If you are anything like me, you’ve gotten to the stage where you’ve decided to level up your home studio which could be anywhere from your spare room to your bedroom.
You have seen most pro YouTubers have fancy acoustic panels on their walls.
That must be their secret sauce to great sound quality.
So you’ve just purchased or received your acoustic panels, and now you have to decide how to arrange them.
Surely you can just slap them up on the wall, anywhere?
Well yes, but you might be disappointed with the results. After all, you didn’t buy them just to look cool (which I’m sure they do).
How to arrange acoustic panels on your wall? You must aim to place the acoustic panels in areas where noise is most likely to bounce back from hard surfaces and make their way back to your microphone. This way the acoustic panels arranged on your wall can absorb any reverberating sound.
- You should target walls and corners nearest the source of the sound you want to dampen.
- Make sure it covers the ‘golden zone’ near your microphone and head.
You’ll learn which walls your sound-damping panels should be placed on and where on the wall you should hang your panels. And, you’ll discover the best place to position your sound-damping panels if you only have a limited amount of panels.
Let’s crack on!
Which walls do I need to place the panels on?
In an ideal world, we would have our work station set up in an anechoic chamber because this would drastically reduce any bouncing noises. This would give the impression we are in an extremely quiet environment.
So for now, you’ll have to try and get the most “bang for your buck” by other means. This is where the sound damping panels come in.
But which walls should you place them on?
If you watch your favorite YouTube content creator, you’ll notice that they usually have acoustic panels behind them. So most people believe that this is the main area they should be placed.
But this is just the way the camera is facing. You can’t see the whole studio.
YouTubers have acoustic panels on all walls, including the walls behind the camera.
The big secret that people don’t seem to talk about is that placing acoustic panels on some walls will have a bigger impact than others.
The first wall to place acoustic panels on should be the wall that is facing you when you talk into your microphone.
This should include going behind your monitor.
It’s important to have sound dampening panels in front of you because:
- Sounds come out of your mouth
- Some of the sounds then get picked up by the microphone in front of you and the rest travels past it.
- The sound that traveled past the mic then bounces off a hard wall right in front of you
- The reflected sound then heads back to the microphone and the microphone detects the reflected sound
And this is what causes the dreaded echo: reverb in the recording.
Think of it as throwing a stone into a pool of water, it creates ripples that keep going until they run out of energy. When the ripple gets to the edge it doesn’t just stop, it bounces back.
The wall behind your computer is also the wall you are facing. So if you are talking into a microphone, this is the first wall that the sound of your voice is going to bounce back from.
The second wall to target will depend on where your workstation is. It will likely be the wall behind you.
Unless you have positioned your workstation in a corner, in which case the sidewall is going to be more important.
Lastly, the side walls to the right and left of you are going to be the last remaining large hard surfaces in the room.
But what if you don’t have an endless supply of panels. After all, these things don’t come cheap, do they? Where should you position a limited number of acoustic panels for the best effect?
Where is the best place to position a limited amount of panels for the best effect?
Let’s say you’ve bought 10 or less smallish panels. Should you try and split them between all four walls, so each wall has 2-3 panels each, or do you concentrate them in certain areas?
You should focus on the wall (or hard surface) nearest to your workstation that is facing you.
Start by putting your acoustic panels on the wall behind your monitor. This will lessen the sound that makes its way back to your microphone or your ears. You should make sure you cover as big an area as you can.
Remember that the goal is to dampen as much as you can, it is not just about making it look good. Focusing on one area at a time will yield improvements.
Just remember, don’t expect miracles.
5-10 acoustic panels will not turn your recording room into a pro-level recording studio.
You will notice a massive difference!
What height should I arrange sound damping panels on the wall?
The acoustic panels should be placed halfway between the height of where the sound is coming from, your mouth, and the microphone.
This is known as the golden zone.
A good rule of thumb is to place the panels so the top of the panel is the same height as the top of your ears when sitting or standing ready to record.
For the best effect, attach the panels to the wall so the top of the panel is in line with the top of your ears.
Should I space the panels out or group them together?
This is going to depend on how many panels you have. You’ll still have sound bouncing from different surfaces but you want to diffuse as much as possible that would have been heading into your microphone.
Generally speaking, you should prioritize spreading the panels out on all hard walls at the height of your microphone or at the height of the point of refraction. So halfway between your mouth and the microphone.
The most panels should be spread out along this height. You may notice in the image above that sound bounces, roughly, at the same angle it makes contact with a surface. So it makes sense to position your sound panels strategically around a room at reflection points between your mouth and the microphone.
The further you place an acoustic panel from this reflection point the less effective it will be.
But prioritise the wall right in front of you first covering those reflection points. Then space the panels out to cover as many reflection points as possible on other walls.
And remember: the more hard surfaces you can cover the better.
Tips and tricks
- Don’t just place your acoustic panels on your walls to make them look good. That’s not to say that they can’t look good. Just be aware that what looks good might not be the best for dampening sounds.
- Try not to put your computer/set up in a corner. If you have to because of lack of space, fold up one or two of your panels up and place them into the corner.
- Limit external sounds before you try and dampen them. Close your windows. Turn off noise sources.
- Don’t position your work station in front of a window because you will not be able to add the acoustic panels in the most critical areas.
- If you have a high ceiling, consider some sound panels on the ceiling.
- Not all acoustic panels offer the same quality of noise reduction, so don’t just buy the first ones you see.
Putting up acoustic panels is like hanging up a picture frame. It’s best to do it right the first time. But what if you change the layout of your office? Then you will have to move all the panels.
Depending on how they’re attached will determine how easy they will be to move.
It’s best to plan ahead and think of how you could minimize any hassle in the future. That is one of the strong points about grouping panels together, so they have fewer attachments to the wall.
This might seem like a lot of information on just the placement of your acoustic panels. It can be hard work to make simple gains when it comes to sound.
There is no silver bullet, you just have to try and make small increases in your quality. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we discussed.
Walls to target in order:
- The wall facing you
- The wall behind you
- Ceiling if you have a tall room.
Height to place the panels in front of you should aim to cover from the bottom to midpoint of your monitor to over your head height. This golden area should include your microphone and your head.
So if you have the microphone lower on your desk then the panels will need to go down further. If you work at a standing desk then the panels will need to be shifted higher.
Likewise when targeting the other walls also first place your panels in the ‘golden area’ as this will give you the best results for your money.
The more panels you have, the less sound can make its way back to your microphone by bouncing off hard surfaces.
What is the best way to stick acoustic panels on a wall? There is a wide variety of ways you can stick the acoustic panels to the wall. Because of how little they weigh, you can use spray adhesive, or any picture hanging techniques. If you don’t want to damage the wall you can use spray adhesive to back the panels with some cardboard. Grouping them one to one big board might be easiest. Then use some 3m adhesive strips to mount the board to the wall. The ones I would recommend can be found here.
What type of acoustic panels do I need? There is a wide range of different types available. It’s going to come down to how much money have you budgeted for acoustic panels? For home use, you’ll be better starting with acoustic foam panels as these will be the most affordable panels. They will come in different sizes and colors so you can add a bit of flair to your home studio.
Do I need acoustic panels on the ceiling? If you have a high ceiling then you will benefit from adding acoustic panels on your ceiling. Picture yourself in a gymnasium, apart from the smell, it’s the sounds that really stand out. Because it’s a large space the sound takes longer to bounce back to you, which results in a delay. This lag in the sound is called reverb. You get a similar effect in a room with high ceilings like modern offices or more luxury homes. One way to stop reverb is to add acoustic panels on the ceiling. It doesn’t have to be directly attached, it could hang down using cables.