Total Spend: $291.45
Auralex Pack D36 2x $249 = $498
Project board 9.90×3= $29.70
Glue = $21
Strips = $16
Door seal = $7
Moving blanket = $30
No more gaps for my Windows = $9.75
Total Spend: $611.45
How to soundproof a room cheaply; Budget Bass Trap Guide
Acoustic insulation insulation, recycled timber, and a light fabric.
Earthwool R2.5HD 90 x 430mm 6.98m2 Wall Acoustic and Thermal Batts – 14 Pack = $53.90
Timber – free acquired through a house demolition, screws.
Fabric 50m of matt white fabric off eBay = $10
I used some wood glue and a staple gun that I already owned.
Total Spend = $63.90
Total of bass traps and AVE foam coverage = $355.35
The maths-free DIY approach does work surprisingly well, it is affordable, and there are lots of companies making suitable acoustics products, with lots of DIY options as well.
TIPS on how to soundproof a room cheaply;
- In a typical small room, one 2 x 4-foot mid/high absorber panel might be placed at each side of the listening position, so that it also covers the mirror points (the points where you can see, from your mixing position, the monitors in a mirror held flat against the wall).
- Where possible, also put a further panel on the ceiling above your head, again covering the mirror points. If it’s practical, you can also put panels on the walls behind the monitors.
- Arrange scattering and absorption at the rear of the room, combining furniture and shelving with further trapping if you need it if your room is 2.5-3m in length.
- Place bass traps in whatever corners are accessible, after first evaluating the need using the chromatic sine-wave sequence I referred to near the start of this article.
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