I’ve recorded a few training videos here and there. Being a bit of an Audio Nerd, I’m really concerned with sound quality. The room I did my recordings in was small office with lots of hard surfaces and there was a noticeable echo.
As my Audio Engineer friend Bob Demaa would say: “You can take the mic out of the room, but you can’t take the room out of the Mic”
So here’s what I set out to do:
- Either Buy or Build panels
- Some Ceiling mount
- Some wall mount
- Ideally, lower cost, yet still effective.
Here’s what I did:
Parts were sourced from 3 suppliers:
- Wood, hardware, drywall edging came from Home Depot
- Fabric came from Jo-Anne Fabric
- Insulation came from Fabrication Specialties http://www.fabricationspecialties.com/materials/mw/
I chose all suppliers based on location – I’m in the Chicago Area, and the Insulation Boards, which are typically the hardest thing to source, are in stock at Fabrication Specialties and not too long of a drive.
DIY panels are both easy and cheap – I wanted these to look at clean as possible, while also being as effective and lightweight as possible.
I’d seen several articles and loosely based my work on this one: http://acousticsfreq.com/blog/?p=62
In that blog post, Eric makes an inexpensive frame around the insulation using 1×2 furring strips from Home Depot.
It seemed like a great idea so I did the same thing, with a twist: I put my wooden frame behind the insulation:
In the picture above I have a 4″ thick piece of Rock Wool, with the frame boards laid out.
As I was walking through Home Depot, I wanted to find something inexpensive and easy to work with that I could use on the front size of the rock wool to maintain a sharp edge. It turns out Plastic Drywall edging was perfect! It’s not only lightweight, and easy to cut / work with, but it’s perforated which means I’m not giving up much in the way of acoustic performance around the edges!
I used a pair of Tin snips I had to cut the plastic corners and they worked perfectly.
I wrapped the ceiling panels with white fabric from JoAnn, using a hand stapler:
The hand stapler got a little tiring, and I already owned an air stapler/compressor so I switched over to that after the first one.
I used eye bolts to hang them, here’s a close up of how that worked – the piece you see with the threads was screwed into the ceiling. That was the worst part of this whole project – Tolerances are pretty tight – I had in mind that I would screw the hook all the way to the ceiling for a near flush mount look. My goal was not to see the hooks, which if you think about it, is kinda funny -after all, I’m hanging these ridiculous panels from the ceiling, it’s not like not seeing the hooks is going to increase the “Wife Acceptance Factor” at that point…
Here are a few finished shots of the 4″x2’x2′ panels:
I learned a few things building these that I’d like to pass on:
- White fabric is actually kinda hard to make non-transparent – as you can see in the photo, you can kinda see where the drywall edging is underneath. To get around this, Joanne sells a very cheap white fabric called muslin, it might be worth a layer of that first, or better still, pick a color fabric that isn’t white.
- The metal hooks I hung with were nearly impossible to get perfectly lined up – if you can stomach seeing the hooks and the eyelets, it’s likely 10x easier to hang them.
- The metal hooks I hung them with would rattle when the floor above was walked on. – this eventually either stopped or I don’t notice it anymore, but it could have been easily prevented by using heat shrink tubing on the hooks, or by wrapping them in electrical tape.
Ok on to the wall panels!
For the Wall panels, I used 2×4 x 2 inch thick rock wool.
I again placed the frame behind the material, and I apologize that I don’t have a bunch of pictures from this phase.
In the picture above you see a nearly completed frame, and you’ll notice I have a center support in this one.
In the next one I built, I switched the center supports to two spaced out at 1/3 intervals like this:
I did this so I could hang the frame either vertically or horizontally.
Speaking of hanging, I wanted something that would hang flush to the wall if possible, and I didn’t want to spend $15 per panel on elaborate hardware.
I thought about making a french cleat, but I didn’t have a table saw.
I found some trim that looked like it would work so I nailed about a 1 foot piece to the inside top and side of every 2×4 panel I built.
Again, I don’t have a picture, hopefully this illustration will do:
The Trim piece works on the wall something like this:
Now for the painful part: Did it work? How long did it take? Did I save any money? Was it worth it?
Yes, it worked. Echo / delay in that room is greatly reduced.
It took several weekends to assemble, plus a trip to the insulation supplier about 30 miles away, plus multiple trips to Joanne Fabric and Home Depot.
I built a total of 7 burgundy 2 inch thick 2×4 panels for the walls, plus 4 white 4 inch thick 2×2 panels for the ceiling.
Thats a total of 11 panels. I figure I spent $336 or about $31 a panel.
Was it worth it?
From an end results perspective, absolutely! Acoustically treating that room was the best thing I could have done!
From a cost/time/effort perspective, probably not. I was just talking with a friend today who had outfit his home studio with panels from ATSAcoustics. Those panels are nearly identical to the ones I built above, and only slightly more expensive, with the huge benefit that someone else has figured out all the variables, and done all the work – There is something to be said about having something arrive at your doorstep ready to hang on your wall!
Update June 2015:
The DIY panels have held up well. My wife hijacked my office (shown above) and I needed to outfit a second space. I did a ton of research and settled on AudiMute panels and I couldn’t be happier! There were a lot of things I liked about AudiMute verses the competitors, and I definitely recommend checking them out. DIY is still cheaper, but As you see from the article above, DIY wasn’t super easy either! I can’t tell you how great it felt to just order panels, and have them delivered, and hang them, with less than 30 total minutes of my time invested!