Walls, ceilings, floors -- neighbors and sound

I've started to search around my little town for a condo, and I'm wondering, all other things being equal (which they never are, of course), what might be best for allowing me to do a good deal of listening without making my neighbors have to hear what I happen to be into at that moment. In general, do folks above hear more than those below? Or vice versa? Or is it a bigger problem for those on the other side of a shared wall? I understand that this will all depend on the construction of the place in question, but can anyone tell me if there are certain things to look for? And other to avoid? Thanks for any help you might give me with this one.
-- Howard
Headphones.....and if you have a lover over, have DUAL headphones.
My suspicion is that the people below you may be especially annoyed -- THEIR ceiling is shaking with YOUR bass. I also think that the music issue is a BIG reason to get a freestanding house rather than a condo, for a music person; I worked in residential rental properties for years, and noise issues are very difficult to resolve. Many places, everybody is legally entitled to "quiet enjoyment"; in practice, it often seems that one neighbor exercising what might be reasonably thought quiet enjoyment is incompatible with another neighbor doing the same. Of course, you could get lucky; I've had neighbors who were unfazed by silly loud volumes. But you may not; I've had quite the opposite, too.

Might be worth reflecting on your home buying strategy. I moved to St. Louis, where I now live, expecting to go condo, and found houses both a better value and equally approachable in terms of entry price point. If finances dictate condo in your market, I'd try to develop a system that sounds rich played at low volumes.

Good luck,


For myself, anything less than a concrete wall or floor between myself and neighbour would be intolerable for both.
Some condos may have double thick walls between them. Some that are smaller may be designed to have a garage between them on the lower floor which is almost like having a house.

Bass frequencies will travel through alot. If you like to listen at any significant volume with good bass then consider building a false wall and use resilient channel to mount the sheetrock. Also putting some lead sheeting between these two walls would help.

Your worst problem is most likely the bass. As I said it will travel along trusses and through walls. I've heard of people also mounting their speakers on something soft so as to not transmit vibrations to the floor.
As Warnerwh notes -- the longer the wavelength the more sound will propagate and go through anything. In practise, though, upstairs gets more of a blast than downstairs (because you can decouple the spkrs fm the floor)... So if you have no upstairs neighbours, you may get away with some extra dB. BUT, there's the next door to consider: Lead sheeting is one of the best attenuators.
If you do use lead sheeting, make sure to ground it or you may get RFI. UHF Magazine didn't do it when they lined their listening room with lead, and one of the preamps they tested apparently picked up Radio Moscow as a result.
I can't imagine how anyone in an apartment or a condo can enjoy anything except a minimal audio system. That would also apply for all the new houses that I have seen in developments, where there is about 20 feet or less between the houses.

I am fortunate to live in a semi-rural area. The nearest neighbor is about 600 feet away, with woods between us. If I feel like cranking up a Sousa march at 2 in the morning...no problem!
I have NEVER heard anything from below my apt. The folks ABOVE can be impossible.
I live on the second floor.
Being above is the worst for noise of any arrangement. Decoupled speakers or not.
False walls and lead sheeting in a condo? I can't imagine going to those lengths in a condo, or anywhere for that matter, and it probably won't be effective amyway.

You won't know for sure until you move in what the situation is, and unless the condo is built like a concrete bunker and your neighbors are ederly and hard of hearing and you only listen in the middle of the day at very low volume levels you are going to have problems.

If audiophilia is your passion then you simply must buy or rent a house.
This issue played a big part in my recent home purchase. I ended up buying an end unit townhouse where my upstairs bedrooms and master bath acted as a buffer between my listening room and the adjoining neighbor. Worked out very well, but I still don't play any music after 9 pm.
I asked my neighbors to phone me if I bother them with my stereo.
I tell them, I like to listen as loud as possible, without disturbing them.
Let me know, I won't be offended I say.
I don't want them to hear me and I cretainly don't want to hear them.
i went through this a few years back when i bought a condo...if you like it loud, first you must acoustically treat your room. This may sound strange, but by adding the $250 Room Tunes kit from MGA, i can listen at quite loud volumes however very little vibration goes into the floor or through the walls. No idea why this is, but a 'tuned room' plays louder at lower volume levels...and the bass is perfect. the kit does nothing to stop the vibes from going into other units, it simply tunes the room so tunes at low volume sound loud and proper.

The L/R of my condo shares a party wall with my neighbors bedroom. I installed a multi-layer drywall sound barrier that weighs about 3000lbs (5/8" drywall) and they never hear me. i'm always respectful of their 10pm bedtime, but by 10:30pm i'm a rockin again!

solid concrete floors & carpet with thick padding go a long way. One interesting note, depending on the type of sublfoor (concrete vs wood) your neighbors on either side might be bothered by floor vibes rather than thru the wall...this is what i found out.

the real key is a good realtionship with the neighbors, and playing music they won't mind.

my speakers are 70lb floorstanders that are spiked, but rarely do the nieghbors below give a call SINCE adding the RoomTunes.

I live in NYC apartment/condo. Fortunately on the top floor. First thing I did was just as Jeffjarvis did,,,let them know you care and that they should contact you if it gets too loud. At minimum you should have a large area rug (with a carpet pad) where your rig is located and make sure you decoupled the speakers from the floor/carpet. If your setting a HT system, I advise you not to wall mount your surround speakers. I set up my living room so that the speakers face into my living area not towards the adjoining walls. Last, if you use a subwoofer, you may want to put it on something like an Auralex Gramma pad. If that doesn't work for you try a Buttkicker. Right now I'm looking into sound decorative acoustical panels from www.acousticalsolutions.com. You may want to pursue that option as well.

Good Luck.