When I started building my recording studio, the control room and the booth could have been better regarding sound reverberation and echo. It was due to the large empty spaces with no soft materials. As I was looking to buy acoustic panels, I quickly realized that given the size of my studio and the number of wall panels I would need, the budget would be too high. This was when the idea of building my own DIY acoustic panels came.
In this article, I will explain to you the benefits of DIY acoustic panels, the step-by-step approach to building some (including the shopping list with all the tools you will need), and how to hang them and I’ll give you all my tips to create the perfect wall panels for your studio.
- Why DIY Acoustic Panels are a must for home studios
- 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Materials for Your DIY Acoustic Panels
- Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Acoustic Panels
- How to Hang Your DIY Acoustic Panels for Maximum Effectiveness
- The Benefits of DIY Acoustic Panels: Save Money and Improve Sound Quality
Why DIY Acoustic Panels are a must for home studios
First, why would you install acoustic panels at all?
You have to understand that sound is a wave that propagates in the air. When this wave reaches a material in a room, it can be reflected, refracted or attenuated depending on the form and composition of the material.
Reflection occurs when the sound bounces on a flat and hard surface. It causes the repetition of the sound, that is, echo. If the original sound mixes with the reflected sound, the sound gets prolonged and creates the effect of reverberation.
When the sound wave crosses different mediums (for instance, air and glass), it can deform the sound wave, bedding it or spreading it out. In this case, the change of medium can modify the speed and the direction of the sound. This phenomenon is called refraction.
The soft materials from their side produce an attenuation of the sound. They scatter and absorb the sound waves and thus weaken their intensity with distance.
So acoustic panels are made with a soft sound absorption material that attenuates the sound so that it doesn’t bounce and reaches the listener only once without being deformed. They are essential in the setup of a recording studio for the microphones to capture a clean signal and for the sound engineer to hear the sound with high fidelity.
Why would you build your acoustic panels yourself?
To start hearing a significant difference after the acoustic treatment of a room, sound-absorbing panels have to cover 15 to 25% of the wall surface. However a minimum of 25% coverage is recommended for music studios. But you want to be as close to 100% as possible.
Pre-made sound absorption panels will be expensive if you want to cover a maximum wall surface to properly soundproof your music studio to have the best sound quality. So DIY acoustic panels are a more cost-effective alternative.
In addition, the prebuilt acoustic panels have a size and a design imagined by the company, which makes them. With DIY acoustic panels, you can adapt the dimensions to your space. In addition, you can be creative with their shape and visual aspect. You can even create artistic wall panels that will match the decoration and colors of your music studio.
5 Tips for Choosing the Right Materials for Your DIY Acoustic Panels
1. Use high-density wool insulation
Before buying the wool insulation for your DIY acoustic panels, compare the density options you will find at your hardware store. The higher the density, the better it will absorb sound waves.
2. Consider the thickness of the wool insulation
I recommend using wool insulation 3 in. thick. Same as density, the thicker the wool insulation, the better the acoustic properties and sound absorption. Keep also in mind that the wider it is, the more space it will take in your room and stick out from the walls because you will have a thicker panel.
3. Choose the right fabric
The fabric covering the wool insulation must not interfere with the sound absorption properties of the wool. It must be acoustically transparent. You should avoid materials like leather, which might not let the wool insulation absorb the sound waves and cause sound reflections. Fabric with a tight weave is a good option for this.
You want to avoid transparent fabric, so the structure of your panel is not visible. Also, the material must not be too heavy or fragile so that it’s easy to staple it on the wood frame and it doesn’t get damaged too quickly.
Take measurements before buying your fabric. You want to avoid having too much excess fabric.
4. Take durability into account
Your DIY panels are going to be exposed to regular usage. So you need to consider their robustness and ensure they are easy to clean. Also, remember that light-colored fabrics like white ones get dirty more quickly.
5. Think about the appearance
Even if the primary aim of sound absorption panels is to improve your music studio’s acoustics significantly, they will cover a big surface of the walls. As a result, you want them to be visually pleasing. So choose a fabric and color that fits with the overall design of the recording studio.
Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Acoustic Panels
1. Gather materials
I used a dimension of 4 ft. x 6 ft to build my acoustic panels. Of course, this is just an example. You can choose the sizes that best fit your recording studio’s wall surfaces.
Here is the complete shopping list of materials you will need to build one acoustic panel. You will find all this easily at the home renovation store close to your place.
- Wool insulation: You want one that is made for acoustic performance. From my side, I bought the ROCKWOOL SAFE’n’SOUND, a stone wool insulation. The price of one package is around $90, but it contains 12 pieces of wool insulation that will allow you to build 2 acoustic panels with a leftover of 3 pieces (one panel requires 4.5 pieces). The thickness of the wool insulation will determine the width of the wooden boards you will have to buy. In my case, it was 3 inches thick.
- Wooden boards to build the frame: I chose knotty pine boards that were solid enough and one of the most affordable options. But you can choose any solid enough type of furring strip you find. For one panel, you will need one 2x3x8 and two 2x3x6 knotty pine boards. 2 in. is the required thickness, so you can easily screw the boards together. 3 in. is the width of the plank of wood that corresponds to the thickness of the wool insulation. And you need two boards 6 ft. long and one 8 ft. long that you will cut in two pieces to get a 4 ft. x 6 ft. acoustic panel. The 8 ft. ones are about $15, and the 6 ft. ones are about 12$ each, representing a budget of less than $40 for one panel.
- Fabric: For each acoustic panel, you need two pieces of textile, one for the front and one for the back of the panel. For the front piece, this is where you can get creative and choose what your panels are going to look like. For the back, I recommend getting very cheap fabric or even fabric you already have and can reuse since it won’t show. Regarding dimensions, the two pieces of fabric must be 4 ft. x 6 ft. with a bit of margin to staple them to the wood frame. I recommend two pieces of at least 4 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 4 in. The price of the fabric will depend on the quality you decide to buy and how many panels you want to build. You can easily find some at your local fabric store or online. Make sure you buy a strong enough textile to support the staples.
- Corner braces: To ensure your panels keep their rectangular shape, I recommend using corner braces at the four corners of the wood frame. You should buy some with 4 holes and that have a length of a minimum of 3 in. You can find packages of those steel braces for a small amount of money.
- Screws: For each panel, you will need 8 long flat-head steel wood screws, at least #8 x 2 in. You could also use wood glue instead of wood screws, but this is not what I would recommend to ensure the solidity of the external frame. You also need 16 little wood screws (about #8 x 1-1/2 in.) to fix the corner braces in the corners of the wooden frame. Make sure that the heads of the screws (square, star, etc.) correspond to the electric screwdriver bits you already have. You can find packages of screws for a very affordable price.
- Staples: You need any staples that are strong enough to maintain your fabric tight on the wooden frame.
In addition, you will need the following:
- a measuring tape,
- a pen,
- an electric screwdriver,
- a drill with a bit adapted to the long flat-head steel wood screws (#8),
- a saw or a circular saw to cut the wood (you also have the option to ask your home renovation store to cut the wood for you),
- a snap-off blade knife or a serrated knife to cut the wool insulation,
- a pneumatic staple,
- scissors to cut the fabric,
- and a surface to safely cut and drill the wood (workbench or table).
2. Assemble the frame
Please wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Make a mark on the middle of the 8 ft. wooden board with the measuring tape and pen.
- With the saw or circular saw, cut the wooden board carefully where you just made the mark. Make sure your board is held carefully to a table or workbench before cutting and that it is safe.
- On one side of each wooden board, make a mark at 2 in. from one edge, on the side of 3 in. with the pen.
- With the drill, make two pilot holes in each wooden board within the rectangle you marked. Make them not too close to the edges, so the wood doesn’t break. And make them as far as possible from each other. As for cutting, use a table or workbench to hold the board and ensure it’s safe before drilling.
- Take one 6 ft. board, and place it on the left with the two pilot holes you just made facing left and towards the top on a flat surface. Take one 4 ft. board, and put it perpendicularly on the right of the 6 ft. board with the two holes facing up and on the opposite side of the 6 ft. board. Screw the 2 pieces together with 2 long screws and the electric screwdriver, one screw per pilot hole.
- Take the second 6 ft. board. Place it perpendicularly to the 4 ft. board, with holes on the opposite side of the 4 ft. board. Screw the 4 ft. to the second 6 ft. boards with 2 long screws and the electric screwdriver, one screw per pilot hole.
- Take the last 4 ft. board. Place it perpendicularly to the two 6 ft. boards, pilot holes facing the bottom and close to the first 6 ft. board. Screw the second 6 ft. to the second 4 ft. board with 2 long screws and the electric screwdriver, one screw per pilot hole.
- Screw the second 4 ft. to the first 6 ft. boards with 2 long screws and the electric screwdriver, one screw per pilot hole.
- Screw the 4 corner braces in the corners of the frame with 4 little screws and the electric screwdriver for each corner.
3. Add the insulation wool and fabric
- After assembling your external frame, the next step is to cut a piece of fabric with scissors for the back of your acoustic panel of at least 4 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 4 in.
- Place this piece under the frame and wrap the frame with it. Staple the fabric tight on the inside of the frame. Ensure the fabric covers the whole structure and stretch it properly to avoid creases. Staples must be close to each other. Feel free to use many of them. Trim off the excess fabric if needed.
- To build one acoustic panel, if your insulation wool is in pieces of 47 in. x 15 ¼ in., you need 3 entire pieces of insulation wool plus 3 halves. So, with a snap-off blade knife, take 2 insulation wool sheets and cut them in their middle. Make sure you are on a good surface to cut and that it’s safe. If you have a different size of insulation wood, you will need to calculate the pieces you need.
- Place 3 full pieces at the bottom, inside the frame and on top of the fabric. Place 3 half pieces on top of the full pieces. It should cover most of the surface of your acoustic panel to avoid any air gap. Don’t hesitate to pack the wool slightly to fit it in the frame.
- Cut with the scissors a piece of the fabric for the front of your acoustic panel of at least 4 ft. 4 in. x 6 ft. 4 in.
- Place this piece on top of the frame to pack the wool. And wrap the frame with it.
- Staple the fabric on the back of the frame to cover the front and the edges. Once again, staples must be close to each other. Feel free to use many of them. Ensure the fabric covers the whole frame and stretch it to avoid creases. Trim off the excess fabric if needed.
Voilà! Your acoustic panel is finally ready to be hung on the wall! You can repeat this process several times to create the number of panels you want for your music studio.
How to Hang Your DIY Acoustic Panels for Maximum Effectiveness
1. Determine the best placement
The placement and number of acoustic panels depend on the size and the elements present in the music studio (like windows and doors). You need to think of a symmetrical disposition of the sound panels in your studio so that the stereo sound travels equally on both sides. So make a map of your recording studio to see all the options you have to hang your panels and decide on the number you will install on each wall. Two parallel walls must have the same number of panels. And you should distribute your sound panels horizontally so they are at an equal distance from the edge of the wall and each other.
In terms of height on the wall, it depends on your listening position. Ideally, the middle of the acoustic panels must be approximately at ear level. So if you are standing, you must hang your panels more up than if you are seated. If you do both, align the middle of your sound panels with the center of the distance between your ears while seated and your ears while standing.
2. Gather the material
- Corner braces: You will need at least 2 corner braces per panel to hang it on the wall. To make sure it’s solid enough, 3 would be even better. Choose wide and solid ones so they can hold your panel securely. Make sure they are a maximum of 3 in. long so they are not longer than the thickness of your panel. You can find packages of those steel braces for a small amount of money.
- Screws: To hang your panel robustly on the wall, you can buy drywall screws that you will put directly in the studs. Otherwise, if the studs are not in the proper position to place your panel where you want, you can buy drywall anchors which can support your panel’s weight. Make sure that the heads of the screws (square, star, etc.) correspond to the screwdrivers you already have. You can find packages of screws for a very affordable price.
In addition, you will need the following:
- a measuring tape,
- a pen,
- a screwdriver,
- a hammer,
- a stud finder (if your wall is made of plasterboard fixed on metal studs),
- a snap-off blade knife,
- a drill with a bit adapted to the anchors (if you are using anchors),
- and a level to make sure your panel is straight.
3. Hang the acoustic panels
Once again, please wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Mark the position of the corner braces: With the stud finder, determine where the studs are and mark them with the pen. Check if their position allows you to have two corner angle not too far from the edges of your panel and one in the middle of it. Depending on this, you will be able to determine if you will use drywall screws directly or drywall anchors.
- Measure the height where you want to hang your panel with the measuring tape, and use a corner brace and the pen to mark where the holes will be. Use the level to ensure your holes are all at the same height.
- If you are not in a stud, drill the holes you have just marked with the drill and put the anchors in those holes with the hammer.
- Position your corner braces on the wall and solidly screw them to the wall with the screwdriver.
- With the measuring tape, determine where the corner braces will be in contact with your panel. Cut a small line in the fabric of the back of your panel, just below the frame, with the snap-off blade knife to make room for the corner brace.
- Place the panel on the wall with the braces in the lines you have just cut.
Here we go. Your panel is now in place! You can repeat this with your other sound panels. Then your home studio will be acoustically treated and ready to go!
The Benefits of DIY Acoustic Panels: Save Money and Improve Sound Quality
In conclusion, here are the reasons why you should definitely build your own DIY acoustic panels:
- You will save money: As mentioned earlier, pre-made acoustic panels can be expensive, especially if you need many. Making your own sound panels is more cost-effective and saves you money on materials and labor costs.
- You can customize your panels: When you make your own panels, you have complete control over the panels’ size, shape and appearance. It allows you to tailor the sound panels to your specific needs and preferences.
- They will improve sound quality as efficiently as prebuilt panels: Properly made and installed DIY acoustic panels will significantly improve the sound quality of your music room by reducing echo and reverberation. DIY panels can be as effective as pre-made ones if you build them using high-density wool insulation and acoustically transparent fabric.
- You will have an excellent sense of accomplishment: Making your own acoustic panels can be a satisfying and rewarding DIY project, especially if you see a significant improvement in the sound quality of your home studio after installing the sound panels.