Anyone have some tips for apartment soundproofing?

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Daniel Becker, Jul 14, 2003.

  1. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    I live on the top floor of a 3 floor apartment building. I'm really worried about upsetting my new neighbors while watching movies at night. Does anyone have sugguestions for what I can do to avoid transmitting as little sound as possible through my walls and floor?


    I've only got a 550 watt system and I don't turn it up that loud but i've done some checking myself and when I put on a movie at a reasonable level I can hear the low bass very clearly in the hallways and i've got a heavy front door. That gives me the impression that the guy below us is hearing every single boom and blast from the sub. I've got it positioned right next to the wall and it sits right next to the couch to get the most out of what it's putting out. I've even got the sub set quite low on it's only adjustable dial. It's running at about %40 of the dial. Does anyone know what placement might transmit the least amount of bass? Is placing it in between the couch and the wall the best idea? What do you guys think? Thanks for any sugguestions. I'm really worried i'm not going to enjoy watching movie at a decent volume in our new apartment when I am constantly worried about my neighbors knocking on my door in anger. [​IMG]



    Dan.B
     
  2. Raceen

    Raceen Agent

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    Hi Daniel,

    Oh boy, sounds like you're in a pickle. Home theaters and apartments do not mix well. I know, I've lived on the top floor, bottom (cement floor) and middle, and every single place I've had "The Note" left on my door. My solution: I bought a house and now can crank my sub up to the max.

    I guess, the fact is, bass, not matter how you situate it, can travel up/through walls.

    I'm sorry, I can't really offer an other solutions...i can just sympathize with your plight. Good luck and I hope someone may have a neat solution.

    -Raceen
     
  3. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I figured there was really no sure solution to my problem. I'm just hoping I can get some advice as to where to position the sub to lesson the sound traveling through the floor or walls. I'm really lucking on a few ways though. First off the guy who shares a family room wall with us works nights and is gone all night after 9. So, in other words he doesnt' factor much into the problem. I'm really only worried about the guy below us since the sub has to be audible to him through the floor and his ceiling. The thing is he's a little loud himself as he sometimes likes to crank up his hip hop beats a little. So, I don't think he'll be a problem but you never know. I really doubt we'll have trouble with anyone else since we don't share walls with any of them. It's unlikely they hear much if anything. I really don't turn it up that loud but the bass just travels even at low levels.



    dan.b
     
  4. sean_pecor

    sean_pecor Stunt Coordinator

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    Daniel,

    I live in the country, so my suggestion might not work well with the way city folk (grin) interact with eachother, but have you considered asking your neighbor to help you locate your acceptable audio level? For example, you could arrange a time with him, then have a friend remain in your apartment and play an "explosive" scene in a movie while you stand in your neighbor's apartment and listen with him. Maybe also phone your friend and direct them to adjust volume until the bass is negligible. Doing something like this would help you get a better "feel" for the highest and most considerate volume level possible [​IMG]

    Sean.
     
  5. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    I thought of the exact same thing Sean. [​IMG] Unfortunately the guy below me is a complete weirdo and i've now knocked on his door on 3 seperate occasions in hopes of doing exactly what you suggested only to have him ignore my knocks. On 2 of the occasions I know for a fact he was home but this guy just seems like an oddball and doesn't dare answer his door to strangers. I have no idea why he's so concerned since I look about as harmless as they come. I could understand if I had a Mike Tyson facial tatoo or something but I don't. I look like Richy Cunningham. [​IMG]


    Dan.B
     
  6. sean_pecor

    sean_pecor Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Dan maybe he's 90% deaf? [​IMG]

    Turn it up!

    Sean.
     
  7. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    Again, I thought the same thing as you! After him not answering for the third time I thought, "maybe he's deaf! Sweet!!!". However, I was getting out of my car the other day and he was exiting his car at the same time while carrying on a cell phone conversation. He was talking away like any other normal person. I highly doubt he's got a hearing problem. [​IMG]



    Dan.B
     
  8. Tab Nichols

    Tab Nichols Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow. Ive been in the exact same situation as you are right now. And of course, I like my music/movies LOUD. [​IMG]

    Heres a few suggestions from my experience...

    Firstly, try using a door sweep on the front door. I put one on the bottom of mine and it made a huge difference with the amount of sound that escaped into the hall.

    Secondly, what do you have in your apartment as far as sound absorption material? Do you have carpet or throw rugs on your floor? Curtains (rather than blinds) on the windows? Tapestries, paintings or other artwork on walls?

    More sound absorbtion material will reduce the sound relfection, hopefully reducing the overall sound that is scaping the room.

    Also, more wieght on the walls helps reduce the amount of sound they will transmit.

    Unfortuantely, there is not much you can do about whats inside the walls as far as insulation... especially the floor. All you can do is work with whats inside your room.

    Good luck...
     
  9. Tab Nichols

    Tab Nichols Stunt Coordinator

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    Other things I forgot:

    Make sure that there is good weatherstripping on your front door.

    If there is none, or it does not have an airtight seal all around, rip it out and put new stuff in. It will be worth every penny.

    Heres a link to a room treatment site where it talks about sound absorbtion etc...
    http://www.asc-hifi.com/acoustic_basics.htm
     
  10. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    Thanks for the tips everyone. My main problem is the sub woofer on the floor. The poor guy below me must have experienced a solid hour of rumbling the other night when we watched Jurassic Park 3. [​IMG] That movie has some pretty serious low end.


    In terms of actaul sound things are ok. You can hear some in the hall way but it's unlikely people across the hall will hear much through their door. The front door has a pretty good weather strip on it so i'm ok there. It's just that darn sub on the floor that worries me. [​IMG]



    Dan.B
     
  11. Terry Montlick

    Terry Montlick Stunt Coordinator

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  12. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    Thanks for the info Terry! That sounds like a simple and great idea. The only thing that i'm concerned with though is the loss of low end if I elevate the sub from the floor. I thought i've heard the floor and room itself help to amplify the bass. Is this true?


    On the other hand I may be able to turn up the sub seeing as the floor wouldn't be conducting as much sound. It may work out really well. I'll try that tonight. [​IMG]



    Dan.B
     
  13. Tab Nichols

    Tab Nichols Stunt Coordinator

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    Fortunatley, I was on the bottom floor, so I never had that problem.

    The solution is obviously one of two things:
    Isolate sub from floor or,
    Turn it down.

    Isolating is easy, just cut a square of carpet out the same shape/size as the subs footprint on the floor and put your sub on top of it. If you have a larger sub, Id recommend using two pieces on top of each other.

    The cardboard would probably work too, but I doubt it would be as effective. Carpet fiber would naturally absorb more vibration energy than carpet, but I guess its the seperation from the floor thats important.... Cosmetically, the other half would kill me if I started putting cardboard under stuff in ou living room. lol.

    Rubber mat would work well, probably double stacked as well... You might even look into those wonderful "hardwood friendly" felt pads to put under the legs...

    You will most likely lose some output from any of these methods, however, yes, you sould be able to turn it up a little bit to compensate, as you will be seperating it from the floor.
     
  14. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    Thanks again for helpful info guys. I'm going to try to find a rubber mat of some kind this weekend. The base of my sub is probably 12X8 so it isn't too big. I also think that keeping the sub right next to the couch helps get the most "bump" out of it. So, even if it's turned down in the big scheme of things i'm feeling the most I can from it. I'll report back Monday with an update after I place something underneath it. Thanks everyone!


    dan.b
     
  15. Daniel Becker

    Daniel Becker Second Unit

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    Ok, well I headed to the hardware store this weekend to find some sort of cushioning to put under my sub-woofer and I think I found the perfect thing. That didn't have any kind of rubber mat (which was my first choice) in the size I needed. However, I found a piece foam like material that they sell for sealing up a windown nice and good. It's quick thick and I would describe it as about 2 X 2 inches and cube shaped but the piece is about 3 feet when you pull it apart. However it was sold in a bag and folded up in an "S" shape and therefore I could see how it would perfectly sit under the woofer and looked like it would perfectly absorb any shockwaves it gave off.

    So, I got it home and it fit just right underneath it. I couldn't really tell a difference myself in terms of what I was hearing out of it. Which is a good thing. So, I really can't tell if the guy beneath me can hear a difference. However, i'm quite confident that this thing must be making some sort of difference considering the woofer is no longer sitting directly on the floor and pushing those soundwaves through his ceiling.


    Would anyone agree that i've lessened what he hears from my sub? Thoughts anyone? Thanks!



    Dan>B
     
  16. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Daniel et al.:

    You need to have a conversation with your downstairs neighbor before worrying yourself to an even greater extent than you apparently already have IMO.

    I have lived in several different apartments in L.A. and this is so much a perennial issue that it is one of the primary reasons I finally moved into a guesthouse (no Kato Kaelin jokes please [​IMG] ) in which I have no common wall neighbors.

    On the one hand, Tab Nichols (in his post #s 8 and 9) and Terry Montlick (in his post #11) all make good suggestions regarding ways to possibly attenuate the sound your neighbors are hearing/feeling. However, on the other hand, some of these suggestions can negatively impact the enjoyment you derive from a hobby you've spent probably not insignificant amounts of time and money on (otherwise, you probably wouldn't be on HTF). The bottom line as I see (feel!) it is that low frequency energy travels through the material most walls are made of. Some of the things you do to minimize that are going to diminish the perceived performance of your subwoofer. What kind/size sub do you have?

    Ergo, I suggest you re-double your efforts to do something like what Sean_Pecor mentions in his post #4. Maybe its time you left a note on his door asking him to call you so that you two can discuss the issue. I think you might get some good faith mileage from taking proactive steps to start that dialogue, especially since you say he plays his stereo loud enough for you to hear.

    Perhaps you two can have a standing agreement wherein between, say, 8 p.m. and midnight, it is just accepted that there may be louder-than-usual music or movie-viewing going on. Perhaps you can invite him over for a beer and to watch a movie (I've taken a bottle of wine to a neighbor before to introduce myself and bring up the "noise" issue). Perhaps you two can provide each other with your phone numbers so that you can call the other if there is a special circumstance in which you would like the "noise" turned down (i.e., being in bed sick or having company).

    My point is that, although your good neighbor sensibilities are admirable, you really need to have some dialogue with this guy to find out what his attitude is about the issue before a) further worrying yourself and b) attenuating your subwoofer performance and thereby likely making your movie experiences less enjoyable.

    Also, do you have an on-site property manager? IF s/he is not the kind of b*tch/jerk who would use it against you later, consider telling your apartment manager that you enjoy movies at what most/some would consider a loud volume, you've tried to ask your downstairs neighbor if it is a problem, but that he has been unresponsive. That way you've opened a dialogue with the apartment manager, you can find out if the manager has received any complaints that you are now unaware of that could be used against you later (I've had that happen to me), and your manager knows that you are not insensitive to what could be a problem. It will also enable you to find out what your manager's posture is (i.e., does s/he have the attitude that it is okay to play it loud as long as your neighbors are cool, or does s/he think that it is an unacceptable violation of 'community living rules' and if s/he happens to be on the third floor one night when the sub is kickin', you're going to be reprimanded). You don't want to open your door one morning after watching Saving Private Ryan the night before and find a "Three Day Notice To Perform Or Quit" on your door due to multiple, documented complaints about "noise" that you were theretofore unaware of.

    Paul
     
  17. Tab Nichols

    Tab Nichols Stunt Coordinator

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    You know what Paul? You make a great case. Who kows, maybe your neighbor is some average joe who is prepared to make a compromise.

    This may very well be the best answer anyone has had to your issue. Give it a try. And good luck!
     
  18. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Tab:

    Thanks much for the comments.

    Not sure if Daniel has swung back by the thread (or gotten a subscription e-mail) so as to "benefit" from my sage advice. [​IMG] What's the status, D?

    I just know that I'd rather "deaden" a room with conforming to THX specs in mind rather than neighbor appeasement. [​IMG]

    Paul
     

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