If you want to build your own home studio where you can record and produce audio any time without shelling out to a professional studio, this article about sound blankets is something you shouldn’t miss out.
In this article, we will look in to how well do these acoustic blankets actually work and whether they are worth your time and effort.
Sound absorption in studios
When planning for a low budget yet working home studio, we usually tend to start with the computer system- whether you have the proper hardware and software or you need to upgrade.
Then you go shopping for some audio equipment like microphones, headphones, audio interfaces etc.
And now that you’ve got all you need, you start installing everything in that room of yours from where you are aiming to become the next David Guetta.
All set and good to go. With all windows closed, you start your first recording.
Play the recording back, and the next moment, all your hopes die out.
Because no matter what you do, you simply couldn’t seem to get that audio quality that you can get easily in a pro-studio.
Your recording equipment has picked up the sounds of the vehicles on the road, shrilling insects, and even your own voice seems very different – very roomy.
There are two causes for this:
- Lack of soundproofing against external noise
- Lack of dampening of internal reverberations.
The reason why recordings done in a pro-studio sound great is that they manage the above two issues very well using architectural soundproofing, sometimes, even using an ‘An-echoic Chamber’ in which virtually no echoes are created.
But being low on budget, you simply may not be able to afford to reconstruct your room for better soundproofing, let alone build an anechoic chamber.
This is where sound blankets come to your aid.
What are Sound Blankets?
Sound blankets (also known as acoustic blankets) are used to absorb sound energy.
These are not only a cheap hack to improve the audio quality inside your room but, if you manage to get good ones, they are also surprisingly effective in soundproofing your studio so that your neighbors don’t get disturbed.
How effective are acoustic blankets?
This depends on a few things, first of which is whether the blankets are specifically designed for sound absorption or not.
While regular moving blankets can be used as sound blankets, there a quite a few companies that sell blankets that are designed specifically for the purpose of sound absorption.
A good variety of options are available in the market and sometimes it is pretty confusing to know whether you have chosen the right one. So before going into deep waters, let’s first understand how and why acoustic blankets work.
How do Acoustic Blankets work?
Sound deflection vs. Sound absorption
Before we start we need to make clear some misuses of the term ‘sound proofing’ because a lot of people seem to confuse this term with ‘sound deflection’.
Sound proofing, sound attenuation and sound reduction all mean the same – which is to reduce the amount of sound that a person hears from a sound source by any means.
So when we talk about soundproofing, we are talking either about deflecting away the sound waves (sound deflection) or absorbing the sound so that it loses its energy (sound absorption) – or both.
Sound deflection is similar to how light is reflected off a shiny surface
Sound absorption is similar to how a car’s suspension absorbs the vibration caused by bad roads
Acoustic blankets work predominantly by absorbing or dampening the sounds that try to pass through them.
Design of a Sound Blanket
The outer layer of the blanket needs to be thin and soft so that the sound enters into the blanket.
The inside of the blanket is made up of either cotton fibres, fiberglass or any other material which provides a dampening effect and thus dissipate the energy of the sound.
The heftier and thicker the blanket is, more will it absorb sound.
It is to be noted that although sound blankets can effectively bring down the levels of mid and high-frequency sounds, there are low-frequency sounds which have so much energy that they pass through the blankets with little energy loss.
Therefore if you want to reduce the level of sound that come from stuff like kick-drums or bass guitars, you’ll have to try some of the following hacks to get the job done.
Tips for improving the effectiveness of Acoustic Blankets
- Leave a gap of 3-4 Inches between the blankets and the wall. This will virtually create an additional layer of soundproofing since the sound reverberates within the gap and thus further loses energy.
- If you feel that the soundproofing is still not enough, try installing two or more layers of blankets. This will increase the overall thickness of soundproofing material that the sound has to pass through.
- If you still want to kill more bass, you may have to look into purchasing some good bass traps.
Use of Bass Traps
Bass traps are basically thick foam blocks that are able to reduce the energy of low frequency sounds very effectively.
But you need to keep in mind that, although bass traps may help a lot in reducing the low-frequency reverberations inside the room, they can do nothing to stop the low-frequency noise entering your room from outside.
So yes, as you may feel, there are some limitations in trying to soundproof your studio with sound blankets but keep in mind that it is the low cost of these that brought you here in the first place.
And for their price, sound blankets do way more than a satisfactory job in helping you produce good quality recordings.
If you want some more assurance, take a look at this video here where you can hear a before and after comparison of audio quality.
Before we talk about installing, here are a few tips that will help you choose a good sound blanket.
Sound Blankets Buying Guide
- Make sure that the outer fabric of the blanket is thin and soft. If it is thick or hard, the sound will get reflected back instead of getting absorbed by the blanket.
- Among the available options, prefer thicker and heavier ones.
- Check the NRC of the blanket. Higher the NRC, more the sound absorption.
The NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) rating is given on the scale of 0.0 to 1.0. If your blanket has an NRC of 0.6, it means that it will deaden an average 60% of the sound that passes through it.
Usually moving blankets do not have an NRC rating on them since they are not originally intended for sound reduction.
So to give you an idea, regular moving blankets have an NRC of about 0.3 to 0.5.
And professional acoustic sound blankets have an NRC of around 0.6 to 0.8.)
- Look for blankets with grommets since they are easy to install by hanging them by wall hooks in your studio.
- Finally, make sure that you get the appropriate size blankets in order to completely cover at least all the walls of your studio.
You can also get blankets to cover your ceiling and floor but then, you need to be ready to do some carpentry to install them.
Now that you are ready to get your set of acoustic blankets, we’ll discuss how you are going to install them once you get them home.
How to install Sound Blankets?
If your blankets have grommets or ‘eyelids’ built in, you just need to screw-in some wall hooks on your studio walls so as to simply hang the sound blankets on them.
But in case you found some wonderful blankets that come without grommets, do not fret.
You can get a grommet kit and install the grommets yourself.
Fold and stitch the top edge of the blanket in such a way that a regular curtain rod can slide inside the recess of the fold. Now you can install the blanket just as you would install a wall curtain.
You can stitch it using a staple gun if you want to get the job done quickly.
It is pretty exciting to have yourself a sound treated room to work in.
So before you start, try recording an audio before and after the installation and you’ll notice how better the audio sounds after using the acoustic blankets.
Sound Blankets Reviews
Audio Mute Sound Absorption Sheets
If you need a professional level sound dampening, then these are the blankets for you.
These blankets are specifically developed for usage in home studios and they do an excellent job in reducing unwanted noise and reverberations.
If you need to make a high quality audio recording or to have regular band practice session, invest in these studio grade sheets.
Yes, it is a bit more expensive that the other, but the quality of your audio will compensate for the added price.
They also come with easy hang knobs and built-in grommets for quick and simple installation.
Professional grade sound attenuation
- Quite expensive
These are typical inexpensive moving blankets but they simply get the job done.
The sound absorption is very good for a small sized studio and these could be the solution for a lot of YouTubers, podcasters, vocalists etc. who don’t have the trouble of trying to block high energy low-frequency sounds.
The only drawback is that these don’t have built-in grommets for easy installation.
- Inexpensive alternative
- Good sound absorption
- No built-in grommets
Cheap Cheap Moving Boxes – Deluxe Moving Blankets
If you are really on very tight budget, these blankets are your last and best resort.
They are incredibly cheap and with a bit of experimentation in your room you can actually get very satisfactory improvements in audio quality.
Of course, you won’t get a studio like audio quality but the sound reduction provided by these blankets is enough to get you started towards that direction.
Again, these don’t have built-in grommets.
Good sound absorption
- No built-in grommets
The bottom line is that if you want get high quality audio results, the Audio mute Sound absorption sheets are your best bet.
Since they are made specifically for reducing noise, they perform very well in doing just that.
But when you are out of money and still want to get good results, it is better to go for cheaper moving blankets with extra thickness.
Keep in mind that you can also increase the thickness by layering one blanket over the other.
It may take a bit of trial and error but you’ll surely find a sweet spot to get the best audio quality in your room.
There are many other blankets out there that you can explore and if your friend owns some try to use them temporarily in your studio to get an idea of what you really need.
And till you earn enough to build a professional level studio, these blankets will be your cheap but invaluable assets.