7 Best Sound Absorbing Materials to Improve the Acoustics in Your Room
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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.
However, knowing which materials are absorbing the acoustics in your room the best, in my opinion, your sound treatment job will be half-way done.
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.
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.
Even though it might put you through a sound insulation experiment to find the right balance, it’s totally worth the time and effort.
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.
It’s most likely that you will be coming across different types of sound panels, but knowing what material to look out for is going to save you some money and provide you with best results possible.
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.
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.
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.
Do acoustic panels work? Most of the time they do – but the trick is to still pay attention to the material as not every acoustic panel will provide the same results.
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.
They’re often made of sound reducing materials which are ideal to improve acoustics inside your room.
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:
Fabric-wrapped acoustic panels are twice as effective as absorbing noise, hence you'll need a thinner panel compared to foam.
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.
Porous expanded polypropylene panels (PEPP) are one of the most unique sound absorption products available today.
The BlocknZorbe sound panel has the uncommon feature of being good both at BLOCKING and ABSORBING sound. It’s rated for STC and NRC!
The PEPP panels come in white and charcoal, and are used when other panels just won’t cut it. Because the panels are waterproof, you can clean them easily – even with a power washer!
The charcoal version of BlocknZorbe is UV stable so it can be used outside, and lasts 20+ years. Cover a wood enclosure or fence to increase how much sound is blocked and also absorb the sound hitting the fence.
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.
The EcoVerb Natural Cotton Panel even comes in a variety of colors to easily blend into any environment.
It is easy to install it whether in offices, homes, auditoriums, theatres, or wherever you need sound absorption.
Polyester panels are another cost-effective option for absorbing sound, but they come with the added benefit of looking decorative.
The PolyZorbe Polyester Panel comes in black, beige, or white. If you want to improve acoustics in a room without breaking the bank, polyester is a great choice because it has an uncommon blend of good looks and low cost.
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.
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.
The key is to find an acoustic soundproofing material that will work well with the type of walls and environment you have inside and outside your home.