How To Build DIY Sound Panels
If you follow my second YouTube channel (you don't? please subscribe here) you know that over this last year or so I've documented how I built a Tuff Shed in my backyard to use as a home studio. This is where I produce my YouTube videos and record my podcast.
My latest installment of the series covers how I "deadened" the studio space using DIY sound panels and other affordable acoustic tiles & foam. Recording high-quality sound is as important, and sometimes more important than recording high-quality video.
In case you didn't catch all the info in the video here are step-by-step directions for building the DIY panels along with product links for the main stuff I used (at the bottom of the page):
Measure your space and figure out what size panels you'd like to build.
I went on the smaller side using 21"x 21" and I built six (although I ended up only using five).
Buy the lumber required to build the frames. I went to Home Depot and got 96"x 1.5" x 1.5" sized and I bought cheap wood since it won't be seen. Just figure out the amount you'll need based on the size of the panels.
Buy the upholstery foam and fabric you need. This will depend on the size of the panels and the color you prefer. OPTIONALLY you could use old towels inside the panels instead of buying foam.
Buy the wood screws to assemble the panel frames.
You'll need a saw (preferably a power saw), drill, cordless screwdriver (optional), tape measure and pencil.
Cut the wood to your desired length. Make sure to remember that the end pieces will need to be longer than the side pieces since they overlap. Just measure the foam to fit it or cut it to fit depending on the size.
Measure twice and cut once! And wear safety glasses too when operating a saw or drill.
Drill pilot holes in the frames. Choose the appropriate bit based on the size of the screw.
After the pilot holes are done then use a cordless screwdriver to screw the frames together. You could use a drill for this, but I found it to be challenging and the screwdriver gave me more control.
If needed, sand the wood and/or paint or stain it. I opted to not do any of these since the fabric covers the frames.
Cut and trim the fabric sheets for each panel. This will depend on the size, but leave about 8-10 inches or so around the edges to fold over and staple (then trim the excess once attached).
Before you attach the fabric though, see if it needs to be ironed. I found there were seams and so I ironed each piece first.
Lay the first fabric piece on a table, then place the frame on top. Fold each side over the wood and pull tight. This is a VERY IMPORTANT step. I stapled one side first, then pulled the opposite side tight and stapled it. Put as many staples as you think it needs, probably one every three or four inches or so.
Depending on what kind of stapler you use you might need a small hammer to make the staples go flush to the wood (as I did in the video).
ADDING THE FOAM
Insert the foam into the back and push it in around the edges. Depending on how big or small your panels are you might have only one or you might have multiple pieces of foam for this.
Or optionally, if you want to use old towels here instead of foam you could. You'll just need to make sure the fabric on front is strong enough to hold this setup, and that it will look okay from the front (you'd want to neatly fold the towels and compress them as much as possible).
Another option would be to close the back of the panels by adding another piece of fabric. For my setup I found it wasn't necessary, but if using towels you'll most likely need some reinforcement to hold them inside the frame.
INSTALLING ON THE WALL
I kept this very simple and just used a single nail and hung the frame diagonally like a "diamond" on the wall. This is a subjective call though as you could hang it square with two nails or you could add a picture frame hanger to the back.
You also don't necessarily have to hang these on a wall. You could lean them on a wall or place them around a desk, etc. I had one extra and move it around the studio space as needed to help when recording.
If you watched the video then you know that I also used acoustic ceiling tiles and acoustic foam to help knock down the reverb in the room. You will most likely need to do this too, although in some cases the DIY sound panels maybe all you need.
STUFF I USED
Upholstery foam (for panels) https://geni.us/lXfQL (Amazon)
Lumber (for panels) https://thd.co/3mc37Wp
White acoustic ceiling tiles https://geni.us/oqQtdP (Amazon)
Gray acoustic foam https://geni.us/dWbbh (Amazon)
Fabric (specify yards needed) https://geni.us/jkwbEA (Amazon)
Command strips (for foam) https://geni.us/hy4j (Amazon)
VHB tape (for tiles) https://geni.us/75Ql (Amazon)
Stapler https://geni.us/9dVbXm (Amazon)
Total I spent building the six DIY sound panels was about $125. That price does not include the other ceiling tiles or acoustic foam.
However, note that lots of the stuff I used on this project like the lumber & foam, etc. has gone up in price since I did this - likely due to the supply chain issues and inflation we're facing in the U.S. right now.
A side note: The acoustic ceiling tiles I used are really for home theater setups more than professional sound studios, so they don't work as well as other foam. However, for my setup I wanted to not only knock down the reflections, but also wanted a pleasing look. Thus I went with the slim white tiles on the white ceiling. If you're treating a room that you really want to be quiet I would suggest using acoustic foam and covering most or all the walls and ceiling.
Happy filmmaking! -BC
P.S. If you want to learn more about audio production and in particular using an iPhone or iPad to record professional sound then check out my course on that topic here.