Last Updated on November 14, 2020 by Facundo
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 that block sound not allowing it to get in or out of the room.
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 consists in using materials that absorb sound to reduce the room’s natural echo, or reverb.
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 also 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, since it’s usually the same steps one needs to follow when soundproofing any sort of room.
What does soundproofing accomplish?
Soundproofing a room will lower the amount of noise that is allowed both in- and out of the room.
You may not realize how much noise actually exists until you start recording because our brain usually filters out all those noises so that they don’t distract us.
But as soon as you put those headphones on to record, unless it’s dead quiet, I assure you you will be surprised at how many random noises the mic can pick up.
So, in this post I’ll teach you the basics of soundproofing your home studio as well as how to reduce- or deal with any hardware noises, like the A/C, computer cooling fans, 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
Soundproofing is actually fairly simple and consists of only a few easy-to-follow steps.
- Sealing the Gaps where Sound can get In or Out
- Add Mass to the Doors and Walls
- 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, so make sure to do this properly.
Steps to sealing the gaps
- Use a Brush Weatherstrip: Weatherstrips are the best way of creating an air-tight seal between the frame and the door/window. Use a weatherstrip like this one and make sure to get enough.
- Install a Door Sweep: Door sweeps cover up the gap between the door and the floor, blocking additional sound. Depending on the door, you could use a regular one or a brush sweep.
- Use Acoustic Caulk: Acoustic Caulk should be used to cover up any small cracks that might have formed over the years between the frame and the wall.
- Install Acoustic Blankets: Acoustic Blankets can be hung on the doors and windows to create an additional barrier for sound to have to go through.
These are just the four basic steps that I’d recommend you follow, and if done correctly, the difference should be very noticeable.
In fact, in 99% of situations, this should already be enough.
If you need more in-depth guides on how to insulate both the doors and the windows, then make sure to read these two guides;
2. Add Mass to the doors and walls
What “adding mass” means is to simply make the door/walls thicker, which essentially makes it harder for sound to get through.
Here are your options;
Install Rigid Foam Insulation on the Door
To install rigid foam insulation on the doors it’s as easy as cutting it to the exact dimensions of the door and then nailing it to it.
Granted, this will ruin the door, but it will help.
Of course, you could hang a couple acoustic blankets on the door using velcro, and this may provide a similar reduction in noise.
Add an extra layer of drywall
This is an effective way of adding mass to the walls, even though it can take a lot of time and money.
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, while very effective at blocking sound, is very heavy and only comes in black, which is why if you decide to go this route you should wrap it in some sort of fabric that you like to make it look nicer.
If you install drywall, then attach MLV to the back of it in order to get the best results.
As far as the doors, if you don’t care about ruining it, then you could nail the MLV to it.
Another option is to use high quality velcro to adhere it to the door, but it needs to be really strong otherwise it won’t be able to hold the weight of the vinyl.
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.
Of course, this step will only be necessary if you decide to install drywall, MLV, or anything else where this compound could be used.
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.
Another way would be to place a thick rug under your amps, drumkit, or any other object in the home studio that might vibrate and transmit those vibrations to another structure.
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.
So, here’s how to deal with these issues.
Lowering the 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 more 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, which doesn’t make too much sense!
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. Lower the power consumption of the CPU
This step might seem a bit weird to some of you, but I managed to lower the temperatures of my laptop by lowering the CPU power from 100% to 99%, and this alone lowered the temperatures of the CPU drastically, which in-turn makes the cooling kick in a lot less.
I haven’t notice any performance drops as well, so give that a try.
On PC you need to go to “Edit Power Plan”, click on advanced and go to “Maximum Processor State” and change the “plugged-in” setting from 100 to 99.
4. 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 recordings simply because all the ambient sound will be picked up by the microphones, and this won’t sound as professional.
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 are probably the best way to improve the acoustic treatment in your home studio; they are cheap, easy to install, and work incredibly well.
Now, while you could get the regular foam panels that they sell on Amazon, I wouldn’t recommend them since they are nowhere near as good as the ones made from rockwool, fiberglass, or even towels… yes, towels.
If you want to purchase acoustic panels, then I‘d recommend these ones that are also available on Amazon, but you can make them yourself for a fraction of the price.
Here’s a complete guide on how to make Rockwool acoustic panels for roughly $15 per panel, or you could make them with towels.
Note: While acoustic panels made out of towels are much better than regular foam ones, but not as good as rockwool panels.
How to make acoustic panels using towels?
Note: Acoustic panels can not only be installed on the walls, but also the ceiling, which is one place that many people tend to skip when treating the acoustics of their room.
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 because they lack thickness and because of where those frequencies are usually causing the most issues.
You should consider investing in some bass traps that are designed to specifically target those lower frequencies and absorb them properly.
These should be installed on the corners of the room and should go, if possible, from the floor all the way up to the ceiling.
3. Get a Big Rug
The best materials for sound absorption are thick, dense and heavy… and that describes a rug perfectly!
A thick and dense rug (Affiliate Link to Amazon) 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. Use 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.