Make Acoustic Panels for Your Recording Studio or Home Theater




Introduction: Make Acoustic Panels for Your Recording Studio or Home Theater

Acoustic treatments are often used to help improve the acoustics of a room by taming "flutter echoes," "room modes," and other problems which arise from a room's dimensions and construction.

Although a variety of treatments are available for commercial use, they tend to be quite expensive. After some research both online and in print, we came across several sources for DIY acoustic treatments using rigid fiberglass panels and simple frames. These are often referred to as "bass traps," although the ones that we're focusing on have a fairly wide rage of absorption. While commercial versions are available for almost $100, we were able to make these panels for about $24 each.

We can not take credit for this design, but have combined several people's ideas into a step-by-step guide. Most importantly, we give credit to Ethan Winer's excellent article, Build a Better Bass Trap.

For more information, check out the good folks in the acoustics forum at

Step 1: Plan Your Setup

Check websites such as the acoustics forum at or read a book on acoustics or recording studio construction such as Home Recording Studio, Build it Like the Pros by Rod Gervais to help determine how many treatments you need and where they should go. Keep in mind that it's easier to build one or two more than you think you need than it is to get everything ready to do the whole project again, so when in doubt, make more than you think you need.

For our room, we decided to build 12 panels. Since it's a room for music recording, we can take down some of the panels when we want a more lively sound, or we can put them all up when we want a more controlled sound. IMPORTANT: a "dead" sounding room is not natural, and causes the ears to fatigue much faster than in a typical space. Since the point of this project is to enjoy music sound MORE, you want to avoid too much absorption.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Here is a quick parts list for 1 panel, followed by a longer explanation of some items. Please read these descriptions as they contain important safety information and information on locating materials.

Major Parts:
4" x 3/4" Board - 14 feet, cut as follows: 2 - 4' long boards, 2 - 22 1/2" boards, 4 - 6" long corner brackets (see picture below)
3/4" x 1" moulding - about 8 feet, cut into two 46 1/2" lengths
2 inch thick rigid fiberglass (Owens Corning 703 or similar) - One 2' x 4' sheet
Acoustically transparent fabric - about 2 yards @ 38" wide

Wood Glue
16 - Drywall Screws
4 - 4" x 1/4" carriage bolts
8 - 1/4" nuts
3-5 feet - Picture hanging wire (at least 30 lb. capacity)
2 - Heavy duty frame tabs
1 or 2 - Picture Hooks (at least 30 lb. capacity)
2" strip of clear tape
50 - Upholstery staples
16 - Brads
4 - Light duty felt furniture glides

Table saw
Drill with 1/8" bit and phillips head driver
Phillips head screwdriver
Staple gun
Wire cutters
Utility knife
Tape measure
2 Bar Clamps


Lumber - We decided to build the panels to 2' x 4' outside dimension because it was cheaper to trim a bit off the fiberglass than to purchase and waste all the extra lumber that we would have needed to cut the slightly longer frame pieces. For our frames, we decided to use MDF because it is inexpensive and fairly strong. We used 2 4' x 8' sheets for all 12 frames. First we ripped a sheet and a half into 4" wide boards (18 boards), and then we cut the remaining board into 1" strips for our moulding. You could use an alternative such as pine, but it's more expensive, and its not going to show in this design anyway.

Fiberglass - Rigid fiberglass looks just like the roll of fluffy stuff you stick on your walls, but it is compressed and is considerably more dense. It is not available at most general home stores or construction supply houses, but if there is an insulation supplier in your area, they usually have it in stock or can order it rather quickly. It is also sold as "fiber board" and "mineral fiber." It is not necessary to use Owens Corning branded material, but check with the manufacturer to ensure a density of about 3 pounds per cubic foot.

It is available unfaced or with a backing called FRK (foil reenforced kraftpaper) which looks similar to the material used to package pre-made garlic bread. While this option does help increase the panels effectiveness in the low frequency range, it is considerably more expensive (about 33% where we bought ours) and also increases high frequency reflections, so for general use, it's better to get the unfaced material. For our project, we made 8 unfaced panels and 4 faced panels, placing them in strategic locations (basically closer to the corners) to help with specific problems in our room. If you are more familiar with room acoustics, a combination of panels might be a better option.

When working with fiberglass, please be sure to wear a dust mask, eye protection, gloves, and long sleeves to prevent injury and irritation from the material.

Fabric - IMPORTANT: Spend the extra money to buy flame retardant fabric or purchase a fireproofing spray for fabrics and use it on your panels! If the fabric is not flame retardant a warm light, and open flame from a candle, etc. could cause a major fire as you will have flammable materials hanging on your walls! This is not only dangerous, but against the fire code in most areas.

Although you can buy acoustically transparent fabric made for this purpose, it tends to be rather expensive and provides no real benefit in this application. Muslin, burlap and other such materials are great choices. Just find something that will allow air to pass through it freely. If you can hold it up to your mouth and blow through it easily, it will do fine for this project. Just DON'T FORGET TO MAKE IT FLAME RETARDANT.

We used $ .99/yard muslin and treated it with a flameproof spray. It's not very durable, so you may want something a little better if you're planning on moving the panels or tend to find your walls getting bumped and dented a lot. The Cadillac of fabrics for this type of panel is a product made by Gilford's of Maine. It's expensive, but it is fire rated, durable, and comes in a nice selection of colors.

Picture hanging materials - Although picture wire, hooks, and eyelet tabs are readily available at hardware stores and big box home stores, the markup on these items is very large and the quality tends to be sub par. We recommend going to a local picture framing shop and asking to purchase these items out of the framer's inventory. A framing shop may also be willing to help you select the right products and even make sure that you're using them properly. We paid about ten dollars for all of the materials needed to hang 12 panels. Equivalent materials from a national retailer would have cost us over 60 dollars!

Due to the weight of these frames, we recommend overestimating their weight requirements. We used 50 pound wire and hooks, even though they should have worked fine with the 30 pound versions.

Step 3: Build the Frame

Begin by arranging the boards as shown.
(photo 1210)
Stand a long and short board upright and form a corner with the long board on the outside. Use a corner bracket to check that it's square.
(photo 1212, 1213)
Drill two pilot holes as shown. Repeat for the remaining three corners. NOTE: if using MDF, you MUST countersink all of the holes or the board will split and the holes will strip if you try to use the screw to "suck" the boards together. Use your judgement with other materials.

Glue the edge of the small board, and dip a screw about 1/2" into some wood glue. This will coat the threads and help the screw to stick. Again, do not skip this step when working with MDF or the joint will not hold.

When you finish both sides, use bar clamps to hold the frame while the glue sets.

Place a corner bracket in each corner and mark which way is "up." We realized we should do this after we picked one up to put glue on it and then couldn't remember which side was which. If you get it spun around, it will be difficult to line up the pilot holes.

Line up the bracket with the top edge of the frame and drill two holes into each edge where the bracket attaches to the frame. Countersink, glue, and screw as before.

Drill a 1/4" hole through the center of each bracket. You do not need to measure the exact placement. This is where you will install the spacer bolts later on.

Step 4: Add the Fiberglass Retaining Moulding

In order to maximize the effectiveness of the fiberglass, it is important that it "floats" away from the wall. To do this, install a moulding strip 2 inches in from the front edge on the inside of the frame. This will make the panel flush with the face of the frame. We found it necessary to glue and nail the strips, and then hold them with C-Clamps while the glue dried.

Unfortunately we did not take a picture of this step, but you can see the strips installed in the following photo.

Step 5: Trim the Fiberglass

The fiberglass needs to be trimmed to fit inside the frame (since we built it to 2' x 4' outside dimension). Use a utility knife to trim 1 1/2" from both a long and a short side. This can also be done on a table saw, but we found that the utility knife keeps the fibers and dust in a smaller area. Do not use a hand saw, as it will shred the board more than cut it.

Use caution when cutting fiberglass. Wear long sleeves, gloves, a breathing mask, and proper eye protection to prevent the fibers from causing irritation. When you are done cutting, thoroughly clean your work area with a broom, vacuum cleaner, and damp cloth.

NOTE: A perfectly straight edge isn't too important since the board will be covered by fabric anyway. We found it better to aim for cutting slightly less off than to cutting more, because the extra friction helped keep the board in place while covering it with fabric.

Step 6: Install the Fiberglass

IMPORTANT: If you follow this step correctly, you will end up with the fabric covering the BACK side of the board, not the front. In the next step, you will cover the front. Although it may be tempting to leave the fabric off the back since it won't be seen, please follow this step because fiberglass debris will continue to fall off of the board. For safety and for the durability of the panel, cover the back as instructed.

NOTE: If you are using FRK faced insulation, you do not need to cover the back. Follow the this step as written, but begin by placing the board with the FRK side facing up and do not use the fabric covering.

Begin by placing the panel onto a sturdy, flat work surface. The panel must not hang over the edges of the table.

Lay the fabric to cover the panel. Trim the fabric lengthwise so that it drapes over the edge of the board by about 1 1/2 inches. Don't worry about trimming the long edges of the fabric at this time.
(1225, 1226, 1227)
Take the frame face down (bracket side up) and place it over the board. Fit one side of the frame over the board. Make sure the fabric stays in place as you push down from one side to the other. The board should now be seated in the frame.
(1228, 1229)
Flip the whole unit over and push the board fully into place. It should be pressed securely against the moulding strips.

Step 7: Wrap the Unit in Fabric

If you know someone who stretches canvas for paintings, have them help you with this step. There are several methods that can be found online to help you wrap the panel, but they can be tricky if you do not have a someone there to help.

We are currently working on a more detailed Instructable just for canvas stretching. Check back soon and hopefully this paragraph will be replaced with a link.

The point of this step is to cover the fiberglass and the wooden frame in fabric. If you have another method you'd like to use, feel free to do so.

Step 8: Install the Spacer Bolts

To maximize the panel's effectiveness, it needs to be spaced away from the wall. Take the four carriage bolts and thread a nut down to the bottom of the threads. Place a bolt in each of the holes you drilled in the corner brackets. Reach around back and thread the other nut onto the bolt. Tighten the nuts to hold the bolt securely. These four bolts will act like "feet" that push the frame away from the wall. Once the bolt is in place, stick a small self-adhesive felt pad onto each bolt heads to protect your walls from scratches.

If you can not afford to lose that much space your room, consider adding half inch rubber feet at the corners to help give the panel a little "breathing room."

Step 9: Install the Picture Wire

Again, finding a local artist or frame shop to help you with this might be helpful, but it's not too hard if you'd like to do it yourself.

First, measure down from the top of the frame (10 inches if you're hanging horizontally, 18 if you're hanging vertically) and mark this point along the inside edge. Typically, you would measure down 1/3 the height of the frame, but we need to add a couple extra inches to compensate for the spacers. If you don't do this, the wire will pull "out" from the wall instead of pulling down on the hook.

Drill a pilot hole into the inside edges, about halfway between the moulding and the back edge of the frame. Be careful not to drill too deeply or you'll drill through the outside edge and snag the fabric.

Using a manual screwdriver, screw the tabs into the frame.

Take the picture wire and feed about five inches through the tab.

Fold the wire over on itself, and crimp it at the fold

Make a loop with the free end on top and then slide the free end through the loop.

Tighten the loop to leave about a 3/8" opening, and then feed the free end of the cable through the tab.

Bring the free end around and feed it through the loop created by the first knot in the cable.

Grab both ends of the cable and tighten the knot. It doesn't have to be super tight to be secure. It just needs to be tight enough to get the slack out for accurate measurement.

Twist the free end of the cable around the long end to keep it from hanging loose.

Pull a length of cable across the frame to the other tab. Pull enough slack so that if it's pulled into a "V," the point is about 2 1/2" from the top edge of the frame.

Pull an additional five inches of slack and cut the wire.

Measure and crimp the wire as before, and repeat all steps to fasten the cable to the second tab.

The panel is now ready to be hung.

Step 10: Hang the Panels

Decide on the location of each panel on the wall.

For each panel, measure the distance you'd like to have from the top of the panel to the ceiling. Add this distance to the distance from the peak of the picture wire to the top of the frame (approx. 2 or 3 inches). Measure that total distance down from the ceiling and mark that point with a pencil.

Affix a 2" strip of clear tape vertically in the area immediately above the pencil mark. This will help keep the drywall/plaster from crumbling when you install the picture hook.

Nail the picture hook into the wall so that the bottom of the hook is in line with the pencil mark.

Hang the completed panel on the hook. Use a level straighten the panel.

Enjoy your improved room acoustics!

Step 11: Conclusion

Although this project requires a lot of steps and a variety of skills, it's a very rewarding job and can save you hundreds of dollars over the cost of commercially available treatments. The panels add an attractive look to your space, as well as (of course) making your room sound a lot better. We have had several people who visited our room before and after we installed the panels comment on how much nicer the room sounded after the installation. This includes many people with no understanding or interest in acoustics.

Now that we have gone through this project once, we've talked about making another batch if need be. This first batch of twelve took two of us about 20 hours of work, but we could probably cut that time down by 5-10 hours now that we know what we're doing. Don't be intimidated by this project. We designed these steps to avoid most of the mistakes and time wasters we encountered along the way, and the remaining tricky spots are clearly noted.

Finally, if you have any questions about this project, feel free to ask us and we'd be glad to help! If you have questions/curiosities about recording studio acoustics, check out the acoustics forum at . Good luck!

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    5 years ago

    I am planning on adding these panels to a personal voice over recording studio room about 12x12. How many panels do you suggest I build, what dimentions should I make them and can you please provide some insight for placement? Thank you so much, I have been sent this link by two separate people - suggesting they are a great idea.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Hi Katherine. I hope you had some luck building these panels and I'm happy to hear that your friends have been helped too!

    For voice work, the cheapest way to go would be to install four of them directly in the corner—two on each wall with no space between them (from the top, they would make a 'v' shape). Ideally, they'd be placed at a height where microphone would be about half-way between the top and bottom of the panels.

    If you want more coverage, I would suggest 4 per wall. Again, for voice work, keeping height so that your microphone is about halfway between the top and bottom would be ideal. You could also stagger the heights. Try alternating so that every other panel is about 8-12 inches higher than the others. Hope that helps!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Can you give a brief estimate of the prices of all the materials you used so I can kind of gauge how much to spend to get it down to the $24 dollars you said you guys spent


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Danny,

    I built these in 2007, so I can't remember all of the exact figures, but I believe that those numbers were pretty attainable with the quantity of materials I purchased. The most expensive component was the insulation itself, which I recall to be somewhere between $16 to 20 per sheet. I was able to get some MDF scraps, which brought the cost down a bit, but even new MDF through home depot should cost about $10 for a 2x4 sheet. This can make about 12 long boards or 24 short boards. So for 12 panels, you would need a total of about four sheets. $40/12 = about $3.33 per panel.

    The assembly hardware can be purchased from Home Depot for a few dollars (total for all panels), and the mounting hooks and picture wire will be under $10 from an art supplies store.

    Finally, we got discounted fabric from Michaels with a store coupon (check the newspaper), which cost about $1.75 per panel.

    I hope that helps. Even paying full retail for everything, you're probably not going to spend more than $40 per panel, which is still less than a third the cost of pre-built panels.

    Good luck!


    Ledger Note
    Ledger Note

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Ethan Winer is awesome. I've been reading him on Gearslutz for almost a decade. I made my own acoustic treatment panels that made a WORLD of difference in the quality of my listening room. Thanks for sharing. Owens Corning is your best friend when it comes to rigid fiberglass!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    If it cost you $24 for each acoustic panels and commercial panels cost $100 I personally would have gone for the commercial ones as they are manufactured with a degree of quality (not judging your skills,lol).

    Anyway, these look great though the placement looks a bit ugly.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    Best tool, bar none, for cutting rockwool or fiberglass board is an electric carving knife. Very little mess and it cuts through like butter.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice panels TheHighwaysBeautiful.

    How did you go about tuning your room? I mean the actuall tuning to decide which panel depth needed to be where? Or did you not take it that far in depth when designing your studio room? or jsut go with a guess-ta-ment?

    Some when building one as nice as yours some do and some  don't is why i ask [tune a room i mean]- and it can be some what complicated to tune a room properly - if you did do this - an instrucable on how you went about it would be a nice add.

    Did you use a GoldLine Handheld AA or BMX anilyser? (if you did)

    As mentioned the panels are really nice looking and look like they would work.

    My first "studio room" we used the square egg crates glued an screwed to the wall and ceiling and then sprayed them with foam... then sprayed the whole mess flat black- didn't exactly look pretty - pissed off my parent when they found out what i did to my room - but all in all it worked well enough to make a fairly decent recording at the time. ;0)

    again nice job and easy to follow instructable.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction


    We did do some tuning, using a room analysis application for Mac. Unfortunately, I don't remember what we used, and I no longer have that computer. Some basic tuning can be done on paper using the room's dimensions and doing some simple algebra. It's a little beyond what I can explain in a comment, but you might want to get the book I mentioned in the introduction. That has a very good look at the process.

    If the tuning process seems overwhelming, then here's some basic advice: concentrate the panels near the corners and the longer walls. The worst reflections happen between the walls which are the shortest distance apart. By putting the panels on the longest walls, you'll better tame those shorter reflections.

    Good luck!



    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm - Interesting - I'll have to check into some software apps and see if they make something similiar for PC.

    I've tuned rooms before using a Goldline Hand held 1/3 octive audio anilyser before. I use to use one when i was a SE for live proformances and tuning the system to the venue. Of course i must admit it's been a while and i don't have a Gold line any more. So a software solution may be more practical for a perminent installation/ studio.

    thanks for the tip on guess-te-mating the room tuning.

    And Happy New Year to you and yours.

    - chase -


    10 years ago on Introduction

    my new design studio is "boomy" (maple floors minimal furniture) and I listen to the stereo all day, so I really need these! My only thought was to use 3" wood and skip the batten, wouldn't the corner braces hold the material in fine? Lighter and simpler!
    thanks again ... David


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yes that would leave you with fewer pieces. However, the panels would be closer to the wall, reducing their effectiveness in key frequency ranges. It's up to you whether or not you want to be concerned with that level of precision.


    10 years ago on Step 10

    For some strange reason Stumbleupon brought me to this page. Not the beginning of the 'ible, but step 10?! Anyway cool ''ible! If you have the time and resources, you should post comparisons against commercial products, for interest's sake.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    In addition to insulation supply houses, check with drywall/ceiling supply houses as well. You can also find the same product sold as "duct liner" in thicknesses up to 4" and the standard color is black.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    The sturdy framing of this design gives me an idea.

    Every studio seems to have a pair of large speakers on the wall - often for "wow factor".
         When I set up my studio, I may make a pair of these panels with hidden windows, and built-in platforms to mount speakers in them. This should reduce bass reflections from the wall, and hide the big speakers :)

       Has anyone done this?  I'll have to experiment.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Sounds like a great economical solution for studios. Would you use the same type of panels to improve the acoustics of a performing hall? Large room (10x19 M, with 5.2 M high ceiling, plus columns and balcony) with all concrete and tile construction. The sound (live band, projected speakers) echoes horribly - we have to turn volume down to barely above nothing in order to have clarity. But then everyone complains that they can't hear enough. If you don't have suggestions, can you recommend a website? We live in South America, where obtaining professional help and/or prefabricated panels is almost impossible, so homemade options are a must.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I would certainly use these fiberboard panels in the back of the room behind the audience.  You may also want a few on the side walls at about the middle point of the hall to reduce side-reflections.  I've made some that were hung vertically from the ceiling to reduce reflections off of a metal roof.

    Another home made option is curtains.

    I've seen some performance halls add curtains along their walls.
    Use a heavy velour, velvet, or something with a thick felt backing. You can adjust the sound absorption by adjusting the fullness of the pleat. 
       0% fullness is completely flat, 50% fullness 1.5m of curtain is hung in 1m space, and 100% fullness is 2m of curtain in 1m space.
       If the curtains are hung tracks or rods, you can adjust the fullness, or temporarily draw them back to expose the walls to fine-tune the sound for each performance.

    At first it seems odd to hang curtains over empty walls, but it works.
      As always fire proofed or fire rated material is a must for performance spaces.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment! While these panels are meant to absorb bass notes more than anything else, they might be of some help. In a room that size, there may be a better solution though. I'd check the forums at . The people there are knowledgeable and friendly. You'll probably be able to find a great solution that's more specific for your room--including the types of treatments, and also the placement of each treatment. The placement is just as important as what you're doing. Good luck!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Hello Mr. Highway. Just finished building 5 panels for my home theater room. I used 3/4 " plywood only because I don't like particle board. I sourced out some fiberboard in Toronto where I live . The fabric was ordered from Guilford of Maine. I had them send me their color swatches first, so that I could see the exact product . I looked at other designs , but felt that yours was the best . Yours was one of the few designs that insisted on having the panels off of the wall . Your instructions made it very easy to build. They look less obtrusive that I expected . They give the room a professional look and finish. The improvement in the sound dynamics is indeed worth the effort and minimal costs . Thanks


    11 years ago on Step 2

    I'm planning to make something like this, and am trying to source these fiberglass panels.  I think I found what I need at Home Depot, though the panels they had have foil on one side.  Since my primary goal is to squelch high frequency echos and ringing, should I face the non-foil side towards the room?

    It also seems odd to me that such a dense material would be any good at absorbing sound - is it really better than a softer foam (like for bedding or upholstery?)