September 22, 2011 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Sound engineers, please give me some great ideas for making my home studio acoustically stable on a budget.

I compose and record music for fun and profit, and have made do with setting up my studio in my cramped apartment's breakfast nook, using couch cushions, etc. to dampen reflections.

Recently bought a house with a 11'x12' spare bedroom which will be my new studio, with new possibilities. The floors are hardwood, there are two windows on adjacent sides near a mostly quiet street. I made myself 8 4'x2'x2" masonite-backed sound panels using Owens-Corning 703, which really helped deaden the space, but I just stuck them in the corners. I think I can do better.

Question: where should I place these for maximum effect? What else should I do to a room like this to remove coloration and standing waves, but provide a warm sound? Is the wood floor beneficial for recording or should I carpet it?
posted by hanoixan to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Wood floor is fine -- many studios have them, but a rug will help. Drag some furniture into the room. Tack some heavy rugs on the walls. Anything you can do to tangle up sound waves moving in a straight line will start to deaden the echo.
posted by bprater at 2:50 PM on September 22, 2011

Better than tacking rugs directly to walls is hanging them from the ceiling a bit in front of the walls. (Though heavy curtains would probably be better logistically.)

A carpeted floor (especially with underpadding), in addition to eliminating reflections tremendously, will also get rid of footsteps, the sound of uneven chairs/stands/etc. wobbling, and any sounds resonating through the floor itself and/or up through mic stands.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:00 PM on September 22, 2011

Close mic when at all possible, this will reduce the affect of the room significantly. For warmth you want some LF reinforcement so don't block all the corners. And make panels to fit in the window bays should you want to record eg at rush hour or when the dogs are barking.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:55 PM on September 22, 2011

I made window plugs for my windows. Now is a good time to do this because 1" foam mattress toppers are on sale right now for back to college...

Here is how to make removable and pleasant to look at window plugs:

- An 8' x 4' sound deadening board from loews or home depot will run you $10. Trim to fit inside the window, but a make it a half inch smaller all the way around.

- Cover one side of the board with the mattress foam, make sure it curls over the board a few inches all the way around.

- Encase the entire thing in contact paper. I used white. Nails and staples won't stick into the sound board, so "taping" the whole thing up with a neat wrap of sticky contact paper is really the way to go.

You can get extra long rolls of contact paper for about $6.50 at target. One roll can easily cover two windows. I also recommend you get the foam mattress topper from target for $10 to $20. You can buy the foam from a foam store, but it will be too too expensive!

BTW, the reason to use the foam to build out the sides is to make it snug in the window, but keep the plug squishy enough so it is easy to remove and re-insert at will. Also, the foam adds some extra sound proofing from outside noise leaking through the window.


I took the same sound deadening board and mounted it to luan with liquid nails, then upholstered with some batting and decorative fabric. It looks like wall art, but really, it stops sound from escaping my apartment, thereby increasing privacy. I'm sure this would work great to further dampen echoes in your studio.

posted by jbenben at 4:11 PM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, especially for the detailed window plug instructions. I'm going to get a big used oriental rug, make some plugs, put in a used couch as a bass sink, and do some tests with more or less of the above to see where the sweet spot is.
posted by hanoixan at 9:21 PM on September 22, 2011

Here are some links I've bookmarked - I'm saving up to treat my room sometime soon and still figuring out what to buy - absorbers, diffusers, bass traps. GAH! The info presented can be quite contradictory at times, some recommend keeping a hard floor, others not.

Also do check out sites like - they've got a section on improving room acoustics. hths!
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:47 AM on September 23, 2011

With a room that small, you want as much broad band treatment as possible, because you will have many problems. I wouldn't suggest rugs or anything thin on the walls as treatment, because it doesn't take care of the lower frequencies. It may make the room sound better to your ears initially, but you'll have a hell of a time getting things to sound clear when recording.

If you can, built more of the panels you've already built. Put them in the corners first for bass treatment. Then, you want to treat the areas which reflect the sound from your speakers when mixing (to do this, sit where you would mix, have someone else hold a mirror flat against the walls and move around to different parts of the room. If you can see the speakers in the mirror, you need treatment there).

Now, with a room as small as yours, I wouldn't worry about making it too dead, since you won't get any desirable room tone from it, and I don't know that you would end up making enough panels to do that, but if you are concerned about too many panels, than you want to try for some diffusion wherever the sound can bounce back and forth. This is tricky on a budget without a lot of DIY time if you want it to look nice, but one solution is to take sheets of thin plywood, and slightly curve them, so that the ends push up against the walls, but the middle is away from the wall by a few inches. You can fill the space behind with foam or insulation. This helps to keep standing waves from forming, which will do wonders.

Furniture is good, but don't think that a couch is going to do much for bass. It's better than nothing, but usually not dense enough to have as much of an impact as you think.

Book cases take up space, but work great for diffusion, so you might want to put some that hang on the walls high enough to not take up any floor space.
posted by markblasco at 9:02 AM on September 23, 2011

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