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Do-It-Yourself Acoustical Panels—Some Things to Consider

It’s often tempting to attempt a do-it-yourself project in constructing “acoustical panels” for a control room, studio, or listening room. While just about any kind of construction or home décor material or surface can provide some degree of absorption, diffusion, or reflection of sound energy, the problem is, that without good acoustical measurements of your creations, you can never be sure how they will actually perform and if they will meet your design goals.

That’s not to say don’t try. It can certainly be fun and you can learn a lot about the properties of different materials. But know what you’re getting into.

Read up on acoustics in general. That will help, not only in designing and constructing your panels, but also help in better evaluating the efficacy of the many projects that are available on the web. Some look fairly useful, others may be questionable. But based on research for this Audio Tip, very few, if any, of these projects show actual measurements.

You may be aiming for an absorber with a smooth frequency response above some threshold, for example, but you may be surprised that instead you constructed a panel that was actually reflective for part of that range, or that the frequency response was irregular. Or that it produces rattles when subjected to high levels of low frequency sound. Or that your diffusor produced distinct lobes instead of a uniform diffuse sound field.

The type of design, as well as construction techniques, choice and installation of materials, building skills, and mounting all play important roles in the performance of the finished product.

If you don’t have access to acoustical measuring tools, at the end of the day, even if the initial cost may seem high, you may find it more prudent and economical in the long run, to go with professionally designed, engineered, and constructed products that have been thoroughly measured with published results, if they better provide the performance you were looking for.