Making a DIY platform for electronic drums
I recently bought a Roland TD-17kvx for playing drums in my apartment. Overall it's been just-as-advertised, and have been having a lot of fun. The one serious problem I've noticed is the amount of sound that resonates throughout the townhouse when I play. The plastic is loud while playing, but the real issue is how audible everything is from the living room, which is one floor below where I play.
Not only do the drumkit's vibrations resonate, the townhouse itself is exceptionally bad at silencing between rooms/floors, resulting in the peace of the living room being disturbed if I play at all. This environment isn't conducive to drumming, which makes it perfect for testing some homemade silencing solutions.
I decided I would build a full on platform for the drumset, since the floor was so woefully constructed there really wasn't any hope of a simple fix to the noise problem. There is some prior work on the subject which is really helpful:
- E-Drum Noise Isolation Platform - Tutorial
- Is a Tennis Ball Riser REALLY the SECRET to Quiet Drumming?
Again, since my particular townhouse is 0% effective against sound suppression I decided to go all out, and follow the strategy of the first one. My final prototype is composed of:
- MDF board - Sylomer foam - MDF board - Puzzle foam - Carpet - Roland Noise-eater board under the kick drum - Vibration pads under the feet of the drumset
First try: silence the kickdrum
My first attempt involved buying the Roland NE-10 pad. This is a carpeted pad the kickdrum lays on that isolates it from the floor using a number of rubber feet. Most of the noise comes from the pedal hitting the rubber pad of the kickdrum, which can cause heavy impacts.
Simply put, this thing was 150$ and got nowhere close to silencing the pedal. It definitely helps, it took some of the edge off, but playing was still clearly audible from the living room. This thing is definitely not worth the money, there is no world in which this is deserving of a 150$ price tag. You can honestly make the same noise reduction just by putting the pedal on top of a plywood plank resting on some old sweatpants.
Second try: anti-vibration pads
Before going all out on the platform I decided to try one more cheap solution: some anti-vibration pads from home depot. For 30$ I found some rubber pads at Home Depot which were designed to isolate the feet of an air compressor from the ground.
These had a slight impact, but for 30$ I suppose it's worth it. It's another one of those minor improvements that takes a bit of the edge away. It basically makes the drumset sound 15-20 feet farther away.
At this point I bought some boards to make the core of the platform out of. I bought MDF board, since it was half the price and seemed to absorb vibrations just as well. It also looks better which is a plus. The platform consists of two layers of MDF, each divided into two halves to make it easier to transport.
The boards are supposed to be the structure of the entire project, but in reality this might be the most impactful single thing in this post. Just having the kit elevated and separate from the floor brought huge sound savings. Paired with the NE-10 and the rubber pads this brought the noise down significantly: listening from the living room no longer involved hearing the pounding of drums.
On top of the two layers of MDF I tried adding normal foam designed for the floor of a gym. It cost 50$ and also brought some noticeable silencing properties. With everything combined the sound was down to a tolerable level.
Sylomer: the most difficult thing to buy on the internet
I had seen in some videos that a type of foam called Sylomer is apparently designed to absorb vibrations effectively. If you calculate the load right, it should significantly reduce the impact that propagates into the floor.
Unfortunately this stuff is not trivial to find. It's not intended to be sold to random people making drum equipment, so it took some work to find a reseller. Enter R-Drums.com: a German website that was the only reseller I could find that had it available.
Here's the link I used: https://www.r-drums.com/english/shop/nip-noise-isolating-pad/
You'll have to reach out by email and ask for a paypal invoice. Also half of what you'll see will be in German so that was fun. It took around three weeks for it to get shipped to me, since I am in the US.
It also took some effort to make the platform stable because I ordered too little Sylomer. I bought 10 pieces (it comes in little squares), but I really should have gotten 12. 10 was 160$, so that's why I was hesitant to buy more. I found the ideal thing to pad the gap between the MDF board is old sweatshirts or clothes. They absorb sound and are easy to reshape into place to best support the platform.
Putting it all together
At this point the sound was significantly reduced, and what used to be an un-ignorable pounding is now a soft tapping. All things considered, it cost around $425 which is pretty extreme for a drumset that cost $1,200. If you're in a well-built building you probably don't need every component of this to get the sound reduction you're after. Making your own board for the pedal instead of the ridiculously expensive NE-10 would also cut 150$ off the total cost and make things more reasonable.
It's worth it to avoid noise complaints, and it allows me to play upstairs without worrying about who is in the floor below. All things considered I'm pretty happy with it, and highly recommend it for anyone looking to spare their downstairs neighbors from the banging of fake drums.