Build Your Own Acoustic Treatment Panels For Under $30

Build Your Own Acoustic Treatment Panels For Under $30

DIY Acoustic Panels – How to build your own room treatment and Vocal Booth!

DIY Acoustic Panels around $30 each!

One thing that has always bothered me is my untreated home studio. Every professional studio I’ve worked at or visited has had rooms with proper acoustic treatment. Last week I decided to have my home studio join the ranks of these treated rooms! This post covers the many hours of research, planning and building that went into making my very own acoustic panels for treatment and a vocal booth.

The first thing I did was visit the numerous websites that talk about room acoustics and panels. This alone took me about 40+ hours of research. Room acoustics and panels are a very complex science that takes YEARS to master. What I learned is that, despite the daunting amount of intricacies involved with acoustics, it IS possible to make your own acoustic panels for a small amount of money.

Luckily, I ran into a professional acoustician, Doug Greenlee from soundkinetics.com, at a studio get together. He provided me with a great starting point. If you ever plan on building a professional set up there is no substitute for hiring someone like Doug!

I found a TON of people who have built their own panels providing me with the motivation and knowledge to make my own. I’m going to keep the rest of this post as straight to the point as possible from here on out. If you want to learn more about acoustics or see other people’s plans I added a handy bibliography at the bottom for all your researching needs!

 

THE PLAN:

Make 8 versatile acoustic panels in one day that can be used as wall panels, baffling and a portable vocal booth for UNDER $250.

THE PARTS FOR 8 ACOUSTIC PANELS:

Total Cost = ~$220

  1. Rigid Fiberglass Panels (Owens Corning 703, Knauff 3lb. density, or Johns Manville 3lb. Density are all suitable panels)
    1. Finding this material can be tricky. After calling 8 local insulation suppliers I FINALLY found it at a place called Internation Technifab.
    2. Cost:$104 for 8 Knauff 3 lb. density fiberglass panels.

      Bill for 8 Knauff 3 lb. density rigid fiberglass panels
  1. Fabric (Breathable fabric)
    1. Buy this at Joann Fabrics which has weekly 50% off sales! CALL THEM FIRST TO BE SURE THEY HAVE ENOUGH FABRIC!
    2. Options: Jet Set, Black Felt, Speaker Grill. I chose Jet Set for its sleek look and cheap cost. Be careful though because stretchy fabrics can be very difficult to fit on the panel without folds!
    3. Cost: $43 for 16 yards of Jet Set Black.
      Jet Set Black Fabric
  1. Wood for frame:
    1. Home Depot 1X3-8 furring strip. (Pick the straightest wood possible with the least amount of imperfections)
    2. Cost: $32 for 19 pieces(This leaves a bit extra for mistakes. It’s easier to return it than go back)
      1X3-8 Furring Strip from Home Depot

 

  1. Other parts from Home Depot:
    1. Rubber screw bumpers $16(To hold the panel an extra bit off the wall. This prevents tearing of fabric, marking of the wall and achieves more bass absorption.

    2. Picture Hangers $9(Pack of 50 to hang the panels securely to walls)

    3. Screw Eye Zinc Plated 212 $4(Used to attach picture wire to)

  1. Parts from Ace Hardware:
    1. Picture Wire $10(25 feet of 30 lb. rated wire) AVOID any thin cheap 28 gaugewire!

    2. Electrical Tape $4 (Used to cover up imperfections in the wood and cover the picture wire.
  2. Tools:
    1. Staple Gun with a full pack of 3/8 inch 10mm staples. If you can find black staples it would look nicer
      Electric staple guns work just fine.

      If possible, buy staples that match the fabric color!
    2. Miter Saw to cut the wood.
    3. Hammer and nails (50 nails should be about enough)
    4. Plyers (Used to screw in the Screw Eyes)
    5. Wire Cutter (Used to cut the picture wire)
    6. Table to set your panels on as you work (At least 62”X62” recommended)
    7. Power screwdriver (Used to attach the bumpers)
    8. Marking Pencil (Used to mark the wood for cutting)
  3. Other important accessories:
    1. Gloves, protective glasses and a dust mask. Handling fiberglass can be hazardous and it isn’t too precautious to wear the gloves and mask while working with it.
    2. Packing tape or duct tape. This holds the fabric in place as you work. This is ESSENTIAL if you are using a stretchy fabric like Jet Set.
    3. Black Sharpie (Used to cover staples)
    4. Optional, but HIGHLY recommended: Microphone stands and Mic Clips with screws (Used to hang the panels up for baffling or vocal booths)

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:

My awesome helpful father Cutting wood and marking using a template piece
  1. Build your frames
    1. Start by laying down a piece of the fiberglass. Then put the boards around it and measure how long they need to be.
    2. Cut the pieces for one frame (each piece of wood gives you 1 24” piece and 1 49 ¾” piece.)
    3. Evaluate your wood pieces to decide which side should be the front and the back. Cover up any imperfections with the electrical tape.
    4. If these pieces work out properly then use them as templates to mark the other pieces of wood. This saves you time in measuring them out.
    5. Once they are all cut nail them together with two nails at each intersection. Then lay the fiberglass down inside the frame.
    6. Secure the fiberglass to the frame with a nail on each side of the frame. This keeps it a bit more stable.
  2. Fabric
    1. Get out your fabric and cut it into 60” pieces. After cutting your pieces will be 58” X 60”.
    2. The lacy side of the Jet Set Fabric (The 58” side) goes on the top and bottom of the panels.
    3. Set the fabric on the table so one side is just barely hanging off the edge and the other side is hanging off quite a bit.
  3. Making the panel
    1. IF YOU ARE USING A STRETCHY FABRIC you will need to use tape to secure it tightly as you attach the fabric!
    2. Put your Framed panel on top of the fabric.
    3. Fold the fabric doubled up over the frame and staple it across the edge.
    4. Crease the fabric and bring it down the panel. Tape it down as it starts to take form. Staple it only after it is pulled very tight and looks clean.
    5. Now flip the fabric over the top of the panel.
    6. Pull the fabric as TIGHT AS POSSIBLE in the very middle and tape it down. This allows you to get tight seams and a professional look!
    7. TRICKY STEP: Fold the fabric under itself then pull it out so the fabric is as TIGHT AS POSSIBLE on each corner. If you don’t do this it will bunch up and look cheap.
    8. Again, once you have it very tight and no bunches use tape to hold it all in place. Then go and staple the top and bottom down.
    9. Now go to your final edge and pull it tight. Use tape liberally to hold it securely as you work. Did I mention this is the only way to make it look clean 😉
    10. SUCCESS! At this point you are VERY close to having a finished panel. If you are confused see the photos for clarity or leave a comment!
  4. Attaching Picture wire and bumpers
    1. Get out the bumpers. Attach four bumpers to four of the panels 5” from the top and bottom. Then attach four bumpers to the other four panels 6” from the top and bottom. This allows the panels to stack better when alternated.
    2. Attach two screw holes 13 ¼” from the top of each panel. This measurement is very important so panels stay aligned on your walls so be careful!
    3. Get out the picture wire. Pull it through one side, pull it under, put it back through, then twist it around itself at least 6 times for a secure knot. Then use your plyers to crimp the wire together nice and tight.
    4. Pull it out to the other side and cut it at 29”.
    5. Attach this wire the same way. When it’s through be sure to use your plyers to pull it as TIGHT as possible. This will ensure the wires are all the same length and look level when hanging on your wall.
    6. Once it’s pulled tight use your plyers to crimp the wire together tightly.
  5. Finishing touches
    1. If you’ve made it this far you must be EXCITED! Almost there!
    2. Use your black electrical tape to cover the frayed picture wire. This makes it look professional and prevents snags.
    3. Use a black sharpie to color the staples. While not necessary, it does make it look more polished.

THE RESULTS:

Finished DIY Acoustic Panels as a vocal booth attach to microphone stands

Vocal booth and a wall panel in the background

I am amazed at the results of these panels. Not only do they work INFINITELY better than Auralex treatment, they look professional and really make a difference in my room. They also work great as a vocal booth or light baffles. I wish I would have made these YEARS ago.

The 3 lb. density panels absorb enough bass and reflect just enough sound to make the room treated, but not ENTIRELY dead. Make sure you make the frames for your panels. It makes them solid and professional looking and the small amount of reflective space added is well worth the extra stability! It wouldn’t take a lot of tweaking with this design to build a thicker baffle or add lots more Owen’s Corning to make them into a bass trap. See the links below for details on this.

Do yourself a favor and get this done early on in your career. Why would you buy something like one SD Electronics Reflexion for $300 when you can get 8 full sized panels for $70 less??? For less than $250 it’s a no brainer to build these. If you have more money it’s probably a better bet to go with a professional company to save you the time and offer their expertise. However, anyone with some free time that wants to stretch their budget should ABSOLUTELY build their own panels.

I’d like to thank my very supportive dad for taking the time to help me build these things. It made building them way more efficient and fun. I recommend you build these with a friend for the same reasons.

I hope this motivates you to build your own panels. Please share your thoughts, questions and anything else here. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

 

*UPDATE* – NEW POST – Build your own Foley Pit:  I just wrote steps about building your own Foley Pit! If you love this post, then you’ll really enjoy learning how to make your very own wooden foley box for your home studio!

http://www.playdotsound.com/portfolio-item/build-your-own-foley-pit/

 

LINKS:

Doug Greenlee – Acoustician Professional

http://www.soundkinetics.com/

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ACOUSTICS AND ACOUSTIC PANELS:

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/low-end-theory/515220-so-say-im-going-start-treating-my-room.html

http://www.readyacoustics.com/education.html

http://gikacoustics.com/education.html

http://www.ethanwiner.com/acoustics.html

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/bass-traps-acoustic-panels-foam-etc/518685-one-more-diy-acoustic-panels-thread.html

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1312693

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=255432

http://www.atsacoustics.com/

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec07/articles/acoustics.htm

 

 

UPDATE

A friend of a friend named Hwbilly Schleifer decided to use these plans to build his own studio treatment! I’m glad people are finding these plans useful. I thought I’d show the photos here so you can see what they look like in different settings!

 

Thanks for visiting the Aaron Brown Sound blog! Come back soon for more posts about video game audio, audio engineering, sound design, composing and all other things relating to being an audio professional 🙂

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Line 6 M13 Master Effects List – Xcel Sheet

One AMAZING piece of hardware!

I am LOVING my Line 6 M13 pedal. Seriously!!! It is an amazing piece of hardware that emulates tons of pedals in one slick package. Heck, it even comes with a built in looper!

The newest OS of the M13, version 2.01, has over 100 effects to choose from. Actually, I think it may have TOO many effects. I realized I had only heard about 20 of them and never dove deep enough into it. With over 100 options it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. The list on the website is informative, but not quite informative enough.

I decided to go through every single effect on the Line 6 M13 and put them in one giant master excel sheet. This way I could rate them, categorize them and make other notes along the way. Hearing all of the effects and reading about them made me love the M13 EVEN MORE!

The M13 is very good with filters and modulation. It particularly excels at Reverbs and Delays.

Overall, the only category that didn’t absolutely thrill me is distortion. They work alright on leads, but none of them compare to the analog pedal equivalents. They aren’t as 3d, have less depth and seem to smear notes together when compared to the analog equivalent. It’s not that they are terrible distortions at all, but they don’t seem to give me the character or depth of analog distortion pedals.  I’d give them an overall 8.5/10 when compared to the analog pedals which ain’t too shabby. Fine for a gig, but not great for recording.

I use a Maxon OD808 for my SRV tones and a Fulltone OCD for the other distortion tones in my palette. If you accentuate your M13 with some analog distortion pedals I think you would have a world class compact rig!

I’m sharing this will all of you in the hopes that you can make your own notes on all of the effects. You may very well disagree with my opinions on the effects. Every guitarist will have their own opinions on the effects based on style and personal taste.

Leave comments with your own thoughts on the M13 or on my excel sheet.

Download – Line 6 M13 Master Effects Excel Sheet

PUTTING TOGETHER A PEDAL BOARD

PUTTING TOGETHER A PEDAL BOARD

You know that feeling you get when things have gotten way out of order and something must be done about it? Well, I recently got reacquainted with this feeling when I looked at the mess my guitar pedal set up had become. I decided SOMETHING must be done to clean it up and make it easier to gig with! It was time for me to buy my first pedal board.

Pedal boards basically hold all of your pedals, run your cables and power under it to keep them out of the way and allow you to pick up all of your guitar gear easily to take it to a gig or a session with minimal set up and tear down time.

Since there are far too many pedal boards and set-ups for me to cover, so I will stick with the basics. For more in depth details see the links I post at the end of this post.

CHOOSING A PEDAL BOARD

My gear consisted of a Line 6 M13, Fulltone OCD, Maxon OD808, Line 6 expression pedal, Banshee Talkbox, and Egnater Rebel 30 combo amp with an extension cab and a channel switcher. Finding pedal boards that fit this gear and were well reviewed took a few hours.

The most helpful website was  Pedalboardplanner.com. Here you can choose any pedal train pedal board and add your pedals to see how things fit! They are missing lots of effects pedals, but it’s easy to find pedals the same size to map it all out.

Simple google searches provided over 20 pictures of other people’s pedal boards with a Line 6 M13 on them. The GearPage.net was also FULL of great information on pedal board sizes.

Keep in mind that not ALL of your effects need to be on your pedal board. Many people keep the volume, wah, or expression pedals off of the board to save space and allow more movement on stage.

After doing this research I decided to find either PedalTrain 2 HC (hard case) or PedalTrain PRO pedal board on Craigslist. After only one week of searching I found a PedalTrain HC 2 for half price with Velcro included!

CABLING

Most people have heard the adage “Measure twice, cut once”. This mentality will save you money and time with your pedal board.

I had to go to Guitar Center three times to exchange cables because I thought I could guess the right length needed…

I recommend you first put your pedals on to the pedal board and arrange them so they look and feel the best to you. Be sure to leave enough space to allow you to press the pedals accurately as well as for tight 90 degree cables to fit around the inputs and outputs of the pedals (about 1” minimum).

Once it looks and feels best it’s time to get out the measuring tape. Write down all the connections you need to make on your pedal board and how long the cable needs to be. If you don’t write it down you will make unnecessary mistakes! Trust me on this!!

Alternatively, you can buy a Planet Waves or Lava Cable Pedal Board Patch cable kit. These seem pretty cool. They are solderless so you can simply screw on the adapters to each end of a cable after you cut it with a provided tool. These allow a perfect cable length and fit at a bit of an extra cost. I would guess these would be worth it if you have LOTS of pedals to run cabling to.

I had to buy 1 15’ guitar cable (Guitar to input),1 X 3’ cable (M13 to OCD), 1 X 1’ cable (OCD to Maxon), 1 15’ cable (Maxon to Rebel 30 input), 1 X 15’ 2 channel cable (for my effects loop send and return). A bit of extra length is needed on most cables since they are run underneath the pedal board to conserve space and make it look clean.

I ended up choosing 15’ cables to run from my pedals to my amp. This seemed like a good balance between signal loss and being tied too close to my amp on stage. The color coded 2 channel cable made it easier to plug in my send and returns since they both go to the same place.

I’m not even going to bother talking about cable quality in this post because it’s a huge topic that will need it’s own post. Stay tuned for a new post soon about cables and how they affect your signal path!

EFFECTS LOOP AND LAYOUT

If you don’t know what an effect loop is on an amp then I recommend you read this online article.

I decided to use the four cable method with my M13. This is a fancy way of saying I’m using the effects loop on my guitar amp. For more details on this see this online article.

I have two signal paths: The first is to the amp input and the second is for the amps effects loop.  The first signal path is Guitar to M13 -> output to Distortion pedals -> output to amp input. The second path is from M13 output -> Amp Effects return and Amp Effects Send -> M13 Effects return.

This allowed me to put my effects in the proper order. WHAT IS the proper order to put your effects??? Well, that is up for debate. I recommend starting with this online article to get the basics down. How you arrange your pedals can define your sound. Whether this sound is total shit or sonic excellence is all up to you. I recommend you start from the basics of the online article above and then tweak away 🙂

POWER

Voodoo Labs ISO-5 with toroidal transformers and isolated outputs. All technical jargon to say it’s about as quiet as power supplies gets 😉

 

*** UPDATE ***

SINCE this post I have discovered that the 1 spot adapter adds a decent amount of noise to the signal path. It isn’t horrendous and wouldn’t matter as much for genres like metal, but it was very audible even with my iPhone microphone. I’ve made a new video of this and put it on youtube. I have since started looking for a Voodoo Labs PP2 on craigslist and taken the 1 spot back. I’m changing this section to reflect what I now know.

VIDEO OF NOISE ADDED BY THE 1 SPOT 

*** END OF UPDATE ***

There are many options to power pedal boards. Pedals can have a HUGE variety of power requirements. Most are 9v pedals, but my OCD accepts 9V-18V, my Line 6 M13 requires AC 1400mA of power, and many others have their own power supplies that are required at this time in order to run properly! Also, many power supplies give off heavy noise that gets into your signal path. The M13 is EXTREMELY noisy and must be kept around 1 foot away from your signal path.

Sound complex? It sure can be. What you choose as a power supply must be based on your own personal rig and power requirements.

I looked into the One Spot, Voodoo Labs and T-Rex engineering and, after LOTS of research, ended up choosing the Voodoo Labs ISO-5 for clean quiet power and it’s size.

If you have LOTS of pedals that use 9v or 18v it would probably be a better investment to go with the more expensive options. The ISO 5 had enough outputs for me including two extra outputs if I add more pedals.

Whichever power supply you pick should have isolated outputs and a toroidal transformer to minimize noise. I chose the Voodoo Labs ISO-5 since it has an 18V output, plenty of 9V outputs for my needs AND it fits underneath the old PedalTrain 2 I bought.

The outputs of the ISO5 are blocked if the supply is mounted this way. It ended up having to be mounted upside down.

If possible you should buy a power supply that fits underneath your pedal board so it’s out of the way and the pedal board sits normally on the ground. After lots of research I ended up going to guitar center and trying out the PP2 and ISO 5 from Voodoo Labs. It turns out that ONLY the ISO5 would fit properly with my PedalTrain 2 unless I drilled more holes.

Voodoo Labs ISO 5 mounted upside down and fitting PERFECTLY underneath my old Pedal Train 2. I used velcro to hold down the cables and power supply.

I even had to mount it upside down because otherwise the outputs and power input wouldn’t be accessible. See the photos to figure out exactly why. The picture shows that the only way it would fit is in this one particular place. For now I just used velcro, but I have plans on getting long zipties so it’s even more secure.

So what power supply should you use??? Google is your friend! Figure out what power your pedals need and whether or not a unit like the Voodoo labs can handle them all. Keep in mind that professional power adapters like the Voodoo Labs PP2 are well worth the money if you care about noise in your chain! If you take your playing seriously then you should pick something with isolated outputs and a transformer!

Going cheap on a power supply may seem like a good idea, but i just learned first hand how much noise it adds and ended up paying extra for a nicer power supply. It was WELL worth the extra $70 and even makes my OCD pedal sound better at 18V!

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Note how all power cables are separate from the signal path. Also note how tight everything fits.

Now it’s time to get out the Velcro, cables, pedals , power and put it all together! Exciting huh?

First I made sure the Velcro on the pedal board was secure. Then I put Velcro on the bottom of each pedal. Be aware that some gear requires you to take off the rubber feet so the Velcro will stick. I recommend taking off the rubber and leaving in the screws so the pedal doesn’t fall apart. Also, don’t put Velcro over the screws in case you have to take it all apart. Keep the rubber feet in a bad in case you remove the pedal from your board.

Then I put the pedals on the board in the order I had previously decided on. I put the cables through one hole on the back of the pedal board and the power through the other. This allowed me to isolate all power from the signal path. I also used Velcro to keep cables out of the way and make everything nice and tidy.

BEHOLD

After days of research and lots of planning I finally have my own pedal board! I can’t tell you how great it feels to simplify your gear and have it ready to go at a moments notice.  It only cost me about $170 to put it all together using Craigslist and a few Guitar Center purchases.

Here are some pictures of the finished product.

Days of planning and work finally paid off!
Pedal Board, Amp, and Guitar

 

CONCLUSIONS

I hope this post helps you make some decisions on building your own pedal boards. It may seem daunting at first, but if you take each step one at a time you’ll have your shiny new pedal board to show off at your next gig sooner than you think 🙂

One last word of advice: It’s EASY to go down the rabbit hole on every one of these topics. You could spend your entire life doing nothing but learning about gear instead of playing your damn instrument. At some point you need to make some decisions and just play some music.

SPECIAL THANKS

I’d like to thank my friend Adam Schalke for his tips on pedal boards. He’s in a band called The Dirty Diamond and he offered me some solid tips. Please check them out when you get a chance 🙂

LINKS

Pedalboardplanner.com.

MackAmps.com Effects Loop

GearPage.net

The Tone Chef M13 4 cable method article.

Guitar signal path order

 

Thanks for visiting the Aaron Brown Sound blog! Come back soon for more posts about video game audio, audio engineering, sound design, composing and all other things relating to being an audio professional 🙂

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