The 11 Best Acoustic Wall Treatment Panels For Home Recording Studios
Acoustic panels and diffusers are the two most common acoustic wall treatments needed in every recording studio. Learn what they do and how they work to make your studio and your mixes sound better. Then learn how to use them in your studio and discover which panels and diffusers are the best products available today.
Do you know the one thing that all well-regarded professional recording studios have in common?
The answer is:
Acoustic wall treatments…
These acoustic sound products not only make their rooms sound better but give mixers and producers an accurate acoustic environment to produce great mixes.
So if you want great-sounding tracks and better mixes in your home studio, you need acoustic treatments too.
Better sound starts with acoustics!
The second article Acoustics 101: Acoustic Treatment Guide For Home Recording Studios is designed to help you determine what you need to do to make your studio sound better.
If you are new to soundproofing or studio acoustics, I’d recommend you start with those two articles before this one.
This post is about acoustic wall treatments – acoustic wall panels and diffusers – that will help solve common problems like flutter echo, first reflections, comb filtering, and excess reverberation.
Let’s get started!
Best Acoustic Wall Treatments For Home Studios
- Auralex Designer Series Treatment DST-112
- Auralex Studiofoam DST-114
- Auralex Acoustics D36-DST Roominator Kit
- Auralex Acoustics SonoFlat Acoustic Absorption Foam Panels
- ATS Acoustic Panels
- Pro Studio Acoustics Acoustic Wedge Foam Absorption Soundproofing Tiles
- Auralex Alpha-DST Roominator Kit
- Auralex Pro Plus™ Roominator Kit
3 Types Of Acoustic Treatments
As you learned in my previous Acoustics 101: Acoustic Treatment Guide For Home Recording Studios post, there are three basic types of acoustic treatments:
- Acoustic panels
- Bass traps
Let’s go into detail about acoustic panels and diffusers, and then give you some product recommendations.
Bass traps are covered in this separate article: 3 Best Bass Traps For Home Music Recording Studios.
Acoustic panels are lightweight sound absorbers made of a special acoustic foam. They are effective at controlling and reducing early reflections, flutter echo, slap echo, excessive reverb and comb filtering that result from sound bouncing off walls and ceilings.
Acoustic sound panels are designed to absorb mid to high frequencies only. They are not effective at reducing low frequencies – that is what bass traps are designed for.
There are two types of acoustic panels:
- Wall mounted panels used for the overall improvement of a studio’s acoustics.
- Gobos, or moveable baffles used to partition off a vocalist or instrumentalist for isolation.
I’m going to focus solely on wall mounted panels in this post.
Acoustic Panel Surfaces
Different manufacturers make panels with different surfaces – flat, wedged or little pyramids. The design makes some difference in the result, but no single pattern is considered better than all the others.
The flat surface looks a little more elegant and refined than the pyramid or wedge patterns which can look cheap.
Acoustic Panel Shapes and Sizes
Acoustic panels come in 1”, 2” or 4” thicknesses. 1” panels are the least expensive but absorb the least sound.
Most panels are 1’ square, 2’ square, or 2’ x 4’. The 1’ and 2’square versions are a little easier to work with and lighter to hang than the 2’ x 4’ panels.
Which Size Panels Should I Get?
1” panels are inexpensive but provide the least amount of absorption. I don’t recommend them.
2” panels are your best bet – they provide excellent absorption at a reasonable price.
4” panels are much more expensive, and would probably work best for studios with serious acoustic issues requiring lots of mass.
If you are also installing bass traps you will likely need fewer acoustic panels; bass traps, due to their size and mass, will also absorb some high and mid frequencies.
NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) ratings are a measure of a product’s effectiveness at absorbing sound. MRC ratings fall between 0 and 1, with a higher number indicating greater absorption.
It’s important to know, however, that these ratings are averaged for frequencies between 125 Hz and 4 kHz. Acoustic panels are quite ineffective on frequencies below about 1 kHz so their scores may look worse than they really are. From 2-4 kHz they are quite effective.
How Many Acoustic Panels Do I Need?
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of studios and rehearsal spaces that have whole walls covered in egg cartons, blankets, or acoustic panels.
Almost always this is overkill…
The object of acoustic treatments is to fix acoustic issues, not create new ones by eliminating all high and mid frequency sound reflections.
Too much treatment will make your room sound dead and claustrophobic. And your recordings and overall mixes will reflect this.
While studio size plays a factor, most home studios use around 36 to 48 square feet of panels. This, of course, can vary greatly depending on your room’s current layout and acoustics.
The only accurate way to determine the amount of sound treatment you need is by doing an acoustics analysis of your room.
Free Room Acoustics Analysis!
Auralex, Ultimate Acoustics, and ATS Acoustics, three leading acoustic sound product makers, offer free room acoustics analyzer programs. You can use them to determine how much sound treatment you need for your studio, their layout in your studio, plus tips on where to place everything.
Of course, all three companies want you to purchase their products once they provide their analysis, but you are under no obligation to do so.
Auralex offers two excellent free tools to help you evaluate your studio in more detail:
- Room Layout xXpress – an automated studio room layout app that is designed to give instant recommendations for small rooms.
- Auralex Free Studio Evaluation Service – a free personalized analysis of your room with recommendations of specific products and where to place them. This service is the most comprehensive and you get the ability to ask questions specific to your situation. Highly recommended!
ATS Acoustics Free Online Room Acoustics Analysis
ATS provides a free online room acoustics analysis. You provide your room’s dimensions and surface info, and they determine how much acoustic treatment is needed for your room.
Ultimate Acoustics’ Room Analysis App
This free iOS app (available in the Apple Store) will help you determine the right amount of acoustic treatment you need for your studio.
How And Where To Place Acoustic Panels
The following section outlines how to place your panels to deal with first reflections, a common issue in all studios.
Dealing With 1st Reflection Points
The following video explains the “mirror trick” that addresses 1st reflection points on side walls:
This next video explains how and where to place absorber panels on side walls:
The next video explains how to tame 1st reflection points behind your studio monitors:
How To Mount Acoustic Panels Without Damaging Your Walls
There are a number of ways to attach acoustic panels to your walls and ceiling without causing lots of damage.
Glues and Adhesives
Liquid adhesives designed for mounting panels such as Auralex’s TubeTak Pro, spray-on adhesives like FoamTak, and adhesive mounting tabs like EZ-Stick do an excellent job of mounting your panels on your walls and ceiling.
HOWEVER, because the adhesives are so strong they usually end up taking off your paint when you try to remove them AND cause damage to the panels themselves.
So enterprising studio owners have come up with other solutions…
- Command Picture Hanging Strips – these adhesive strips won’t damage walls when they are removed, according to the manufacturer.
- Monkey Hook Picture Hangers – these hooks only make a very small hole in your wall but can support up to 50 lbs. when used on standard 1.2” drywall.
- Double Stick Tape – this tape is strong enough to hold lightweight panels and usually will not take paint off the walls.
- Impaling Clips – these inexpensive clips are designed for hanging panels and bass traps. They are screwed into the wall so they can hold much more weight than adhesive based solutions. Screw holes can be easily patched and painted over when needed.
- Small Head Nails – I attached my own panels using small head nails. The holes are small enough to neither cause visible damage to the panels or the walls and ceiling.
Acoustic Panels Recommendations
The first four products are from Auralex, a leading manufacturer of acoustic products.
Auralex Designer Series Treatment DST-112
The DST-112 is sold in a 24-pack of panels. Each panel is 12” X 12”, and 2” at the thickest point.
They come in Charcoal color only.
The DST-112 panels, although they have an overall NRC rating of 0.60, provide excellent sound absorption between 2-4 kHz.
Auralex Studiofoam DST-114
The DST-114 is also sold in a 24-pack. Each panel is 12” X 12” X 2” thick.
They come in Burgundy color only.
Auralex Acoustics D36-DST Roominator Kit
This 36-panel kit (36 square feet) is perfect for small studios. It includes:
- 18 DST-112 panels
- 18 DST-114 panels
All panels are 12” X 12” X 2” thick.
The package is available in two color combinations: Charcoal and Burgundy, and Charcoal and Purple
Included are EZ-Stock Pro Mounting Tabs for easy mounting on walls and ceiling.
For those needing fewer than 24 of the DST-112 and DST-114 tiles, the D36-DST kit is the way to go.
Auralex Acoustics SonoFlat Acoustic Absorption Foam Panels
Auralex’s SonoFlat panels are the next level up in acoustic sound control. They are made from Auralex’s proprietary StudioFoam which provides a very high degree of mid and high-frequency absorption.
Available with a flat or grid surface, they provide a more sophisticated look than pyramid or wedge panel designs.
With an NRC rating of 0.95, they outperform the DST-112 and DST-114 panels.
Each kit contains:
- Sixteen 24” X 24” X 2” panels
The flat panels are available in Burgundy, Charcoal, and Purple, allowing you to mix and match them to create a visually appealing look.
The grid panels are available in Charcoal only.
SonoFlats have an overall NRC rating of 0.85, with almost 100% absorption from 500 Hz to 4 kHz.
Sonoflats 14 Panel Set
A 14 panel set of 12” x 12” x 2” panels is also available starting around $80. They come in Charcoal, Burgundy, and Purple colors.
ATS Acoustic Panels
ATS is known for high-quality sound control products designed for professional users.
At first glance, they seem more expensive than Auralex products, but this is because they are sold separately, not in bundles.
However, these panels are 4’ X 2’ X 2” panels, so they are quite a bit larger.
They also have a more elegant smooth finish that looks more expensive than cheaper foam with pyramids or wedges.
ATS panels also offer superior sound absorption, with an overall NRC rating of 1.0, the highest rating possible.
They are available in 4 colors – Black, Burgundy, Ivory and Natural.
Pro Studio Acoustics Acoustic Wedge Foam Absorption Soundproofing Tiles
This kit comes with twelve 12” X 12” X 2” panels.
The panels are available in two colors, with either 6 Blue and 6 Charcoal panels, or 6 Red and 6 Charcoal panels.
They have an overall NRC rating of 0.65
A great value for the money, though these panels are not as absorbent as the Auralex panels or ATS panels.
Pro Studio Acoustics Soundproofing Tiles 14-Panel Set
A 14 panel set of 12” x 12” x 2” panels is also available starting around $80. They come in Charcoal, Burgundy, and Purple colors.
Auralex Alpha-DST Roominator Kit
This affordably priced complete sound treatment kit gives you just about everything you need to treat a smaller sized room.
It is intended for studios less than 100 square feet, with the shortest room dimension being 6-8 feet.
This 68-piece kit includes:
- 32 DST-112 panels (12” X 12” X 2”)
- 32 DST-114 panels (12” X 12” X 2”)
- 4 LENRD-DS8 Bass Trap
- Auralex Acoustics Tubetak Pro Liquid Adhesive
Also included are EZ-Stick Pro Mounting Tabs for easy mounting on walls and ceiling.
The package is available in Charcoal, Charcoal & Burgundy, and Charcoal & Purple colors.
AlphaDST Roominator – 18-Panel Set
An 18 panel set of 12” x 12” x 2” panels is also available, covering 36 square feet.
It’s perfect for small studios or vocal booths.
It’s available in Charcoal, Burgundy, and Purple colors.
Auralex Pro Plus™ Roominator Kit
This is the kit that I purchased for my current studio. It is a complete acoustic sound control kit designed for studios from 250 to 400 square feet. The shortest room dimension should be 12-16 feet.
This kit includes:
- 36 Studiofoam 24” x 24” x 2” wedge panels
- 8 T-Fusor 3D sound diffusers
- 12 LENRD Bass Traps
TubeTak Adhesive glue is included.
Auralex Pro Plus™ Roominator – 14 Panel Kit
A 14-panel set of 12” x 12” x 2” panels is also available. It comes in Charcoal, Burgundy, and Purple colors.
Unlike acoustic panels that are designed to absorb sound, acoustic diffusers act to diffuse and scatter sound energy.
They work to interrupt echoes created by sound reflections bouncing off of walls and ceilings and are used to reduce comb filtering, first reflections and flutter echo.
Rather than deaden a room, diffusers help preserve a room’s positive ambiance qualities and add a sense of space and depth.
Diffusers work in the 300 Hz to 3 kHz range. You will get some low-frequency control with a diffuser, but bass traps will still be needed to correct serious low-end issues in a studio.
How To Place Diffusers
Diffusers are generally placed on the back wall of your studio, not behind your monitors but behind your head on the opposite wall. They are also sometimes installed on the ceiling to deal with first reflections.
They should be placed in the upper half of your wall.
Below is a video outlining diffuser placement.
Placing Diffusers Video
Diffuser Panel Recommendations
Diffuser Product Recommendations
NOTE: I’ve focused on plastic/polystyrene diffusers for my recommendations. Wood diffusers are better looking and arguably more effective but are much more expensive.
JOCAVI Acoustic Panels WAV/I060 ATP WAVYFUSER/Inverted Acoustic Diffuser Panel
The Jocavi WavyFuser acoustic diffuser panels are Jocai’s top of the line diffusers. This is a high-performance product for maximum diffusion.
They provide an aesthetically appealing look that would fit into the any studio’s décor.
Each panel measures 23.6” X 23.6” x 5.1”.
Each diffuser comes with self-adhesive mounting squares for easy installation.
Auralex Acoustics GeoFusor Sound Diffusor
The Auralex Acoustics GeoFusor Sound Diffusor is another diffuser that delivers outstanding results.
They are available in 12”x 12” x 4” or 24”x 24” x 4” sizes. The 24” is sized to fit into ceiling grids.
Top Acoustics Fractal Step Acoustic Diffuser
These diffusers are 24” X 16”, with 6” maximum depth from a wall or ceiling.
They come in white only, but you can paint them any color you desire with water-based paint.
They are made in the U.S. which is a plus for those wanting to retain manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
By learning how acoustic panels and diffusers work and how to use them, you should be ready to find the right treatments needed for your studio.
You’ve also discovered some free resources to get a detailed analysis of your studio to determine the amount of acoustic panels and diffusers you need.
My recommendations should help you choose the best products to make your studio sound great!
As always, please leave comments and/or questions below!