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The Sound of Silence On The Cheap


So what happens when you record...in a cave? You get reverb. You get horrible sound. You get the agony of audio. Most of us suffer this insufferable challenge suffering the challenges that we shouldn't suff... you get the idea.


And what do most of us do? We hang blankets and egg-crate foam panels that are as useful as ice in the arctic. These panels and blankets can do some good. I mean, I did it once. Then I took them down and made more realistic sound treatments.



Sound treatments? What? Sounds like you're giving candies to your walls. No, not at all. Sound treatment is using various materials to abate sound and sound reflections from assaulting your mic. Usually, that is if we can afford it, we will build sound abating panels made out of wood and possibly some great absorbing material like home insulation. Which by the way, is a great sound absorption material! So keep that in mind here.


While on a call, one of my long time friends mentioned making sound panels filled with (hang on...) shredded paper. Hmmmm. That's interesting. So, basically his idea was that shredded paper will diffuse sound for the most part, assuming it was dense enough, and thus reducing reflections. Sounds crazy, but if done right, it might work. Look, my booth is filled with Rockwool type insulation to abate external sounds in as much as possible and not to reduce reflections. But the insulation does reduce reflections.


But that's not what we're here for today. What we're here today is to explore this thought of making sound panels that diffuse sound and make them economically. I use "economically" in lieu of "cheap" because starting out OR if you're looking to address a real problem in your environment.


That said, here we go!


The basic idea here is economical. You can go out and buy wood and insulation and cloth (a covering) and staples and screws, etc, but that would really cost. Especially now since lumber is $$$. Lumber is made of wood. What else is made of wood? (No, its not ducks). Cardboard!

Cardboard boxes to be exact. Moving boxes are where I'm going with this. They are chea...economical. And paper? Shredded paper? That's easy. You can get a chea...economical paper shredder on Amazon for chea...an economical price.


So first thing to do it to hit your home improvement store. We have a few here in the US -- Home Depot and Lowes. These two are great resources for all you need short of the paper, but I will get to that in a moment.


First thing you want to do is to look for the largest cardboard moving boxes. Width and length. Get what you can that's the chea...most economical.

These were perfect and they cost about $2.50 US each. I got three and I had to get some spray adhesive ($9.50 US). All the rest I mentioned I already had.


The other items you will need are:

  • Tape - doesn't matter but either duct tape, painters tape, clear packing tape will work. Just not a roll of gift wrapping tape

  • I long straight edge to use to draw a line and to cut by

  • A marker or pencil or something to mark with

  • A ruler or other measuring device

  • A sharp utility knife or other safe, sharp knife

  • A set of scissors

  • Paper for shredding and a paper shredder. I found a stash of newspapers that I could shred

Before I started this, I did manage to get the newspaper and shredded up a TON if it before I started. See if you can find a newspaper publisher and get some of their old copies that they are going to throw away. Most have some.


Oh and you will need some type of cloth or covering. If you have an old sheet, you can use that. I bought 10 yards of black cloth from Walmart. Cost me $10 US


Once you get all that together, lay the unfolded box out on a large surface that you can cut on. I had some old boxes that I cut on so I wouldn't need to cut the nice table that I built.


I marked the fold of the lid(s) with the marker simply by folding it up and marking in the crease. Then I marked 3 inches up laterally. This is where I wanted to cut. You can make it as deep as you want, but I only wanted 3 inches.


Once I cut along the cut line at 3", I had a shallow box. By the way, one cardboard box makes two of these. Just sayn'.

I taped it all up and noted that the sides would bow out. No worries. I have a solution for that.


Then I took the new boxes outside and sprayed the interior with spray adhesive and started to lay on the first layer of shreds. Why a first layer? I am going to spray a second time and layer on more shreds to make a thick mat. You will need this. Make it above the sides. Don't worry if there are shreds poking out. you can take care of this later.

More Paper!

MORE!

But make sure to let the adhesive fumes go off.

Once the fumes have fumed, now is the time to prepare to cover.

I was able to solve the side bowing issue by making a temporary brace that is the width of the box and used it to hold the sides in place. There, I was able to use tape to bring the sides to the same distance. Once that was done, I laid out the cloth and cut enough so that I could wrap it around the box on all sides and glue it in the back.

I took the boxes back outside and sprayed the top and sides (I left the ends unsprayed so I can handle the boxes). Then I took the boxes back in and laid them upside down on the cut cloth. But wait! What about all the paper inside? Didn't it all fall out? Silly goose, remember I sprayed the inside of the box and over the first layer. Not to mention the top of the final layer. Ain't nuttin' coming out.

NOW, I folded up the sides and got ready to spray the ends and fold the cloth there too.

Ain't it pretty? No. But who cares. My audio files don't care. Now how to hang...

So the cool thing about the boxes is, when the lids are folded, on the back you have a centerline. cut an upside down "V" and fold the tab in. Voila! Instant hanger.

Once you have them done, hang them. You know how to do that. Use a nail or whatever but its easy.


Oh and you can take down all the disgusting carpet, blankets, whatever you have that you put up previously -- or you can leave it. Who cares?


All in all, these panels cost less than $5 US.Boom.


ADDITION: If you're worried about fires don't want to use shredded paper, go get some home insulation in paper backed rolls and use that. MAKE SURE YOU COVER YOURSELF AND WEAR FACE PROTECTION. Fiberglass is nasty stuff if it gets in your eyes and lungs.


Now, go record something great.

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