In order for anyone to be able to record high quality audio, getting rid of any noises that might interfere is a must.
Soundproofing your home studio will definitely help your recordings get to a whole different level, since there won’t be any car noises, or people talking, etc. in the background.
In this guide I will teach you how to properly soundproof your home music studio as well as how to install some acoustic treatment, since this is far more important.
Difference between Soundproofing and Acoustic Treatment
Soundproofing consists in utilizing materials which block sound not allowing it to get in or out of the room you’re in.
Example: If you live on a busy street and you want to lower the car noises coming in to your apartment, then you would need to soundproof the apartment.
Acoustic Treatment, on the other hand, consists of managing the sound generated INSIDE of the room by absorbing the soundwaves as best as possible, not allowing them to bounce all over the place.
This is essential for any music studio since you don’t want the microphones to pick up any of the ambient noise.
This is why acoustic treatment is far more important than soundproofing when it comes to a home recording studio, because outside noises tend not to be as consistent, which means that you can choose a time in the day, or late at night, to record since there will be fewer unwanted sounds coming in.
Of course, soundproofing still plays a very important role but it tends to be far more expensive and takes more time as well.
If you’re on a budget, then I’d suggest you start by treating your room’s acoustics first.
How to Soundproof a Home Music Studio
In order for you to learn how to properly soundproof a home studio we first have to go over the basics of soundproofing and what can be accomplished with it.
What does soundproofing accomplish?
Soundproofing a room makes it so that outside noises can’t come in as well as keeping the loud noises, like the ones a drum makes, inside so as to not disturb other people.
You may not realize how much noise actually exists until you start recording.
This is something that happened to me the first time I wanted to record a song at home. We get used to outside noises so we just filter them out, but the microphone will pick up all those sounds and there’s absolutely no way to get rid of them once recorded.
Another thing to consider is hardware noise, which is generated inside the room. It’s highly important that it doesn’t get picked up by the microphones, so you may need to soundproof your PC, A/C unit, etc.
The most common outside noises are; Traffic, people, weather, etc.
The most common equipment noises are; Computer fans, A/C units and hardware racks.
The basics of soundproofing
- Sealing the Gaps where Sound can get In or Out
- Adding Mass
- Apply a Noiseproofing Compound
1. Sealing the Gaps where Sound can get In or Out
This is the cheapest yet most important step if you’re dealing with noises that are coming in through the doors or the windows, or any open gap for that matter.
Sealing even the tiniest gap is essential when soundproofing a home studio, make sure to do this properly.
There are four basic ways of doing this;
- Weatherstrip; A weatherstrip like this one can be used to seal off any gaps between the frame and the door/window. Cut it to the required size, adhere it to the frame and you’re done.
- Acoustic Caulk; This acoustic sealant is perfect for covering up any holes between the frames and the wall, between layers of drywall, or for sealing any holes in the room for that matter.
- Acoustic Putty; This soundproofing material is essential when trying to soundproof odd shapes like an electrical outlet, which is far more important than you may realize.
- Door Sweep; A door sweep will cover up the gap between the door and the floor, effectively lowering the amount of noise getting in and out of the room.
Here are two complete guides on how to soundproof the doors and the windows;
2. Adding Mass
In order to prevent sound from entering or exiting the room, the walls require a lot off mass which will prevent them from vibrating in response to the sound’s energy.
This also applies to the ceiling and the doors.
If you’re building the walls from scratch, then it would be advisable to add some soundproofing materials to the wall itself.
Since this won’t be the case for most of you, you are going to have to add mass externally.
Here are the best options;
Add an extra layer of drywall
This is an effective way of adding mass to the walls and it’s a very affordable one too.
By installing another layer of drywall, you are essentially adding another barrier, making it harder for sound to get in or out.
Tip: Apply green glue to the back of each drywall panel, don’t worry to much about the pattern, just make sure that it’s uniformly applied.
Install Mass Loaded Vinyl
Mass loaded vinyl is the standard soundproofing solution for professional and DIY projects. It’s effective and easy to install.
Applying it to the walls, ceiling or even doors will further decrease the noises inside the room.
Mass loaded vinyl can be used to soundproof almost anything, and it seriously works.
3. Apply a Noiseproofing Compound
Noiseproofing compounds, like the one from Green Glue, transform the kinetic energy of the soundwaves into heat, helping it dissipate.
The way to apply it is by “sandwiching” it between two panels, be it drywall, medium density fiberboard, etc. making sure that it’s been applied evenly.
Don’t worry too much about the pattern, just try and apply it in a uniform manner across the entire surface.
Also, make sure to use a generous amount for best results.
Sound vibrations can easily transfer from one structure to another if they are in direct contact, which can make the problem even worse than what it was before.
Here you need to find a way of blocking that transfer of sound/vibration by isolating each structure with an anti-vibration rubber.
- Floating Floor: Floor joists sit on rubber inserts ensuring internal floor bases don’t directly touch the structural floor. This keeps airborne and impact sounds from transmitting to other structures.
- Building extra walls: Building another wall which isn’t in contact with the previous one leaves an air gap between them which naturally blocks sound. Insulating this space will make it even more effective.
The basic principle is to use any type of anti-vibration material to isolate the vibrations from being transmitted to other structures.
Next on the list we have a very important issue to talk about which is….
Lowering Computer and Air Conditioner Noises
Both the PC and de A/C are essential components of any professional or home studio, but the issue is that they can end up generating a lot of unwanted noise which may be hard to deal with.
You can’t record without a PC and I believe that no one wants to be stuck in a box recording for hours on end without an Air conditioner…
Lowering Computer Noise
Computers tend to be very silent, most of them already have cooling systems that don’t generate too much noise.
The issue arises when you push the PC and the temperature starts to rise; The fans kick in, which is obviously good otherwise the components could overheat, but they make a very loud and constant humming noise.
The options at your disposal will be different depending on whether you are using a Desktop PC or a Laptop, but first let’s take a look at two options which will work regardless of the type of PC you have.
1. Have your computer in another Room
In almost every recording studio you will notice that the producer sits in one room while the band is playing in another one.
This is by far the simplest way to make sure that none of the gear that the producer requires interferes in any way with the recording.
2. Create maximum acoustic separation
This isn’t the ideal solution, but it will help quite a lot and it’s free.
Step 1: Try and increase the distance between the microphones and the computer.
Step 2: Use Dynamic Microphones since they are extremely directional and less sensitive to the frequency of the computer’s noise.
Step 3: Point the microphone away from the computer.
Step 4: Install acoustic treatment, at least some basic foam panels, especially behind the performer.
When you see most vocal booths on the internet, the sound absorbing material is behind the microphone’s sensitive side, this isn’t ideal!
You need to have sound dampening materials behind the performer so that the soundwaves don’t reflect off the surfaces behind him and back into the mic.
3. Use a Laptop Stand
The way a laptop stand works is very simple; By elevating the Laptop air is allowed to flow beneath it which will help it maintain lower temperatures more easily.
Sure, the fans will still engage from time to time, but not nearly as often.
4. Get an Isolation Box or build one Yourself
This method only works for a Desktop PC since you need to place it inside this box.
Most big recording studios use these types of soundproof boxes in order to reduce computer- and other hardware noises.
More information about these boxes Here.
Making them yourself can take some time, but it might be worth it, especially if you have a very loud PC.
An added benefit of making one yourself is that you can also create one big enough to fit a guitar amp in it, making it ideal for recording without driving your neighbors crazy.
You will need to make a wooden box and adhere acoustic foam to the inside using acoustic caulk. Also, apply acoustic caulk where each of the wooden panels meet.
Important Note: Overheating might be an issue so make sure to add adequate ventilation to the box if you make it yourself.
Lowering the A/C noise
Even if you live in a place where the climate is cold, after 3-4 hours of sitting in a recording studio with close to no ventilation, it’s going to get hot.
Nobody wants to be sweaty nor be surrounded by sweaty people in a small- ventless space, so having a working A/C is a must.
1. Stop the Air Conditioner’s flaps from moving
The A/C’s flaps tend to generate a lot more unwanted noise than you might realize, so make sure to set the settings in such a way that they stay still.
If this isn’t possible then your best bet would be to read the manual to see how to remove them entirely.
2. Build a Sound Dampener
This won’t completely solve the problem, but it will at least absorb some of the A/C’s sound, making it more manageable.
You will only need some pieces of plywood or medium density fiberboard, acoustic foam and some effort.
It should look something like this;
3. Seal the gaps
If you followed the initial steps in this guide, then all the gaps should already be perfectly sealed.
However, one might forget that the outside unit of the A/C is actually the one that makes all the noise which means that in order to reduce it you need to plug every hole and gap as best you can.
4. Dealing with Central A/C’s
The only way to deal with the noise generated by a central A/C is by removing the vents.
This works mainly because some vents can rattle from the airflow, generating unwanted noises.
If none of these four steps work, then it might be time to get a new, and more silent, air conditioner.
Acoustic Treatment for a Home Studio
As I mentioned earlier, acoustic treatment is far more important for a home recording studio than soundproofing simply because you can choose when to record and avoid outside noises.
At first, I used to think that better gear was more important than acoustic treatment when in fact it’s the other way around.
Acoustic treatment will make or break your recording simply because all the ambient sound will be picked up by the microphones, which isn’t even close to ideal.
What does acoustic treatment accomplish?
Acoustic treatment utilizes sound absorbing materials to deaden the sounds inside a room, not allowing the soundwaves to bounce off the walls, ceiling and floors making sounds die out much quicker.
This is especially good for recording since it removes the room’s natural reverb, making the recording clearer and more professional sounding.
1. Install Acoustic Panels
Acoustic panels will absorb most of the soundwaves reducing the overall noise level inside the room.
You can also make acoustic panels yourself, all you need is some wood to make the frames, a couple towels and a little bit of handiwork.
How to make acoustic panels?
Step 1: Make a frame out of some pieces of wood.
Step 2: Get some old towels.
Step 3: Get a nice-looking towel and staple it to what’s going to be the front of the panel, making sure to tense it up before stapling.
Step 4: Cut the old towels to the exact measurements of the inside of the frame.
Step 5: Stack the towels on top of each other.
Step 6: Place them on top of a bigger/uncut towel and sew them together.
Step 7: Simply staple the bigger towel to the frame, making sure that the cut towels fit perfectly inside the frame, and finally cut off the excess fabric.
Here’s a video by DIY Perks showing how to make them.
This method is fantastic for two reasons; It’s extremely cheap, and even better than that, towels are excellent at absorbing sound.
Note: Acoustic panels can not only be installed on the walls, but also the ceiling.
2. Install Bass Traps
Regular acoustic panels are great at absorbing lots of sounds, but when it comes to the lower frequencies, they don’t do that great of a job.
You should consider investing in some bass traps which are designed to specifically target those lower frequencies and absorb them properly.
When it comes to bass traps it’s not necessary to get that many. About four should be enough.
3. Big Rug
The best materials for sound absorption are thick, dense and heavy… that describes a rug perfectly!
A thick and dense rug will keep the soundwaves from bouncing off the floor and back into the room, plus they also absorb vibrations, which means that placing a thick rug under the drums and amplifiers will also help a lot.
4. Acoustic Blankets
The great thing about acoustic blankets is their versatility.
They can be hung from walls, ceilings, doors, windows, basically anywhere you can think of, and since most of them have grommets, the installation takes like two seconds.
Acoustic blankets are a good and affordable alternative to acoustic panels for the simple reason that they cost about 1/10 of what a good quality acoustic panel does yet they are still great sound absorbers.
I’d recommend you get this pack of 12 acoustic blankets on Amazon.
5. Acoustic curtains
When it comes to a home studio environment, acoustic curtains can actually be very useful for the simple fact that you can close them when you want to record and open them again once you’re done and let some light in.
You can get them in a variety of colors. This will allow you to use them not just for soundproofing purposes, but also for decoration, since they look quite nice.
My recommendation for the best soundproof curtains are the NICETOWN blackout soundproofing curtains. They are super affordable, easy to install and work quite well.
If you have a bit more to spend and you absolutely need to reduce the outside noise, then I’d recommend getting two pairs instead of one and overlapping them.
The higher the density the harder it will be for the sound to get through.
6. Utilize the Furniture to your Advantage
When first building a home studio, unless you have the budget for every single piece of equipment you need, utilizing the furniture to absorb unwanted noises will make a huge difference.
Placing a massive bookcase against a wall and filling it up with books and other sound absorbing materials, like pillows, etc. should drastically decrease the amount of echo in the room as well as help with the soundproofing of said wall.
Soundproofing a home music studio will take time, effort and a bit of an investment, but it’s definitely something you should prioritize, just like acoustic treatment.
Once you are done with this process you can start looking forward to getting the essential home studio gear, like microphones, audio interfaces, etc. (link to a complete home studio gear guide by thehomerecordings.com).
Sure, you can record without soundproofing or acoustically treating the room, it just won’t sound anywhere near as good.