Building A Sound Studio: Guidelines and Common Mistakes

Mill Studio recording session

Unlike other construction projects, building a sound studio requires painstaking attention to the details. This is because material used in any type of construction project comes with a resonant frequency; by tapping into that frequency, sound begins to resonate. When a client seeks out a professional, like yourself, controlling the sound in that studio is critical to their bottom line.

Absorbing The Sound

Among the biggest misconceptions surrounding the construction of a sound studio is that acoustic foam -- in and of itself -- is capable of soundproofing a room. Acoustic foam is extremely efficient at absorbing reflected (also referred to as ambient) sounds in a room. While you can achieve minimal levels of sound isolation, acoustic foam is not designed to keep sounds contained within a room.

For projects involving either new construction, or a newly built soundproof wall, products such as sound barriers or high performance acoustic panels should be included to achieve the highest levels of noise reduction.

Wall Construction

Sounproof WallsFor most existing structures, the walls will not be thick enough, as is, to provide a sufficient sound barrier. However, when clients complain that their existing walls are so "paper thin" they can hear any and everything happening outside, that's a clear indication that the wall is void of insulation. By simply removing the existing gypsum board, adding soundproof insulation, then replacing the gypsum wall with multiple layers, you'll achieve a much better sound barrier for the room.

Of course, you must take extra precaution to close off all seams in the studio area (using caulk, taping and mudding) to prevent sound from escaping. Airtight construction is critical because like its fellow elements air and water, sound quickly and easily escapes through any gap... even the tiniest ones.

For projects that allow for brand new construction from the ground up, the best way to achieve soundproofing is to create a room within a room. The way to achieve this is simple: The interior walls of the room which will be used as the studio should not connect (or even be adjacent to) any of the exterior walls. Further, you should leave some airspace between the soundproof studio wall and the exterior wall. The soundproofing treatments built into the interior wall will have the benefit of having an additional layer of protection -- and possibly the best sound barrier available. 

Creating a Soundproof Ceiling

Accoustical CeilingsThe rules for constructing a soundproof ceiling are much the same as it is for the walls. Gypsum board can be layered over the existing ceiling, or if funds are available, an entirely new ceiling can be constructed a bit lower than the existing ceiling. In fact, the new, lowered ceiling can actually rest on top of the newly soundproofed walls you've just completed.

While light fixtures are often mounted within the ceilings at many sound studios, in the soundproof studio room, you will want to minimize the number and size of the light fixture boxes. Again, the goal inside the studio room is to alleviate areas through which sound can escape. In these rooms, if at all possible, utilize floor lamps and wall-mounted light fixtures.

Further, if the studio room is small, consider using noise control panels on the ceilings to provide a protective sound barrier.

Floor Construction Tips

Within rooms where every sound matters, the floor construction cannot simply be overlooked, as sound reflects off every material within the room. Products such as floating floors and acoustic isolation pads can help to reduce sound transfer. The acoustic isolation pads are effective for both wood and concrete floors.

There are also a number of budget friendly subfloor solutions that work well with all types of flooring, from wood to carpeting to concrete. In most cases, these acoustic treatments used beneath the flooring in a sound studio will not only reduce noise in the room, they also create moisture barriers, aiding in the prevention of mold and mildew.

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Photo credit: Andrew Stawarz / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.