Optimizing Your Recording Room: Isolating Sound

When you start recording in your home, both you and your neighbors are probably concerned about the amount of sound that gets into and out of your room. Sound waves are nasty little buggers. They get through almost any surface, and you can’t do a lot to stop that from happening.

The best (and classic) way to isolate your studio room from everything around it is to build a room within a room or to use sound isolation materials to reduce the level of sound passing through your floors, ceilings, or walls. You can find resources to get you started by doing a Google search with the keywords “sound isolation.” Here are a couple of places to get you started:

  • Sound Isolation Company: Aside from selling products to help you keep the sound in (or out) of your studio, you’ll find useful information here about the process of sound isolation.

  • Netwell: Again, this company sells products to help control sound, but you’ll also find good basic information here to get you started.

If you don’t have the money or space to build a room within a room or to add expensive sound isolation barriers to your recording space, the best thing you can do is to try to understand what noises are getting in and getting out and deal with those noises.

For example, if you live in a house or apartment with neighbors close by, don’t record live drums at night. You could also consider using a drum machine or electronic drum set instead.

Another idea is to choose a room in your house or apartment that is the farthest away from outside noise (an interior room, for instance). Basements also work well because they’re underground, and the ground absorbs most of the sound.

Placing a little fiberglass batt insulation in the ceiling — the typical house insulation that you can find at your local home center — can isolate you pretty well from your neighbors. Detached garages are generally farther away from other buildings, so sound has a chance to dissipate before it reaches your neighbors (or before your neighbors’ noise reaches your garage).

Also, keep the following points in mind when trying to isolate your studio:

  • Dead air and mass are your friends. The whole concept of a room within a room is to create mass and dead-air space so that the sound is trapped.

  • Don’t expect acoustical foam or carpet to reduce the noise.

  • Isolate the instrument instead of the room. Isolating the sound of your guitar amp can be much less expensive than trying to soundproof your whole room.

    An amp-isolator box reduces the amount of noise you hear from your amp, even when it’s cranke
    An amp-isolator box reduces the amount of noise you hear from your amp, even when it’s cranked.

You can also create an isolated space in a closet by insulating it and closing the door when you record, or you can put your guitar amp (or drums) in another room and run a long cord from there to your recorder. If you do this, remember that for long cord runs, you need to use balanced cords; otherwise you may get a bunch of noise and your signal may be too low to record well.

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