How to Build Affordable, Professional Looking Acoustic Sound Treatment Panels – Part 1

Building Acoustic Treatment Wall Panels

KRK DIY acoustic panels finalJimmy from KRK here, and I wanted to share my experience of building my own sound panels for a home studio.  I built wall panels, corner traps, and an overhead-cloud which will be shared on three separate articles—this article is strictly about building wall panels.  KRK pioneered the home recording revolution and it is no secret that many recent hit songs have been either partially or completely recorded and mixed in a home or project studio.  Whether you are in a basement, a bedroom, or a living room, acoustic treatment will go a long way for your final production results.  Many overlook the importance of sound treatment after spending a lot of money on high-end recording gear.  Quality recording gear such as a pair of KRK Monitors is certainly important, but it is also important to keep in mind that good gear magnifies the sonic environment for better or for worse.  Sound treatment panels help shape these scenarios for more professional results.

Acoustic treatment wall panels are very important for a few reasons:

  1. They absorb the first sound reflections from the speakers so that the frequency waves are dampened and tamed.
  2. In general, they absorb the sound in the room to control echo and reverberation. For modern music creators this is essential because many people track vocals and instruments in the same room as the mix position.

20200427_172238_HDRFor truly professional results, it is essential to have a controlled environment for tracking, mixing and mastering.  For those on a budget and space-constraints, it is difficult to create a perfect listening environment unless you are building a room from scratch (floating room, sound proofing inside the walls, etc.,) but it is possible to greatly improve your surroundings for successful professional results.  A smart way to look at it is to figure out what it is you are trying to accomplish before you purchase or build anything.  Some of the important questions to ask are:

  • How much can I afford to put into the project?
    • (I wanted to keep my costs as low as possible.)
  • Is it important for the place to look professional?
    • (I wanted to room to look as professional as possible.)
  • Will a room with a “vibe” make you or whoever is using the room feel more creative?
    • (I wanted a great vibe to the room.)
  • What are the basic sonic elements and trouble-spots in the room?
    • (I have an uneven 13.5-foot x 11-foot room with low ceilings which creates a lot of bass problems.)
  • Will the room be used for mixing, recording, mastering, or for everything?
    • (I will be using the room for mixing, recording (including vocals and acoustic instruments), and some mastering depending on the project.)
  • What genre of music will the room be used for (i.e. Hip-hop with a lot of low end, Jazz, Rock, EDM, etc.)
    • (I will be using this room for many genres of music.)

In this article, by taking all those questions into consideration, I came up with a game plan to build my own acoustic treatment for the room.

Before I go into any detail, I would like to mention that I am not a professional carpenter, and these are not direct instructions on “how to” build acoustic panels.  In this article I show how I built my sound panels—and if you attempt to build your own you are responsible for how you use this information to build and install them on your own, and at your own risk.  You are responsible for how you use this information.  I am also not claiming in any way to be an expert on this matter.  I simply did some research, talked to a lot of trusted friends, used my past studio experience, and then built the panels in my own way.  Also, I used some basic power tools and hand tools that I will recommend, so if you are uncomfortable using tools please seek help from a professional – thanks!

(Click on any of the images below for a larger image.)

KRK DIY ACOUSTIC PANELSFor my room I measured the walls and decided that I would place eight (8) 4-foot x 2-foot x 4-inch panels strategically hanging around the perimeter.  From research and talking to those who have built panels, I decided that these panels would not go flush against the wall but rather would sit 1.5-inches away from the wall.  This creates an air gap that allows the panel to absorb sound from both sides which in turn creates greater sound absorption.  Later in this article I will explain how I accomplished this feature.

After pricing out the insulation, I decided to go with a mix of Owens Corning 703 (I actually used Knauf which is the same specs just more organic) and Rockwool sheets both being 4-foot x 2-foot x 4-inch (I had to double up the Knauf as it came in 2-inch thick sheets.)  From what I understand they are very similar in nature but the Knauf and OC703 are more expensive.

Here are estimated costs for building one panel:

  • Roxul 4-inch thick Mineral Wool 4-foot x 2-foot sheet, Cost:  $14.50
  • (2)  8-foot x 3-inch x ¾-inch Furring strips (wood) from Home Depot, Cost:  $2.75 (for the exterior frame)
  • (2)  6-foot x 4-inch x ¾-inch Pine, Cost: $11.13 (for the box-frame)
  • Fabric – CASTIELLE ACOUSTIC SUEDE FABRIC BY THE YARD, Cost: $6.50 (1 panel)
  • Wrapping for back of panel- Home Depot paper-throw tarp, Cost: $1:75 (1 panel)
  • Screws for assembling the box and frame, Cost:  $.72
  • Screws for mounting the panels to the wall, Cost: $.10
  • 3/8 Staples, Cost:  $.35
  • Polyurethane/Stain, Cost:  $.95

Tools Used:

  • Sandpaper (I used a motorized sander which was easier)
  • Electric Power Miter Saw (you can very easily achieve the same cuts with a hand saw)
  • Pro grade staple gun (not electric)
  • Staples (“T50 3/8th” 10mm Heavy Duty made by Arrow)
  • All-in-one polyurethane/stain and a brush
  • Stud-finder
  • Philips head screwdriver (I used a power driver, but a regular screwdriver will work fine)
  • Knee pads
  • Protective rubber work gloves, eye protection, and a breathing mask

BUILD THE BOX-FRAME – MEASURE AND CUT THE WOOD:  There are basically two components to the frame on these: The box-frame that houses the insulation, and the external frame that goes over the box to make it look nice.  For the box-frame, I first took each 6-foot board and cut them down so that there were two (2) 4-foot pieces, and two (2) 2-foot pieces.

KRK DIY Acoustic-Panels-sandingSAND THE EDGES: Using a power sander (you can easily accomplish the same task with sandpaper) I sanded down all the edges of each piece and made sure there were no splintering ends popping up.  So now I had 4 sanded pieces of wood to work with.

 

KRK DIY screw-frame-box-1BUILD THE FRAME BY SCREWING TOGETHER THE PIECES:  This can get a bit tricky if you are working alone.  Joining the first 2 pieces of wood are the hardest.  The ends of a long piece and a short piece are joined with the short piece on top.  Using a table as a sawhorse to stabilize the pieces since I am workingKRK DIY screw-frame-box-21 alone, I lined up the pieces and drove the first screw in so that it went through the top end of the short piece into the end edge of the long piece.  I drove the screw in very slowly and carefully to minimize the chance of splitting the wood.  The second screw was then driven into the other end of the corner. KRK DIY Acoustic-panels-finished-frame-boxOnce the two screws were in, I then worked my way around the perimeter of the frame until the box was built.  The most important thing to remember here is to make sure the screws are put in straight, and to try to drive the screws down the middle of the long pieces.

BUILD THE EXTERIOR FRAME – MEASURE AND CUT THE WOOD (FURRING STRIPS):  The exterior frame is what makes these panels look professional.  To accomplish this, KRK DIY acoustic-panels-attach-frames-2first I exactly measured the inside perimeter of the box-frame so that I knew how to cut the exterior frame.  The exterior frame goes over the box-frame, so it overlaps—meaning that the inside perimeter of the exterior frame is smaller than the inside perimeter of the box-frame.  This helps to keep the insulation in place and makes it easier to staple in the fabric – it also covers up the box-frame.  So, with my inside perimeter of the box-frame being 48-inches x 22.5-inches, I measured out the furring strips and made my 45 degree angle cuts so that the inside perimeter of the furring strips were 46.5-inches x 21-inches.  This created an overlapping boarder over the box-frame to keep in the insulation and fabric.

SAND THE EDGES:  I then sanded the edges of the furring strips with a power sander so that there were no rough edges to be found.

KRK DIY Acoustic-panels-staple-exterior-frameASSEMBLE THE EXTERIOR FRAME:  I inspected the wood and identified the best sides.  These furring strips are so cheap that you must check out each piece to make sure they are visually suitable, and usually one side is better than the other.  Next, I laid out all 4 pieces on the ground upside down so that the staples that join the pieces are not on the visible side.  Starting in one corner, I then began to staple the pieces together until the frame was one rectangular piece.

KRK DIY acoustic-panels-attach-frames-3ATTACH THE EXTERIOR FRAME TO THE BOX-FRAME:  The biggest thing to remember here is that the exterior frame is not very stable until it is screwed into the box-frame.  So, knowing this I carefully lifted the exterior frame in one motion, flipped it over and placed it on top of the box frame.  Starting at one of the 2-foot ends, I visually lined up the frame so that it was evenly placed on the box-frame.   This is not too important because you can manipulate how it sits as you start to screw it down.  I then took a screw (the same screws as the other step) and in one corner, carefully screwed through the top of the exterior frame into the edge of the box-frame.

KRK DIY acoustic-panels-attach-frames-5This can be tricky as you must make sure you are aligning the screw correctly so that it hits the middle of the box-frame edge.  The best way to do this is to move to the opposite corner and then align and drive another screw.   Continue onto the other end and manipulate the exterior frame so that it lines up straight.   Once you have 4 screws in the corners and the exterior frame is straight and aligned properly over the box-frame, continue to drive 4 more screws into the opposite edges and then more screws in the middle of the frame for stability.

KRK DIY PANELS STAINSTAIN AND POLYURETHANE THE FRAME:  After the frame was assembled, I used an all-in-one polyurethane/stain to finish the panel.  You can also paint the frame, but either way make sure that you allow it to dry so that you do not ruin the fabric when you go to the next step.

 

KRK DIY ACOUSTIC PANELS STAPLESTAPLE IN THE FABRIC:  After the frame dried, I turned it upside down and stapled in the fabric.  It is important to note that the fabric is being stapled to the underneath-overlay of the exterior frame.  The best way to do this is to start in one corner and work your way down the long side laying in staples about every 5 inches or so.   The corners are the most KRK DIY Acoustic-Panels-Frame-overlayimportant thing to consider.  Next lay in staples on a short side and continue along the other long side.  You need to get a feel for it, but you want to gently pull the fabric as tight as possible without ripping it out from the other side.   You want to pull the fabric toward you and away from each last staple you laid in.  Leaving one short side un-stapled, I then went back between the 5-inch staples on each long side and laid in more staples pulling the fabric tighter.  Finally, I went to the last short side and laid in staples to pull the fabric as tight as possible.  It is helpful at this point to double check the corners to make sure they are covered and tight.KRK DIY ACOUSTIC PANELS FABRIC

LAY IN THE INSULATION:  Wearing protective gloves, KRK DIY Acoustic-Panels-insulationa long sleeve shirt and a low-grade breathing mask, I handled the insulation carefully and laid it into the upside-down frame.  I then stapled the insulation to the box-frame around the perimeter, but did not go overboard on this step.

 

KRK DIY ACOUSTIC PANELS WRAPWRAP AND STAPLE THE BACK OF THE PANEL WITH PAPER/POLY DROP CLOTH OR WRAP COMPLETELY IN FABRIC:  As I stated before, I was going for a “cost-effective” approach here with my whole room.  One of the ways I saved money was by covering the back of the panels with the above noted cloth, opposed to wrapping each panel completely in the acoustic KRK DIY Acoustic-panels-wrap-backfabric.   I think wrapping the insulation completely in fabric is much easier and probably a much better all-around solution, but in my case, I was trying to save some money.  I achieved this by just sealing the back off with the cloth and staples.  I went around the perimeter of the frame over the insulation, and then I folded the cloth back over so that it was double wrapped.

 

INSTALLING THE PANELS TO THE WALLS:  After many considerations, I came up with a unique and inexpensive way to get these panels up on the walls using 4 short screws and 1 long screw—this created that air-gap which creates even better sound absorption.  Since the wood I used was so inexpensive, it was also very light which helped with the installation.

KRK DIY ACOUSTIC PANELS BACKUsing the same screws to assemble the frames, I drove in a screw in the back of each corner so that there was 1.5-inches from the head of the screw to the frame.  Once hung, this created the “air-gap” between the panel and the wall that I was talking about earlier in this article.

Next, I found the first points of reflection on each wall and determined where to place the first two (left-wall and right-wall) panels (search: “acoustic panel mirror trick” for help with placement).  Once I determined this, I then used a stud-finder to see if I could utilize a wall-stud to drive the holding screw in.  On one wall I got lucky and on another I was forced to use a heavy-duty wall anchor.

KRK DIY PANELS WALL SCREWOn the wall, I made a mark roughly where the speaker cone hits and then I made two more marks roughly where the top and bottom of the panel would be centered vertically considering the cone height.  Referencing by eye, I then drove a long 6-inch screw into the wall so that roughly 3-inches were exposed.  I then simply hung the panel on that screw and the 1.5-inch screws rest against the wall to create the gap.  In my case, nothing brushes up against these panels, but you may want to come up with a more secure installation method if there will be a lot of activity around the panels.

KRK DIY acoustic-wall-panels-installation-3The result is 8 professional-looking custom panels floating off the walls.  The difference in the sound control of the room is astonishing and the look is very professional.  The clarity and control I now have from my productions are accurate and inspirational, especially knowing that what I am hearing will translate correctly though other listening environments and devices.KRK DIY acoustic panels final 2

Next month I will focus on Part 2–corner trap panels.  Thanks for taking the time to read this and please post questions and comments below.

The Mindset of Music Creation with KRK User 1$T: The Tokyo Project

We take KRK’s brand statement “Behind Great Music” seriously on all fronts.  It means everything we do from manufacturing to supporting artists is all about enabling musicians to have the freedom to create and deliver the best projects possible.  This month, we are excited and honored to put the spotlight onto one of the most imaginative modern music creators out there, 1$T (a.k.a. Fki 1st) who has recently released the album “Tokyo Project.”  1$T has always used KRK gear to deliver his definitive sound and style to the masses, some including “Watch Out” — 2 Chainz, “Work” — Iggy Azalea, “Notice Me” — Migos feat. Post Malone, “Weekend” — Mac Miller feat. Miguel, “The Meaning” – Fki 1st & Post Malone, and the 5x Platinum Single “White Iverson” – Post Malone, to name just a few.  We were excited and thankful to spend some time with 1$T to find out how his new project came together.

1$T is originally from Atlanta and has now transplanted to Los Angeles where he spends a good amount of time in his multi-room studio facility.  In that studio is where he feels most comfortable and “communicates” through his genre-less and melodic music KRK Behind Great Music 1$T Fki 1st 2creations.  In those creations and at his core, lives the influences of artists such as George Clinton, and iconic Atlanta producer-artists Zaytoven, T.I., Shawty Redd and Young Jeezy to name a few.  Known for his left-of-Trap style of music and production, 1$T got his feet wet in production initially through a friend who one summer introduced him to beat-making on computers.  As music-fate would have it, from there his determination, innate skill set and easy-going demeaner all worked together to put him in a room with Post Malone where the 5 x Platinum song “White Iverson” was created.

Maybe one of the reasons why 1$T has been so successful with his collaborations is because there’s not a single rule or protocol in place when he approaches a new song or track.  1$T told us, usually the only common thread throughout his creative process is centering everything around the song title — ”the name.”  “The title of the song is like a movie—it’s like a living person—if you give it a name that’s the beginning right there.” 1$T went on to tell us, “I have a list of names and titles in my phone, this is everything to me.  When you base your creative process around a title it helps you see everything through.”  From there 1$T lets everything go with the flow and sometimes tracks will initially support the name/title through a keyboard melody, drums or anything else that flows into his open mind in the studio.

Tokyo Project Background

KRK Fki 1st 1$T - 21$T is one of the few and new modern music creators who has found success toggling back and forth from wearing the “producer” hat to the “artist” hat.  2016 he found himself on a sold out tour with Fetty Wap and Post Malone supporting the Welcome to the Zoo Tour.  On that tour the bus was fitted with a working studio where he was able to continue working on his own music throughout the tour.  This past year, 1$T got back into that artist mindset where he and his Good Gas Crew headed over to Japan on an inspirational trip where they worked on the music for the release.

The full album which was completely produced and written by 1$T, features 8 songs and 8 videos outlining the spiritual and cultural journey across the world to Tokyo.  This jaunt was also documented on best understood by this video creatively rendered as a visual mixtape.  While in Japan 1$T also began working on his forthcoming Good Gas Tokyo installment recording alongside Young Coco, KOHH, and many more producers and artists.

KRK Fki 1st 1$T -3

The Making of Tokyo Project

KRK: From a writing standpoint, do you usually start with building a beat, or are you “composing” with specific lyric and melody ideas?

KRK Fki 1st 1$T -41$T: I start with title of the song and then melody, then lyrics, and then add the drums last. For example on the Tokyo Project – I was in the studio one day and I wanted to make something smooth, I was on a really smooth vibe, real cool vibe, could have been the gas or something, but I needed a word something to describe it – VELVET described it. Then from there the melody came, then I wrote all the words, then I added the drums. 

KRK: What was your vocal chain for recording vocals on The Tokyo Project?

1$T: Whenever I record, I always use the U87 mic into the SSL super analog channel – that’s the compressor and preamp all in one, and we record everything in Pro Tools.

KRK: Where do you get your “sounds” from?

krk-241$T: When I can, I like to create my own samples – whether it’s an old song I made or old loop I made—I like to sample my own stuff, even if it’s a song I just made yesterday. I like to go through my catalog and make stuff sound different, update it. 

On the song Pass it to Myself, the female vocal sample was actually from a session from 3 years ago with an artist. I like to keep my iTunes on shuffle and whatever hits my ear I sample it, so that song popped up. I pitched up the whole song with her old vocals and made it into a completely new song and now it sounds like a vintage sample.

Also, I always stay consistent with the 808 – I might stretch it or add distortion but I always use the same 808. 

KRK: In a bit of detail, what are you currently working on during the Coronavirus health crisis?

1$T: I‘m quarantining in the desert so I’m creating a whole new project out here. But I’m also fine-tuning my next project that’s coming out soon called MCM aka Magic City Markous. We definitely always have more Good Gas releases coming up. We are about to drop a Good Gas song with S3nsi Molly and also working on Good Gas Vol. 4.

 KRK: What are you currently using for KRK gear?

1$T: The vibe of the ROKITs for creating music is essential to me.  I actually have 3 sets of the KRKs and I use them all in different ways.  I can’t live without the KRK ROKIT 10-3 for monitoring.  The KRK V Series is what I mix on along with the krk 12” sub.  That combo is magic and the KRK 12sHO sub is the best sub ever.

More Information:

IG: @goodjob1st

FB: @Fki1st

TW: @fkimusic

KRK V Series

KRK ROKIT G4

KRK 12sHO Subwoofer

How Dan Konopka of the Band OK Go is Using KRK ROKIT G4 on a New Music Platform

KRK_Dan KonopkaWith KRK, you’re not going to find a group of people more supportive or fired-up about DIY music creation.  On a daily basis, we thankfully hear from and talk to incredibly talented musicians, producers, mixing engineers and songwriters about their experiences with our gear.  Recently, we caught up with a KRK user who we truly respect in that DIY spirit; someone who will forever be ingrained in Rock & Roll history with one of the most engaging music videos ever.

If you’re a fan of great music and music videos, you certainly remember the band OK Go’s “Treadmill Video.”—it was epic.  It captured your attention immediately and it was incredibly original considering we are now at a point in time where kids eat Tide PODS® to get acceptance.  No, this was not a gimmick, this was simply a group of Rock & Roll soldiers doing something they needed to do – make a video for a great song without the support of their major label, who at the time wasn’t giving them the attention they needed. In that procedure, the guys of OK Go stumbled upon something so authentic in which we now know of today as “gone viral” and “must see.”

OK GO KRK

It was “that thing” you can’t put your finger on that makes you watch certain content repeatedly.  “We made that video completely on our own,” Dan told us while producing a new band out in Denver, CO.  “We weren’t getting what we needed from the label at the time, so we had to figure something out with what we had in front of us—we had to do something.  We didn’t ask for permission and the label basically wasn’t involved until after we uploaded it to YouTube on our own.”

KRK is very excited to have taken permanent residency in Dan’s home studio who is a principal member, drummer, producerDan Konopka KRK Rokit g4 3 and re-mixer for the GRAMMY Award-winning group.  He relies on KRK monitors, subs and headphones to produce music with his band, but most recently, he has also implemented the gear into his workflow for projects with SoundBetter, the world’s leading music production marketplace, which helps musicians around the world connect with and hire top music pros to mix release-ready songs. With KRK’s new ROKIT G4 studio monitors, 12S powered Subwoofer and KNS 8400 Headphones, Dan feels more confident than ever in the quality of his mixes.

Though the ROKITs are his current go-to monitor solution, his initial introduction to our brand was through the eight-inch model of the renowned two-way V Series (V8) Powered Reference Monitors. “I first began my search for studio monitors because I needed something that was going to sound better than my home speakers,” he says. “I’ve been using the V Series 4 V8s for many years and I have never been disappointed. When the new ROKIT G4 range was released, I knew I had to get my hands on them.”

Dan Konopka KRK ROKIT G4 2

Working on both sides of the music industry—live stages and in-studio—Dan especially knows the value of a high-quality mix; that’s why KRK’s ROKIT G4s have become a staple solution in his home studio. “These studio monitors do their job perfectly and they’re involved in everything that I do musically,” he adds. “I receive such great feedback with the ROKIT G4s.  SoundBetter clients seek professional-quality mixes that they cannot produce on their own and KRK monitors allow me to provide the most pristine mix to my clients, so I know I can meet their expectations.  The reliability and quality of the G4s is something that I’ve never seen before at this price point—it’s really amazing.”

Please visit here for more information on working with Dan Konopka on the Soundbetter.com platform.

Please visit here for information on the most innovative studio monitor line on the market.

Thanks for reading!