DIY Acoustic Absorption Panels


Wide angle shot of my home studio desk with acoustic panels to be discussed in this post in the background on the wall
The finished product (including bass traps covered in another post))
Humble home studio setup with zero acoustic treatment
How it began, super reflective in the worst way

Acoustic control of the recording and mixing space is a crucial step to improving the results of both activities for the home studio owner. Of course, the mere fact that this recording studio is in someone’s home tends to hint at a more budget conscious approach, and most acoustic treatment is anything but. While shopping for such treatment for my own home studio, I began to wonder about the possibility of building what I needed myself, thereby having a better say in design, saving some money, and maybe even getting a greater value out of the money I do spend.


Being a pretty DIY minded person, I immediately switched directions and googled up a storm as well as dug into some of my textbooks (I was pursuing my degree in Audio Production, which I have since earned), and determined what I would need and what it would cost compared to buying premade panels or a complete kit. See the results at the bottom for more on that.

The following tools and materials lists are reflective of what I used to build the absorption panels I currently have on the walls of my home studio. Some things can be substituted, added, or removed, but the lists below is what I actually used to achieve the finished results in the pictures and video. Listed in order used. Be Safe!


Tools:

  • Measuring tape

  • Marker

  • Jigsaw

  • Wood Glue

  • Drill (3/32” drill bit and #2 phillips driver)

  • Gloves (a MUST for working with fiberglass)

  • Staple gun

Materials:

  • Rigid fiberglass insulation (Owens Corning 703 2’x4’x2”)

  • Wood (1.5 piece of 1”x3”x8’ per panel)

  • Corner braces (a four pack of 1.5” per panel)

  • Fabric (I bought a total of 5.83 yards and had plenty extra)

  • D-Ring picture hangers (2 per panel)

  • Monkey hooks (35lb, 2 per panel)

Corner braces, d-rings, monkey hooks, and fabric
Not pictured: wood and insulation

How to:

1. As with any undertaking involving cutting, the first thing you’ll want to do is measure…at least twice. The insulation panels I used measured out to exactly what they were advertised as at 2x4’, but you can never be too sure.

2. Using a jigsaw, I cut two 23” pieces and two 48” pieces out of strips of 1x3. (I left it slightly undersized so that the insulation would fit snuggly into the frame. A little too snug). Since the longer pieces are on the outside, I should have also added the thickness of the shorter pieces onto the length, making the longer pieces 49.5”. (That’s why I had to give the first panel some encouragement in the video)

Two pieces of both 23" and 48" and a sheet of rigid fiberglass insulation
Sounds better already

3. Grab a drill, glue, and corner braces and start putting together your frame. Place a generous dab of wood glue and the corner braces onto the edges of short pieces of wood and screw into place with the supplied screws. The short pieces of wood will be sandwiched between the longer pieces. The length of you longer pieces is the total length of your finished panels, and the short pieces plus the thickness of the longer pieces is the width. (I hope that makes sense to anyone other than myself!)

4. Gently finesse the insulation into your snug frame. You may need to force/cut off some excess for a clean look. You should have a finished (albeit naked) absorption panel!

Four 2'x4' sheets of rigid fiberglass insulation with wodden frames
Ready to wrap!

5. Lay out your fabric as straight as possible and gently set your naked panel down onto the fabric, being sure to leave enough fabric around the frame to wrap all the way to the back of the panel. When you’re sure you have enough, cut the fabric.

6. Start wrapping the fabric around and stapling into place on the back skinny edge of the frame. Don’t be stingy with the staples, in order to not put much strain on the fabric, you’ll want to staple like you’re paid by the staple. While wrapping be sure to continuously check out the front of your panel to catch any wrinkles. Most of the ones you may get can be fixed by simply pulling the fabric tight and placing a few staples. Leave about a 2” gap in staples 8 inches from the top edge of the frame for your D-rings to connect to (I didn’t and didn’t have much trouble getting them on, but it would have been easier still to leave a gap.)

7. Cut any excess fabric and screw your D-rings onto the back edge of your new absorption panel!

8. The final step is mounting them on the wall. I found the monkey hooks to be perfect in places where there wasn’t a stud behind the wall (you’ll know when you try to push it through), and some 1.5” screws to be fine where there was a stud. Be sure to be mindful of keeping the panels level (or the right amount of off-axis if that’s your thing).

Results:

The change is noticeable the first time you walk into the room after the panels are on the walls. My room is about 10x12 and having such large panels on the walls kills almost all noticeable reflections at normal talking/listening volume. The room isn’t dead however, it simply steps out of the way to allow the performance or mix to be clear. I love the audible difference experienced by simply stepping into my studio; even friends and guest who aren’t into audio can hear the “calming” effect the lack of reflections produces.

It’s honestly hard to believe I made my panels sometimes.

All told I spent about $260 on my “diy package,” most of which was the $192 for the box of 12 sheets of insulation. For that investment though, I made four 2’x4’x2” panels, two 18”x30”x2” panels, three 2’x16” bass traps, and still have three sheets left (which I plan on turning into clouds and possibly a fully wrapped panel for moving around as needed).

Wide angle shot of my home studio with red absorption panels on the wall
MUCH better. Looks a lot straighter in person without the fisheye (taken April 2017)

The single hardest part of this entire process was actually finding the specific rigid fiberglass insulation I determined I wanted to use (after rigorous googling), and then transporting it back to my house in my Altima Coupe (it shouldn’t have worked, but it did…I don’t recommend it.)

View from driver's opened door of a very large box coming from backseat taking up entire passenger seat of coupe.
Thank goodness it's an automatic
A large box takes up the entire passenger side of a coupe
The insulation box cut in half and folded over
Rigid fiberglass insulation wrapped in plastic taking up most of the visible trunk space.
Wouldn't have worked if I had a backseat (took it out to make room for a subwoofer box that was under construction)

Price Breakdown:

JoAnn’s

24.44 - Fabric (5.833Yrd @ 4.19/yrd)

1.96 - Tax

Total: 26.40


Home Depot

12.52 - Corner Brace 1.5” (4 @ 3.13)

6.56 - 1x3”x8’ strip (4 @ 1.64)

0.04 - CA Lumber Fee

3.98 - Monkey Hook 10 pack

7.96 - D-Ring picture hangers

0.24 - 1/4 Hex bolt (2 @ 0.12)

2.50 - Tax

Total: 33.80


CWCI Insulation

191.81 Owens Corning 703 2’x4’x2" (x12)


Grand Total: 252.01

(With plenty of extra materials)


Price per panel

15.98 Insulation

.80 Monkey Hook

1.59 D-Ring

2.46 Wood

3.13 Corner Bracer

4.19 Fabric

Total ~28.15 per panel