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Building a home studio, but this is what i'm working with, looks like there's no two-ways about it in terms of budget, location etc.:

-Building it in a shipping container. Yup, that's right. About 20'x6.5', height around 6.5'-8'
-Budget for sound-proofing and acoustic treatment: around $7,000 maybe could go a little more.

Anyone have any ideas how to do this right? And i will NOT be reading Rod Gervais's book before this, mainly because of time.


Can I build a home studio in a shipping container?

It's been done before. There's even a company doing it commercially.

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What are alternatives to a home studio shipping container?

You could have a look at mobile recording trucks. A lot gets done in those from classic records to broadcast. I also suggest looking at tiny homes. Tiny Homes have great ideas for using space. In fact you may be able to get a better suited end result if you just build a "tiny home" style studio. Its just box on a flatbed. You can save significant cash if you skip the flatbed and leave it on some setting blocks, or suitable jack stands.

Are there any issues with bass frequencies in small spaces?

  1. Small rooms have low-frequency bass issues because the size of the room is much smaller than the sound wave itself.
  2. In the car audio industry, bass freq can be treated to fill the room "more evenly", which may reduce or exaggerate the waves.
  3. (see standing waves , comb filter.
  4. This method is used in car acoustics however small rooms are never recommended for mixing or mastering sound in the Pro Audio Industry.


paulears Mon, 02/15/2021 - 12:51

There are loads of YouTube videos, but probably you won't have time for that before spending your seven grand?

Seriously - the thing with these - and I looked at doing it, are the drawbacks. In Israel I don't suppose damp and condensation is a problem, but you probably need cooling, if the sun beats down on the container. The one I went into about 4 years ago had a big drawback, a strange one. The metal box is a perfect Faraday Cage - no cell phones, only wired internet. The width once you've built the inside is also quote narrow, so it will be cosy.

The positives are good - strength, security and easy to get sited and setup. From what I can seem if you are a dab hand with a rotary disc cutter and can do a bit of welding - it's a possibility = if you can cope with the downsides. Here a second hand single trip container can be got for around 1500 pounds. The cost of building one from normal materials would be more.

audiokid Mon, 02/15/2021 - 14:50

I recall a members tried doing this some years back. Other than the obvious small space setbacks, heat etc, he also recommended building a room within it so you kept a space between the steel and your acoustic environment. I can imagine treating it like a vocal booth and then mixing at a very low volume to help reduce constant vibrations within the steel. I think you'd be way further ahead building a wood structure but I suspect you have your reasons for the steel.

kmetal Thu, 02/18/2021 - 08:40

How much isolation do you need?

What are you recording?

You could have a look at mobile recording trucks. Alot gets done in those from classic records to broadcast. I also suggest looking at tiny homes. They have great ideas for using space. In fact you may be able to get a better suited end result if you just build a "tiny home" style studio. Its just box on a flatbed. You can save significant cash if you skip the flatbed and leave it on some setting blocks, or suitable jack stands.

The 6.5' width is brutal. If you don't need isolation you will lose a min of a foot for acoustic treatment, bare minimum. With isoation walls you lose another foot, and are very close to having a 20ft long hallway.

You may find an old camper or a landscape trailer much better since 8.5' width is very common.

Myobius Fri, 02/26/2021 - 10:14

What ideas could there be?
To give up the idea of building a studio in such a small room is the best idea, of course you can set up the acoustics and with such parameters, but it will not be ideal.
The advantage of the steel container is that it is homogeneous, it will simplify the issue of stereo.
In one article I read that in small rooms you can experiment with low-frequency bass, because the size of the room is much smaller than the sound wave, the bass will not be reflected, and will fill the room evenly, which will reduce the jumps. This method is used in car acoustics, you can use it.
But I'm not sure about the accuracy of this information, to tell the truth I don't even remember the source where I learned it, if somebody can correct or add to it, it would be cool, I am interested in finding out more about it. I have my own interest in this.

cyrano Fri, 02/26/2021 - 11:47

A shipping container isn't an obvious choice. Caravans are even worse.

What I would do, is find a refrigeration back from a real truck. Caravans and the like are limited to a width of 2,55 m (a bit over 8') in Europe. Almost as narrow as a container. I don't know about Israel, obviously.

A refrigeration back has usable isolation, is strong enough and lighter than the shipping container. And trucks can be another 5 cm wide, about 8.5'. Additionally, it has ventilation that could be tuned to studio needs.

I'm sure I can find one on the cheap here. Once they're no longer usable for food, they're a nuisance. There's nothing to recuperate, as it's foam, plastic and aluminium. They're also usually white, which helps with temp control.

A short search on a local 2nhand site revealed a 7 by 3 by 2,40 m one for 3000 €. Mind you, that's a working one, including compressors and condensers. Maybe one that's up for demolition, could be had for nought?

0VU Thu, 05/13/2021 - 15:58

I'm a bit late to the party with this one and I don't know where you are but, here in the UK, refrigeration trucks make very bad starting places for mobile studios.

They're built to be light weight, thermally insulated, air tight, waterproof and easily cleaned inside, and cold. So the constuction is usually not strong enough to stand much modification as it's built in the lightest way they can while achieving the mechanical strength needed for their form. Changes to the form usually badly compromise the strength. Their insulation generally offers great thermal insulation but extremely poor acoustic isolation. Ventilation is, at best poor, and usually non-existent as the aims are to maintain thermal integrity and exclude bugs and other airborne pollutants so the only opening(s) is/are the access/loading doors. The refrigeration unit is also just that - refrigeration. It's great at cooling the place down to really low temperatures to keep things like food safe in transit but far too low to be comfortable as a working environment and the adjustment range normally is too small and too low on the temperature scale to be variable into a comfortable working range.

To keep weight down and allow maximum payloads, they usually use mixtures of plastics and very light alloys in the skin and structural members and rigid, closed cell thermal foams which are virtually no use for acoustic insulation.

When such truck bodies come up for disposal, they're usually pretty knackered. Their fridge plants are normally on their last legs or simply broken beyond cost effective repair (and if they use certain types of refrigerant gasses they can be really expensive to scrap and lead to serious environmental damage and major legal expenses if you get caught dumping them as scrap or venting the gasses), the shells may have structural problems like serious corosion or broken rivets, the materials could be de-laminating or even cracking and things like doors and their exposed metal fittings are usually worn beyond being useful and are tricky and costly to replace. Such structures are also something of a security nightmare if you site them anywhere vaguely remote where they might attract vandals or thieves. They burn pretty easily and can quickly be cut into using a drill and hacksaw or pretty much any power saw/angle grinder or chainsaw. Or just a crowbar to the door frames or sledgehammer through the sides.

I know someone who built a mobile recording truck from scratch using a brand new wheels-up construction based on the thermally insulated truck standard at the time. It used a steel chassis and structural framing made of aluminium with a version of the thermal sandwich panel construction consisting of a triple layer sandwich of GRP coated ply outer skin, bonded to a thermal foam core and an inner skin of ply with GRP coating on the inside. (More modern constructions often now use lighter weight plastics/alloys/and honeycomb panel structures alongside rigid foams.) It looked good, was lightweight, easy to work with, and offered so little acoustic isolation that, with no music playing inside and all the doors shut, it was possible clearly to hear the clicking of a bicycle freewheeling past outside! Sitting inside the truck in a rainstorm was seriously noisy with rain on the roof and windblown rain hitting the walls. And as for a hailstorm! It was like sitting inside an oil drum being machine gunned with ball bearings. (A common problem with mobile type constructions and tricky to get around fully.)

That truck had roof mounted aircon, the weight of which required instalation of extra bracing inside the roof and walls to stop it bending the sandwich panels and which, when the aircon was running in any way - even just the fans without the compressors - imparted so much vibration to the panels, which were incredibly resonant as their lightweight, rigid,constuction made them work like drum skins, that the entire thing constantly hummed. With the compressors on it felt like one was in the engine room of a very resonant ship, with a loud thrumming noise coming from all directions.After about 15 years of fairly light use (by long suffering engineers) and dry garaging in between jobs, it was too structurally weakened to be safe on the road and had to be scrapped. And that was a mobile studio built as a mobile studio, with beefier construction than a fridge van.

So, in short, if you want a van to transport (or perhaps store) perishable foodstuffs or chemicals, get a fridge van but if you want a space to do anything requiring acoustic isolation, comfortable working temperature and well ventilated space so you don't get tired from diminishing oxygen/increasing CO2 and fed up with the lingering smell of last night's takeaway and the drummer's beer farts don't start with a fridge van.


And yes, I did find this out the hard way, both working in the truck I described above and, before doing a lot of research, getting quite far down the design process thinking that a fridge van would be a good starting place for my own trucks. Thankfully I figured out how wrong I was before I spent any money on it.


On the subject of building a studio in a shipping container, it can be done quite well, within certain limitations but to do it effectively is far more expensive than modifying a more conventionally constructed space. I've converted shipping containers into various types of audio spaces, including, for use as deployable radio broadcast studios in hostile environments. For that kind of thing the advantages of a readily transportable, self contained steel box, outweighed the disadvantages but it's quite a specific use and wasn't cheap to do.

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benplay Thu, 11/18/2021 - 23:45

That's a great idea but I wonder what the sound and acoustics will be

OBrien Sun, 11/21/2021 - 10:22

Acoustics is challenge enough when you know what the answers are, it is beyond me why people want to run head long into an area they know absolutely nothing about...with dollar bills flying out of their pockets like money will solve everything.

So have you started this project yet, asking for a friend.

JeanRichardson Mon, 12/11/2023 - 02:57

Proper ventilation is important, so plan for that to prevent overheating during recording sessions. Besides, think about your electrical setup carefully, including the placement of outlets, lighting, and any equipment you'll be using. Since you mentioned you won't be reading Rod Gervais's book due to time constraints, don't worry. There are plenty of online resources and tutorials that can guide you through the DIY process. I know this response is coming in a bit late, but for others with a similar question, I also found some useful tips about building various structures, including small summer houses. You can check them out here at https://www.scottso…