How To Not Soundproof An Apartment
How to soundproof an apartment sounds like a daunting task. It is not easy. With paper thin interior walls and noise generating people living above, below and to the sides of you, it is not easy. Our soundproofing must also be portable and mobile, so after we get kicked out, we can take our stuff with us. Lets back track a bit and see if we can figure out how to soundproof an apartment without getting evicted for excessive noise.
Identify And Measure
Fist, we must decide who or what is making the noise and how much of it we have to soundproof for. Is it our neighbor to the east that is playing his stereo at certain times of the day. Is it the family below with the home theater system that has more sub woofers than acoustic sense. Is it your electric guitar playing or better yet, how about drums? We need to identify what source and level we are dealing with no matter if it comes from inside our apartment or outside.
Putting A Number To The Noise
After identification we now need to determine what our sound pressure issues are. Place a Db meter within your room at the quietest part of the day. Do the same for the loudest part of the day. Record this information. Measure outside your room to find the level of the noise outside our room. Pick the loudest part of the day and what you think is the quietest part of the day or night. You will have to set your alarm clock for this test. Once we have both numbers or sets of numbers, we can decide what method in our bag of tools on how to soundproof an apartment.
What Do The Numbers Mean?
What is the difference in the two sets of numbers? Lets look at the outside low to high representing the nosiest and quietest times we measured. Was the pressure reading at 85 SPL during the loudest outside. Was it, say 60, during the quietest. Was the inside measurement, say 50, at the quietest which was probably 2-3 in the morning and maybe 80 at the loudest when you were playing guitar. If we want the quietest within our room, we must stop 35 decibels of sound energy from the outside during the loudest part of the day for the quietest part of the day inside our room. Each dB of energy costs money.
We Are The Noise
For illustration purposes, lets take the path of least resistance and the path that we have the most control of. Lets say we are making noise from whatever the source and we want to protect our neighbors from it, so we do not get thrown out. The very first thing we must do is turn down, talk lower, and play more softly.
Room Within A Room
Don’t like any of these options? That’s all good. You want to play louder passages and sing rock and roll. No worries. We will just build a new room within your apartment, just kidding. It is an ideal approach but it would have to be designed so that it was self sealing, think of sound like water, and it would have to be assembled and then dis-assembled when you moved. Don’t forget about the additional weight upon the apartment exterior and interior structure. A room within a room is ideal acoustically but not practical in our discussion of how to soundproof an apartment. If we turn down in all areas, we can focus on the inside surfaces of our room as a start.
Excess energy from within our room can be dealt with using sound absorption technologies. If we have a low end or low frequency generating device in our room, we can use low frequency sound absorbing devices. The smaller our apartment, the more we need to make it smaller by adding low frequency sound absorbers. With the wall surfaces of our apartments we could use acoustic foams to absorb excessive middle and high frequencies.
Furniture And Drapes
Reflections from our room wall surfaces can be treated with sound absorbing materials to reduce the strength of the reflection and help us to lower the overall room reverb times, so our vocals and instruments can be heard clearly without trying to pull them out of some sonic soup. Draperies can be used or open celled foam acoustic panels can be color coordinated into the decor of the room. Furniture can be placed at least the large cushion sixes for lower frequency control above 100 cycles.
Drums And Bass Must Move
If you are going to play sound sources with bass drums and guitars, you need to move. There is simply no way to treat your room to manage the noise to your neighbors without building another room which is mechanically decoupled from your apartment at every mechanical connection. The floor must also be separated from your existing apartment. It is best with these instruments to get a free standing structure away from other people.
All In Control
We can control the noise levels within our rooms and certain instruments are just not practical for apartments because so much new construction is needed. Work within yourself and the surfaces of your room to control reflections and either add lots of thick soft furniture or build low frequency absorbers that can be tuned to your room for maximum performance.