The first time I heard the world through a quality condenser microphone, I was blown away by how much noise it was picking up. Tiny sounds I never noticed where now ruining my audio! I had some soundproofing, but evidently not enough. If you are dealing with this issue, don’t worry because, in just a few minutes, you are going to learn how to soundproof a home recording studio.
Reasons to soundproof your room
If you are a professional, you don’t need much convincing to soundproof your room properly. But if you do, here are three reasons you should do so.
If you live in an apartment building like I do, you must consider your neighbors. You don’t want to get on their bad side as they could make noise complaints a habit, or even worse, call the cops. And If your neighbors are regularly interrupting your recording sessions due to noise, you might lose credibility with your clients. Stay on their good side by doing everything you can to reduce the sound that you transmit out of your studio.
If you are running a business from your home or apartment, you are already losing some credibility with clients. Put them at ease by presenting them with a top-notch, fully functioning recording studio with soundproof panels, windows, and doors.
If you work in your apartment, you probably have neighbors. And let me tell you, a good mic can pick up footsteps easily. You don’t want to have a good session go to waste on account of the lady upstairs who doesn’t want to take off her heels, or the occasional fire truck. I’ve been there; it’s not fun. Soundproofing your room or studio will also improve your recording quality by eliminating unwanted noises like humming and buzzing.
Soundproofing Vs. Acoustic treatment
Before we continue, it’s important to note that soundproofing is not the same as acoustic treatment. Soundproofing is the means of creating an environment to reduce sound from entering or exiting. Acoustic treatment is related to the improvement of the quality of the sound and absorption of ambient noise.
You don’t have to choose between one or the other. Every recording studio should have a healthy combination of both.
Types of Noise
Let’s breakdown three very common types of noises; Interior, external, and impact.
External sound is by far the most annoying. External sounds transmitted through vibrations in the air and include, but are not limited to:
- Family and neighbors
- Dogs and birds
- Traffic like, trucks, buses, and trains
- Weather, rain, wind
Not all unwanted noise will come from outside. Interior noise is any unwanted sound that originates from inside the room. Your fridge, fan, air-conditioner, even the computer you are mixing on, these all make noise. And while it might sound insignificant to you, a good mic can pick up sounds you can even hear with your ears, so don’t overlook everyday household items and their abilities to muddy up your recordings. Interior noises include:
- Computer fan
- Spinning hard drives
- An air conditioner or fan
- Refrigerator or minifridge
- Production hardware rack
Impact noise occurs when an object physically impacts another creating sound. The impact causes vibrations that radiate from one object to another. Common forms of impact noise include:
- Loud footsteps
- Slamming doors
- Hard Impacts on the wall
How to measure soundproof capabilities?
Sound Transmission Class (STC) is the classification of a material’s soundproofing capabilities. STC is measured in decibels (dB). Say we have a room blasting music at 100 dB. And we measured the sound on the other side of the wall. If the decibel reading is 75 dB, we can say that there was a transmission loss of 25 dB. In this scenario, the STC would be 25. The STC rating goes from low to high, lower being less soundproof and high being more soundproof. Here is a reference to help illustrate this point.
- 25 – Normal speech can be heard and understood through the walls
- 30 – Loud voices are understood through walls
- 35 – Speech is harder to understand
- 40 – Speech is not transmitted
- 42 – Loud voices sound very quiet
- 45 – Loud voices are no longer herd
- 50 – Very loud sounds like and stereos can be faintly heard
- 60+ – Very soundproof, almost nothing is heard through the walls
But there’s a big problem with measuring a material’s soundproofing capabilities exclusively by its STC rating. STC only takes into account the dB transmission loss. Not sound frequency,
A more accurate method used to measure sound transmission is Sound Transmission Loss (STL). STL refers to the sound that is isolated by a material in a particular frequency of ⅓ octave frequency band. Drywall, for instance, has an STL at 125 HZ of 15 dB. STL is considered a better metric when considering soundproofing materials because it takes into account decibels and Hz
But enough science, let’s get back to soundproofing your room.
The 4 Methods of Soundproofing a Home Recording Studio
Add Mass and density to your walls:
One way to dampen your home recording studio is to add mass and density to your walls. Large, thick walls are less prone to vibration. However, walls in apartment buildings are usually thinner than in houses. Consider adding mass to your walls to make them thicker.
Your material of choice should be dense enough to prevent sound from passing through, but not dense enough that it allows for sound to bounce off of it.
If you want to go all out and start replacing walls, I recommend drywall 1.6 cm or thicker. For even better results, consider adding a sheet block. And make sure to apply a damping compound between the two panels.
Walls require a lot of mass from vibrating. To add some bulk to an existing room, you can apply mass loaded vinyl, also known as sheet block.
Damping is an effective method to soundproof your home studio. Dampening dissipates kinetic energy in the form of vibrations from sound waves and turns it into heat through intermolecular friction.
One of the advantages of damping is that it reduces low-frequency noise. So, you will be able to use your home recording studio and turn up the bass without bothering your neighbors! Or not as much.
One method of damping is to sandwich a dampening compound between two sheets of plywood, drywall, or medium density fiberboard. You apply this method to walls, ceilings, and doors. For best results, use two tubes for every 4×8 ft.
You don’t have to break the bank to add some bulk. Some everyday items you can use to dampen your room include:
- Thick blankets
Filling-in air gaps and cracks
It should come as no surprise that air gaps allow sound to enter and escape a room, so you need to seal them tight. Take a close look around the room and locate every hole or crack. You can use a foam sealant for the large holes or gaps in your baseboards. Shrink free spackling is excellent for filling cracks on your wall. For things like windows and doors, you will need special gaskets, which allow for some flexibility, while remaining soundproof. Don’t overlook this one!
Decoupling refers to the separation of two objects to make it harder for sound to pass between them. Decoupling is excellent for reducing vibrations from your amplifiers or speakers. You might have noticed most amplifiers and speakers usually have some sort of dense rubber contact points. These contact points are used to decouple the amp or speaker from the floor or surface, preventing excess vibrations.
Build a floating floor by placing multiple floor floaters between your wooden panels.
You can also use floaters on anything from your amps to your isolation booth.
Sound can enter your room in many ways. But with a little know-how, you can soundproof a home recording studio. By now, you should be able to soundproof your home recording studio and maybe, just maybe, turn your speakers up to 11.