Soundproofing Mistakes and Myths | Studio Tips | WhisperRoom, Inc.™

Soundproofing Mistakes and Myths

By: WhisperRoom™

August 13, 2021

Noise issues are a troublesome problem for many musicians, podcasters, and voice actors. If your profession requires prolonged silence or loud noises, there will probably be a day when you consider how to soundproof a room. However, many people make soundproofing mistakes and waste a lot of time and money on ineffective methods. Why? They fail to research, plan correctly, or perhaps they don’t understand the science behind how soundproofing works.

Whatever the case may be, we’re going to tell you about several common soundproofing mistakes that we hope you will avoid.

Mistake #1: No research into the noise issue

The first step to fixing your noise issue is to understand it. If your AC unit and plumbing system are the culprits of the noise, then you have a structure-borne sound problem. If the neighbor’s barking dog or traffic sounds find their way into your recordings, then you have an airborne sound issue. Aside from products like a sound booth, there is no all-encompassing fix for a sound issue. It’s best to be diligent and properly diagnose the sound issue before attempting to apply any fix.

Also, be wary of the advice you find on the internet. Online forums and YouTube videos are filled with poor recommendations from DIYers who know nothing about the space that you are working in. While it’s okay to consider all the possible soundproofing solutions, just be sure to take ridiculous suggestions with a grain of salt.

image of a soundwave entering an ear.

Mistake #2: Failing to understand the difference between soundproofing and sound absorption

While they are both techniques used to combat noise issues, there is a huge difference between soundproofing and sound absorption. Soundproofing is all about sound isolation (creating barriers and sealing air gaps) and has nothing to do with treating the acoustics in a room. This is the solution to use when you desire a quiet environment.

On the other hand, sound absorption is all about reducing reflected sound in a space. The clever placement of sound-absorbing material on the walls and ceilings will lessen the reverberation in a space. Acoustical foam and sound panels won’t do anything to stop noise from passing through the wall. These techniques will just dampen the room noise and reverberation.

Remember this, it is much more difficult to soundproof a room than to acoustically treat a room.

An info graph that shows the difference between soundproofing and sound absorption.

Mistake #3: Believing the Myths

You will find endless suggestions for soundproofing solutions if you spend some time searching the web. Forums and online groups are filled with cheap solutions that end up being completely ineffective at soundproofing a room. Most of this advice works well for diffusing sound waves but has no effect in reducing noise from entering or leaving your room. Let’s take a look at several of these popular myths and discuss why you shouldn’t believe them.

Egg Cartons

The use of egg cartons for noise reduction is a widely suggested DIY soundproofing method. In theory, these styrofoam and cardboard cartons seem like an inexpensive and creative way to soundproof a room. However, they don’t actually block any noise. A solution like this is a great example of failing to understand the difference between soundproofing and sound absorption.

Additionally, egg cartons aren’t designed for sound treatment and they lack the acoustic characteristics for both absorption and diffusion. Watch the video below to learn more about how they react to sound energy.

Acoustic Fields examine the proverbial egg carton.

Hanging Carpets On the Wall

Carpet does have some acoustically beneficial qualities, such as dampening the sound of footsteps from traveling through the floor and reducing echoes in a room. As a result, a carpeted floor will sound much better than hardwood or concrete in a recording space.

However, hanging pieces of carpet on the wall won’t help you block out any noise from escaping or getting into your space. Why not? Because mass blocks noise. Unfortunately, the density of carpets and rugs does nothing to combat the penetration of sound waves. Even the heaviest carpet or several layers of carpet lack the mass that’s needed to block out noise.

image of a living room with a sofa and carpet hanging on the wall

Soundproofing Paint and Wallpaper

A handful of companies specialize in making sound dampening paint and wallpaper as inexpensive solutions for blocking noise. Sad to say, these methods only have a slight effect on mid-range frequencies (a regular conversation). Due to the lack of mass in soundproofing pain and wallpaper, low frequencies (i.e. lawnmowers and airplanes) and high frequencies (a flute being played) will easily penetrate the attempted sound barrier.

You might be able to achieve better results by applying 3-5 layers of sound dampening paint, but even this will still be a very thin layer of mass so your results could go unnoticed. The same goes for soundproofing wallpaper. Unless the wallpaper is combined with a thicker material like plasterboard or mass-loaded vinyl, it won’t do much to block the noise source.

Mattresses, Couches, and Soft Furniture

Please don’t cover your walls with old mattresses or fill your room with sofas and plush chairs. Instead, remember the difference between soundproofing and sound absorption.

Soft and bulky furniture lacks mass and won’t do anything to help soundproof your room. Mattresses, couches, and soft furniture will help with reverberation issues, but there are better alternatives (sound panels) that don’t take up as much space.

Conclusion

We hope this article will save you the headache of a failed do-it-yourself project. And always remember to distinguish between soundproofing and sound absorption methods. If you’d like professional advice, we’re always here to help.

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