Acoustic foam room treatment for headphones

I am not sure if this is a silly idea / how silly this idea is. I am thinking about buying some cheap acoustic panels for my desktop audio set up with headphones.

I live in a flat with 2 young kids in a busy city by a hospital with ambulances and helicopters. I have a small form factor pc on top of the desk that does produce a noticeable noise especially gaming/ under load. I use open back headphones mostly in the evenings when the kids are asleep.

Wanted to know what people thought about this.

  1. do cheap acoustic panels reduce ambient noise enough to make a difference with open back headphones?

  2. are there any other benefits? Or should I only consider it when I have a studio monitor/speaker set up.

Apologies in advance if this is stupid.

The idea makes sense but you have to go all-in to get enough of a benefit to meaningfully help the noise level.

The windows are where most of the outside noise gets in so without treating the windows there will be some amount of sound that goes from the windows straight to your ear so the accoustic treatment doesn’t factor in at all.

You might be able to reduce the pc noise by using a different case, quiet fans and custom fan speed settings. Gaming machines typically have a lot of heat to dissipate (especially high-end GPU’s) so you have to avoid messing up the air flow.

It seems cheaper and easier to look into a closed-back headphone (or iem’s) for gaming. I know that’s a whole new set of issues but I’m afraid there’s no free lunch on this one.

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As @NickZ said, closed-backs or IEMs would be a solution with far fewer hassles – and potentially less cost – than treating a room for open-back cans.

Not a silly idea, though, man!

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I wouldn’t recommend using any acoustic panel to address noise, specifically (certainly not to help with ambulances and copters). While it may attenuate certain frequencies to a certain degree, ultimately, acoustic treatment and noise treatment are entirely different technologies. One deals with airborne acoustics and the other vibrational acoustics (noise). To actually attenuate noise to a large degree you’d need to build a barrier based on the frequency and amplitude of the surrounding noise. Basically, you’d want the mins and max over time and build the barrier around that noise data.

I have some gik broadband absorbers and while they do attenuate some noise at certain frequencies, they do not help with noise as a whole. I personally wouldn’t spend the money buying a technology not meant for its intended use. If you see any acoustic panels advertised to eliminate noise then it’s most likely nonsense.

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A shockingly effective way to deaden noise from windows: car butyl rubber pads. These are stuck all over inside the doors, under the hood, and elsewhere in luxury and custom cars. Just a small square (e.g., 4" or 10 cm) will significantly deaden a large house window. I’ve done it before. But, covering the window with rubber won’t block all the sound – diminishing returns after one 4" or 6" square.

I suppose a tiny bit of this stuff might dampen the noise from a PC fan too.

E.g.:

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Everybody is piling in with the same advice I’d give. Acoustic panels designed to address internal reflections for speakers are not particularly useful for headphones, and you needs serious work to address external noise.

Your options are IEMs that block external sound, closed-back headphones that block sound, Noise reduction headphones, or playing everything loud enough to drown out the external noise. Or moving.

Doing things to remove the noise sources is probably both impractical and illegal, but I want you to know that I think out of the box.

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I would like to thank everyone for their input. I do have some ie300 iems that I do use for gaming especially on warmer days. As for closed backs many think there is a vacuum between the price of akg k361 and focal offerings. Very open to suggestions for a good midfi closed back.

As per my original intention. I am obviously pretty far down this audiophile rabbit hole and I am chasing the last few percent in optimising open backs for music rather then just gaming. I was hoping the price of cheap acoustic panels may be the cheaper answer to buying some DCA aeon 2 noirs or focal celestees

I appreciate objectively targeting certain frequencies is a much better way of tackling the problem but I would not be keen to spend the money for high quality industry standard panels nor know how to measure the ambient sound. If this black Friday there is a sale on cheap acoustic panels I may just get them in the hope of a subjective improvement even if it’s placebo.

What’s your preferred sound signature? What kinds of music do you enjoy? What’s mid-fi price range to you?

I listen to everything. More classic rock/electronica/drum and bass. I enjoy classical and jazz. Less often rap/R&B. Budget is £200-£500 barring any magpie “ohh shiny” moments

You might like the Focal Elegia, a $900 closed-back which is on sale at Adorama for $400 USD. Not sure if they ship outside of North America, though:

The Elegia has superb detail and punchy bass when called upon. They’re excellent for classical and EDM – a rarity in a headphone. Not massive, constant, sub-bass, but the bass will kick like a pissed-off mule when needed.

Could be a good fit for you.

If you want something more bassy, then the Meze 99 Classics might be your ticket at $310 USD.

Both the Elegias and 99 Classics can be driven without an amp. The Elegia will sound better with an amp, while the 99 Classics are one of the few audiophile headphones that doesn’t really improve that much with extra power.

If you’re looking to spend less money, the AKG K371 is a trusted, reliable pick that punches above its weight at around $130 USD.

Good luck.

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If you spend money in something that doesn’t address your problem just because it is cheap, it is highly probable that, after realizing it did not solve your problem, you will spend money on the solution that you knew it would solve your problem, and in the end you will spend more. I say this from experience, I’m really an expert on this! :rofl: Just remember the proverb and try to avoid doing exactly what it says: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.

What people are telling you is that even if you went for the most-mega-master-blaster acoustic panels in the planet, it is probably doing close to nothing to solve the problem you described. It is not a matter of cheap vs expensive panels. In acoustics, there is:

Acoustic Treatments: Changing the sound inside the room for clarity.

  • This is what acoustics panels are for. Think in an empty room and the echo that is produced when someone speaks and then add some furniture to the room and think how echo (the fancy name should be reflections) is reduced. The echo goes away, you listen voices clearer (not necessarily lower!). Think if this is what you are trying to achieve. Your computer & external noise will be clearer, not lower, only the echo of its noise will be reduced/absorbed (or dispersed), again, think if it is the problem you are facing. It doesn’t seem to solve your problem, and that is what people are trying to tell you.

Soundproofing and Isolation: Soundproofing is preventing sound from traveling outside (or bleeding into) the space.

  • This is what would solve your problem, but it is has no easy solution. You need mass to stop sound and a good seal for it to be effective: acoustics panels are not appropriate for it because they don’t do this. Probably a thick curtain in front of windows will do more with the external noise than the panels will ever do. If you take the mattress from your bed and put it in front of the window, it will do a better job. But they obviously don’t seal well, which is another (or the greatest) difficulty in getting a good isolation. They are not very effective either, but they are still better than the acoustic panels solution. That is why we don’t recommend what you were originally trying to do, it seems like throwing cash away.
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I ended up buy the moondrop katos because of lack of options in this price range for closed back headphone. Very pleased so far…

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This is very helpful thank you for you time to type out this extensive reply

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