Ask LH: How Can I Be A Quieter Neighbour?

Dear Lifehacker, You guys have talked a lot about how to deal with noisy neighbours, but what if you are that noisy neighbour?

I like to have the volume right up when watching movies and listening to music, but I want to be courteous. Are there any DIY soundproofing tips I can use to keep noise from soaking into nearby apartments?

Sincerely, Noisy Neighbour

Dear Noisy,

Unfortunately, true soundproofing is something you have to do at the construction level. If you're renting an apartment, it's not something your landlord will probably let you do. You have a few choices, but none of them are probably going to get you what you want, so you'll have to compromise.

Talk To Your Neighbours

The first step of the process is to communicate with the unfortunate souls that share a wall with you. Some of them might not care about the noise. Some of them might only care about it late at night, and some might not even hear it. If this is a pre-emptive strike, you might consider asking your neighbours if they are bothered by the noise you've made thus far. If they aren't, then you may not have anything to worry about. If they have heard it, talk to them about what hours might be appropriate for watching movies and playing music, and what volume level is bearable.

Absorb Sound with DIY Tricks

You can't truly soundproof an apartment unless you tear down the walls, but there are some things you can do to dampen the sound. Heavy curtains on the windows and carpeting on the floor will help, while more serious cases can try acoustical wall panels like these in your office or home theatre. They may not be pretty, but you can always try to cover them up with something else to keep them from being an eyesore.

You can also use weather-stripping tape to seal up the areas around doors and windows where sound is more likely to escape. A door sweep could be helpful too if the sound is leaking out into the hallway.

Lastly, it's important to note that one of your biggest problems will be bass. The bass frequencies that come from your subwoofer are going to be some of the most annoying to your neighbours because the vibrations travel so easily. Try sticking an extra piece of carpet or a thick foam rubber pad under your subwoofer. If that fails, you may need to just...

Turn It Down (or Get Some Headphones)

We know it isn't what you want to hear, but especially in close-quarters apartment buildings with thin walls, you may just have to compromise on the noise level. Turn down the volume, turn down your subwoofer, do whatever it takes to get the volume to a more appropriate level -- or at least a level that's easily drowned out by the above DIY tips.

Alternatively, get yourself some headphones and use those for watching your movies or listening to music (you may need an extension cord). Investing in a nice pair of headphones is a great way to keep you and your neighbours happy. It's still a compromise, but it's a pretty darn good one in our opinion, since you can still listen to your music as loud as you want without anyone complaining.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Like you said " Turn down the volume, turn down your subwoofer." Turning the Bass down can help A LOT. Bass goes through walls like knife through warm butter. Mid Range and treble not so much. So to all my neighbours that leave skrillex on all night with bass set to max, please just set bass to low after 10pm, so my brain isn't rumbling on my pillow.

      Well said, I find that I can't actually hear the music coming from neighbours sound systems but that base goes right through me, we live in an old timber place. Ultrasound can actually make me feel physically ill. Generally, if you ask the neighbour to just turn down the base, it solves all the problems, they can still hear the music and we can sleep. However, sooner or later, there's always that one douche bag....

      Last edited 10/01/13 11:14 am

    I wonder what can I do about vocal training- will a mezzo soprano voice travel easily to neighbour?

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