Can you hear an echo in some of your rooms?
If so, it’s time you apply some acoustic panels. Improving acoustics is a good investment regardless of what precisely are your reasons. If your neighbors are noisy, you could talk to them to see if they want to keep it down.
You most definitely have to install acoustic soundproofing panels. This is not only important for soundproofing but the quality of your audio recording.
Continue reading to learn when you should use DIY acoustic panels, how to build and where to place them. Also, you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions at the end of our step-by-step instructions. And if you’re specifically looking to make DIY bass traps we have you covered in this post!
- How do acoustic panels work?
- Soundproofing vs. improving acoustics
- Where you should apply them
- Making DIY Sound Panels
- 1. Building the frame
- 2. Prepare the fabric
- 3. Hang them up
- 4. Listen
- What are the best sound absorbing materials?
- Where should I place the panels?
- Why is placement important?
- How sound travels?
- Can acoustic panels improve the soundproof qualities?
- What is the most significant setback of acoustic foam?
- Can Styrofoam absorb sound?
- Can DIY acoustic panels also work in professional studios?
- Do DIY panels have the same qualities as commercial?
How do acoustic panels work?
You probably already have an idea of what acoustic panels look like. It’s that foamy stuff on the walls of recording studios we’ve all seen at least on TV.
These panels are made of soft spongy material that does a fantastic job at absorbing sounds. It catches the sound and prevents it from jumping off all the hard surfaces in the room. This reduces echo and keeps the room significantly quieter.
The DIY panels we’ll discuss below look far more appealing and as such are more attractive for domestic use.
Soundproofing vs. improving acoustics
However, keep in mind that these won’t do much in terms of soundproofing. They are primarily for enhancing the acoustics of the room and not isolate sound coming from the outside.
Keep this in mind, because people often use the term “soundproofing” even when it’s not applicable. They will maybe reduce the sounds, but if you’re dealing with excessive noise, they won’t make a significant difference.
They are made for improving the sound quality in the room where you install them. If you want to reduce the noise, you should look into some actual soundproofing materials.
Where you should apply them
People most often use these in their home theaters. You could spend a lot of money on HD TV’s, surround speakers and furniture but none if it will matter if there’s an echo. People tend to forget this until their theater is already completed.
You should improve the acoustics of the room because it makes all the difference in the overall clarity of the sound.
Making DIY Sound Panels
The pre-made panels are something you can buy pretty much anywhere. However, they aren’t the most affordable thing, and if you’re planning to install in a large room, it will cost you.
Luckily, you can make acoustic panels yourself. This is gentler on your budget while it’s also fun and exciting to do. It allows you to create fully customized panels to install at any order you want to.
You can make panels that match the shape, size and interior décor of the room in question.
The critical component you’d need is a basic sound-absorbing material. We actually have a collection of the best soundproofing materials, but for the purposes of this article, here’s what you’ll need..
Several manufacturers make different types of materials you can use for this purpose. Most come in a pack of six, measuring 24×48 inches. They are almost always 2 inches thick. Building these six panels would make a huge difference in your studio or theater.
Fiberglass is an excellent choice though mineral wool is also a good idea. These all come in different quantities and sizes while they also differ in price.
The next thing you’d need is wood for the frame. The 1×3’’ boards are the best for if you want flat panels. Opt for 1×2’’ boards if you want a more rounded edge effect.
Do some math to determine how many boards you need. Decide on how many panels you want to install and go from there.
Here’s what else you’ll need:
- Small wood screws
- Corner brackets
- Spray adhesive
- Wood glue
- Picture hanger hardware
You’ll also need soundproofing fabric which you can find in pretty much any craft store. There are many different fabrics to choose from in terms of color and design but make sure to pay particular attention to the quality.
If it’s see-through and breathable, pick another. A good way to test this is by trying to breathe through it.
How to make your own soundproofing panels
So here’s the steps you’ll need to take to make your own DIY soundproofing panels. There are some links to materials, and other resources throughout this guide.
What tools you’ll need:
- Hand saw, or chop saw
- Drill bits and electric drill
- Tape measure
- Staple gun and staples
- Carving knife
1. Building the frame
The first thing you should do is measure the boards and cut them according to the measured dimensions. You should cut every 8ft board into 24’’ and 49-3/8’’. It gets you 12 side and another 12 top boards from what you’ll build six frames in total.
Line the insulation panel inside the boards and mark the places for the screws. Make sure to drill a bit smaller holes than the actual sizes of your screws so that they are installed more firmly.
This helps make a tight frame that won’t go loose after a while. Use some wood glue for extra security and then screw the pieces.
Spray the adhesive along the outer edges and fit the insulation to the frame. Let that dry for a day. You can find the soundproofing spray adhesive here.
2. Prepare the fabric
You don’t have to prepare the material in any way, but by doing so; you make it look a bit more appealing if aesthetics are somewhat relevant to you. As we’ve mentioned, there are specific materials you should choose for this purpose.
Some fabrics could make things worse and reflect the sound, so your entire DIY project goes to waste. To prevent this, make sure to opt for the right material because that’s actually half of the work. The worst fabrics to get when creating your own acoustic panels are vinyl, leather and acrylic-bakes materials.
Cut it into 66’’ long pieces and lay it face down placing your frame in the center. Spray some adhesive onto the back starting on a long side. Fold it over and press down the adhesive. To secure it even more, staple it to the frame.
Apply more adhesive onto the opposite side and stretch the fabric around before stapling it to the frame once again. Glue and staple the top and bottom ends, so the fabric is folded neatly. It’s a simple process that resembles wrapping gifts. It should look appealing, neat and without any wrinkles.
3. Hang them up
Panels have to be strategically placed, so they have the most effect. If you were creative and made panels that look like art, they will look amazing regardless of where you put them.
You should leave about 1 to 2 inches of airspace between the panels and the wall.
It’s doesn’t matter how you’ll hang them as long as you make sure they are secure up on the wall. These are heavy and require some heavy duty hangers.
Picture hangers work just fine.
Place them on each side and at the same distance from its edges. Use your own logic when you do this. It’s important that these are secure because they are so heavy they could hurt someone if they fall. If not, they could damage some of your equipment.
There are no rules as to how you should hang them. Use common sense and secure them the best way you know how.
Once you’ve completed your sound absorbing panels and got them up onto the walls, it’s time to sit back and listen. Play some music or a movie like you normally would, and pay attention to if you can hear the same echo as before.
Keep in mind you’d need quite a number of these to achieve any noticeable results. So, if you’ve built six and you’re still not happy with the results, go ahead and build a few more. It takes some trial and error to figure out how many you need as all rooms and sounds are different.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best sound absorbing materials?
Technology has advanced enough so the market is packed with many different materials that can absorb the sound and improve acoustics.
Probably the most popular is rigid fiberglass insulation.
The others are: Acoustic polyester panels, sound dampening partitions, PVC drop-ceiling tiles, acoustic cotton batts, quilted panels, mineral wool, and acoustic caulk and sealant. These are all different from one another as are the results they deliver.
Where should I place the panels?
The great thing is that you can place these on walls as well as on the ceiling. Many people go about placing them all over the room, but that’s not always necessary. It’s more about smartly placing them.
A good trick is to use a mirror to check the direction of the sound. Sit where you normally would and have someone move a mirror across the wall between you and your speakers. Mark the beginning and end where you can see the speaker in the mirror. This is the area you should treat.
For some added control, place a few panels behind the speakers as well. Make sure to listen if you’ve achieved anything after each time you hang a few panels.
Why is placement important?
If you’re covering most of the surface, then you don’t have to care about placement as much. However, if you’re only using a few panels, then you should really think about where you’ll place them. When placed the wrong way, these have little to none effect.
How sound travels?
The sound goes from its source and outward in all directions. The small portions of it travel in a straight line, while the rest bounces around between the walls, ceiling, and floor. This is then the echo you hear.
Can acoustic panels improve the soundproof qualities?
Commercial pre-made panels can block sound to some extent though they are made to improve acoustics before anything. The DIY panels we’ve talked about in this article usually can’t block the noise coming from the outside.
Still, it all depends on the absorbing material you’ve selected as well as how many panels you’ve installed. Commercial panels usually feature acoustic foam that has great sound absorbing qualities.
What is the most significant setback of acoustic foam?
Though it’s one of the most popular materials, its biggest flaw is that it’s quite flammable. These fire properties are why people often choose to avoid it. The primary element is polyurethane that releases a high smoke level in the case of fire. It burns easily which is its most significant setback.
Can Styrofoam absorb sound?
Styrofoam isn’t soundproof because the sound is a vibration that can penetrate the foam. Some people consider it sound-resistant, but in reality, it doesn’t do much.
Can DIY acoustic panels also work in professional studios?
These have amazing abilities when it comes to improving acoustics, and you can place them just about anywhere you want to. However, depending on the size of the room as well as the type of noise, you might need more or fewer panels.
When it comes to placing them in professional recording studios, it’s safe to say that they would probably have a significant effect. Though you’d have to build quite a number of them and make sure you strategically place them, they’d help.
Still, it’s not something we’d recommend if you’re looking to achieve the professional quality of sound. You could use them if you don’t want to invest in something more serious immediately. More so, combine the DIY panels with professional ones to save some money and achieve significantly better results.
Do DIY panels have the same qualities as commercial?
There’s no doubt that the commercial product has better qualities. Not only it’s more heavy-duty, but it’s also made with special care and is most often tested in various ways.
While this DIY project allows you to improve the acoustics of your home theater without breaking the bank, you should opt for pre-made if you want superior qualities.
For home use, these do wonders. Most often, only the people who are in the music industry or are passionate about acoustics and soundproofing will be able to tell that the panels you’ve built weren’t bought at a store.