DIY Acoustic Panels Or Modern Artwork? Can’t Tell

Ray's panels on the wall - circles of different sizes (from 60 to 15cm in diameter) covered by fabric of different shades, their arrangement vaguely resembling a cloud.

The acoustic properties of a room have a surprising impact when you want to use a microphone. [RayP24]’s son was trying to make his bedroom into a better recording studio, and for [Ray], that turned into an artfully-executed wall panel project. Fortunately, the process is documented so we all can learn from it. When it comes to acoustics, you can often get a whole lot of improvement from surprisingly few changes. And, as this project demonstrates, you can make it look like a decorative piece to boot.

When arranged and placed on the wall, these panels look like an art piece, a decoration you could get from a somewhat fancy store. If you show them to someone, they might not believe that they also serve as a functioning home acoustics improvement, dampening the sound quite well for audio recording needs. The panels are built out of individual circles, cut out in a way that uses as much of a 3/16″ (5mm) plywood sheet as possible, with hollow circles serving as frames to attach foam-backed fabric. In the Instructables post, [Ray] talks quite a bit about how you can assemble your own and what liberties you can take. There’s also a short video accompanying this project, which you can see after the break. This project is begging to be recreated.

There’s a sizeable amount of hacking-meets-home improvement-meets-home acoustics projects out there, especially lately, when so many people are stuck at home for one reason or another. Just a few months ago, we covered another marvelous “art piece turned reverb killer” project operating by a slightly different principle, and also going a bit more into the theory. Perhaps in a few years, we will no longer have to build panels or structures for our soundproofing needs, as purpose-grown mycelium shapes will do that for us. And once it becomes a question of where to hang your newly-built acoustic panels, this simple guide is a good place to start.

25 thoughts on “DIY Acoustic Panels Or Modern Artwork? Can’t Tell

    1. Yeah, that stuck out to me too, 3/4″ would be tremendously wasteful and significantly harder to mount. Luckily, the project page calls for 3/16″ ply, and very sensibly takes special care to say you should make sure it’s at least 5-ply.

    2. Whoops!

      Fun thing is, I specifically went to google what 3/16″ was equal to in millimeters, then cross-checked with the Instructables which also mentioned 3/16″… and then, somehow, wrote in 3/4″! =D Fixed, and thank you for bringing this to our attention!

        1. So you felt the need to straight up tell the guy he’s stupid, in so many words? My jaw dropped on seeing how you have no videos,of your own, so you criticize other people’s videos. What’s wrong with humanity?!

          1. Elliot is right. I think it a thing of wonder that: a) ‘google’ is so pervasive that it has become nouned; b) it’s now easier to simply do a Google query than reach for a calculator, slide rule, or do the conversion on paper or in your head, and; c) that this is apparently not unusual. It’s an interesting observation of how much things have changed, and so fast.

            I’m sorry it was misinterpreted and provoked such a response. I misjudged how some might make assumptions.

        2. RE last reply – I’m European, and the only time I really need to deal with inches where mental math helps a lot, it’s usually decimal parts of an inch, i.e. dealing with pin headers or other imperial-based spacings in electronics. For that, I have “2.54mm” in my head on standby and can notice that 7.62mm is 3 times 0.1″, or estimate that 5 inches => about 13cm, that kind of thing.

          Imperial measurements + fractions – I never have to make use of these, so I don’t even know how to approach them. When I encounter them, it’s usually in a browser, so the answer is “Ctrl+T, type ‘3/16” in mm’, Enter’ away.

          And – you certainly have your own reasons to feel what you feel about this, that doesn’t bother me, I’m merely providing some extra insights!

        3. Hehehe, well as somebody who almost never deals with imperial measures (also which imperial system? – it matters sometimes quite a bit (though mostly with weight)) I too would have to ask a lookup device.

          I don’t know the conversions with any degree of accuracy, or have handy conversion scales around. I know enough to know the article originally was wrong but if 1/4″ or 3/16″ is closer to this common standard figure in metric, or when dealing with real machinist level precision is in the right ‘thou’ as most American machinists seem to deal in, or whichever your preference in sub mm metric units is… I really wouldn’t have a clue, though as this is a woodworker level of precision project really just saying use thin 5ply plywood of whatever thickness you can get locally really is good enough…

          (However I’d not use Google by choice, and I do sometimes work on the machine tools in imperial units – I inherited measurement tools from my grandfather and they are good quality and sometimes better suited to the job in hand than the cheap metric stuff I’ve bought – so at that point its bring out the workshop computer to do the conversions)

        4. “googled” hasn’t been “nouned” that would be a verb. And googling has been around since 1998. Hardly a new occurrence. Your new comment sounds like damage control unless you’ve been living under a rock for almost 30 years.

  1. While any texturing of a wall helps a bit, quite expected them to involve some sound absorbing foam or felt. Or even the DIY Perks approach of using old towels.

    I do have loads of 1/4″ ply kicking about and a few sheets of foam. Perhaps…

    Might also shy away from acoustic fabric after looking for some at a supplier and finding the following quote “An acoustic fabric allows sound waves to pass through without any interference, neither reflecting or absorbing. In effect, it is transparent – with the most highly transparent acoustic fabrics being used for loudspeaker coverings as a result of the minimal impact they have upon the sound that is being transmitted.”

    Any nice fabric should do. It’s all transmissive enough to allow sound through to absorbing foam.

    1. Agreed, I expected the same.
      Years ago, we did a similar project for a rehearsal space/green room off stage at a venue. We made 1×4 frames, filled them with cheap home insulation material, then found a neutral looking fabric to cover them in. Hang them on the walls, and it helped dampen the room nicely.

      1. Rockwool works great from the hardware store.

        If you can find a cubicle office that’s getting rid of its cubicles, whatever dampening they use in the walls is marvelous — at least the Steelcase stuff. Already comes with (boring) fabric covering to boot.

        I would suggest buying it, but I expect it to be absurdly pricey.

        1. Much prefer acoustic foam as opposed to rockwoll – though rockwoll does work fairly well. Have commissioned industrial test chambers made of both. The foam wins hands down. So much so that the rooms ligned with it are very strange to walk into. If someone’s not speaking directly at you, not much chance of understanding them as the sound just gets lost. Wheras the rockwoll ones still had a hint of reflection.

          The foam came from

          Quite funny seeing people getting stressed because of lack of sound and hearing their pulse. You do get used to it though.

  2. Good looking but you must have something to absorb the sound for this to do any useful work. As another commenter said: “Acoustic” fabric means that it is acoustically transparent. It will have zero effect on the sound.

    Cute does not override the basic laws of physics

  3. I did something similar very recently with drop ceiling tiles, that I cut into hexagons (to go with my space-age era desk) that I covered with speaker cloth – mainly because it had the texture I wanted, came in white so I could dye it, and it pretty cheap. That room has a vintage HiFi system opposite the tiles, and I can’t believe the difference in how the system sounds, imaging especially.

    1. That is a technique used in recording studios: LEDE – Live End / Dead End The end that has your sound source, you leave “live” with a reflective wall. The opposite end you make as absorbent as possible. Even a little bit makes a big difference.

      Best stuff to use is known in the USA as “unfaced rock wool insulation” stone or mineral wool is also used. Brand names include Roxul, Rockwool. Owens Corning makes Thermafiber. This is sold as building insulation but it makes excellent acoustic insulation as well. it is about 3″ thick so you need to make a frame to hold it. Unfaced means that it does not have a paper face on the front. If yours does, pull it off before using it.

      You can use the spun fiberglass thermal insulation but that is not as good acoustically and it continually “sheds” little fibers. Itchy and they get into everything.

      1. Thanks! I really enjoy the sound. Next place i have I’ll consider rockwool to kill the dead end. This was more of a form over function installation, but I’m sold on the results.

  4. Hi! I’m the guy behind these wall panels. In the video I was wrong to call the fabric “acoustic fabric” that’s not what I used in the build. I honestly didn’t know acoustic fabric was a thing, so that’s making me feel pretty dumb right now XD What I used was 5mm foam backed headliner fabric. I was satisfied with the knowledge that headliner fabric is used for the purpose of reducing noise in vehicles to just go ahead and make up these panels. Of course they could be better with thicker foam but I can say it has had some effect. I just didn’t know how to measure it.
    Thanks to xztraz for including the link to an on line acoustic model calculator.
    And of course, thank you Arsenijs for the post

  5. I built one for my lounge using polyester non woven panels from AliExpress. It looks like felt, but it around 10mm thick and rigid and lightweight.

    It can be cut with a basic craft knife, or on a table saw and even routed with a bevel for extra interest.

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