How to Soundproof a Room in Your Home Recording Studio
Once you’ve picked a space that will be transformed into your home recording studio and assessed the sound quality of the room, the next step will most likely be to figure out how to soundproof a room and what soundproofing materials you may need.
In general, soundproofing is a basic measure that all recording studios incorporate. However, if you’ve noticed any echoes or unsuitable sounds on your playback test recording (taken in your room), then you will definitely want to soundproof. Thankfully, soundproofing doesn’t have to include major renovations and can be done within your budget.
Bob Breen from Armor Pro Audio discusses how you can soundproof your potential recording space and turn it into a great studio, just as he did with the Voices studio space. He suggests that when you’re talking about soundproofing, you need to look at the sound that is coming from outside of the room, as well as the sound that already exists inside of the room.
A quick note on the differences between sound treatment and soundproofing, why both are important, and how to achieve both on a budget before growing out of your entry-level recording space:
3 Steps to Soundproofing Your Home Studio with Bob Breen
1. Filter Out Unwanted External Sound
When setting up the Voices studio, the first thing Bob did was take a look at the door. While it may seem obvious, it’s still worth noting that entry points into your room are also entry points for sound to come in…and for sound to escape to.
So, if you have doors or windows in the space you intend to use for recording, you will want to inspect them and make sure that there is not a lot of external noise entering your space or gaps where internal noise can filter out of the room.
For cracks under your door, you can add a (very affordable) plastic sweep that goes underneath. These can easily be found at your local hardware store.
2. Add Drywall and Insulation to your Space
For the Voices studio, a second layer of drywall was added on top of the existing walls to help reduce sound transmission. This is a more affordable alternative to removing your current drywall, adding in extra insulation into the walls, and then building them back up again. So, if you don’t have a great deal of wiggle room in your budget, you can simply add in another layer of drywall on top of your existing drywall. Another easy way to quickly soundproof your space is to take bags of insulation and put them in various spots around the room—it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it does the trick!
You can also add in fabric paneling to take away some of the high-end sound frequencies.
3. Handle the Remaining Noise
If you are still dissatisfied with the sound quality in the room, you can purchase a noise reduction system that creates a filter that takes unwanted sounds out of your final recording.
Do’s and Don’ts of Soundproofing a Room
Do improve your room acoustics by using a combination of measures that address sound absorption and diffusion so you can be sure that you are not simply getting rid of all of the sound within the room.
Don’t over-soundproof your space. Not only do you want to avoid having the whole room look like it’s covered in panels, if you add too much insulation or panels, you will have no high-end sound left. Fabric covered panels don’t just take out the bass sound—they take out everything. Bob recommends leaving spacing between panels if you are going to be adding in fabric paneling instead of insulation. If you don’t have much spacing between your panels, Bob likens the resulting sound as though you were recording “in a box of tissues.” Using only absorbers will make a room sound dull.
Do strive for silence in your recording space. You’ll want to dampen any extra noise. This doesn’t have to mean extensive construction. You will just need soft material to dampen the noise. Although you may feel a little silly at first, try throwing a blanket over your head and microphone. The softness of the blanket will help to take away any additional and unwanted noise in the room.
Don’t forget to soundproof based on the size of your room. Smaller spaces will need less absorption and diffusion. A good rule of thumb is to play back your audio and listen to see if it sounds dull. If so, a quick fix is to throw anything with some angles on it (such as acoustic panels) into the corners of the room.Do differentiate between room ambiance and noise floor. Before you turn on your mic, open up your recording software. Your noise floor should register (around -68 to -70db is standard). The noise floor noise refers to the inherent electronic noise that comes from the signal chain of all the recording equipment and is normal. Once you turn on your mic, you may see the noise levels increase due to ambient noise.
Inexpensive Ways to Soundproof your Space
You want to also take into account any objects in the room that may affect the way sound is moving throughout the room. If you have a desk or table in your recording space, you’ll want to factor that into how sound will travel as well. Bob has a simple quick fix for dealing with how a desk or other object in the room may affect the way your sound travels: “Just throw a full bag of pink insulation underneath the desk and that will take care of some of your low-end problems,” he says.
1. Mattress Covers. Egg crate mattress covers are an economical way to obtain soundproofing and work similarly to acoustic foam. They can be found at many discount supply stores and often in thrift stores. They can easily be installed by gluing or stapling them to your walls.
2. Carpeting. The thicker the better! It’s not just for flooring either. You can attach carpet to your walls or cut strips of carpeting and attach them to the seams around windows and doors to dampen the noise coming in from outside. Go to your local flooring company and ask about purchasing their miscuts.
3. Sound Baffles. These are barriers that stop the reverberation in a room. Attach sheets or pieces of foam at various points across your ceiling to reduce airborne sound. They don’t need to touch the floor to make a significant impact and are extra items you likely have around your home.
If you’re still lost on where you should add extra insulation or padding in order to soundproof your home recording studio and deal with absorption and diffusion, the key takeaway to think about is possible holes or cracks (including things like electrical outlets and light switches) through which sound can enter or leave the room.
According to Bob, the best home recording studio soundproofing can be obtained if you “Treat [the room] like you’re going to fill it with water and put a fish in it.” If any water can escape the room, then that is where you want to focus your soundproofing efforts.
Good luck and happy soundproofing!