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Layman's Guide to DIY Acoustic Panels
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Thread Starter
Smile Layman's Guide to DIY Acoustic Panels

I'm writing this guide because there are many guides out there online, but I feel like most of them are either not thorough enough or are full of minutia that is important for professional sound engineers building a commercial studio but not necessarily practical for those who are building their first studio on a budget.

Is It Worth The Time/Effort?

Yes. (unless you're extremely busy or have plenty of disposable income). DIY panels are half the price of panels you would buy online, and a fraction of the price of auralex panels. For $200-500, you can build panels to treat a whole room (or buy a few tiny Auralex panels to cover a little corner of the room).

I have very little experience with carpentry or handiwork, and I found this project to be very easy. The only challenge is stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing the online research to learn about everything I needed to make it. With this guide, I hope to save you time by having all the relevant info in one place, as well as tips to help to build efficiently.

In the general sense, after you get the supplies needed, I recommend building one panel fully at first and seeing how it comes out before building more. Assuming you did your research, nothing should come out totally horrible but there are a few minor little mistakes that I made in my first panel, and I used that as a lesson for my other 9 panels.

Wood Frames

I recommended them. For less dense insulation, a frame is essentially mandatory. Some high-density insulation can get away with just being wrapped by fabric alone, but we want wood on all 4 sides to keep it sturdy, easy to hang and preventing of sag, I've seen some DIY projects with high-density styrofoam or metal frames, but honestly, cutting/hammering wood is not difficult at all.

I purchased my wood at a big-box home improvement store. Buying online isn't economical at all. 8 feet long pieces fit inside the SUV barely. Many of these stores will cut it for you to help fit it in your car.

Type of wood. Smoothened pine is nice, but regular common wood is totally fine; it will be wrapped in fabric anyway.

Width. 3/4 to 1 inch wide is fine. Too narrow and it's less sturdy. Too thick and its bulky.

Depth. Deeper = wider sound of frequencies treated (more bass absorption), which rooms especially need for monitoring mixes. 1" deep is a waste of time. 2" deep is minimum recommended. 3-4" deep is a good sweetspot, though for panels bass traps, more. Keep density of the insulation in mind too. For example, a 6" thick fluffy airy insulation material can well fit side a 3" deep panel.

Sanding. You may want to briefly sand the wood (coarse grain) to remove imperfections, smoothen it out and reduce chance of splinters.
Optional.

Measuring. A metallic measuring tape roll is very helpful. Use a square (the right-triangle shaped tool) to make sure you draw perfectly straight lines. Put your long bars of wood side by side and see if the markings line up evenly.

Cutting. An electrical saw is most time efficient. Handsaws require more exertion but can still cut 1" thick pieces of wood quickly. Keep your pointer finger on the side on the side of the handsaw to help balance and straighten the cut.

Assembling the frame. To avoid the time/cost of quarter brackets, I used Liquid Nails (strong wood glue) to adhere the wood together, with real nails to help reinforce it.

Screws/Nails. Long screws w/ power drill is the easiest but hammer + nail works just as fine. The nails/screws should be long (at least 2" long). Pinch the nails to hold them straight until you've nailed them half-way in. Skinnier nails are preferable over thicker ones to reduce risk of splitting wood.

Duct Tape. I used Gorilla Tape for two purposes. I used it on the corners (where the pieces of wood contact each other) as a way to (a) help the wood adhesive dry and (b) give me a clear indicator that the two pieces of wood are perfectly straight before I screw it in. Secondly, on the back of the panel, I cover the back with two long pieces of tape vertically and horizontally (to look like the # symbol). This is to help keep the insulation in.

Insulation Material

Fiberglass. For those who have not interacted with this material before, in my personal experience, I did not find the itchiness of it to be a problem. The irritation to breathing was mild and stopped being a concern at all once wrapped in fabric. Ultratouch (made of denim) is an alternative for those who are significantly bothered by fiberglass.

Owen's Corning 703 is often recommended for its firmness and general ease of handling (2" thick of OC703 will offer what 4" thickness of low-density insulation material will. But due to limited availability and very high shipping costs of Owens Corning, and other brands like it, will be very restrictive. If you can get it at a fair price at a local building materials supplier, great. It's a solid choice, but at the end of the day, it's not the end-all be-all of high-density fiber glass.

Commercially Available Brands. I used John Manville fiberglass because it was the only option available locally. I packed it in to compensate for low density. I definitely see a case for brands that are better suited for acoustical work. And yes, there are detailed comparisons with frequency spectrum data comparing many brands of insulation. There are a lot little of pros and cons to different types of material, but in all honesty, for a beginner home studio build, it's far more important that you cover as much of your recording/mixing room as possible, and at an appropriate thickness, than to mostly focus on having a very specific type.

Packing It In. If you have dense material, build the frame so that the material fits precisely into the frame. Otherwise, with less dense material, you want to stuff some extra on the sides and top to make sure theres no empty air. Gravity is a thing, so filling the top and bottom are especially important. Otherwise it may end up like a bag of potato chips with air on the top.

Fabric

Brand/Price. Brands like Guilford of Maine are great for commercial and large budget studios but offer very diminished returns for the budget home studios. It's impractical to spend this proportion of budget on the icing rather than the cake itself. I'm personally content with the budget fabrics I found on Amazon.com with 4.5 average review score. I've also heard recommendations for JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores – Shop online | JOANN

Breatheability. Less dense fabrics will allow high frequencies to pass through rather than be immediately impeded. Breathable fabrics are used to get a more neutral sound, though some people may view the extra absorption of high-end as a benefit rather than a downside.

Burlap. This is a very ugly potato-sack fabric and I'm glad I didn't use it, but it's for those that want maximum breathability for cheap. Muslin fabric satisfies a lot of the same criteria without sacrificing much aesthetic.

Color. Darker color fabrics are recommended. Lighter colors are more transparent and reveal flaws.

Wrapping. Measure both X and Y axis carefully and have enough for it to wrap once on both sides. Leave an inch or two of extra room for good measure, but otherwise you want it as tight and you can get while still able to be fully wrapped. Leaving too much on will make too baggy, or messy when wrapping. Lie the panel face-down on top of the measured square/rectangle of fabric. Then, wrap it with the behind facing you. Turn it around carefully to give it a glance just to make sure it's wrapped evenly. Before applying any staples or adhesives, do a few test runs of wraping it.

Adhesive Spray. I can see a case for either using adhesive spray (simple, no visual blemishes) or a staple gun (staples can be removed easily). I ultimately went with the spray. I sprayed a good amount on the wood frame, and a light dusting under the fabric. Don't start spraying until you're ready to wrap it because you need to act quickly. I noticed that spraying lightly will give you more freedom to readjust the fabric. I didn't attach all the ends at once. I started by adhering the top, then stretching the bottom to adhere it fairly tightly. Then, on the sides, I pulled them inward to converge them tightly. To avoid getting my hands messy, I used the flat top of can itself to press the fabric.

Ironing. Don't iron while the adhesive is still bonding; it could cause an unwanted chemical interaction. Iron before using the adhesive, or after. But I would strongly recommend ironing the fabric before even working with it. Removing the creases will allow you to check for a smooth surface to make sure it's wrapped evenly and tightly.

Overall Materials List

This is a long post, but I'll just go over the basic list of what I used. Different builds will use different materials to adhere things together, so take this as a humble suggestion more than a rigid guide.

Tools: Hammer, Square, Roll-Up Tape Rule, Pencil, Handsaw

* Pieces of wood (x4 per panel) (i.e. 1"x4")
* 3M Adhesive Spray
* Liquid Nails (adhesive)
* Gorilla Tape
* Nails (3" long, not too thick)
* Muslin fabric (Black, make sure the roll is wide enough)
* Insulation material of your choice
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Gear Guru
 
DanDan's Avatar
Best DIY Bass Trap Design.

Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
The link to the essay is broken

What materials do you use for the frame?
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Guru
 
DanDan's Avatar
Working

It's working here. Try again.
DD
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
It's working here. Try again.
DD
Its broken on my end too...


@minervx The material is perforated cable raceway. Its for data cables, etc...
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 
avare's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
It's working here. Try again.
DD
It was working fine here earlier today.

Andre
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by avare View Post
It was working fine here earlier today.

Andre
Ooooohhhh.... so you broke it then?
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Not sure how to follow this but I want to read it later, so I'll just say something stupid for now to participate.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Gear Guru
 
DanDan's Avatar
Broken

It is working here. But this is not the first time that thread was intermittent.
I will host it on my own website when I get around to it. There are a few other clever DIY tricks, which clients and Acoustic friends have come up with.
DD
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