7 Best Sound Absorbing Materials to Improve the Acoustics in Your Room

These days a lot of people have the need to install sound absorption products whether in their house or office or somewhere else. They keep asking me what materials are the most effective for certain situation, and how can you distinguish them.

With this in mind, I decided to provide an answer to your questions. Although you may already know what a sound absorption is, let us revise that, just in case.

best sound absorbing materials

What is Sound Absorption?

Sound absorption can sometimes be confused with soundproofing, which, actually, does not make much sense because they are pretty different.

It is important to know that, when a sound encounters an object, only two things can happen: it can be either absorbed (sound absorbing) or reflected back (soundproofing).

If you want to prevent an unwanted noise from entering or leaving a space, you need soundproofing. However, the situation with sound absorption is unlike.

You need sound absorption when you want to improve the acoustics of the room. By doing this you are, basically, reducing the echo because it is being absorbed, and all you get is an audible and clear sound within the room.

To put it in this way, sound absorption presents the loss of sound energy because sound waves are absorbed by sound absorbing products placed on places such as walls, ceilings, floors.

However, the sound made in one room can be audible in another room since the sound absorbing material only reduces an echo but it does not block it.

Best Sound Absorbing Materials

But why is all of this insignificant? Why would you ever need this?

First of all, the installation of sound absorbing product can contribute to suitable acoustic environment within a space, which is, you could agree, an enjoyable place to be in.

Also, sound absorption is a desirable, or even necessary, solution for schools, sports halls, recording studios, lecture auditoriums, theatres, cinemas, or concert venues.

Therefore, you can find sound absorption anywhere. Since they are so widely used, you should know what types of materials are there and how you can distinguish them.

Characteristics of Sound Absorbing Materials

When it comes to sound absorbing materials, also called sound absorbers or sound diffusors, they are, usually, soft, light, fluffy, or porous, which enables them to better absorb an echo.

While products made of sound absorbing material can soften up the surfaces of the room, they are also designed to contribute to the aesthetics of the room.

However, their essential function is to improve the quality of a sound within the room.

Furthermore, you should pay attention to the fact that a sound absorbing ability of a material is not always the same depending on frequency of a sound. So, low frequencies, below 500Hz, can be much more difficult to detect and absorb while higher frequencies are, usually, easier to absorb.

Before moving on to the materials themselves, you should know that they are divided into three main categories.

Porous absorbers 

As the name says, they are made of a porous material. However, they may be dived into two forms: fibrous material and open-celled foam.

Fibrous material can absorb a sound since a sound wave is able to penetrate its surface where it gets bended and dampened and then converted into heat energy. This means that their essential function is to convert the acoustic energy into heat energy where most of the sound is absorbed into heat and only small parts of it are reflected back to the room.

On the other hand, open-celled foam absorbs a sound by the air movement of the sound waves through passages of the material. As a result, the sound is reduced and the heat is generated.

Porous absorbers are widely used because they are effective and successful in reducing a sound especially in mid-range frequencies. Also, the thicker the material the greater impact it has on sound absorption.

Panel absorbers 

They are, on the other hand, made of non-porous and non-rigid materials.

Also called membrane absorbers or single absorbers, they present a group of common building elements, such as a table, a chair, a window, a door, etc.

Their main function is dealing with low or bass frequencies of a sound where their best effectiveness of absorbing a sound can be achieved.

Resonance absorbers 

They contain a mechanical or acoustical oscillation system where they have plates with an air space. Those plates can be either of perforated materials or with a hole or an opening.

The holes or openings are able to trap and lock the sound inside, so the echo is successfully absorbed and reduced.

These absorbers present one of the most effective ones when it comes to low frequencies.

List of the Best Sound Absorbing Materials

But how can you choose the best material for your sound absorbing needs? Here is the list of the best materials and their characteristics so you can choose one according to what you need.

Acoustic foam is one of the most commonly used materials due to its easy installation and its affordability as well as its effective absorption of a sound.

Usually, the foam consists of an attractive fabric and design with different patterns, which contributes to the aesthetics of your home.

However, it is not of great help if used in huge spaces since it is best to install it in small and middle-sized ones, like rooms or offices.

Specifically, there are a few acoustic foam panel forms, such as:

  • Convoluted acoustic foam panel - It has an egg crate design so it is ideal for a recording studio, for instance. It is both aesthetic and successful at reducing a sound.
  • Aluminum-facing panel - This is specially made for high-heat spaces and environments, since it is strong and provides protection from heat.
  • Fabric-covered foam panels - It enables acoustical performance everywhere, even in theaters and auditoriums, because it is easy to install and maintain its fabric.

Acoustic Fabric Panels are made of wood frame wrapped in fabric with some other sound absorber, such as high-density fiberglass, or foam.

A dense fiberglass panel is one of the widely used materials as bass trap, dealing with low frequencies of a sound.

By successfully controlling reverberation and echo they provide an effective and superior sound absorption.

Also, the fabric can be attractive so you have a lot of colors and designs to choose from contributing to decoration of a place.

Sound Absorbing Underlayment materials could be foam, vinyl, rubber. They are dense and they can provide sound absorption but also soundproofing.

Generally, they are applied between subflooring (usually concrete or plywood) and flooring (could be hardwood or laminate). 

This material comes in various forms, such as acoustic foam, felt, plywood, but felt is one of the best solutions for you because it is very effective in reducing sound absorption.

Underlayment makes the sound within the room much softer, and the footsteps are immensely reduced as well as the noise from underneath.

Acoustic partitions could serve for different purposes, and they could be lightweight or heavyweight, which are usually made of 100% polyester.

Since lightweight ones are easy to move around, they could be used to divide a room, for example, when you need a private and quiet space.

Their colors and sized are various, perfect for homes, restaurants, offices, and many other.

Acoustic cotton batts  are made of natural cotton fibers which makes it softer and with a less chance for germ infection.  Also, it may be made of a high percentage of recycled cotton.

The fact about its hygienic benefit is of importance for people with children since the material is friendly to a human skin.

Further, it is resistant to fungi, mold but also to flames. Therefore, it may be considered to be one of the best sound absorbers and the most effective and affordable ones.

It is easy to install it whether in offices, homes, auditoriums, theatres, or wherever you need sound absorption.

Acoustic mineral wool is of double usefulness because it may serve for both sound absorption and soundproofing.

Also, it is tolerant of high heat as well as water, which means that it is fire-resistant and it does not absorb moisture.

It is lightweight, easy to install, not pricey, versatile, and it effectively reduces reverberation or some other unwanted noise.

It may be found in the form of a glass made of a large, rigid, and fibrous board suitable for interior panels, ceiling panels, office partitions, appliances, furniture, machine rooms.

Hanging baffles may not be the most effective solution for your sound absorption problem, but it is certainly worth trying since it manages to reduce the echo while it also contributes to the aesthetics of your home.

They are easy to install with chains and hooks. 

Also, they are pretty useful when you do not have enough wall space because they actually hang from a ceiling to create soundproof insulation.

They present a great option for restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, offices, or wherever you want to add the artistic note to a space and improve its acoustics at the same time.

Final Word: On the Best Sound Absorbing Materials

Taking all of these materials into consideration, I believe you can manage to find the one you are in need of.

Pay attention to the characteristics and usage of each material, and in no time you will be free of that annoying noise and have a clear and audible home.