Acoustic Sound Absorption Vs Soundproofing
Soundproofing and Acoustic Sound Absorption – The one thing that got most people confused between sound absorption and soundproofing is in the principle of acoustic sound absorption been applied on sound proofing, or vice versa. Although both involve the absorption of sound, the application intent is miles apart. As previously discussed, sound absorption is mainly for an acoustic reason which the intention is with improving the sound quality within an environment. Which means we want to get rid of the flutter echoes, comb filtering and reduce reverberations that distort the sound or music we desire to hear. If you totally isolate sound from transmitting out of a room, as in a room heavily filled with thick sound absorbers, then you can expect dead sound or music which can hardly be appreciated. You may have completely soundproofed your listening room, it just doesn’t cut it for an acoustic reason. So what really define soundproofing?
To Soundproof Or Not to Soundproof
The purpose of soundproofing is to prevent sound waves from transmitting in or out of an environment. In a densely populated city, like HongKong or Singapore, a small factory operating within close proximity of a residential area will have all the reasons to soundproof its production floor, or individual machinery so that it won’t create any noise pollution to its surrounding environment. For that, it’s an entirely different application than one that is for acoustic appreciation, like a home studio or theater, or even a mixing or recording room which you would want to maintain the acoustics within the room.
Soundproofing Your Listening Room Without Sacrificing The Acoustics
Soundproofing a room can be a very tricky situation to tackle if you are living in a high rise apartment, where you will have at least 2 neighbors to deal with, or 4 if you are on the middle 2nd floor or above, and below the last floor. Assuming your apartment is on the ground floor and at the last corner, ideally you should choose a room that is not directly next to your neighbor. Then you will have a better chance to achieve what you intended to achieve. However, soundproofing don’t necessary goes well with maintaining the acoustics in a room. It depends on how much sound you would like to control in and out of the room. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to soundproof a room, or even an entire apartment. That is why soundproofing is a very specialized field on its own and experience counts a lot.
Soundproofing is basically to build a room within a room, with sound barriers which are a combination of soundproofing materials, air and mechanical decoupling of the internal and external walls, ceiling and floor. It’s not just simply sticking a couple of soundproofing foam on the wall and cross your fingers that your neighbors won’t complain anymore.
You may have the best intention of not creating distraction to your neighbor by soundproofing your home studio. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to completely soundproof and keep the acoustics in your studio or listening room. Acoustical appreciation requires the combination of low, mid and high frequencies to be in the environment to render the best acoustic experience. The most challenging part of soundproofing a home studio that you will soon face is taming the low frequency bass boom. The best you can do is probably to add more thickness and mass to the wall that is shared by your neighbor, which inevitably will eat into valuable real estate of your already small room.
Leave The Studio Alone
No audiophiles are prepared to compromise on acoustic quality. The best compromise is keep the acoustics and reduce the sound energy that is transmitting out of the room. In more ways than one, soundproofing is best accomplished during design & construction stage where you have the flexibility to determine the minimum room size with the wall thickness, the floor and ceiling height taken into consideration for incorporating soundproofing material. But once you are over that stage, you will have to consider the Building and Construction code for a minimum size room allowed. For example, according to N.Y. ADC. LAW § 27-751 : NY Code – Section 27-751: Minimum dimensions of habitable rooms, the minimum room size is 8 feet x 8 feet x 8 feet, and a minimum floor area of 80 square feet must be maintained.
If you are inexperience in this area, do not attempt to try it on your own. This is because you won’t know if it works until the work is completed. So before you go ahead with building a soundproof home studio, at least consult with your local administrative office for legitimate construction and building code, and engage an experience acoustic specialist contractor to help you plan out your dream studio with soundproofing, without the risk of breaking the law.
Note: Room volume of 8 cubic feet is going to be a real challenge for any decent acoustic treatment for a control or recording room. Particularly in the trapping of the long low bass sound waves.
Highly recommended read for designing a home recording studio:
Recording Studio Design by Philip Newell