A picture depicting a microphone with pop screen in a home recording studio

Voice Over Home Studio – How to Soundproof a Room

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Editor’s note: This is an update to the post originally published on August 2018.

Once you’ve picked a space that will be transformed into your home recording studio and you’ve 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 echos 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.com 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.

3 Steps to Soundproofing Your Home Studio with Bob Breen

1. Filter Out Unwanted External Sound

When setting up the Voices.com 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.com 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 panelling 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.

How to Soundproof a Room: Do’s and Don’ts of Soundproofing

As discussed in part one of this series on how to assess your space, the shape of your home studio space can play a part in how you need to soundproof.

Additionally, all rooms tend to have flat walls and ceilings, and sound can bounce off of these, affecting the sound of your recording.

Take a look at this video from Acoustic Geometry on how sound travels around your room to better understand how you can soundproof your home studio.

How Sound Works (in rooms)

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 playback 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 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 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.

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Comments

  • Millie Hue
    December 22, 2018, 12:25 am

    Thanks for helping me understand that we shouldn’t be having the room overly soundproofed to keep it from sounding like there are too many panels. I will keep that in mind since I will be having my spare room done. It will be where I will record my covers since I will launch a video channel in a social media network soon to become my platform for my dream to be a singer in the future.

    Reply
  • Tumani Baldeh
    August 7, 2019, 2:05 pm

    This was just great. Maintaining quality in originality is vital. Hey guys, this is awesome.

    Reply
  • John Scrip
    August 29, 2019, 5:36 pm

    With all due respect, 90% of this article is about acoustic treatment – not soundproofing. The two have little to do with each other (and are usually at odds with each other for that matter). Adding layers of drywall and sealing “leaks” are soundproofing. Literally everything else (up to and including adding bags of insulation) are acoustic treatment. I’d remove the word “soundproofing” most of the time, replacing it with “acoustic treatment” (except for the paragraph about using drywall). Absorptive panels, diffusive surfaces (whether hard or soft, vanes or polycylindrical), as vital as they are, do little to nothing for soundproofing a space. They help control the reflective sound *in* the space. The other stops energy from going to *another* space.

    The reason the two are at odds with each other is as simple — When you’re keeping sound out (soundproofing) you’re usually keeping more acoustic energy in. A near perfectly soundproof space requires far more absorptive materials to reduce reflected energy. As does – by volume – a smaller space like a walk-in closet.

    For example – Using a similar analogy to the fish – Imagine your reflected energy is water and your acoustic treatment is sponge (in a way, broadband absorbers *are* sound-sponges, so this should be easy). Imagine you’re in a 15x15x10′ (2250 cubic feet) space and your reflected energy adds up to 225 cubic feet of water. You’re up to your shins in excess energy and you need [x cubic feet] of sponge to absorb enough energy to make it so only your feet are wet. Now imagine you’re in a 6x6x8 closet (288 cubic feet). You have the same 225 cubic feet of reflected energy. Instead of being up to your shins, you’re drowning and you barely have enough space for the sponges. Smaller spaces require at least as much if not *MORE* [absorption-per-area] than a larger space. The amount of absorption required is based on the amount of energy in the space – a smaller space concentrates that energy while a larger space allows much of it to disperse.

    In a different, more “real-world” example — I’ve helped a number of people put home studios together. When we get to talking about absorption, I tell them to start with [12] 2’x4’x4″ panels (2 in each corner, 1 in each high-side corner at the mix position, .38 of the long wall from the short wall) for a small-ish room. Doesn’t matter if that room is 8×10, 8×12, 10×18, 12×19, 14×17. That’s a “minimum base coat” of treatment that will usually take a room of typical construction and make it at least somewhat usable as a critical listening space for nearfield or smaller midfield speakers. Doesn’t even really matter if it’s for a home studio or just a starting point for a home theater. The size of the space may change, but the amount of sonic energy has not.

    I know many would argue “semantics” – but there’s an important distinction between these two very different processes.

    Reply
  • Chris Sebes
    August 29, 2019, 6:37 pm

    A lot of great tips for those just starting out in VO.

    I’m just curious as to why the pop filter is on the back side of the mic in the photo. Methinks the photographer doesn’t know what it’s there for. 🙂

    Reply
  • R.V.
    August 29, 2019, 8:51 pm

    Why soundproof a whole room? It may be more effective to just build a soundproof booth within a room, especially if all is needed is one person V.O. recording.

    Reply