How To Soundproof A Room
If you are ready to start music production and search on how to soundproof a room, then you will probably stumble upon for some easy steps, to begin with.
When I started djing and making music in my 10sq.m home recording studio, I didn’t have close neighbors or loud noises to bother them or me. Even if I had, I was so new and excited to experiment with my equipment that didn’t care. Until my very first music productions, I did not have to spend a single penny on soundproofing or acoustic treatment in my recording space. Later on, I understood the importance of a well isolated acoustic room.
Effective Room Setups
Considering what room is perfect for home recording is essential. Not just to the acoustic quality of your recordings, but also for your own comfort as an engineer.
Large spaces such as a garage or home study are great since they allow sound to carry out as well as offer enough room for equipment storage. The orientation of how gear is setup is also important. While it may seem convenient to encircle your workstation with equipment and instruments, this poses a problem once more than one person is in the room, and it can make free movement difficult.
By designating one portion of the room to record and the other to production/mixing, space becomes more accessible to navigate and is conducive to higher productivity.
Choosing the right room to establish as your recording space is about as important as the equipment it’s outfitted with. Some key characteristics to have in mind when deciding what room to designate as a workspace are how high the ceilings are, whether the walls are asymmetrical, and how quiet the area is. High ceilings allow for sound to carry out, which is essential when recording instruments such as live drums. Too small of a space will cause the sound of the drums to reflect off close surfaces, leading the recording’s quality to diminish from unwanted sonic feedback.
Asymmetrical walls can also compromise the stereo image to your recording. Hence, it’s crucial to place your monitors so that the projected playback of your audio runs along the length of the room, and it is as symmetrical as possible. Achieving near-absolute silence with a studio is vital for ensuring quality recording sessions; if say traffic or running water is audible, then any attempts at recording would become a fruitless nightmare. Understanding how sound functions in an enclosed space, and understanding what can be done to treat it, can make a world of difference for how your recordings.
Treating A Room’s Acoustics
While the points already covered will guarantee a practical beginner’s studio setup for home recording, more advanced home studios would benefit from appropriate acoustic treatment to the recording space. Most rooms within a house have poor acoustics, to begin with. Something that may not seem apparent, like what material the room’s walls are made of. It can have a tremendous impact on the way audio is treated in your studio.
Sound is typically either reflected, absorbed, or diffused when it comes in contact with a surface. This can be detrimental to the control you have over the quality of your recordings. Especially in the advent of standing waves. Standing waves occur when sound reverberates off of two parallel surfaces. Most rooms within a household offer solid walls that lead to this phenomenon to occur. By implementing a blend of soundproof panels and diffusers, your home studio will be able to retain the desired sound of your recorded audio, despite the house’s structural limits. Together, the panels and diffusers, absorb any unwanted frequency while supporting the natural tone of whatever you record.
In essence, the theory behind soundproofing is meant to reduce the likelihood of sound resonating off objects within a recording environment. Typical modern homes enforce at least 35 dB of sound isolation. The advent of unwanted audio interference can be further subdued by patching any cracks and holes that allow air to pass through within the room. The most common area for air permeance is through crevices of the door. Installing rubber, and metal gaskets is a useful additive measure for canceling the flow of unwanted noise. Every angle and crack of a room should be inspected and controlled if acoustic purity is to be achieved.
“Soundproofing” and “acoustic treatment” are two different things
Before we start is good to clarify that there are two operations associated with the sound quality in your room that should concern you. Often mistaken one from another, soundproofing and acoustic treatment are two different but both essential if you want to take music production and recording seriously.
Soundproof will make your room quieter by limiting the sounds inside your room and block the ambient sounds. Meaning a well soundproof wall/ceiling/floor will stop the audio from transferring to other surfaces.
Acoustic-treatment, on the other hand, will allocate and distribute the sound suitable in your room. Also, it will absorb excessive ambiance, giving a better quality on your recording. In other words, you need to modify the acoustics in your room to change how the sound reacts before arriving at the final destination, your ears.
With the current digital technology, everyone can own a home recording studio. It’s up to you to either reconcile with that, or you can invest time, energy and a couple of bucks to upgrade to a semi-pro quality recording studio.
And if you are also dreaming for your own home recording studio check how to build a home recording studio at under $600.
The location you will pick for your studio sets out the assets for the build of a quality soundproofed recording studio. Avoid using a room close to a bedroom or any other place that you may disturb people. Better pick a room where by default you hear less ambient noise. The bigger the room, the hardest will get to achieve an excellent soundproof. Pick a small to average size room with less possible windows or not at all if you are ok working under artificial light. Otherwise, you will need a single, double glazed unit over the window or a sheet of acoustic glass to cover it.
The most important is to be comfortable in your workplace. I personally prefer a soothing and less distracted studio room with no windows. Only if the daylight works better for you, then you will have to spend a bit more money and energy to isolate your windows properly.
DOORS & VENTILATION
Except for the windows in your room, there are probably one or two doors that need to be closed and sealed well. If you are lucky enough to have a heavy door can be advantageous. Otherwise, it will be good to increase the mass of it. Make sure that the door is well sealed when it is closed if not, draught excluders and door seals are essential.
A good trick to check for any sound leakage is to ask a friend to hold a flashlight from one side. Then you can seal wherever you see the light pass through. If the possibility to work in a muggy room with sealed doors and no windows make you skeptic, you can add an air vent.
For health reasons, it is essential to have the proper ventilation in your room. Also, the continued lack of fresh air in the room can cause your studio equipment to collect moisture and gets damaged. The air vent on that case will cause sound leakage. But with a simple shaped “S” MDF acoustic box with acoustic foam inside will fix the problem sufficiently. A reminder not to place the air vent where the sun shines because on hot days will bring warm air inside your studio.
ROOM WITHIN A ROOM
I hope things look easy so far and you can probably finish the first steps in a day or two. The next one takes serious commitment, time, and money investing the will upgrade your studio.
As an electronic music producer who rarely records vocals or instruments this step is not so important. You can soundproof the walls, floor, and ceiling how we will review below and you are good to go. If from the other hand you are planning to record a band with drums, strings, keys, and other physical instruments then this step is necessary.
Building a room within a room is a job for professionals. There are a few books you can buy and give you step by step guidance on how to do it, but it’s not an easy task.
The basic idea is that you need to isolate the inside room from the surrounding structure. In other words to get your new wall to “float” on the existing one. The same concept should be applied to your floor as well.
There are 2-3 tactics that will help you achieve maximum possible soundproofing into your studio. And I say maximum because no matter what you will do, it is impossible to manage perfect soundproofing.
One of the most important procedures to sound isolation is to make the walls harder to “move”. And therefore prevent the transmission of sound through walls. If you are building your studio from the start, sufficient mass can be added by simply forming the walls thicker with dense material like concrete. Otherwise, adding mass to an existing wall can be done in two ways. Either by adding a minimum of two layers of drywall or by adding material into the wall such as the TMS Mass Loaded Vinyl.
You probably already imagine adding drywalls on your walls but don’t forget the ceiling as well. Not only attach drywall but for better results, three layers will do the job.
Damping in another soundproof method which converts kinetic energy from sound waves to heat. The combination use of minimum two layer drywall and damping stuff will remove a big part of the sound vibration before it enters the construction walls or ceiling. There are many options of commercial “soundproof drywall” panels that work fine. Unfortunately, they cost a lot, and they may not perform very well with the low frequencies.
Instead of buying ready-to-use panels, there is a cheaper solution by using standard drywall and between two of those rigid panels to use damping compound. Green Glue Noiseproofing is one of the best and most popular damping compounds in the market.
The best way to isolate two structures in your room that are in direct contact causing a sound vibration from one to another is decoupling. There are many products in the market like the Auralex Acoustics U-Boat Floor Floaters that can be used to the newly structured floor resulting from striking out the transfer of energy.
It is essential that all small cracks and holes in your doors, walls, windows, and the rest in your room be sealed up air-tight. An acoustic caulk can be used almost on any type of surface, and it will achieve excellent results. The St. Gobain Green Glue Noiseproofing Sealant is the best option here. You can also check some automatic door bottoms that will block perfectly the cleft between the door and floor.
NOISE FROM OTHER DEVICES
Keep in mind that when you buy a PC, A/C, or any other device that they might produce noise. Pesky sounds that will mess with your recordings. Believe me; it can be more frustrating than you might think. Apple products are usually relatively quiet and other PCs. All offers a very low noise level that you can find in the descriptions. AirConditions also mention the noise level of the product. Mitsubishi MSZ Ultra Quiet A/C offers a 19dB noise level, and to realize how much this is, the background noise of a public library is 30dB.
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