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Posted June 2, 2012 by Stephan Earl in Home Studio Setup
 
 

Build Acoustic Panels for Your Home Studio for $25 Each

I recently moved back to sunny Florida which means it was time once again to rebuild my home recording studio.  One good thing about starting from scratch is that you can learn from past mistakes and improve upon things to make them better.  With that in mind, I decided it was time to improve upon the quality of my listening and mixing experience in my new space by installing acoustic sound treatment panels.

The spaces I’ve used in the past to house my recording equipment have all ranged in acoustic qualities from being very live (rich with high frequency reverberations and echoes), to being bass boomy in the corners. This made it difficult to accurately mix using my reference monitors.  However, I wasn’t quite willing to pour out the coin needed to purchase commercially available acoustic foam packages.

So I took matters into my own hands with my first DIY (do-it-yourself) project and built eight acoustic sound treatment panels.  The dimensions of each panel are 4 ft. high x 2 ft. wide x 3 inches thick and they cost me about $25 per panel.  And wow, what a difference they made to the acoustics of the room.  Below I’ll show you what materials I used to build the panels and will guide you step by step on how I built them.

… but first: Sound Absorption vs. Soundproofing and Sound Deflection.

The panels described here are good for the sound absorption needed in most home recording studios.  Although the insulation materials I mention below are also used for sound proofing rooms, these acoustic panels will not sound proof your space, nor prevent sound from entering or leaving your studio.  Likewise, while the completed panels will add dimension to the walls within your studio which will help to deflect the sound from the flat surface, what we’re going after is sound absorption to prevent sound from bouncing back to other walls within the room.

Bass Traps –  Bass traps to be placed in the corners of the room can be built the same way using the method below.  The main difference is acoustic panels should be a minimum of 2 inches in depth and bass traps should be a minimum of 4 inches in depth.

OK now let’s get started.

Materials

Here’s a listing of the materials I used to make eight 4′ (H) x 2′ (W) x 3″ (D)  acoustic sound treatment panels along with some pricing.  Of course, prices will vary depending on your location and retailer.

DIY Build Acoustic Panels For Your Home Studio - Materials

 

DIY Build Acoustic Panels For Your Home Studio - Roxul

1. Roxul Stone Wool 8-Pack $49.61 (Lowes.com) – This is the key ingredient needed, so I took my time to research this and decided on Safe n Sound stone wool by Roxul.  Stone wool (also known as rock wool) is highly rated as a sound proofing material and is a bit easier to handle than fiberglass panels.  If you choose fiberglass insulation, a good one to get and the most popular is Owens Corning 703 or 705.  The sound absorption qualities of both Roxul’s Safe n Sound and Owens Corning 703 rock wool are very similar.  You can visit their specific websites for more information.  These insulations are denser than standard insulation and are designed specifically for sound absorption and not for thermal insulation.  Also, these insulations are not typically sold in stores, and I had to order Roxul’s Safe n Sound from Lowes online which took about a week to deliver.

Here is a chart showing ASTM International standard test results for Roxul stone wool.  More information from ASTM.org  can be found here.

DIY Build Acoustic Panels for your Home Studio - Roxul Chart

2. (12) Furring Strip Boards 1″ x 3″ x 8′ $13.80 (Home Depot) – I chose Furring strips for the wood frame which were $1.15 per 8′ board at Home Depot.  You can use other wood such as Pine, but Furring was inexpensive and worked perfectly.  I purchased 12 boards and Home Depot cut these for free into (16) 4 ft. strips and (16) 2 ft. strips that I needed.

3. Fabric $88 (JoAnn Fabrics) – For the front facing fabric I decided on linen because it was the look I wanted and was practical for acoustic purposes.  The rule here is you should be able to breath through the fabric and feel at least 60% of your breath.  If air can get through the fabric, than so can sound which is what you want.  Some folks suggest using Burlap, but I thought burlap was too porous, sheds too much lint and didn’t have a clean look.  Another good fabric choice is the fabric used for the front of consumer speakers, but this only comes in black.  Linen was $9.99 at JoAnn, but I downloaded their app to my smartphone and the app had a 50% coupon.  I ended up using 13 yards of this to make the 8 panels.

For the rear fabric I used Muslin which is an inexpensive utility fabric costing $1.99.  I only purchased 11 1/2 yards of this since it doesn’t need to wrap around to the back of the boards like the front facing fabric does.

4. Other Materials (Home Depot):

  • 24 gauge galvanized steel wire 250ft roll
  • Staple Gun
  • 1/4″ staples
  • rubber gloves
  • power grab multipurpose glue
  • 3/4″ felt circles
  • 4-pack 1.5″ corner brace
  • Box 1 1/2″ wood screws
  • Tape measure (I already owned)
  • Drill (I already owned)

Altogether I spent $200.51 which works out to $25 per panel.  Not a bad price considering a comparable pre-made acoustic treatment foam set such as the Roominator Project 2 by Aurelex costs about $660.  Additionally, I was able to choose the specific look I wanted, and have the pride of knowing I did it myself.

 

Step by Step

Step 1: Cut the Fabric

I recommend you cut the fabric first and get this all ready and laid out.  The front facing fabric should be cut long enough to wrap around to the back side of the panel allowing for some overlap.  The Muslin only needs to be the length of the board.  I ironed the linen just to get out all of the creases, but since the fabric is being stretched this may not be necessary.

Step 2: Build the Frame

Line up the two 4′ and two 2′ wood panels with the longer panels being on the inside of the rectangle so your panels end up being exactly 2 feet wide.  Staple the boards together to hold them in place.  Drill two holes into the boards then use the 1 1/2″ wood screws to fasten the boards together.  Screw the corner braces onto the insides corners of the frame.  your frame should feel very solid at this point.

Step 3: Place Backing Fabric

Place the Muslin fabric onto of the frame an staple the fabric onto the frame with about 6 inches of space between staples.  Staple in the center of the 4′ board a few times then move to the opposite board, pull the fabric tightly and staple down.  Alternate sides as you staple to ensure this is tight.  Once all sides are stapled down, I reinforced with additional staples in-between the initial 6 inch spacing.  That last step may not be necessary.

Step 4: Place Insulation Batt

With gloves on, place the insulation batt into the frame.

Step 5: Place Front-facing Fabric

Lay out your front facing fabric and place the panel with insulation on top with the visible insulation facing downward.  Pull the fabric over the back of the board and begin stapling as described above.  Again, be sure to continuously pull the fabric tightly as you staple.  Fold the corner excess fabric into a crease on the top of the panels and not the sides.  I used the all purpose glue to glue flat any overlapping fabric.

Step 6: Install Hanging Wire

For easy installation, I chose to use 24 gauge galvanized steel wire so I could hang the panels like a picture frame.  Measure 6 inches from the top of the panels and screw one wood screw about 3/4 of the way in.  Do the same on the other side.  Wrap the steel wire around the screws three times so you have about five wires going across to each side.  Finish placing the screws in the rest of the way and twist the excess wire around the bunch of wires on both ends.  Lastly place the 3/4″ felt circles onto the corners of the back side of the panel so the panels rest softly on your wall.  That’s it you’re done!

TIP: Be careful when you purchase the 24 gauge wire to get galvanized steel and not Aluminum.  They look exactly the same, but do not have the same weight rating.  A single strip of 24 gauge steel wire will hold about 35 lbs.  While the completed acoustic panel only weighs about 10 lbs, I wanted to play it safe by overlapping the wire a few times.  Alternatively you can use heavier wire such as 18 gauge or 16 gauge wire.  I chose the smaller gauge wire and overlapping since the wire was more flexible this way.

Watch the video above for a step by step video tutorial and to see me assemble a panel in 16 seconds… time lapsed of course.  Each panel took me about 45 mins to complete in real time.

DIY Build Acoustic Panels for your Home Studio

Check out my Home Recording Studio Tour to see these acoustic panels and  the rest of my home project studio.

Stephan Earl

 
Composing, recording and producing music in the home studio environment for over 25 years, musician and author Stephan Earl now enjoys sharing his home studio setup experience with other home studio recording musicians via HomeMusicProduction.com.