To improve the sound quality of your audio recording you need to perform home studio soundproofing, which actually has two main objectives:
- Soundproofing – limiting and stopping all the external sound sources
- Acoustical treatment – controlling disturbances which can be caused by your own voice in an untreated room
The importance of room acoustics can’t be underestimated if you want to perform effective home studio soundproofing. It is easy to think that most high quality is achieved through the superior mic, well-configured equipment, and some editing. However, your room acoustics have an enormous impact on the sound quality and should not be omitted.
In this article, we are covering very effective yet simple solutions to save you months of frustration. Even if you apply just half of our recommendations you will considerably improve the audio quality of your recordings.
Although this article was aimed at home podcast creators, the same rules of acoustics, home studio soundproofing, and acoustical treatment apply for any recording type.
From an equipment perspective, it is also safe to use a good dynamic mic, instead of a condenser mic. Dynamic microphones record better in imperfect conditions (they capture fewer background noises). Check what we are recommending in Choosing a Best Dynamic Microphone – Buyers Guide and Recommendation.
Why you should soundproof at all?
The nature of the sound noises is complex. On top people often overestimate the impact of the powerful microphone and recording hardware and underestimate the importance of room acoustics. This results often in neglecting the relevance of room acoustics and not doing any home studio soundproofing preparations.
Instead, we find podcasters over-relying on noise reduction plugins in which the powerful DAWs come equipped. However, those plugins impact the entirety of your recording. They distort the audio quality of the parts of your podcast you would like to be untouched. With a bigger noise level comes a bigger impact and higher distortion.
The correct response to noises is prevention and active action to eliminate before you record them.
This article will provide guidelines to improve your audio quality by performing easy home studio soundproofing
I will show you reasonable solutions at an affordable price. Use at least some of the methods described here and you will improve.
This is not a detailed guide to building a home studio as this project would require a lot of time and money and would be excessive for most of our needs.
If you are mainly podcasting remotely you might not be able to implement many of the advice given here. In this case, we encourage you to read our 13 practical Podcasting Remotely guidelines for improving audio quality.
Basics of acoustics for podcasting needs (simplified)
- Sound is a wave – it travels from its source of origin in all directions
- Direct sound travels straight into your microphone while the reflected sound bounces from objects and surfaces and can reach the microphone again causing reverberations.
- Each reflection to some degree changes the original sound.
- Sound wave interacts with surroundings, and once it meets an obstacle on its path it will be partially absorbed and partially reflected.
- Some level of noise / reflected sound will always reach us.
Soundproofing a home studio can suppress unwanted external noises reaching your mic while acoustic treatment can improve the absorption of unwanted reverberation.
How sound waves generated by your voice will behave in your recording room?
To understand sound wave behavior for a podcast we can focus on:
- Reflection – caused by corners of your rooms, connections between walls and by large homogenous flat surfaces like windows, tiles, large naked walls. We want to control and limit the reflection to reduce reverberations.
- Absorption – caused at home by clothing, drapes, sofas, and furniture covered with fabric, and by applying special absorbing materials.
- Diffusion – delicate scattering of the sound in all directions. It is required as audio simply sounds better then. Usually already provided in-home conditions by all the irregularities caused by multiple objects located in the room.
If you want to know more about sound properties and behavior in a room check out this article: Podcasting room acoustics – how your room impacts your audio quality?
How to choose a room for recording and further home studio soundproofing?
Search for a room with low levels of both external and internal sound sources.
- External sound sources – are usually generated by loud neighbors, heavy traffic, nearby animals (birds, crickets, dogs), wall plumbing, and weather conditions (wind & rain).
- Internal sound sources – are caused by devices present inside your location so loud computer fans, air vents, fridges, air conditioners, heating, etc.
Also, look for other characteristics which impact the room’s acoustics:
- Overall larger rooms with high ceilings have naturally better acoustics – because the energy density of sound wave diminishes with the distance. So the longer it has to travel to the source of reflection and back the weaker it is upon returning.
- Floor – preferred are hard concrete or hardwood floors
- Walls – preferred are hard brick or concrete walls
- Windows – will let in a lot of outside noises and reflect your sound. Look for the room where you will be able to cover them tightly with curtains.
Soundproofing and acoustic treatment detailed techniques for podcasting
Step 1. Soundproofing walls and ceiling
It is required to prevent outside noises most practical solution is adding mass to prevent vibrations and sound pouring in from the outside
- Add another layer of drywall with a wall stud.
- In the free space in your wall stud, you can add fiberglass – cheap, practical and effective.
- Use sound damping compounds like Green Glue as a home studio soundproofing standard. This can be used between layers of the wall, floor, or ceiling. Green Glue producer says that the compound reaches its peak performance 30 days after application.
- As an additional step consider using sound clips. With their heavy rubber elements, they are very effective at absorbing sound. To install simply screw them into the wall studs, insert a hat channel, and finally screw the drywall into the channel.
- Cracks between the drywall component and around drywall fill with acoustical caulk (acoustical sealant).
- The exact same solution can be applied to soundproof ceilings.
Step 2. Acoustic treatment of walls and ceiling
Capture sound from bouncing around the room and causing distortions.
- We won’t recommend covering your entire room with acoustic foam as this would definitely be too much, would cost a lot and probably you won’t experience the difference after a certain point. Instead, we give here the best-recommended set up to benefit you well considered the investment.
- Bass traps for corners (wall-ceiling-wall) – this is the most important part of the room to adjust. Put foam in the top corners of your room where 2 walls meet the ceiling.
- Bass traps for wall joints (wall-wall) – this is the second most important part of the room to fix. Put bass traps from the floor all the way up to your ceiling bass traps.
- Those two steps should actually be enough to improve your room audio quality considerably and not require from you converting an entire room in foam.
- However, if you want to proceed and go beyond that next advice is to cover long edges where the ceiling meets walls. In the end, consider putting flat foam panels on the walls.
- When it comes to installation there are a few routes you can go:
- Double-sided tape,
- Impaling clips,
- Special adhesives like TTPRO. Here be careful and carefully read description before purchase as some adhesives may damage the foam.
- The acoustic treatment of walls can be challenging if you don’t have a designated recording room and you don’t want to drastically change the aesthetics of one of your “regular” rooms. In this case, the simple recommendation is to utilize what you have at home.
- Use open bookcases. Books will partially absorb and partially diffuse noises.
- Cover any glass elements in your room with blankets and bedsheets.
- Hang an area rug on the wall. It’s not the ultimate fix, but you’ll get a better sound than with a bare wall. And it’s way cheaper
Step 3. Soundproofing Floor to stop noises from rooms below
Soundproof only if you have a room below and stop sound reverb from the naked floor.
- You don’t need to soundproof a floor if there is no floor below you and there is no source of noises below you.
- In case you do add an additional layer of drywall. Use the same method and materials as with walls. Feel empty space with fiberglass, add a layer of noise proofing compound and fill the gaps with acoustical sealant.
- Finish off by putting a carpet. It will both soundproof from noises from below and serve as a noise-absorbing layer and help to eliminate reverb.
- Optionally if noises from below are strong use a home studio soundproofing mat underneath your carpet.
Step 4. Soundproofing Doors to avoid noises from passerby’s
If not properly taken care they can let in a lot of noise
- If you have an option to choose doors then go with solid wood doors. Hollow doors or doors with elements of glass will work to your disadvantage.
- If your door has a lot of glass it will be good to cover it during the recording.
- Around the frame simply insulate with home studio soundproofing seal.
- You also have to close the gap between the doors and the floor. A door sweep or door bottom will solve this for you. You can install a surface mounted door sweep or hidden, fully mortised inside the door panel.
Step 5. Soundproof Windows to stop outside noises
Windows are very important and challenging to soundproof if not approached correctly.
- As with doors, if you have an option to choose the windows then double-pane windows achieve a higher level of sound dampening than single-pane windows. The thickness of glass also makes a difference
- Use the same soundproofing seal to insulate inside frames of your windows.
- Seal any cracks inside the window frame or around it with window caulk. Simple products will work fine. Caulk you used for drywall may not work here.
- Use heavy sound curtains to cover the windows. As a temporary solution, you can always cover windows with blankets.
- The issue with curtains is their lack of a seal at the top and bottom edge. To solve this problem use two solutions:
- For installation use ceiling tracks instead of rods to minimize the gap
- Use long, lying on the ground curtains to close the bottom gap.
Step 6. Soundproof Vents and outlets for best results
Don’t underestimate any small hole in your room. You may fix your walls, floor, and windows, but if you forget about vents and outlets, your home studio soundproofing efforts may bring poor results.
Focusing on details can improve a lot of how your recording will sound.
- If you have a window A/C make sure the vent is tightly sealed. You can try with acoustical caulk used for windows. If the installation job was done purely consider professional reinstallation.
- If you have central A/C you may have a noisy compressor pumping sound or the vent cover can be resonating. You have an option here to remove the vent cover or turn off the A/C for the time of the recording.
- Seal all the electrical outlets with foam gaskets. They are very cheap and easy to install.
Step 7. Soundproofing from internal sources – objects inside a recording room
Before you start your home studio soundproofing you won’t guess how much noise can be generated from the stuff inside. Equipment can cause a lot of noise disturbances.
- Every furniture with glass or mirror elements – they vibrate so consider covering them for the time of recording with any blanket you can find.
- It is good to have a large irregular object in the room to diffuse the sound.
- Devices inside your recording studio. Review noises from A/C as already discussed. Very importantly check how loud is your computer. If you have a noisy fan or hard drives try to upgrade components for more silent ones. If the device is loud anyway consider putting it into a different room for the time of the recording. You can achieve this by:
- Buying a longer cable. Our recommended Mogami Gold Studio cables offer length up to 100 feet (30 meters).
- Drill hole in the wall and connect devices with short cable as longer ones can be expensive.
Check out if upgrading to premium audio cables makes sense in your case Best XLR and USB Cable Choices for Podcasting.
In conclusion how much practically a room can be soundproofed?
If you would build a home studio, soundproof each wall, window, floor, ceiling and door and close all the gaps you could reduce up to 70 dB (depending on how noisy your neighborhood is), so use those tips according to your need. The more you will introduce the better your final result will be.
In the end, you can always correct some of the noises in powerful editing software. You shouldn’t overdo it or you might distort the sound of your voice. If you are looking for good audio editing software for podcasts check out this guide: Podcast Editing Software recommendations.
Home studio soundproofing and acoustical treatment effects you want to achieve are:
- Full isolation from outside noises by soundproofing walls, ceiling, and floor (optional), windows, doors and all the vents.
- Absorption of reflected inside sound – to solve this install bass traps in corners (wall-ceiling-wall) and in-wall joints (wall-wall). Optionally put a certain amount of foam panels on flat surfaces, but you can address this also with hanging blankets, bedsheets, rugs or simply having a large bookcase.
- Diffusion of generated sound to avoid “dead” silence – not a problem in most of the home studios as you will have probably some small level of noise and your interior furnishing will already work as diffusers.