How to Make High Performance Sound Absorption Panels for $5

In this video I explore the possibility of making DIY sound absorption panels on a budget, later comparing them to much more expensive acoustic foam. The results are pretty amazing!

There have been many comments pointing out that my test only measures transmission and not reflection, so is essentially unsuitable for my initial testing goal. While this is partly true, testing reflection is pretty difficult to do in a home environment, and the only way to do it that I can think of would be to spend a long time in the middle of a field with a powerful speaker and mic rig, which is really beyond the scope of what I was prepared to do for the video.

My tests are not rendered pointless however - it would do no good to have only measured reflection, as the thinnest lightest material would have won (like foam), as nothing would have bounced back. Reflection and transmission need to be tested together to measure how much sound passes through, and how much sound is reflected back - this should give an indication of how much sound is absorbed by a given material.

Regardless, only testing the transmission doesn't affect the outcome of the project at all, as any sound waves reflected by the panels themselves would have theoretically bounced off the wall anyway - again this is why reflection wasn't tested, as it doesn't matter so much for a panel setup (though would matter very much for a vocal booth).

Open to hear any thoughts about it though! Keep up the great discussion. :)

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Runtime: 8:38
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Author Lubico 99 ( ago)
does acoustic soundproof foam works on a door? (to avoid the outside noises)

Author Chaslasher Hilliard ( ago)
ughhhh rip headphone users... jeez

Author joe mchugh ( ago)
Great video with intelligent and tested information. Thanks.

Author Steve McC ( ago)
Thank you. This is very interesting because I just recently did an informal test myself - and was amazed to find the same thing. I'm curious if you noted the thread count of the towels you were using? It seems like those towels were good towels

Author gecsus ( ago)
Part of setting up a studio environment is to stop the reflection of sound (by absorption) while dispersing the sound as well. True sound suppression is achieved by using both methods simultaneously.
For a good studio environment on the cheap... Try egg flats behind the towels simply hanging from the wall about 1/4th to 1/2 inch from the flats. Any sound that does manage to penetrate the layered material will be absorbed on the bounce somewhat out of phase and dispersed which will further enhance the effect. Curtains also work well backed by egg flats. Double layer of curtains is equivalent of four layers after the reflected dispersion the sounds must pass back through while out of phase before escaping.
Curtains have a great aesthetic as well.

Author kguy152000 ( ago)
6:06. That's a nice lookin' frame, there.

Author minato kun ( ago)
u r super

Author Francis K. ( ago)
can you do tests on felt? to see is that's better than towels?

Author Joe Fontana ( ago)
this is bloody brilliant.

Author Mayra Batista ( ago)
If instead using a frame I use a thick woodpanel and place on the window, will It work to block the sound and also absorb It? Thanks for the info, nice video.

Author Ishiki ( ago)
I'm thinking of getting rid of my bed, can I cut out the foam into little pieces and use them as sound absorption panels?

Author Azarel & 'Em Publishing ( ago)
Good stuff! Question- Do you have a DIY recommendation for the ceiling? I'm a renter and don't want to do anything that the owner would charge me for when I move out. Thanks in advance!

Author PO G ( ago)
I think one of these panels would be pretty heavy. Towels are pretty dense. Very interesting test.

Author WolfPack LTD ( ago)
This is absolute gold, thanks.

Author canvasch ( ago)

Author Prince Honkey ( ago)
would painting them interfere?

Author Shylockza ( ago)
Ey, why no stereo sound mate?

Author Emmanuel Torres ( ago)
this really blew my mind. great experiment. I'm an sound engineer, and although I kind of knew that cotton fabrics are pretty good insulators, a setup like this never crossed my mind. awesome work

Author The Blacksmith ( ago)
Wow i love that garden area also i did this and used some water colors for a nice little scene

Author hallieshouse13 ( ago)
I had to turn up this video to hear it, funnily enough :)

Author elmotuz ( ago)
My left ear enjoyed the start of the video. These kind of videos where you don't need area awareness via sound cues, it is good to record the audio as mono and copy that audioline to both stereo channels.

Author GreyMatterProductions ( ago)
Now you have to make some cheap bass traps!

Author JVONROCK ( ago)
Hmmm, so should I use it for insulation and sound in my van ? People have used cut up jeans

Author Dario Monet ( ago)
hi! what is the material of the towel? thank :)

Author Ohloveeh ( ago)
Towels, brought to you by Matt :P

Author LifeLongCaboose ( ago)
This is a life saver, me and my mates have bin looking for a way to get some extra sound proofing for cheap, thank you so much for making this. Time to get together and make like 30 panels.

Author Chris Dann ( ago)
great use of towels , I might make one for my cb radio, I use a base mike that picks up every little noise. Great video

Author DrUranium ( ago)
May I ask, what is obscructible?

Author mbiraguy ( ago)
You just saved me a bunch of money, man. Thanks!

Author AXELRAPUNZEL ( ago)
will these work on windows to keep out the outside noise?

Author TheLittleWorldOfJonah ( ago)
Can I just say your garden us beautiful

Author AXELRAPUNZEL ( ago)
hi... can you use this to keep sound out from windows? can you see these on windows?

Author crystalfunky ( ago)
Cool video, but why did you leave out stone wool like rockwool, which is cheap as well. That would have been interesting too.

Author mian fazle razik ( ago)
Can we use that in cars below matts

Author アヌズ シンザ リ ( ago)
very great video

Author TopEvt ( ago)
Really good video and surprised with the results that the towels are better than professional foam.

Author Lewis Amoroso ( ago)
Love the video! I've watched a lot of these videos and came to the conclusion that roxul safe and sound was the best shop bought option. However, I live in the UK as well and can't find any anywhere! What would you recommend for a UK alternative? Many thanks!

Author Andre Roth ( ago)
What a great idea. I will try it :-)

Author PandaRigTC ! ( ago)
after I watch this video I started wondering about other materials light mattress foam topper like a cheap one or cheap spray foam insulation?

Author Danial Bukhari ( ago)
Now I know how to record well without echo

Author Wombats ( ago)
Make an infinity room.

Author James Doyle ( ago)
Great Job, I like the print idea to :)

Author ComandanteJ ( ago)
Good vid, and very good DIY solution for really cheap. BUT if you had done the test with a shard of glass, your permeability tests would have been much better than the towel. And we all know that glass is, basically, acoustic's WORST ENEMY. A second vid with proper reflectivity testing would be a nice follow-up for this!

Author Mark Marlowe ( ago)
Brooooo, some headphones users warning would be useful :D I almost died here

Great video as always, now I am gonna hunt for some towels

Author underscoreCody ( ago)
... headphones

Author InDK ( ago)
Really men, thank you !
U know, i'm a french guy, and it's really difficult to have a version of ur videos, in my language...

With your work and your exemples, I can clearly understand what you said, that's à pleasure !!

Thank you very much! I'll do this cheap equipment in my own room !

Author H2Dwoat ( ago)
Could the layering of the towels be a factor in addition to the material

Author 牛力 ( ago)
Thanks for the scientific test! I would be very interested in finding how do materials do at low frequency, since you only testing above 5kHz where I'm looking for something block my furnace LF sounds... :)

Author Michi Ilundaria ( ago)
I am needing something like this for my home office to help cut the exterior noises coming in. My question is, would this work in my office, or would it actually need to be in the next rooms since there is a wall there? Thanks for your response!

Author burmesebeef ( ago)
off i go to the goodwill and home depot

Author Darko Simonji ( ago)
Can you make bass traps? :)

Author Кирилл Воронов ( ago)
Вот наконец за бугром и придумали настенные ковры :(
У нас студия для местых рок групп была покрыта со всех сторон коврами, звук был шикарный!.. :D
In Russia, wall carpets have always been used for this. Already many dozens (if not hundreds) of years.

Author warleb1 ( ago)
I woke up at 6am to get my towels ready but someone had already put there towels out.

Author Eka Julian ( ago)
great idea dude ^^

Author wheelofsun ( ago)
very nice.
but what about the bass freqs? how did you control them?

Author Mohammad Makhdum ( ago)
terrific video

Author Sabur Onib ( ago)
Unless any sound engineers have done similar testing and get different results i would say you have have done some extraordinarily useful work sir.

Author cHrIs G ( ago)
thank you brooooooo

Author Paco Jones ( ago)
$5? More like $15 at least.

Author Juicefulll ( ago)
you d think there d be a market for what you explain how to make. costs friggin nothing and can be easily sold waaaay cheaper than professional crap while still having a good profit margin. you d think. awesome vid. definitely worth making it yourself.

Author codespots ( ago)
This guy is hot

Author Mathieu Simard ( ago)
LISTEN. There is a difference between sound blocking and sound absorption. This is mostly sound proofing. Soundproofing makes your room quieter, by blocking-out external noise, while acoustic Treatment makes your room sound better on a recording, by absorbing excessive ambience.

Soundproofing products keep sound contained in a space, make it impossible for sound to move to other parts of a building, and stop unwanted sound from entering a room. Soundproofing is the solution you want if you’re looking to keep what happens in your conference rooms confidential, or if you want to block the sound of your next-door neighbor’s Metallica records. Sound absorption products, on the other hand, absorb the extra sound waves that bounce around a space and cause poor acoustics, background noise, and bad echo. They don’t stop sound from travelling into adjoining rooms, but they do drastically improve speech intelligibility and the sound quality of rooms, cars, boats, and other enclosed spaces. They improve the quality of the sound within a room.

So be careful, it all depends on your purpose.

Author Cel ( ago)
my good sir - i indeed adore this video - well done

Author Eazy Hardy ( ago)
Making 8 of these at the moment. Thank you for the DIY!

Author Robbert van der Eem ( ago)
Excellent video. Terrible footwear though.

Author JAKE DYNAIMZ ( ago)

Author Ray Hayden ( ago)
Excellent video. I just wanted to make note of an off the wall solution that I found quite by accident, but I am sure most of us have noted this - and probably simply forgot about it... When I did laundry last week, I had to pull a comforter out of the dryer... it was almost dry, and I wanted to let it air dry the rest of the way - so I hug it over the shower doors in the typically echo based restroom, and I really noticed the lack of echo in the bathroom during that time.

These panels that you made are great - done right, they also look good, and hanging up on the wall looks good too.

However, for a dusty environment, or a situation where washing and cleaning the sound buffer would be needed, or desired, simply hanging sound baffle towels or blankets - like to make a sound booth - might work nicely as well.

When I get the chance, I will toss together a prototype and see how well that works... oddly enough, I do have actual sound baffles as well, but these would be much more portable, and much less expensive!

Author deXter2 ( ago)
This test you did do not show how much of the sound is absorbed. You can't tell if it actually is absorbed by a towel or just bounces back (which would be even worse). In other words - methodology sucks.
Nonetheles they seem to work and look decent.

Author redirect2you ( ago)
Perfect, Thank You!!!! Brilliant testing and well done video! My love is spending time in an Alzheimer's care home and his room's largest wall is opposite a very busy street. We can do nothing permanent to reduce round the clock noise while he resides there, so this will be a wonderful solution.Now, how about the large old single pane windows? Hate to lose the light. Glass Block seems good to me, but don't think the owners will allow such an extreme, permanent solution.  Would you like to test a few cheap solutions for us??

Author Annabelle Linker ( ago)
This was very useful--thank you

Author Putins Cat ( ago)
It's a shame he didn't try insulation.  Might be cheaper than a shitload of towels.  Also, the front should be fabric, or a nice picture that matches the size.  I see no advantage to having an old towel on the front surface.

Author Felix Persson ( ago)
Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing. Extremely impressive. I just have to try this at my home studio.

The best,
Felix Persson AKA FLX
Music producer based in Sweden

Author Aeroswindler ( ago)
I'm using fabric glue, I don't feel like sewing, especially since I'm a beginner at it. Unless it would affect its performance.

Author Chimichanga Superstar ( ago)
You have just changed my life in the best way ever. As a sacrifice, would you like my first born, my left testicle, or a large dog that looks a lot like a polar bear?

Author Cameron Cole ( ago)
God the stereo panning is SO annoying.

Author Mads Uldall ( ago)
Great video, even better idea! My only concern is that if you wanna use them for a music studio, they won't provide a linear damping. I think that is one of the things you pay for in acoustic foam. But then again I wouldn't care to much as long as they are not all over the room.

Author Carl Kaseroll ( ago)
Only ytube video that uses Towel to DIY block noise. I wonder why? I used it in my room

Author 8Finious ( ago)
Can you make something like this for basstraps and diffussers? Since i wanna make my room acoustic so i can finally rely on my monitors. xD

Author Vonda Krakar Love ( ago)
Genius ♥

Author mr toad ( ago)
your rig sags when using the towels!

Author Taker ( ago)
I just saw your video and have a question:
I have a picture with a frame similar to the one you have built in the video. It's a normal painting, so would it be possible to stack some towels to the back of the picture and have the same results as you have? Or does the front need to be fabric?

Author Herbstlaub ( ago)
Sorry man, you're lacking to distinguish between absorption and reflection. You towels may actually reflect the sound rather than absorbing it.

Author Red Beard Carpentry & Woodworks ( ago)
very useful!

Author Ethan Winer ( ago)
The test method shown is very wrong, even if in the end some of the materials helped to improve the sound of the room. First, at frequencies below around 1 KHz plenty of sound gets around the material into the microphone. Second, the idea that less sound getting to the microphone implies (desirable) absorption ignore that a sheet of plywood would block the sound while not offering any useful absorption. The proper way to assess absorbing materials is to see how well they reduce RT60 decays times versus frequencies in a room. But that requires more material than a single small piece. It is possible to test small pieces with a microphone and speaker, but you have to put the material in front of a reflecting wall and use room measuring software, and the details are more involved than I can easily describe here.

Author JGO Audio ( ago)
Thank you for this extremely valuable work!

Author LeglessTable ( ago)
Why are you only testing with high frequencies?

Author Rich Fuell ( ago)
What are the dimensions of the wood you are using..?..thanks for this great video....planning to build a few to hang up when recording vocals in my home studio....

Author Scyqod ( ago)
what absorbing sub bass frequencies & low mids?

Author Dmitry Kim ( ago)
you look like Willem Defoe, damn

Author CyberChrist ( ago)
Clapping one's hands is the best reverb test ^^

Author kakman1958 ( ago)
I'd love to see the results from carpet. I've seen multimedia studios with carpet on the walls and they sounded quite dead.

Author jekader ( ago)
Put carpets on walls - tested by generations of Russians who lived in houses with poor soundproofing ;)

Author Media Addict ( ago)
This is why I never go any where with out my towel, it says so in the in this handy book I have for travelers.

Author Charvel S ( ago)

Author Made By Rumyra ( ago)
Um - however appreciative of the tip I am - I don't see why you had to make a thing of sewing sarcastically being 'manly'

Should I make a thing of drilling and sawing being sarcastically 'womanly' considering I shall be doing that too.

Less of the sexism next time please!

Author Vapaamies ( ago)

Author GRETST EVR ( ago)
can you do one test with blankets,quilts and towels

Author Darrell Jacob JR ( ago)
So...carpet, hung like a tapestry, should have roughly the same absorption due to the 'stubbly' surface, similar to the towel. And it comes in larger sheets.

Author Here Now ( ago)
Why didnt you try carpet and/or underlay ? Much easier to cover a wall with carpet than towel.
Why is this Englishman dealing in dollars ?
The youngest old man I ever saw :)
Thanks for doing the experiments

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