Acoustic Insulation Panels

My studio room has a pretty good sound to it.  The reflections are not too harsh but they are detectable, sometimes.  I decided to research acoustic panels and found that the cost of bought ones (versus the possible benefit) was a little high and figured I could make something pretty decent if I tried.  So, I read a bunch of web pages by people who have done it already, drew up my plans and bought the materials.  Below follows my progress to completion.

Three finished panels mounted behind the desk

Materials and Costs
  • Wood - 18 pieces 1200x640x19mm from Bunnings at about $3.50 each = $63
  • Paint - two cans of black spray paint at $4 each = $8
  • Nails and Screws etc - around $10 total I guess
  • Back material - 6m of muslin at around $5.50 per metre from Lincraft = $33
  • Front fabric - 6m of gorgeous stretchy fabric from Lincraft at half price $11.50 per metre = $69
  • Insulation material - free = $0
  • Wall Mount Brackets = $45 from Masters
Total Cost: around $230 AUD but you will need to factor in the insulation cost if you plan to do this yourself

Temporal Effort:  This is probably about six or seven hours work once you have all your bits and pieces organised.  Add probably an hour or two of research prior as well as shopping etc.  If you elect to paint the frames like I did, or glue the joins, then you need to factor in an overnight or two for drying.

Wooden Frames
  • I built SIX rectangular frames (though only four are pictured)
  • My wood lengths are 1200mm so that is two full lengths, and two half lengths at 600mm, hence 3 pieces of wood per panel
  • It is extemely important that your half size lengths are cut perfectly evenly or you wont get clean right angles
  • I nailed the wood pieces into place initially to get the shape right and make the application of screws easier 
  • Dual screws at each corner screwed in carefully with power drill then finished by hand to reduce chance of wood splitting 
  • You want thin enough screws NOT to split the wood and you wanna be damn careful with your drill power
  • I used 7 guage screws and started with the drill then finished by hand
  • You want strict right angles because it will be really horrible if they look crooked once mounted on your wall

Four of the six wooden frames 1200mm x 600mm

Painting the Frames
  • I decided to do this so the bright colour of the wood is not visible through the fabric once stretched and stapled into place
  • Two cans of cheap black spray paint applied to the front and outsides of each panel.  I probably could have done with 3 cans
  • The insides and back are not painted as they will be covered when the panels are finished
  • I used house bricks to raise the frames off the ground and make it easier to paint the required surfaces
  • You don''t need to be obsessive about the paint application as ultimately it will be covered by your pretty fabric

Spray painting the frames so they don't show through the fabric

Backing Material
  • SIX sheets of muslin cut to fit the back of the frames.  I bought 6m for about $6 a metre
  • If I was doing this again I would buy slightly more rugged material than the muslin
  • Staple it on using an upholstery stapler and then trim to fit
  • You really want two pairs of hands for this
  • Thanks Mum :)  No, I do not live with my mother she just helped out for the day
  • Also buy a LOT of staples and consider an automatic stapler if you think you will do a lot of this as it is rather physically demanding through repetition

Muslin stapled to the back of the first frame

Insulation Material
  • I used a roll of audio insulation supplied by my friend and bassist Evan Harris.  Thanks mate!
  • Due to the thickness I was able to mount two layers per panel
  • Sit them into your backing fabric and try and measure as snugly as possible
  • I also used (not pictured) masking tape to make a wide grid (one vertical, two horizontal) to keep the insulation in place your mileage may vary
  • Masking tape wont cause strong reflection but does help keep things nice and neat while you are working, just don't use much!

Two layers of acoustic insulation mounted into the frame

Front Fabric
  • You want these to look awesome and here is where it happens!
  • This fabric needs to be sonically transparent enough to not reflect too much sound away from your insulation
  • When purchasing do a breath test through the fabric to test the resistance. You should be able to breathe fairly comfortably
  • I bought 6m of quality fabric from Lincraft (at a half price sale) for $11.50 per metre.  It is slightly stretchy 
  • I elected to use patterned fabric due to the size of the panels.  I didn't want a single colour as that would like kind of bland
  • I cut SIX sheets of quality fabric measuring 1500x900 to sit around the 1200x600mm frame
  • You absolutely need another person to help with this, they will need to pull the fabric tight while you staple it in place
  • Staple it in place then trim back the excess
  • You need to be careful when stapling that you don''t hit the same spot your muslin is stapled,  Use your fingers to locate and avoid

Front fabric stapled into the first frame - face down

First Finished Panel
  • Now we are getting somewhere!  
  • The backs are a bit rough using my method but that wont matter once they are mounted to the wall
  • The black thing next to the table is the back end of a labrador.  Hi Max!

The first completed frame! Proof this project is viable

Keep Going!

Six completed frames. A very good feeling

Mounting Bracket 

  • I bought some screw in mounting brackets from Masters 
  • You basically screw one side to the wall and one to the frame of the panel 
  • They come with a small spirit level but I found it untrustworthy, stick with your measuring tape and a pen

Mounting bracket screwed into plaster

Mounting bracket screwed into frame

Mounting the Panels

The first panel mounted to the wall

​The first set of three on the rear wall behind my studio desk chair

​Here are the final three behind the desk and audio monitors

Finishing Up

All in all this was an extremely successful project.  The resonance of a clapping sound at various points in the room is substantially reduced and my monitored audio does sound a little more direct and present.  

If I was to do this again I would use something a little more rugged than muslin for the rear material.  The wrapping and stapling of the front fabric was also quite a tedious job and I would consider buying or renting or borrowing an electrical stapler to reduce hand an arm strain.  

Overall my acoustic panels look fantastic and are performing a solid passive audio function and I feel this project was a real winner!  Thanks to Evan Harris for the insulation, my mother Glenys for the help with material fitting and Steve Ball for assistance with wall mounting