Sound Insulation- how much can it help?

I am considering moving into a new apartment, but the neighbor's (with yound child) bedroom is right next to my living room. I want to listen to music and watch movies at fairly loud volume late at night. At a volume that was way too low for me, i.e. I need it 3-4 times louder at a minimum), they asked me to turn it down another half. We have concrete walls, and with a fairly large (5 meters long and 5 meters high- vaulted ceiling) shared surface area. Is there any soundproofing method that can work? How much sound can be reduced? At what volume will I be able to play my music any time of day or night?
Not to rain on your parade but what you want is why folks buy their own homes. Even if you were able to reduce the volume of the highs/mids that pass thru the walls by using soundproofing materiels the bass waves are still going to pound that kid's room at medium high volume. I think you are between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Bottom line is that you have to keep the volume down to a level where it is not intrusive on your neighbors relative to the time of day. If you don't you are probably in violation of local nuisance laws and probably your lease.
You might consider mounting a "floating" wall -- which is drywall mounted on resilient clips. Search "soundproofing" in these forums, it's been covered pretty thoroughly.
Jeff is probably right, and you can save a ton of money by replacing amps and speakers with the absolute best headphone setup.


Buy a home.

What you seek is impossible.


You cannot the violate laws of physics and the propogation of sound waves through walls/floors is one.
Wall to wall style carpeting can work wonders applied to walls, doors and ceiling. Almost relevant, we used it once to insulate a wood frame garage for band practice. The best is heavy wool pile, very plush and heavy. You may need to screw some kind of lath to your walls to hang it. On the downside, with the bodies and equipment in there it got really hot sometimes! The police still came but after witnessing our efforts to protect the public and securing our verbal agreement to respect the 10 o'clock noise ordinance we did OK. From an equipment perspective, stand mounted speakers that trade finesse for pure grunt may be a partial solution.
I agree, you can only limit the sound to a certain degree by using these "soundproofing" methods, and it sounds to me like it will never be enough in this circumstance.

You need to either be flexible enough to listen at low volumes during these time periods, or you need to get into a single-family home.
Well, you have the answer. Someone asked our company what we couldn't do one time. I said "we haven't figured out how to break the laws of physicis." Herman has already pointed out--that's what you're up against. We're about to publish a paper on sound isolation (hopefully I'll finish it this weekend). The basic problem in an apartment is that there are many structures in common. You pointed out one wall, but what about the ceiling? The concrete slab? The may all have the same structural components. You play loudly and the sound travels through this structure to the next room. Is it impossible to isolate these issues? Technically no--it can be done. Practically however is a different question. It would mean doing things pretty crazy like ripping out all carpet, putting up new walls, ceiling--well you can see it's just not at all possible in the real world sense.

Now I am going to digress to something I saw at CES this year. It was a headphone system that used Stax headphones and an infrared head tracking device--bear with me here. Basically the headphones were calibrated with a full 5.1 system. You put microphones in your ears and listened and did things like turned you head in certain directions. All the while the pink noise coming from the system was being recorded. Then you take the mics out and put on the headphones. You could move your head and got the same kind of enveloping feel as you did from the 5.1 system. For comparison you just took the headphone off, they would turn off and the real 5.1 system would come on. With matched volumes this was pretty incredible--I was amazed out how remarkable the processing was and they have only just begun--it will likely improve more. Anyway, if this comes to market it could solve some issues like this.
This is why people like myself hated living in apartments and finally moved into a house some years ago... I couldn't stand other people's guitars, sterios, loud tv's, etc. coming thru the walls, floors, ceilings, etc.
Once you move into a house, however, then you have the neighbor booming his music out of his car/truck in his driveway while he works on it or washes it.. coming thru the walls, windows, etc.. it's hard to get away from noise.
Retrofitting sound isolation into an existing structure (especially a rented one) is futile. However, if sound isolation is designed into the building from the start the result can be very satisfactory. The prime examples are hotels at airports, where the surrounding jet trafic is inaudible.
Ok, maybe I should be more specific about the decibels. Playing Norah Jones at -36 db in that room was acceptable to my neighbor, whereas -32 db was too loud. I felt that -32 db was too quiet, and made the estimate of 3-4 times by calculating across different types of music I might play, as well as movies (which I assume would be worse for neighbors because of wide range of volume...?).

Revisiting the apartment and seeing these comments, I could lower my acceptance threshold - if I could play Norah Jones at -30 db, I think the place could be OK given my lack of choices. I think I could selectively listen to non-bass heavy music at night, although I don't know what bass might be in movie soundtracks.

I'm not sure if these decibel figures help. I tested my stereo in another apartment, and at -36 db the overall sound volume seemed significantly lower than in the one with the vaulted ceiling.
The decibel figures are irrelevant. The music is keeping a small child awake. As Jeff_Jones so eloquently said, "headphones".

You can get an absolutely killer headphone setup for a few hundred. You can get reference quality and -good- 5.1 emulation for $1000
Possible solutions:

1. Get your neighbors to move out and take over their apartment: Watch the movie, "Pacific Heights" for some pointers to that end.
2. Perhaps Jeffrey Dahmer's spree started like this. Have you got a big freezer? You'll also need some heavy-duty plastic bags and a chain saw. I know what you're thinking, but I don't think you'll need to worry about the noise the saw makes at that point.
3. Headphones, as has already been suggested. Try a good setup and you may get hooked.
4. Buy your own house / Move to a different apartment with a better arrangement with the neighbors.
5. Find a new hobby.

Line your floors, ceilings, & walls with 1/2 lead plate...and then acoustically treat the resulting room, or buy a home, or pop for some headphones. I'm guessing the headphones are looking pretty good at this point.
thanks for your responses...I decided to take another apartment in the same complex, where the sound insulation is a lot better. Now I still need to figure out how to get the best quality sound at low volume, in particular setting up a workable subwoofer solution. I live in China, where getting a standalone house is not an easy choice. Also, headphones would be OK for solitary listening, but how about for group movie or even music listening sessions?
Well, we can help you with the in room acoustics, and they do differ depending on volume. We've done quite a few jobs in Asia, mostly in Singapore. I don't think we've done one in China yet. I like incorporating the acoustics into Asian designs. We did one room with a really great lattice work on the ceiling, that was all specifically spaced as a diffusion grating.

If you decide to go the DIY route, then I would recommend that you spend some time on our resources page. There are many links to articles and books that can help you. Read as much as you can before you begin. Glad you found a better isolated place.