“Soundproofing” Your Home Studio


In case you’re unaware, Cygnus is a home studio which resides in a room that’s just 10×14 feet. Needless to say, sound bouncing around in such a small space can become a big problem.

Along with sound insulation, the main objective is to improve room acoustics and reduce unwanted noise while recording.


Critical Areas

To start off, let’s talk about any windows in your studio. Glass is among the very worst offenders in terms of causing echo and the like.

My studio has only one, but it’s a monster measuring 5’x6′.

Here’s what it looked like before treatment (window dressing has already been removed):

1 - Original window

I lived with it for quite a while, since it was completely covered with large blind slats. Those still vibrated at times, so I wound up taping them together in an attempt to solve the problem.

Because of acoustic considerations, I finally decided to soundproof the window as much as possible and solve the problem once and for all.

To be honest, there was another equally important driver behind this project:

There’s a new house being built directly across the street. I’m not very fond of visits by the police while I’m beating the shit out of the drums, so this kills two birds with one stone.


My Materials List

Notes:

– This will no doubt vary for you, depending on the size of the what’s being treated.

– Except for the tiles, all of these materials were purchased with a single trip to Home Depot.

  • Thirty 12″x12″ acoustic foam tiles, 1″ thick (Luckily, free to me)

2 - Stack of acoustic tiles

Using these is the simplest method of sound insulation. They are one method of “adding mass”, in effect making the walls thicker.

That said, of course the thicker the tiles the better, and 2″ are my usual preference. Depending on the situation, you can get away with 1″, and obviously they’re cheaper to boot.

Luckily, I received these free in exchange for a product review. They’re highly rated, so it was a no-brainer to make use of them. In the end, the sound insulation they provided was great since this foam is quite dense.

My usual source for these tiles is Amazon, where some really good deals on them can usually be found, so check it out if you’re in need.

  • Two pre-finished 4’x8′ masonite boards, 1/8″ thick ($10/each)

3 - Masonite boards

These have a smooth white surface on one side and are unfinished on the other, the latter being a bit rough, but that’s easily dealt with as you’ll see if you read on. I needed two, due to the large size of my window.

Although tempting, don’t go any thicker than 1/8″, in order to avoid excessive weight. The foam tiles to be installed on them weigh next to nothing, so a thickness of 1/8″ provides more than enough strength for the purpose.

The white side will be installed facing the window, as not to create an eye-sore outside. When complete, at a glance it looks just like white drapes.

  • Tube of Gorilla Glue construction adhesive ($10)

4 - Gorilla Glue construction adhesive

A common practice is to use double-sided foam tape to hang acoustic tiles, but I most definitely advise against it. I did so on my studio entrance doors, and they began falling off here and there after just a few weeks. Tape simply doesn’t adhere to porous foam tiles very well.

On the other hand, I’ll guarantee the use of this glue will mount the tiles so securely to the board, they’ll easily outlive you.

  • Box of #8 panhead screws (100 for $7)

5 - Pan head screw

There should be studs completely surrounding the window opening to accept these, which is a U.S. building code standard.

A minimum screw length of 3/4″ is recommended.

You can use others you may already have if you’d like, but when considering length don’t forget to add the 1/8″ thickness of the board. You’ll want at least 1/2″ penetration beyond that into the wall, so it’s best just to go out and buy the right size screws for the job since they’re so cheap.

Total cost of my materials: $37


My Procedure

Notes:

– Once again, this will vary for you, depending on the opening’s size and location. These steps are specific to my application.

– I neglected to snap step-by-step photos during this process since I was busy with the installation itself. Nonetheless, this three-step written procedure should be clear enough to easily understand and adapt to your requirements.

1) Because of the size of the window, the boards needed to be cut into two equal pieces. In any case, they must be 2″ wider than the opening, allowing them to overlap the wall studs where the screws will be installed.

I then cut a 1′ seam section using leftover board, and used it to join the two main pieces together on the unfinished side. The Gorilla Glue glue I’ll be using to apply the tiles was also used generously for that, then left overnight to fully cure for maximum strength.

2) Centered the newly fabricated board over the opening, and securing it to the surrounding studs with screws .

The first was inserted into to middle-top of the board (an assistant will be of great help with this). I then worked my way around installing the rest of the screws at 1′ intervals, pressing the board edges firmly flush against the wall during the process to ensure there was no bowing.

Tip: Unless you enjoy twisting your wrist off, use a power screwdriver. Don’t drill pilot holes for the screws, as they’re self tapping and you’ll want the tightest fit possible.

3) Applied the tiles starting at the bottom left working my way across to the right, then repeated the same pattern the next row up until all tiles were attached to the board.

Important notes on tile installation:

– Be sure they’re completely butted up against each other at all edges, since the last thing you want is any gap whatsoever between them. Their orientation must be alternated 90 degrees every other tile, for best acoustic results.

– This particular glue is a bit on the expensive side, but due to its bonding strength all that’s required is a dab at each corner of the panels and one in the middle. It also allowed me to get away with just one tube, despite the large number of tiles I was mounting. If you want to use more, go for it, but at $10 a tube it’ll cost you.


Completed treatment of the window…

6 - Window treatment complete

Not only does this provide the studio with better acoustics, but really cuts down the sound levels outside the house. Plus, it looks really cool too, don’t ya think?

Here’s a look at window from outside. The areas that appear stained are not, they’re just reflections of houses and trees across the street, and even me taking the photo if you look closely enough! The board panels themselves are basically invisible.

9 - View of window from outside

The end result: Happy me, happy wife, happy neighbors!

Was it worth it? You betcha. There are very good reasons that professional recording studios usually make extensive use of these tiles.


As a side note, I used the same process on my studio entryways some time back, using 2″ tiles.

They’re two French doors, with a whopping 15 panels of glass in each. In addition to the acoustic advantages already discussed, of course the wife is now much happier with the reduced sound levels from the studio into the rest of the house. Using thicker, 2″ tiles here made all the difference.

As a result, I now stand a much better chance in keeping my nuts intact.

Here are inside/outside photos of those doors. Since the white side of the board is facing the French door windows, they’re not at all offending to the eye.

7 - Back of doors

8 - Front of doors


Hope this little project has helped all of you home studio enthusiasts out!

If you have any questions whatsoever, please feel free to ask me in the comments section below, or you can use the “Contact” link in the main blog menu if you’d prefer to keep it private.

Wishing you all the best in your endeavors,
– Craig

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