Got a problem with echo on your stream setup that is bugging the ever-living heck out of you? You’re not alone. In fact, tens of thousands of creators on YouTube and Twitch are plagued by it. Luckily, this problem is one that has a somewhat simple, albeit potentially expensive solution. Of course, this is depending on what your definition of expensive actually is.
Within this article, I’ll be covering a range of acoustic absorption materials used to combat this phenomenon. I’ll quickly mention that reducing echo or reverb in a room shouldn’t be confused with soundproofing, which has a more specific term that is better suited to categorize it; Acoustic Isolation. If you see “Soundproofing” being advertised on any acoustic material, know that they are targeting a blanket keyword that people use who are unfamiliar with sound dampening and acoustic absorption. In other words, it’s just marketing lingo.
Achieving Acoustic Isolation is extremely difficult, expensive, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, even dangerous to you. What I am referring to is that certain methods used to achieve it will cut off air circulation to a room in favor of isolating a room from external sound. In other words, you’ll suffocate yourself from carbon dioxide buildup as you breathe all of the oxygen away. If you like breathing as much as I do, I hope you heed this warning.
With that being said, for a live streamer, you don’t really need to worry about achieving acoustic isolation. But treating your room for echo and reverb goes a long way to preventing your audience from getting annoyed. It’s a subtle annoyance, ever-present for the entire duration of your stream. Whether they consciously acknowledge it or not, you will scare people off if your content can’t offset the negative factor of echo.
If you are attempting to achieve acoustic isolation, Please consult an Architectural Acoustician who can safely implement isolation.
Acoustic Foam Panels – Cheap, lightweight sound dampening
The first, and cheapest option to reduce room echo is to slap some Acoustic foam on the walls of your recording environment. I’ll say this right now, any foam you buy that is less than 2 inches thick is not worth considering. It is laughable and insulting to find foam that is 0.4 inches thick, being sold as acoustic foam. There is simply not enough mass to have any real effect on the sound outside of the highs and high-mids. If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article, it is this…
Mass = Absorbtion
Even 1.5 inches misses the mark. While it is leagues better than the 0.4 inches thick foam, it is still not worth your hard-earned money. The story begins to change its tune at 2 inches and beyond, where the mass of the foam and the thickness within have a chance to actually do its job.
That isn’t to say that the thin stuff does nothing, I’m merely saying that it simply isn’t worth buying when the thicker stuff is available at a comparable price. If you’d like a more in-depth coverage on the subject of sound treatment, check out this article I wrote awhile back that goes into the thick of it.
The Advantages & Disadvantages of Using Acoustic Foam panels
Acoustic foam is the first choice to reduce echo and reverb for many creators for many reasons. While they do not perform nearly as well as other offerings, such as fiberglass insulation, Rock Wool, or other materials, they perform admirably when placed in the correct locations on your wall. Of course, those other materials have a price that matches their performance and is actually not worth it as a streamer unless you do audio-related creative work.
Foam is good enough for most individuals whose purpose is streaming on platforms like Twitch, Glimesh, or even YouTube. Just watch out for knock-off brands that are an extreme fire hazard.
Pros of Foam panels:
- Very cheap
- Widely available
- Available in multiple colors & Sizes
- Comes in multiple styles that affect acoustics slightly differently
- Available as Canvas Pictures for Discrete Dampening
- Comes in various pre-cut sizes
- Easy to apply to a room
Cons of Foam:
- Potential Fire Hazard if not up to code
- Some foam is designated as being fireproof. Knockoffs could lead to fires
- Reeks of chemicals for a long time
- Getting a HEPA air filter can help with this
- Most designs are ugly
- You can squish the foam behind canvas-style pictures/paintings
- A right pain to take down & can damage your walls upon removal, depending on the application method you choose.
Warning! Do not glue these to your wall!
If you plan on buying these foam solutions, be aware that gluing them to your wall will likely result in them being destroyed upon removal, and ruining the paint on your wall in the process. For a less destructive application method, please refer to this video that will take you through the steps. Incidentally, it is also a good example of the reverb you are working to fix @3:16.
My recommended options for Acoustic foam Wall & Ceiling Panels
|Product||Thickness||Total Area Covered |
Height X Width
|Panel Dimensions||Quantity of panels|
|Jber Acoustic Sound Foam Pyramid Style||2 Inches||288″ x 288″||12″ x 12″||24|
|A2S Protection Triangle Style||2 Inches||288″ x 288″||12″ x 12″||24|
|Mybecca Frieze Greek Temple Style||3 Inches||72″ x 72″||12″ x 12″||6|
|Ocean Blue Co. Convoluted Eggcrate Style||3 Inches||576″ x 576″||12″ x 12″||48|
Bass Traps – The Rumble-wreckers
Bass traps are a special kind of acoustic dampener that is placed in the corners of a room. They typically come in a triangular wedge shape, and they are designed to combat low-frequency rumble within a room. While these are mostly optional, they do make a significant difference in improving the audio of a particular room, particularly if you have a window-mounted AC like I do (this exact model) that transfers its vibrations to your wall and turns it into a low-frequency amplifier. Ask me how I know this…
If you happen to suffer from this issue, and can’t go live without the AC on, consider getting a strip of foam to put the AC on. It helps a fair bit to limit the amount of vibration that is transferred to the wall.
Anyways, I’m a bit off topic now, back to the bass-ics…
I couldn’t resist…
A quick piece of Trivia: How many corners are in a square or rectangular room? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t 4!
The Answer: 20!
My recommended bass traps for streamers
The thicker the that this acoustic wedge is, the lower frequency that it will be able to effectively absorb. This is strictly related to the physics of sound because longer wavelengths are barely affected by velocity based dampening. As with the Acoustic foam tiles above, I strongly suggest reviewing that video to ensure minimal damage is done to these upon the need to remove them. While there are 20 corners within a room, you really only need to treat the side 4, and the top 8. The bottom 8 is typically handled well by the various furnishings within a room.
Now, I’ve only covered velocity-based bass traps here, because frankly, this kind of treatment is not even strictly necessary. I don’t have any of them myself, and my acoustic environment is more than enough for the purpose of streaming. This treatment is much more important for individuals or teams who are creating professional-grade music, sound effects, or high budget movie productions.
|New Level Charcoal Acoustic Foam Bass Trap, Spike Design||12″ x 7″ x 7″||4|
|Dekiru Acoustic Panels Bass Traps, Spike Design||12″ x 7″ x 7″||8|
|Little-Lucky Acoustic Foam Panels, Bass Traps, Stair Design||12″ x 3″ x 3″||12|
|Amir-Acoustics Foam Bass Trap||12″ x 12″ x 12″||8|
If you’d like to learn more about the science of bass traps, Acoustics Insider has a phenomenal video about the subject.
Alternate materials – Coming Soon!
That’s all for now. I’ll be revisiting this article at a later date to cover some alternate options besides Acoustic foam that will reduce the echo within a room. Some of them might surprise you by how…mundane they can be. Until then, you are welcome to read the other articles that I have written that pertain to live to streaming. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to join the Streamer’s Haven Community Discord and ask away!