I’m sure many of us have a dream to one day design and build our own soundproof recording studio. I was able to realise this dream for myself back in 2017 when my family and I moved house, which forced us to also relocate my recording studio business. The property we chose didn’t have any extra space inside for me to move my studio gear into but it did have a large shed at the end of our garden, which could be converted into a studio.
My goal was to have a soundproof room within a room studio built within the empty garden cabin. I wanted a space that could keep sound inside the studio from transmitting through to the outside world and vice versa. Getting the soundproofing approach right was critical as if I got it wrong I would waste a lot of money.
This article is the complete story of the design and building of my studio including all the research along with a walkthrough video that shows you how we built the studio step-by-step from start to finish.
Brief - Initial Studio Build Ideas
Back in 2017 we published an initial studio build brief video that I shot before any serious work was done designing the studio. In this video below, I shared a number of my initial thoughts and ideas about remodelling the structure to maximise the internal space, as well ideas of how I was going to approach the job of soundproofing the structure.
I had three main requirements for the studio that made designing and building this space a challenge. I wanted to maximise the internal space and the structure needed to be as soundproof & secure as possible.
Maximise Internal Studio Space: Adjusting the shape of the cabin from its previous layout into a rectangle was the first critical stage of the build to get right. The garden cabin had a recessed porch which protruded into the room. The plan was for the porch to be inverted to open up the internal space into a symmetrical rectangle shape.
Soundproofing The Studio: Getting the soundproofing right was one of the most challenging and important aspects of the studio build. We didn’t want to be able to hear our neighbours in their gardens. We were also certain that our neighbours didn’t want to be bothered by the noise we would make recording and mixing. The room within a room method was planned as it’s a tried and tested way of reducing sound from transmitting between the inside of a studio and the outside world.
Studio Security: Security system installation can be easily overlooked. Never doubt the merits of having an all bells and whistles security system. Thieves are smart and opportunistic and they’ll try their luck by breaking in when you are not around. But note that the security systems for this studio will not be described in any detail in this article... for security reasons.
Build - Watch The Entire Studio Build From Start To Finish
In this video we show you exactly how we built the studio from start to finish. You will see how the builders approached each step of the build using specialist soundproofing materials. You will also see how we tackled each of the three requirements that I presented in the initial studio build brief video.
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Design - The Materials Chosen For This Soundproof Studio Build
GenieClip - A Extremely Effective Sound Isolation Component For Soundproofing Studios
I researched a wide variety of soundproofing materials, sound isolation systems and soundproofing construction methods for this studio build. The garden cabin we had as a starting point structure was made from 40mm thick timber, which wasn’t an ideal starting point, as the cabin’s original purpose was a domestic storage shed that was used as a workshop.
In my research I found many products that promised sound isolation properties. One of these systems called The GenieClip System which looked like it could perform quite well.
What Is The GenieClip System?
GenieClips are a small mounting system that screw into internal timber or metal stud frames. When installed these provide a platform for channels to clip into. The clip itself decouples channels from stud frames and ceilings, plasterboards (dry wall) screw into furring channels. GeniClips have rubber on both sides which are designed to reduce and dampen airborne and impact noise vibrations.
The Geneclips are deigned to absorb the sound vibrations through the structure from the outside in and vice versa.
GenieClips are best used as one element of a complete sound isolation solution. Such solutions use a wide variety of materials such as TECSOUND and dense plaster boards to create an effective "room within a room".
There are 3 types of GenieClip:
GenieClip - For Walls
In these images you can see the GenieClips mounted directly to a metal wall stud. A 20mm air gap is between the metal stud frame and external structure (covered in foil back insulation). The second image shows the two layers of plasterboard screwed into the furring channel clipped into the GenieClips.
GenieClip LB2 & LB3 - For Ceilings
We wanted to retain the original pitch of the roof structure as we didn’t want to have a ceiling parallel to the floor. This was also a key part of maximising the space within the room. The only way we could keep the pitch and tackle the soundproofing was to make use of the original structural beams in the ceiling and use the GenieClip LB2 for mounting furring channels.
Tutorial - Learn How to Install GenieClips
This video tutorial shows you how to install the GenieClip system with furring channels to stud walls. You will learn how to best prepare and build a stud wall partition for the GenieClips to mount to.
For optimal GenieClip performance internal partition stud walls are recommended they can be easily be built to include a small air gap between the rear of the stud frame and external structure. Air gaps are another crucial part of the soundproofing process as they play a major role in reducing sound vibrations transmitting between structures.
As mentioned above GenieClips alone were not going to do the job on their own, other materials were needed to achieve my soundproofing goals. We chose a dense double layer plasterboard inner skin. Between these two layers an adhesive called Green Glue is typically used as it is claimed to remain slightly springy which, like the GenieClip system, will dampen vibrations. Some of my research showed that Green Glue can harden over time which could render that benefit obsolete. To avoid this I decided on an alternative material called TECSOUND. This was a more expensive product but the benefits looked to exceed those of Green Glue, and would not deteriorate over time.
TECSOUND - A Mass Loaded Vinyl Alternative To Green Glue
The company that supplied us with the majority of the soundproofing materials, including TECSOUND, were iKoustic (based in the UK)
Below is iKoustic's description of TECSOUND:
“Tecsound SY 70 visco-elastic liner has excellent sound insulating properties. With a self-adhesive backing and a mass of 7kg per m2.
At only 3.5mm thick, this highly pliable material with its self-adhesive backing, is designed to be a thin sound barrier where space is a premium to upgrade existing structures and materials.”
The video below is the iKousitic team talking about TECSOUND.
My First Impressions Of TECSOUND
When we were planning the studio build I contacted the guys at iKoustic for guidance as even though I understood the theory, I had no prior hands on experience of building a soundproof studio from scratch. The team at iKoustic confirmed my reservations about Green Glue, instead they recommended TECSOUND.
An important soundproofing process to add mass, especially in a structure such as my shed which is made entirely of timber. As TECSOUND is a mass loaded sticky back vinyl sound barrier, it adds a huge amount of mass to the plasterboard construction without adding thickness to the plasterboard sandwich. This stuff is incredibly heavy. One 5 meter long roll of TECSOUND is almost too heavy for one strong person to lift. In the end we installed just over 750KG of TECSOUND in the walls, ceilings and the floor.
MuteMat - How We Designed Our Studio Floor Being An Alternative To Floating The Floor
We decided early on in the planning process not to go the conventional "floating floor" route as we would have needed to rip up the existing floor structure to replace it with a completely new decoupled (isolated) frame from scratch. Instead, we opted to use the original floor as a starting point with an isolation membrane sandwiched between the original floorboards and what would be the final top wood floor. But first, what is a floating floor system and why did we not choose build one?
What Is A Floating Floor?
Floating floors are decoupled structures. Floor joists sit on rubber inserts ensuring internal floor bases don't directly touch the structural floor. The rubber helps to damped down airborne and impact sound from one structure transmitting to another, similar to how the Genie Clip system works that we chose for the walls and ceiling in this studio design.
The garden cabin was originally built on a level concrete base. We could have used this base as a starting point for a floating floor but our budget restricted this. If we did opt to construct a floating floor structure from scratch we would have used a product called U-Boats by Auralex.
What Are Auralex U-Boat Floor Floaters?
Made of a specially-formulated rubber compound, U-Boat Floor Floaters are our proprietary U-shaped channels used to support framing members and float (isolate and decouple) them from the surrounding structure. With the help of U-Boats, a floated room features greatly improved transmission loss (isolation) and low frequency definition (translated: a tight, floated room will always sound better!).
U-Boats are the industry’s most affordable floating solution and are much easier to use than those exorbitant “pucks” that have been used in the past.
Watch the Auralex construction video to get an idea of how to install the U-Boat system for floating floors.
Why Did We Not Build A Floating Floor
To be brutally honest, we didn't choose to build a floating floor because of the budget. I intended to spend a modest £25,000 on the entire studio build. A fully floating floor system built from scratch would have been one expense too many. Instead, we chose to take inspiration from the floating floor concept by using a rubber material on top of the original floor called MuteMat 2 with a layer of TECSOUND beneath.
What Is MuteMat 2?
iKoustic, describes MuteMat 2 as:
A two-ply, high performing resilient floor mat achieving a superior impact attenuation in both timber and concrete structures, as well as high mass to reduce airborne noise which is suitable for all building types. MuteMat 2 comprises of two materials, a 6mm PE crosslinked foam (closed cell) which is in contact with the surface, and a 7.5kg per m2 Mass Loaded Vinyl.
The MuteMat 2 on top of a layer of TECSOUND is slightly springy underfoot but this was to be expected. Unlike the walls and ceiling, installing both TECSOUND and MuteMat was very easy and took only a couple of hours to complete.
Completing The First Fix Of The Studio Build
Fitting Ceiling Lights That Didn’t Break The Sound Isolation
In the early stages of my studio build planning I chose to have all the original windows removed from the garden cabin for two reasons:
Windows can turn out to be a weak link in soundproofing, compromising the performance of isolation.
Windows can also be a point of entry for thieves.
It was important to install a studio lighting system that would fill the room with even light without compromising the integrity of the soundproof construction.
This image was the first CAD design I received from my builder which featured several bar lights. I quickly rejected these types of lights because I don’t believe they are practical in small studios. Bar lights can get broken quite easily when rogue microphone stands hit them but from a design point of view I wanted the ceiling to have a clean uninterrupted surface free of dangling fixtures. The only alternative to bar lights were flush mounted down lights (spotlights). If we installed standard flush mounted spotlights we would have needed to drill large circular holes through both layers of the plasterboard and TECSOUND mass loaded vinyl. The holes in the ceiling would break the isolation barrier, we didn't want to do that so we had to find a different lighting solution.
My builder did some research and found an alternative type of lighting that looked as though it would perform the same as a standard spotlight but without the need to drill through both layers of plasterboard and TECSOUND isolation barrier.
Under Cabinet Lights
These lights are dimmable LED down lights commonly installed under kitchen cabinets. They are very thin in design and only require a mounting depth of 14mm, which is roughly the depth of one layer of plasterboard. A snug 8mm single hole was drilled for each of the lights through the dual plasterboard barrier for the electric cable and driver to fit through which was a neat idea.
The installation diagram below shows in detail the required mounting measurements.
This lighting solution maintained the seal of the soundproofed construction. It’s often little details like this that go an awful long way to ensure the effectiveness of soundproofing.
After the stud work, walls and soundproofing materials were in on the floors and in the main structure we turned our attention to the electrics. We chose to install a trunking system for the electrical sockets. In my previous studios the electrical cabling was buried behind stud walls and sockets were installed into the plasterboard walls. For this build I opted to go for a trunking system to avoid holes being punched into the newly built walls. Installing lots of wall sockets into plasterboard would have harmed the integrity of our soundproofing. Trunking is a great way to go in studio builds but it does need some careful consideration as it’s not as simple to install as you would first think.
Trunking - Positioning is Everything
While I knew that trunking would protrude into the studio by about 10cm I knew that I would be mounting acoustic panels on the walls on top of the trunking when the studio build was to be finished. These panels were also going to protrude into the room as well. We almost overlooked what the height of the trunking on the wall was going to be, which would have been a small disaster. We had to make sure that my low wall mounted air conditioner unit (similar to a radiator) would fit under the trunking as well as ensure that my CM Acoustics absorber panels (120cm in height) would fit above it while clearing the bottom of the pitched ceiling.
Measure Twice - Cut Once
Our carefully considered measurements worked perfectly. I offered up my acoustic panels and air con unit, both systems had plenty of clearance to fit above and below the trunking… only just. It really pays dividends to plan every little detail. Let's move on to some benefits of electrical trunking in studios.
Trunking Retains The Integrity Of The Soundproofing
As mentioned earlier in this article, we didn't want to threaten the integrity of the soundproofed construction with 10 or 15 wall sockets punched into the two layers of plasterboard around the studio. If we had to take this approach we would have used an acoustic putty pad product that seals around wall sockets reducing sound leakage through holes in walls.
We designed my studio to meet my current work requirements and gear collection, but about the future? At some point down the road I may need some extra wall sockets or even additional network points. To retrofit these points in the walls would be difficult and would again threaten the integrity of the soundproofing. The trunking system can enable me to easily insert extra outlets anywhere in the room without punching holes in the walls.
The trunking acts like a central nervous system around the studio. We included light switches and the main network points within this as well. We chose to install the main consumer under the trunking with a hole through the trunking into the box to again save us punching extra hole in the walls. There is only one small hole from the inside room to the outside world, this is behind the main consumer unit.
Acoustic Panel Placement Made Easy
Arranging studio acoustic treatment panels can be a challenge as panels do not stick to the walls without some kind of bracket or fixture in place. The trunking acted like a shelf for my acoustic panels to sit on. When I was planning the layout of my acoustic panels the trunking helping me to "offer up" and plan the position of each acoustic panel with ease. I used some spare planks of timber to hold the panels in place while I tried out different layouts. This was a great way to test ideas without reaching for the drill.
Studio Build - Studio Completed. Before & After Pictures
We were thrilled with the final results. All of our research, time and effort was well worth it. Like any building project this wasn’t without it’s challenges but we chose to not compromise one bit as this was not only building a studio but realising a life long dream.
These before and after pictures really show off the skill and craftsmanship of the builders.
Two Years On Working In The Studio - Would I Have Done Anything Differently?
I can hand on heart say that I’m totally happy with how the studio turned out. To this day the studio still looks as good as new. No cracks have appeared, the electrics are fine and their no signs of wear and tear. The only regret I have was choosing to install a timber door. I did initially specify a UPVC door but I changed my mind for a bespoke timber door instead. Not the smartest choice as moisture from the rain did warp the bottom of this slightly that I’ve had to repair several times.
The builders installed an internal door frame for a second inner door that I chose not to install right away. I didn’t want to open and close two doors every time I went in and out of the studio. I wanted to find out if the soundproofing was good enough with a single easier to live with door. While the isolation is perfect at keeping general airborne noise from my monitors transmitting to the outside world, impact noise from my drum kit isn’t as reduced. A second door is on my to do list for the future which will go a long way to reducing impact vibrations from leaving the studio.
If you are planning your own soundproof studio build then I hope this information helps you. The best advice I can give to anyone who is considering a build of this nature is to know what you want, research how to get it, know how much you want to spend and don’t ever compromise on your ideas. Building a recording studio is living the dream, don’t let it become a nightmare.