We all have had noisy neighbors that drive us crazy or are you among the lucky few. If you do have noisy neighbors, it is time to consider soundproofing your home, at least soundproofing the shared wall. One of the best ways to soundproof any surface is to use acoustic panels, and they are cost-effective and highly effective in blocking and absorbing sound. But, the question remains whether acoustic panels are efficient enough to be considered as an investment.
Everyone looking to soundproof their home with acoustic panels is bound to have questions including will acoustic panels keep sound out, does acoustic foam block outside noise and much more. In this article, we will try to address such questions. To answer such questions, we need first to understand how acoustic panels work and use them to your advantage while soundproofing your home.
Acoustic panels do not block the outside noise entirely to answer the question. They are special soundproofing solutions that depend on an entirely different method of stopping sound waves/noise. Instead of blocking noise, acoustic panels absorb the noise and dampen it. This may lead many beginners to think that acoustic panels block noise, but they do provide the same levels of soundproofing. Since the same level of soundproofing is offered, it is easy enough to confuse most people. Read along to understand more about acoustic foam panels and how it works.
How Does Acoustic Foam Panels Work?
Sound is a wave of energized waves moving through a medium. When it originates from a source, sound or noise keeps ongoing in the direction of propagation unless and until it is attenuated and dissipated by the air. But, many objects and materials offer far greater attenuation levels, which can help contain the noise or block out outside noise if needed. This is the basis of soundproofing.
Acoustic foam panels are amazing soundproofing solutions that can reduce the background noise in your home drastically. But, the performance of your soundproof foam depends on the type of foam used and its efficiency in absorbing and dissipating the sound energy into heat energy.
There are soundproofing foams and acoustic foam panels. Acoustic foams are excellent for sound absorbing, but they don’t provide soundproofing.
Technically speaking, soundproofing and sound absorption are two different processes but are closely associated with each other and are often marketed as the same.
Soundproofing aims to block sounds that are in their path. They prevent the sound waves from passing through the material. The materials used for soundproofing are required to be thick and of heavy mass, such that the noise or sound doesn’t penetrate the room or the wall. This is often used when one wishes to block the outside noise from reaching the inner rooms.
As the name suggests, sound absorption is the process through which the sound waves passing through the material get absorbed into it. Here, conversion of energy occurs, from sound energy to heat energy. This reduces the room’s background sounds, reverberation, echo, etc., and comes in handy on various occasions, including professional recording studios. Sound-absorbing materials are often used in multiple layers to provide compounding effects. The materials should be light and porous for sound absorption to work, entirely different from soundproofing materials.
Most people misunderstand that since the result of both processes are the same, to reduce the sound and create a soundproof environment where we desire, people often mistake soundproofing and sound absorbing as the same.
Does Acoustic Foam Panels Block Outside Noise?
The short answer is no. Acoustic panels do not block outside noise. But, the answer lies in the technicality mentioned above. Although acoustic foam panels do not block outside noise, they are well suited to absorb sound from the outside noise.
Acoustic panels are excellent choices to soundproof any room, but they do not operate like soundproof foams. Acoustic foam panels are versatile and can be hung vertically or laid horizontally. Acoustic panels prove to be more effective when covering a maximum surface area of the room that needs to be soundproofed.
Acoustic panels consist of lightweight, porous materials and can be used in almost every room. Some of the best materials for acoustic foam panels include polyurethane foam or melamine foam, which provide the perfect texture for sound absorption. There are acoustic panels available in all sizes and shapes and even in different STC ratings.
STC (Sound Transmission Class) ratings are benchmark ratings that anyone who aims to soundproof their apartment or home must know about. It measures the surface’s ability to block out the sound passing through it. It is an important standard with which one can determine the level of soundproofing any material offers and make informed decisions about what to use to achieve a certain level of soundproofing.
Below is a table for reference to know which soundproofing or acoustic foam panels to choose while soundproofing your home.
Level of Sound Protection
No protection whatsoever
Speeches at normal loudness can be heard and understood
Loud speeches can be heard and understood, whereas normal speeches can be heard
Loud Speeches can only be heard but not understood clearly
The levels below this can be classified as “private” due to the level of sound protection it provides
Even loud speeches can be interpreted as whispers
Loud speech can’t be heard. Noise won’t disturb the listener.
Musical instruments can be heard only feebly. Other sounds are mostly blocked
Musical instruments can be heard only feebly. Other sounds are mostly blocked.
60 and 60+
Almost all sounds are inaudible.
When sound hits a wall padded with the soundproofing mentioned above materials, unlike soundproofing foam, the sound gets absorbed rather than bouncing off the surface of the materials. This reduces the creation of echoes in the room and enables the consumer to create a quiet and peaceful environment. In many cases, this is a priority and is used in professional environments such as recording studios.
In most cases, acoustic foam panels have a pyramid or wedge-shaped 3D pattern molded into the surface of the panels for sound absorption. This is to ensure that the sound waves or noise hits the surface of the panels rather than hit them head-on. This helps the sound to bounce off more effectively from the surface.
Soundproofing Foam for Blocking Sounds
Soundproof foam has a light, porous textures, but they are not the only type of materials that can provide soundproofing solutions. There are dense foams that can provide the same level of soundproofing due to the blocking of sounds or noise trying to pass through it. Thick materials for soundproofing, in most cases, don’t come with any distinct shape, such as wedges or pyramids. They are most likely to be monotonous, thick fabric/fiber/panels and, for best results, are often used inside the walls while soundproofing for utility and aesthetic reasons.
One needs to clearly define their end goal before selecting what type of soundproof foam you will go with. If you are only required to stop the normal noises, you could always go with the lightweight foams under your budget, and if you need professional solutions that can block out most of the sounds, you may have to choose top of the dense counter foam.
Acoustic foam is extensively used worldwide to reduce the reverberation in a room. With closed, confined spaces that can produce loud noises, such as a gymnasium, acoustical absorption is necessary and, in most cases, even essential.
Soundproof foams or acoustic foams have their advantages. They are amazing solutions and can be used anywhere to attain a professional level of soundproofing. It can be used to reduce noise, background noise and to create a calm and peaceful ambiance.
As we have seen in this article, there are different types of soundproofing foam available, and it is necessary to buy the required level of thickness to achieve the desired level of soundproofing. If you wish to mute your neighbor’s noise through your shared wall completely, you have to use thick foam instead of a light foam.
Acoustic panels also help reduce echoes and decrease the reverberation time of the room it is installed in. Be the procedure may absorb the noise, it is very effective and can work at a wide spectrum of sound frequencies.