Isolating your home studio from noise and internal echos is critical for making professional-sounding recordings. Acoustic panels built for this purpose can be pricey. Fortunately, materials with about the same sound-deadening qualities can be found at the hardware store -- or even in the recycling bin -- at much lower cost.
Fiberglass Insulation Batts
One of the best ways to block exterior sound from a room is to insulate the interior walls with fiberglass batts. While major manufacturers sell expensive noise-reduction batt insulation, this insulation is manufactured in the same way as standard wall insulation; it is simply being marketed as an acoustic product. Unfaced R-11 or R-13 fiberglass insulation batts will do the same job at a big discount.
Open-cell polyurethane foam is well known for its vibration-dampening effects, which is why it is often used in high-end acoustic insulation. But it's also used as a packaging material, and when purchased this way it is much less expensive than the same material sold as an acoustic product. Look for 1 1/2- or 2-inch thick sheets from industrial shipping suppliers. Or ask local companies if they regularly purchase supplies packed in polyurethane foam and offer to take the used packaging materials off their hands.
Regular, uncoated ceiling tiles help absorb noise that would normally bounce off the ceiling, but there's no reason they can't do the same job on your walls as well. Uncoated, textured, interlocking tiles can be affixed to wall surfaces with construction adhesive, and can dramatically deaden the sound in a small room such as a home studio.
One traditional cheap way of controlling sound in a room is to paste the undersides of egg cartons to the walls and ceilings. In fact, acoustical research has demonstrated that egg cartons to very little to absorb sound. The confusion stems from the fact that the waffle-like shape of egg cartons resembles that of commercial acoustic products, but these products are generally made of closed- or open-celled foam and not cardboard.
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