Today, with more people recording podcasts, videos, and music—right in the comfort of their home—audio quality is key. Don't be fooled! Just because you're working from home doesn't mean your listeners' expectations of quality are any different than that of a commercial studio. Your work will not be taken seriously if your recording includes even the most subtle of background disruptions. We get it. Not only do you need to know how to sound proof a room to keep sound from getting inside, but it's also equally important to stop sound from leaving your confines. This article will explore how to sound proof a room so you can record perfect audio every time! You have options, so let's take a look.
Is Professional Help Required?
First things first: sound proofing your home studio is more than practical with proper planning.
Believe it or not, you have control over your room and what effects the dynamics within. However, what you do not have control over is the amount of traffic and commotion outside your building, the activity in the business on the floor above you or even the humming of the receptionist's computer which can all interfere with the quality of your recordings. So let's focus on what is within your control.
New vs. Pre-existing Space
Honestly, if you're building out a new space, there are certainly fewer constraints as there are embarking on a similar project in a pre-existing space. For our purposes, we're going to assume you're working from an established space and reveal the most cost-effective and efficient changes available to get your best sound proofed result.
DIY vs. Professional Help
Choosing between the many do-it-yourself options and hiring a professional contractor to soundproof your room is truly a personal choice. In most cases, it boils down to your budget. While many of the tasks we'll discuss in this article can certainly be done by any handy person with a few household tools and access to a local big-box hardware store, you can also hire a skilled professional to do the same (but for a lot more money). Many of the options we'll cover are quick and easy.
How Does Sound Proofing Improve Audio Recording?
Without a doubt, sound proofing can improve audio recordings. It simply keeps out the undesirable sounds. So understanding the basics of how to sound proof a room is key to setting the stage when seeking to perform any professional-quality audio work whether you are podcasting or setting up a home recording studio. There are four key functions of the tools involved in establishing a soundproof room: mass, dampening, decoupling, and absorption.
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When sound proofing a room, the technique of keeping external noises outside and internal sounds inside can be done by adding mass. The idea behind this method of caging your sound restricts energy vibration and is done by, just as it says, adding mass to your existing walls. For an existing space, this will require some handy work, but it is doable. For the best results, select materials with a sound transmission class of anywhere between 30-50 STCs. That's just a fancy way of stating how much sound it can contain.
A few options for adding mass are:
- sheet block
- mass-loaded vinyl
Decoupling is another approach to reduce sound capture and escape within a space. Decoupling is a strategy that involves separating two sides of a wall to keep sound from escaping. When two objects touch, sound easily transfers from one object to the other. With decoupling, the two objects do not touch. Decoupling interrupts sound travel, which works to isolate and reduce it. Chances are this strategy will require professional assistance.
A few examples of decoupling options are:
- Add Sound clips to create a floating wall
- Resilient channel systems
- Create a floating floor
Any range of items can be used for sound damping by placing them on walls, ceilings, even floors. The explanation behind sound damping is that it transforms sound vibrations into heat and is effective with sounds across all frequency ranges. This typically requires a compound, like Green Glue, which is injected between two layers of drywall. The concept is similar to drywall insulation.
A few examples of options that can be used for sound damping include:
- Green Glue
- silicone caulk
Sound freely travels through the air in what we call sound waves. It creates vibration energy. When transmitted, these sound waves are carried through solids, liquids, and even gases in the form of vibrations. The speed of sound can vary depending on the medium it passes through. When you're dealing with hard surfaces, one must understand that they cause noise to reflect. That's undesirable. To reduce sound reflection, cover your hard surfaces with something soft which, instead, will absorb sounds.
A few examples of options that assist in sound absorption are:
- furniture and carpet
- acoustic foam
- acoustic fabric panels
Sound Proofing Versus Sound Absorbing
What you know is that you need a better option for recording audio. What you may not know is that there is a difference between sound proofing and sound absorbing. To soundproof a room to improve the audio recording, it is important to understand what makes them different. While they are both means to achieve sound reduction, their methods are quite different, which can impact your overall sound outcome.
This term is often misunderstood, but when it comes to improving acoustics, it is no stranger. Sound proofing describes the use of products or materials to eliminate or block the passage of sound through a space or room. It is a method of creating a particular environment and is most commonly used when describing the act of placing material within walls to isolate sounds. If it helps, consider that sound proofing materials are also known as sound blocking materials.
On the other hand, sound absorbing describes the nature or quality of the material or tools used to sound proof a room. More specifically, sound absorbing describes the ability of an object or material to reduce reverberations. It involves the actual application of these materials. Although they are not the same, sound absorbing can be a component of sound proofing.
Why Is This Important?
Don't let the semantics of this subject confuse you, as one deals with blocking out sounds while the other works to absorb sound. As you may know, in many cases, blocking out sound is not your endgame. Your need may require absorption, which will necessitate different product considerations than sound proofing alone.
How to Sound Proof a Room
Identifying the best strategy for sound proofing a room will ultimately be determined by the room you are working with, which will also regulate all limitations and opportunities. The first step is understanding exactly what is meant by soundproofing. Essentially, soundproofing a room involves any means to block out external noises. Your goal is to keep inside noises in and outside noises out. Let's look at the door, wall, and ceiling for ways to address this issue.
Sound Proof A Door
At some point in your life, you've probably entered a room with a door that was hung in an unlevel manner. It may have air gaps at the bottom or maybe the crevices at the top of the door allow light to seep indoors. Either way, both expose the internal aspect of the room to the potential for unwanted sounds, light or even creepy critters, which can inhibit your objective.
When soundproofing a room, the door is critical. Of course, you can splurge on a commercial door which is specifically designed for such an undertaking. However, if your budget is more restrictive, don't worry, there are other great options to consider. Your best option will ultimately be determined by the barrier challenges you face.
A few examples to sound proof your door include:
- installing a perimeter door seal - may be your best bet
- adding acoustic paneling to your existing door
- purchasing a commercially available soundproof door
Sound Proof A Wall
Of course, your walls play a major role in controlling the quality of sound within your space. Keeping what goes on outside your walls from interfering with achieving a high-quality sound within your recording studio is essential. To meet these challenges, will require the right products. There are many options available to reduce vibration, reduce noise, or even meet the demands of working in wet spaces, which presents a whole other set of issues.
A few examples of items that can be used to sound proof your walls include:
- acoustic wallpaper
- wall insulation
- acoustic wedges and panels
Sound Proof the Ceiling
While everyone considers the walls, the ceiling is often overlooked when assessing how to sound proof a room. Just look at your ceiling like a wall above your head. Sound can just as easily escape and enter through the ceiling.
Here are some products used to modify a ceiling to achieve the best possible acoustic resonance:
- ceiling tile
- acoustic paint
- acoustic foam
Tips for Recording Perfect Audio
Outside of the room recommendations we've listed, there are countless other techniques and tips to record perfect audio. Your ultimate goal is to isolate sound which maximizes your acoustic performance, or maybe in simpler terms, it's to step up the clarity and crispness of your audio game a few notches, while not breaking the bank. Either way, we'll provide a few great options that will improve your experience and recording outcome.
Use High-Quality Equipment
As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for." There are really no short cuts that can be taken when it comes to purchasing your equipment. Remember, this is an investment that will provide financial returns, in some cases, for years to come. Don't play it cheap. If you're interested in taking steps to sound proof a room, you're obviously committed to this venture. Your microphone and your headphones are essentials.
Reduce Background Noises
Since you're already searching how to sound proof a room, you have probably also investigated other simple options to reduce background noises. If not, here are a few suggestions. First, although it may seem obvious, ensure your space is free of any vibratory equipment such as washing machines, air conditioners or unnecessary computers (which also make a lot of noise). Even nearby open windows can open your studio to sound from wind, outdoor traffic, or barking dogs. You always have the option of adding audio later, so only record under ideal conditions.
Record Multiple Times
While we all want to do it right the first time, that just isn't usually the case. Take your time and give yourself an opportunity to produce your best possible work. Recording multiple times gives you an opportunity to compare your results. It also provides practice runs so you can adjust your volume, intonation, and enunciation. Don't rush your audio.
There are a million reasons to soundproof a room. You may wish to reduce the impact of noisy neighbors, shut out the distraction of busy and loud coworkers, and most obviously, the need to create an environment conducive to professional quality audio work is probably high on many lists. Simply put, background noises can destroy audio.
When deciding to step up your audio game, there are some critical considerations. Understanding your starting point is one of the biggest factors in determining the cost, requirements, and possibilities for such a venture.
When top-notch acoustics are in order, any disturbing and unwanted noises can ruin an experience and be costly for you in more ways than one. Identifying the most cost-effective and efficient means of accomplishing your goal requires your due diligence and due care.
Learning how to sound proof a room properly can open the door to the potential of recording perfect audio every time. So, if you've been putting up with less than superb audio conditions, but yearn for the clear, crisp resonance of soft music or melodious laughter, it's time to revolutionize your room through sound proofing.