If you are asking, “Do I need acoustic panels in my home studio?” The answer is a resounding, YES!
Acoustic panels help control sound wave reflections in a room. This results in reducing the amount of natural reverb. If you record or produce music in a home studio, you have most likely tried several methods to improve your room acoustics. Most rooms will reflect your voice, guitar, or any other instrument in a negative way. One or more of these reasons may be why you are reading this right now! That or the exorbitant prices of professional sound panels.
Instructions for building acoustic panels are all over YouTube. There are a lot of great methods I’ve found there. It was a great source for the inspiration, ideas, and design we ultimately came up with. The build created here is sturdy and looks beautiful. Most importantly, it can save you money. This specific acoustic panel is even built to install along with the studs of your house (if your studs are 16″ apart). A lot of what can be found on the internet did not fit all our 5 criteria.
Did you find yourself in the same place as us? Stick around because I’m excited to share the recipe we brewed up for these panels.
There are always other tools you may want to use, depending on your skill level and what you have at your disposal. For our frames, we also used a pocket hole jig and a carpenter square. Alternatively, you could countersink your screws. The best thing about a recipe is that you can modify it to meet your needs, right?
Rockwool is a stone wool batt used in new construction and renovations. It excels at reducing reflections. Unlike Owens Corning products, Rockwool is not a fiberglass product. It doesn’t have the same negative side effects of fiberglass. While it’s safer to handle, please don’t eat it. The most exciting part is, this 15.5″x47″x3.25″ batt fits perfectly inside the frames we designed.
For the frames, you will use square edge white wood common boards. You can find these at any lumber yard. You will want to pick out the straightest looking boards they have on hand. Don’t worry about the knots, or how pretty they look. You will be covering them with fabric. Each panel will use 127 inches or a little more than 10.5 feet of wood to complete. Based on that you can estimate how many boards you will need for your project.
4’x15′ drop cloths are what we chose for this DIY acoustic panel. We were able to build three fully wrapped panels out of one drop cloth with very little waste. Canvas is a very durable fabric. It is not too stretchy and gives the panels an industrial and slightly imperfect look to them. The end result is pretty incredible.
Don’t like the rugged look of the drop cloths or want something more tailored to your studio? We recommend using burlap or reusing old curtains. Hit up your local fabric store to find something more unique. Avoid fabric with any kind of a coating on it, you want them to absorb sound not reflect it after all. Beware of any stretchy fabrics, you want a tight woven or wrap-able fabric. Fabric that stretches or is loose woven will not look right and will allow the Rockwool to sag in the frame over time. This will make the panels look less than desirable. Drop cloths allowed us to get a tight wrap on the frames. This makes them durable and long lasting while hanging from the ceiling. We also got nice, tight corners with this fabric making them look almost professional. Most importantly, it cost us less in the end.
For each frame, you will need to carefully make some cuts. You will still need your fingers to finish putting the panel together. Please don’t hurt yourself.
Attach the shorter cuts to the ends of your longer boards using both screws and wood glue. We used inset screws and a hole jig to sink our screws in. If you don’t have access to a hole jig, you will want to pre-drill holes for the wood screws. This will ensure that you don’t split the wood and will make inserting the screws much easier. We can’t stress enough the importance of wood glue. Glue strengthens the frame and ensures it will hold up under pressure. Once it dries it eliminates any wobble you may get with screws alone.
The result should be a rectangular frame that measures 16.5″ x 48.5″. The exact size needed to fit your Rockwool batt snugly inside! Now let your frames dry for a few hours or even overnight. You will want them to be nice and dry before wrapping them with fabric.
Take your drop cloth out and position it on a table or workspace in preparation for wrapping your frame. Next, place the frame on top of the fabric making sure it is in the center of the fabric. Finally, insert one Rockwool batt. A single batt should fit snug inside of the frame, fitting tight enough that you could pick up the frame without the Rockwool falling out.
If this is what your frame and batt look like, it’s a perfect fit!
This part may not come as naturally as saws, drills, and hammers to some of us. But, let’s see if we can get through it together. Refer to the pictures below each section in this next part as it may get confusing.
Cut a rectangle out of the fabric to accommodate the corners and remove any excess fabric. We want to achieve those nice tight corners. In the photo on the left, you’ll see our cut marks (the red lines on the inside). It is critical to remove the excess fabric but not critical to cut it out perfectly. Be sure to leave enough fabric to fold in a bit to make a nice looking and tight corner. You don’t want any to leave any exposed wood (we left about a 1/4″). On the right, you can see that we removed some excess fabric that will fold over the end of the frame. We left about 1″ of fabric to wrap around the end so we can cleanly fold over and attach it to the side of the frame. Make all your cuts now before continuing.
After you have finished all your cuts, work one side of the frame at a time. Securely wrap and staple the fabric around the side and ends. Keep in mind that you do not want to staples to show in the finished product. You should have something that looks like the photo below after stapling the end. Now lay the fabric from the remaining side over the stapled side creating an overlap of fabric.
Leave the short ends for last here. Start by pulling the fabric tightly around the frame and staple along the second long edge. Make sure you are checking the fabric on the front of the panel as you go. You don’t want the fabric to have any wrinkles or look overstretched as you do this. If you chose a fabric with a pattern this is a critical step.
Finally, fold the fabric on the short end over the back of the panel. Remember the extra bit of fabric we left when cutting the excess out on the corners? Use this to fold and tuck the corners firmly and neatly. In the end, this will create a more finished look. Then staple them (leave room for any hanging hardware). Add a cross staple pattern for durability on each corner.
Look how tight that corner looks below!
With a little bit of luck, trial and error, or skill, you will have finished your first panel. The overlapping fold on top is helpful for re-stuffing or adjusting the Rockwool. Want to save a bit of money on the fabric? Leave the backs open, exposing the Rockwool and allowing access from the back of the panel. We do not recommend this for cloud panels. Vibrations could cause the fibers from the insulation to be released into the air.
At this point, your panel should be ready to install. There are several mounting options. You may opt for a simple picture hanging kit or even a French cleat. Any kind of mounting bracket will work. Pick a mounting solution appropriate for the weight of the acoustic panel.
We chose to install D-Rings on the back of the panels. Hang them on walls or even ceilings like we did with S-Hooks and Screw Eyes. Here is the best part. These panels will hang perfectly on studs at the standard 16″ apart! I am very happy with the finished product. Our first three fully wrapped panels were installed as a sound cloud above our studio desk.
Acoustic panels of this size and density can have a noticeable impact on the sound of your room. Compared to commercial foam products, you will discover that foam is more decorative than beneficial in most rooms. Foam has little effect on the sound control of a room, especially larger rooms. Acoustic panels should be your main source of controlling reflections.
The cost to build largely depends on the price of materials. We bought supplies to build 12 panels for just under $300. At less than $25 per panel, they are a bargain but also took a lot of planning, time, and sweat equity. Ultimately, they were worth it in the end. I hope this recipe helps cut down on some of the time and planning efforts so you can just get to the building.
The Audio Brew recommends Audimute for the best prices on commercial grade acoustic panels. Comparable panels from Audimute will run around $72 each. Audimute does run sales from time to time and we feature them here at The Audio Brew. If you would like to get notified, subscribe to our Handcrafted Email. We promise to only notify you of the best deals from music-industry manufacturers and retailers.