Sound of Silence: Recording Studio Soundproofing Techniques
May 18, 2021
Sound is everywhere – in the murmur of passers-by, the barking of a dog, or the rush of distant traffic. For the most part, our brain’s push these sounds to the back of our awareness, where it becomes part of everyday life. It’s only when we focus on producing only a specific sound – say, a recording of a new track – that we realise just how powerful background sounds are. Recording studios are so important for this exact reason. While the sound mixing tech, access to high-quality equipment, and other features are a significant draw, it’s the soundproofing that makes the quality and clarity of the finished track possible. Here’s some insight into music studio soundproofing techniques and how they work.
What soundproofing does and doesn’t do
Soundproofing is the use of materials and design techniques to keep outside sounds from entering an enclosed space and to contain sounds made within this space. Living next door to a music studio doesn’t mean you get to hear artists laying down their latest tracks, and being inside the studio means traffic, echoes, footsteps, weather, and even equipment noise doesn’t contaminate these tracks.
The most soundproof space in the world is Microsoft’s Building 87, an anechoic chamber designed with intelligent engineering and sophisticated materials that are so effective that recorded background noise comes in at -20.3 decibels. That’s 2.4 decibels less than the sound that air molecules make colliding with one another. While this wouldn’t be suited to recording music, it’s interesting to see just how advanced soundproofing can be.
What soundproofing doesn’t do is improve the sound within the room. That’s called acoustic treatment, and these techniques will be applied alongside music studio soundproofing. For today, we’re just going to look at soundproofing itself.
How to soundproof a recording studio
Effective professional studio soundproofing addresses the issue of sound containment and exclusion by looking at five areas:
Certain heavy, dense materials with a high mass absorb sound waves more effectively than others. A room with bare concrete walls will echo, while a carpeted library full of books will not. Recording studios use materials such as high-density porous insulation, acoustic panels, bass traps, and studio soundproofing foam. Special soundproof studio glass is used to allow visual communication between the recording space and the sound engineers without reflecting sound waves back into the space.
When there’s no damping, a space tends to echo as vibrations bounce off of different surfaces. Damping prevents this vibrational energy from building up, ensuring sounds don’t rebound and distort by transforming them into heat. Acoustic glue applied between drywall or plywood is one common method used in music studios to achieve this sound-deadening effect.
This is the process of isolating structures, or decoupling them, to prevent vibrations and noise resulting from contact. In music studios, this technique can go far beyond what’s superficially visible within the space and includes isolating floor joists, creating air gaps between inner wall elements, adding isolating layers, and floating ceilings and flooring. In addition, it’s also important to use isolation pads under drum kits and other accessories that prevent vibrations from travelling between the equipment and other structures.
4. Filling the air gaps
Sound waves travel easily through the air, so any gaps in your structure can become a route for noise to travel into and outside the studio. Music studios typically use acoustic caulking, foam fillers, and foam gaskets for closing gaps under doors, around windows, and the studio’s glass walls, pipes, air vents, and door frames. To allow doors to open easily without compromising soundproofing, professional music studios install soundproof door sweeps that fit the bottom of the door, effectively blocking airflow.
5. Sound elimination
Every area has its own sounds, whether aeroplanes are passing overhead, a school is nearby, or even a park. While soundproofing can take care of all that, other noises should be eliminated where possible. This includes noise produced by computer equipment, fans, air conditioning, and heating systems, footsteps, phones ringing, and other noises that are part of a normal business day. By installing quiet equipment, implementing policies for working while recordings are occurring, and effectively isolating the studio itself, all unnecessary noise is eliminated.
To deliver crisp, clean sounds, recording studio soundproofing is essential. This complex process involves multiple structural as well as aesthetic enhancements, all of which have to be performed precisely to create the right recording environment. While some artists have the resources, time, space, and know-how to build their own in-house studios, the simplest and most effective route is to work with a music recording studio that’s designed for new and emerging talent.
Kore Studios is based in West London, with a rich history of working with some of the world’s most exciting talent. Our award-winning producers and professional recording studios are waiting for your next hit.
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