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Getting the New Sound You want with Acoustic Foam Panels; My Experience

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  • Getting the New Sound You want with Acoustic Foam Panels; My Experience

    My nephew, Sonny, is a drummer in a band and although they're still in high school they've built a good reputation around town. The band wanted to record a demo, so Sonny asked for my input because he knew I had a background playing in bands and recording demos.

    Sonny invited me up to their practice space, which was a finished room above a detached garage. What I saw assaulted my eyes was hard to forget: Sonny and the boys had covered every square inch of wall and ceiling (and even the flat surfaces of the furniture) with cheap acoustic foam panels. I looked down and saw shag carpeting.
    I winced, knowing what he was about to say. "We're having trouble recording the sound we want."

    He explained that, no matter where they moved the mic, the drums sounded wrong.

    I explained that acoustic panels are designed to absorb sound reverberations, commonly known as reverb, rather than let them bounce off of a flat surface and affect the recording. With acoustic panels in place, an instrument's direct sound is transmitted in all directions with little or no reflected sound.

    Sonny played a little for me and I could hear how tight and crisp the drums sounded, and recording them would have worked if the boys had the budget for microphones for every drum head and a professional mixing board. This setup could work for a professional engineer who would want to record without any reverb because that's the kind of thing that can't be removed from the recording later. But, using only one mic, they'd never get a good recording -- the direct sound's decay was too fast.

    I broke it to Sonny that they would have to try a different approach. We removed the foam panels and I had him play his kit again. With just shag carpeting and furniture to absorb the sound, we immediately noticed a change. The drums were louder (especially the toms), the decay was longer and you could hear the reverb in the room.

    I told Sonny we would add higher quality acoustic foam panels to the room on flat surfaces at the correct height. Also, since the roof was peaked, we would have to place panels on the ceiling. I ordered a set of 48 acoustic panels (12" x 12" x 2") from Deelat Industrial, a product and company I had used before for this kind of thing. With an egg carton shape and a density of 30 kilograms per meter, this foam has a great capacity to absorb sound.

    The following weekend, the entire band was there and ready to finish the project. After we installed the panels, Sonny played his drum set and everyone agreed that the sound was much improved. To record drums, we set the mic up on a boom stand over Sonny's head.

    The guitar and bass were easier to record by using different amp settings, changing the microphone placement, and adjusting the volume on the instrument.
    The singer was a different story. He wasn't happy with his voice in the room, and unlike the rest he felt he sounded better in the padded cell they had been using. I suggested we put foam inside a closet and have him take the mic inside and sing. No good; he's claustrophobic.

    While the rest of the band was giving him grief, I devised a plan. I went downstairs into the garage and found an old shipping container that was roughly 15 gallons. I took spare pieces of the good acoustic foam and cut them to fit the inside of the box. Standing it on one of its short ends, I lined the top and bottom with foam, and then cut a curved piece of foam to cover the longer sides and bottom. I was happy with how it fit together, so I removed the pieces, sprayed the backs of them with adhesive, and reinserted them.

    I set this box on a windowsill, placed the mic on a small stand in the box and let the singer try it out. He could hear that he had that drier sound to his voice again, so he was content.

    All in all, I think the boys made a vast improvement by recording and practicing in a room with better acoustics. Their futures can only get brighter.

  • #2
    spam post reported
    There is a 'plug your product' section where you can post your commercial endeavors, but please don't try to disguise it as a public service.
    Some of us may look a little foolish, but we are not fools.
    "Everything is better with a tube. I have a customer with an all-tube pacemaker. His heartbeat is steady, reassuring and dependable, not like a modern heartbeat. And if it goes wrong he can fix it himself. You can't do that with SMD." - Mick Bailey


    • #3
      Originally posted by TonyGa View Post
      I removed the pieces, sprayed the backs of them with adhesive, and reinserted them.
      I'll bet you and the band thought everything sounded better once you got a snoot full of adhesive spray fumes - happens all the time! Pass that spray can around the audience at their next gig, I'm sure the audience will agree. Now tell us, where do you get that stuff?
      Enjoy. Every. Sandwich.


      • #4
        Hilarious! The younger ones definitely get a bit of a buzz off that stuff.

        The spray I used for this project was the 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive -


        • #5
          Posting that is okay.


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