The Best Sound Absorption Material for Recording Booths

By | September 17, 2014

Recycled Cotton InsulationSometimes, the best sound absorption comes from materials you wouldn’t expect.

We’ve all seen the costly sound panels that are sold at acoustic supply shops.  What if there is a better way?  What really is the best sound absorption material for recording booths?

I stumbled upon this product while researching sound absorption for my own home recording booth.  During my research, I learned that acoustic materials are rated via two major categories.  First, Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) measures the ability of a material to absorb sound.  Second, Sound Transmission Class (STC) measures the ability of a material to block sound from moving from one location to another.  Both are important in recording studios, but for different reasons.

NRC

NRC is what you are looking for when you put sound panels up on the wall.  These often take the shape of foam material.  This material is used to absorb sound waves as they bounce around.  The idea is to make it so the microphone only picks up your original sound and not the waves that are bouncing around.

STC

STC is what you are looking for when you want your studio to be “closed off” from the outside world.  It is what makes it so you can’t hear what is going on in the studio from without, or outside of the studio from within.  This blocks unwanted noises from mistakenly making it on the recording.

My point in this article is going to address NRC.  I like my studio to be very “dead” inside.  In other words, I like a lot of sound absorption, or very little reverberation.  I like my recording to be as clean as possible.  Then, I can add effects later on if I want to.  Some people like the “live” sound where the microphone picks up the echoes.  That is okay too.  It all depends on your preference and your needs.  For more “live” sound, you’ll want less NRC material on the walls.  For more “dead” sound, you’ll want more NRC.

Recycled Denim InsulationThe Most Awesome Sound Absorption Material!

I found a material that has the most amazing NRC properties in an affordable material I have ever seen.  And, it is made from the most common of materials – cotton.  Much of the product on the market is made from recycled denim.  Recycled cotton insulation is phenomenal at absorbing sound waves.  Sound waves are absorbed differently with different materials depending on the wave’s frequency.  Recycled cotton insulation absorbs the sound superbly from low to high frequency, so it is an “all-purpose” solution for studios, whether there will be vocals, or cellos.

This material is not to be considered a stand alone solution for blocking sound waves (STC), but it does add to the effectiveness of other blocking solutions.

The recycled cotton insulation contains no fiberglass and won’t itch when applying product. From air conditioners to reducing noise, this product is great for many different applications where insulation is needed. This multipurpose insulation has a R- Value of 6.7 and is flame retardant with a Class A fire rating. Each roll is 48-Inch long, 16-Inch wide and 1.8-Inch thick.

I personally use the insulation that was meant for the interior of the wall.  They also make sound panels from recycled insulation that are rigid, but they are more expensive.  I just like to use the insulation and hang it myself.  

This is one place you can get it online: Cotton Insulation.

I welcome any questions you have about this solution.  There are different sizes and thicknesses of this material from different manufacturers.  My studio has product that is 3.5 inches thick and it gets miraculous absorption.  The insulation I have linked to is about 2 inches thick (slightly less) and should get amazing absorption, but not quite as amazing as 3.5 inch insulation.

I highly recommend that you look into this as a possible solution.  It works well in my home studio.

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5 thoughts on “The Best Sound Absorption Material for Recording Booths

  1. Arka

    I really did not expect that cotton would be such a good sound absorbent. Also, I have a small question regarding the fact if this insulation would be useful on my office space or it is suitable for small rooms?

    Reply
    1. mmTo Build My Own Post author

      Hi Arka,
      Are you thinking of using it in your office for sound control, or for actual insulation in the walls? Recycled denim insulation is a great option for normal insulation applications, but I would get a thicker insulation than the one that I referenced in the article. This is more suited to normal insulation purposes: Bonded Logic.

      Reply
  2. Julian

    Hey,
    Im not sure if my first comment went through, it said it did but i don’t think so.
    Anyway, nice post, man. 😀
    I know a couple people who record their own music and I will be showing them your site. 🙂
    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. mmTo Build My Own Post author

      Hello Julian.
      Thanks for reading. Recycled denim insulation has been amazing in my studio.

      Reply

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