Room Acoustics

QotD: Can I Use a Curtain to Block Sound?

We get this question a lot, especially when people have their home theaters in open rooms. Usually, there is an opening to other parts of the house, and they want to know which curtain they should get to block the sound from traveling to the other parts of the home. Well, unfortunately, they don’t often like the answer.

Answer: Nope.

As we’ve discussed before, sound travels a lot like water. It flows through the air and will find any little gap or hole to go through. If you are truly trying to soundproof your room, and you don’t make sure your power outlets are treated, you might as well not have done anything. The sound will travel through that outlet hole into the rest of your house.

A curtain? Well, it is basically full of holes, isn’t it? There are gaps around the edges, there really aren’t any super thick fabrics, and you can often see light through them. Even if you were to get a duvet and use that as a curtain, it would be unlikely to help much. It would reduce the volume of the highest sounds, but the bass would pass straight through that thing as if it weren’t there.

And bass is really the issue. Those bass waves are very long and have a lot of energy. When you notice a car playing very loud music, do you hear the bass or treble first? The bass!

What Can You Do to Reduce Sound Transmission from Room to Room?

How do you feel about adding a door or building a wall? Not great, we’d bet. But if you really want to reduce the sound transmission from room to room, you just have to add a physical barrier between the spaces.

We’d love to tell you that you could add a row of absorption panels or some other sort of temporary barrier, but they just won’t work. Curtains, temporary barriers, absorption panels won’t block sound as much as you expect. Will they catch some sound? Absolutely. But if there is open air between your two spaces, the subjective volume levels will not change that much. Without building a physical barrier between the spaces, you really can’t reduce sound transmission significantly.

I Can’t Live Like This!

We get it, you’ve set up your home theater in your living room and now you can’t enjoy it because of how loud it is everywhere else in the house. It’s time to consider moving your home theater to a different room. A room with a door preferably. If you can’t, there are ways of reducing the bass in your current space. Will it sound as good as it did before? No. It’ll lack that bass kick-to-the-chest feel it had before. But you’ll be able to use it without making the rest of the house unlivable. And that’s better than nothing.

2 Comments on QotD: Can I Use a Curtain to Block Sound?

  1. If you absolutely cannot install a door, but you also MUST install something that will noticeably reduce sound transmission, you could hang mass loaded vinyl curtains – preferably with a velcro seal all around and in between them. I mean, sure, it’ll look like your room is attached to an industrial meat packing plant or a warehouse, it might have an odor, it’ll probably introduce airflow problems, and you’ll literally need to lift lead weights out of the way every time you want to go through the opening. But you’ll legitimately get to say you have soundproof curtains! So just a little give-and-take 😉

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