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TOPIC: How To Best Soundproof Theaters

How To Best Soundproof Theaters 23 Sep 2013 15:51 #40300

  • Jordan
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So I've started to look into how to build my 2 small (100 seats or less) theaters for insulation and acoustics. I'm assuming the building that i'm going to move into will basically be a rectangle with no dividing walls. My plan is to build walls to separate the restaurant and two theaters. The two that I'm most concerned about are the dividing wall between the restaurant and theater 1 and then the wall that divides theater 1 to theater 2.

Obviously I'm worried about sound traveling between the two theaters, and sound traveling from theater 1 to restaurant and/or restaurant to theater 1.

My original plan was to build 2 CMU walls (1 between theater 1 and restaurant and the other between the two theaters). Then I was thinking on filling the CMU walls with sand. Installing metal Hat Channel and attaching a rigid insulation board (such as Owens Corning 703 and/or 705) to it, then covering the wall with a porous fabric.

So now after reading all morning about it, i'm not sure that will cut it. I've been learning about sound diffusors and absorbers and bass traps and now i'm nervous. What do you think? Should I do double layer 5/8" drywall attached to the hat channel with fabric wrapped rigid insulation panels and base traps on the corners and walls. or is that overkill?

It seems like most people are saying to make the front and back walls dead walls. Some were suggesting 1" rigid insulation board on the side walls and 2" or more on the front and back walls.

I'm not sure if it needs to be as intense as everyone is making it sound, but I'd like to do a reasonable amount to make sure it sounds good in each theater and that the sound doesn't travel. I'd like to do all this sound proofing myself. At least buy the materials and design it.
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How To Best Soundproof Theaters 23 Sep 2013 21:30 #40303

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I don't know about sound ratings for filled concrete walls. They would probably do a good job stopping all the higher sounds, but not sure about the lower ones since it's a sold wall which could carry vibrations. In theory, anything that is dense enough and/or thick enough will stop all the sound. So, it might do the trick. Softer material on the surface will help reduce echoes, but it may not be enough.

I researched the topic before I twinned my theater. I ended up going with two wood frame walls that did not touch each other and stood only two inches apart. Each wall had three layers of half inch sheet rock on the outside. The sheet rock was staggered so seams did not line up through the layers. I put a thick layer of fiberglass insulation batting between the studs in one of the two walls. I blew 12 inches of insulation in the attic (it never had any insulation before). There was already acoustic ceiling tile nailed to a wood ceiling. That kept sound from bleeding over the top. The two separate thick sheet-rock walls prevented sound from being transmitted through to the other side. It's important that they are not connected, so they don't become like a giant speaker vibrating through connecting pieces. Mine were only connected at the corners, but I couldn't figure out how they could be completely separate and still stay strong. To prevent echos, I hung drapes all over the walls. The seats and hopefully human bodies also act as sound dampeners. The rooms may still have an echo problem if they have a certain shape and size. Irregularly shaped rooms do better than exact rectangles. It doesn't have to be round or triangular or anything, but if there is some part that is not exactly rectangular such as a protruding section from another room or hallway, that helps.

In the end, the only sound bleed I had was through the air conditioning/ventilation system, and it was so quiet that you couldn't even hear it with only the system fans blowing in a silent house next to a noisy house. I just left the fans on all the time there were customers in the theater. It provided a steady low level white noise background that nobody even noticed. This not only covered all noise bleed, but also avoided a distraction when the heat or air conditioning kicked on. The heat or air did kick on and off, just the fans always stayed on. That keeps air from feeling stale as well. The results were good and I had plenty of compliments on our sound.

There are things that I read that I didn't do such as that using different thicknesses of sheet-rock helps block different frequencies of sound. But in the end, I don't think it mattered. I put enough mass in the wall that it worked fine. And the dead air space between should not be forgotten.
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How To Best Soundproof Theaters 24 Sep 2013 18:26 #40305

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I second all of Lionhearts ideas. two separate stud walls with an air space between them. Build one wall with Sheetrock and fiberglass insulation on the inside. Air space! then a second wall with foam or Homosote with sheet rock over it. We did this and we thought we were good until just before we opened.... we played Twister with its very low frequency moans... we added a layer of blue board sheet roack and then another later of sheetroack and that beat it down.

The key is that different sound frequencies need different things to stop them. Some will be killed by air, fiberglass / foam/ sheet rock/ AIR / blue board/ homosote/ fabric/ etc. etc.

Lastly: caulk and fill all cracks: sound loves cracks!

Obviously if you have the building ...concrete blocks are great!
Michael Hurley
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How To Best Soundproof Theaters 25 Sep 2013 17:49 #40310

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I have read that metal studs work best for reducing sound travel. They are a little more expensive, but can be cut to any specs.

Mike, when you say "Build one wall with Sheetrock and fiberglass insulation on the inside", do you mean building one wall with sheetrock on both sides and another wall with sheetrock on the exterior?

Also, do you all think mounting your wall speakers off the wall would help (using some bracket that sticks out 6" or so)?
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How To Best Soundproof Theaters 25 Sep 2013 21:30 #40313

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I personally did not put sheet-rock on both sides of the two walls, just three layers on each of the exterior sides. And, when you mount surround speakers on walls up high, you will want to angle them down, so mounting directly to the wall doesn't work well for that reason, and probably wouldn't be good for sound isolation either. I mounted them using heavy duty hooks and light-weight chain. I connected the chain to the back of the speakers with screws at two points on the top and one on the bottom I only needed one heavy hook screwed through drywall into a stud for each speaker. By adjusting the length of the chains, and whether the hook is placed in the center of the chain or off center, you can aim the speakers left, straight, right, up, or down as needed. I figured all the chain links do not provide a solid line to conduct sound vibrations into the wall.

When I put the big speakers behind the screen, I built stands from wood to get them up higher. I would think you would want to avoid having the big speakers near dividing walls anyway.
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How To Best Soundproof Theaters 28 Sep 2013 18:12 #40315

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Great information guys, thank you!!

Mike you mentioned if I had the building that concrete blocks are great. I hope to purchase my building before I build out the theaters.

If I had the option would you recommend building a double wood walls as suggested by Lionheart or doing a concrete block wall with a combination of sheet-rock and rigid insulation?

I totally agree with you guys about the importance of having the air space in between. And it makes sense that you need different materials with different densities to absorb/reflect different sound waves. That matches up with all the research I've done too.
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