• Sound Proofing vs. Sound Treatment

    This type of question comes up often

    "How can I soundproof my room?"

    and the body of the question goes on to indicate that they want to use sound treatment tools and methods to soundproof their room.

    In some cases they actually mean treating the room (taming the [frequency] response, reverberation and resonances of the room), in other cases they mean stopping sound getting out of the room.

    So what is the difference between Sound treatment and Sound proofing?
    Sound proofing
    Sound proofing is the control of sound within a structure, so that it does not escape that structure

    Sound treatment
    Sound treatment is the taming of sound within a structure so that the room has a known (flat) frequency response and reverb signature

    Achieving Sound proofing
    To sound proof structure you need to create a room within a room - the air gap between the inner and outer walls is what stops the sound getting out to the outside world.

    Normal construction techniques will suffice in achieving this with one exception; the internal wall studs need to be mounted on a flexible barrier that decouples the walls from the floor - this is so the floor does not end up transferring the sound mechanically from internal wall to floor to external wall.

    Windows should be manufactured with double or even triple glazing - the air gap again stops the transmission of sound - the frame should be inserted into the structure with same flexible barrier attached to avoid the frame undoing the work of the glass-air gap-glass in stopping sound moving through.

    there is much more on construction than can be possibly covered here

    See John L. Sayers - The recording manual - Studio Design for more

    Achieving Sound treatment
    Sound treatment is about taming the response of the room and controlling the reverberation signature of the room as well.
    Room response/resonances are the first hurdle in getting a room that works acoustically/musically

    Response is the overall frequency profile of the room - its tendency to emphasise a set of frequencies over others in the spectrum of human hearing.

    A resonant peak is equivalent to having a 6db acoustic power boost at the mid-point of the particular dimension.

    It is why when doing live sound you never set up in the middle of the room as at every other point in the room the acoustic power is much less and so you mix will be much quieter than what you perceive in the middle of the room

    A resonant peak for a dimension will occur at the frequency whose wavelength is the same as the distance of that dimension.

    In addition every whole number multiple of that frequency will also experience a boost in resonance.

    Every room has three modes of resonance
    Axial - along the mid-line of the room dimensions Height (H), Width (W), Length (L)
    Tangential - along the joins of any two two dimensions - HW, HL, WL
    Oblique - in the corners where all three dimensions meet - HWL

    There are formulaes and calculators on-line to calculate these different resonances.

    Creating a room profile based on the acoustic resonance is part of taming the room - it will tell you what frequencies need to be absorbed

    Reverberation is the diffuse repetition of audio within a room - it is different to echo only in the time between repetitions - echoes are discreet (as in countable) whereas reverberation is effectively continuous.

    The time it takes for a sound to die away in a given room is the Reverb time of that room - the sound is generally referred to as an impulse

    Construction materials and room furnishings can affect reverb time, making it shorter.

    Reverb consists of 4 components
    • initial sounds (pre-delay) - point of origin,
    • early reflections (earliest points where the sounds start to bounce back to your ears) - listeners position in the environment,
    • room/environment size (the overall density of reflections heard in the current environment) - overall environment,
    • die-away time (how long before these reflections fall beneath your current level of perception) - overall environment plus listeners perception limits

    The difference in arrival of the initial signal and the early reflections at your ears is also called the pre-delay - which is another characteristic of the rooms reverb signature.

    Treatment options
    Most treatment should focus on 3 things
    • Bass resonance control
    • Room resonance control
    • Early reflections control

    Bass resonance control
    Bass traps are the solution here.

    Mass and size are the keys to a good bass trap - they should be built to cover a broad range of frequencies rather than just one and should be targeted to go into the front and rear corners of a room if at possible

    If you have room height, then using a range of hanging absorbers is also an option.

    Some rooms may have a variable height that is a straight line slope or a curved/flared slope - these do change the overall resonant profile fo the room, and are beyond the scope of much small room treatment discussions

    Steven P Helm's bass trap design and construction
    John L. Sayers - The recording manual - Studio Design

    for more

    Room resonance control
    Broadband absorbers/diffusers are the key to both room resonance and Early reflections control

    They should target your mids and high frequency resonances

    See John L. Sayers - The recording manual - Studio Design for more

    Also see this Hofa Acoustics 20 questions for a different perspective

    Early reflections control
    Foam on the walls at the points of early reflection are an important tool in stopping mid and high frequency reverberation. The foam serves to break up the reflection path and so control the amount of sound that is reverberated around the room.

    You can determine the points of early reflections by taking a piece of string from your speaker cones straight out to where the signal hits the wall in front of it and behind it - that's right early reflections can occur both in front and behind the speaker, as most speaker cabinets are designed to radiate the signal both forwards and behind.

    Some Additional Resources
    Bob Golds Acoustic Coefficients
    Why Your Bass Traps Donít Work | Home Recording Blog
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Sound proofing versus sound treatment started by bandcoach View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. dleon's Avatar
      dleon -
      great post
    1. Beats By Gambit's Avatar
      Beats By Gambit -
      Awesome post! I hate it that people do not understand the difference in the too! I recently made about 13 panels with rockwool and rigid fiberglass for my studio. Next I am going to make some diffusers out of wood blocks.