Best Acoustic Panels and Soundproof Foam 2020 (with Installation Guide)
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Whether you are trying to deal with the traffic noise, noisy neighbors or perhaps you do not want to disturb the neighbors with noise from your studio, then you will certainly want to soundproof your house.
Depending on your budget and how much sound you want to block out, there are a couple of ways that you can achieve a soundproof home.
Even if you were wondering how to sound proof garage whether it’s a part of your house or not – there are still ways, and no, you won’t need an expert.
Acoustic panels are perhaps some of the cheapest methods you can use to achieve sound deadening in your home.
I love taking on new soundproofing projects and when a friend asked me help set up a spare room in her house for her YouTube channel, I was more than happy to.
We’ve covered everything from a newbie questions such as “is foam soundproof?” to reviewing & testing some of the best acoustic sound panels.
We set out looking for the best soundproofing panels and the experience was definitely worth it.
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Acoustic Panels and Soundproof Foams
If you are looking to purchase and install some acoustic panels, there’s no doubt that you may feel overwhelmed. Well, this article is meant for you and for anyone who’s looking for soundproof acoustic foam installation.
We will take a look at some of the best soundproof foam panels there are out there, what to look for when you consider buying some as well as how to install and use the panels to achieve sound deadening.
What are Acoustic Panels?
Acoustic panels are special kinds of soundproofing foams that are most of the time open-celled. Usually, they are made of polyether, polyester or extruded melamine.
These soundproof foam panels reduce the amplitude of sound waves by increasing the air resistance. This is what makes them great for soundproofing.
Some panels are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is a great material for soundproofing as well.
This is because the friction between the fibers and air result in the loss of a lot of sound energy.
The most common isolation is a foam insulation which is often used for soundproofing purpose.
Because these acoustic panels are made of soundproofing materials that have a chemical composition, first-time users may notice a chemical odor.
However, you need not worry about the odor. It is not harmful and goes away after some time.
Bass traps are a type of acoustic panels too.
What to Look Out For When Buying Acoustic Panels for Soundproofing
So, you have decided to use acoustic wall panels to soundproof a certain room in your house.
How do you know what foam panels to choose?
There are so many kinds of soundproofing wall panels out there.
If you simply decide to go shopping without having a defined strategy, you may end up confused and settle for panels that just don’t cut it.
With a proper strategy and knowledge, you’ll be able to get the best acoustic treatment for the money you spend.
Here are a few things to take into consideration while you are shopping for best acoustic foam panels (or bass traps).
Patterns on the Surface
Most foam wall panels will come with a certain pattern on the surface. The most common acoustic foam patterns are pyramids and wedges.
While there are plain acoustic foam panels as well, I find the patterned ones more aesthetic.
Decide on what pattern you would want for your panels before you go out to buy them.
When setting up these panels, you can play around with the patterns and achieve one huge pattern on either your wall or ceiling.
The patterns do not really affect the performance of the foam wall panels. That’s why you should also keep the material choice your priority.
However, panels that have wedges tend to collect dust in between the wedges. You will, therefore, have to schedule more cleaning time for such panels and that’s something to think about up-front.
Acoustic foam panels are available in different thicknesses. And it goes without saying that the thicker the better.
When you are looking for the best acoustic foam for soundproofing, it is important to consider the thickness of the panels.
Thicker panels will certainly be able to provide more soundproofing as compared to thinner panels.
This is because thicker panels are able to absorb low-frequency sound that thinner panels may not be in a position to.
However, before deciding on the thickness of the foam panels, take into consideration where the panels will be used.
For example, thicker foam panels will be ideal for your home office but may not necessarily be a great option for your recording studio.
Also, do consider if you want to use them as corner bass traps - then the shape matters too.
Noise Reduction Rating (NRC)
If you go through the product descriptions of the acoustic panels, you will notice the NRC rating on each one of them.
The NRC rating basically transfers to how much sound the acoustic panels can deaden.
Panels with higher NRC ratings will typically deaden more sound as compared to those with lower ratings.
Choose acoustic foam panels with NRC ratings depending on how much sound you actually want to deaden.
Dimensions and Number of Panels
Of course, the panels are sold in packs. The number of panels in each pack depends on what brand you bought from.
Typically, the packs will have 6, 12 or 24 panels. Each panel will be either 1ft², 2ft² or will have dimensions of 2ft by 4ft.
Although the dimensions of a single acoustic panel do not matter, it is important to take it into consideration as it will overall affect what area you want to soundproof.
Before going out to buy the panels, I suggest taking measurements of the wall, ceiling or room that you want to be soundproofed.
This will give you a rough idea of the number and dimensions of panels that you should purchase.
Where Do I Get Soundproof Foam Panels?
You may have gone shopping for these foam panels only for you to get back with nothing. Acoustic foam panels are generally not found in stores.
Your best bet would, therefore, be to buy them online.
There is almost any noise cancelling panel type out there, and once you go through this article – all you have to do is choose the one that will fit your needs.
You can easily get foam panels on Amazon and other online shopping sites. You also get them faster and at even cheaper deals.
Below, we recommend some of the best soundproof foam panels and you can get them on Amazon simply by clicking on their names.
Best Acoustic Panels and Soundproof Foams 2020
There are a couple of acoustic panels out there, and just like any other thing, there are good, as well as bad ones.
While setting up the room at my friend's house, we got to try a couple of panels before getting the one that suited her best for absorbing sound.
Testing is important and that’s why you should try out a couple of different panels (if possible) to find the ones that will provide the best noise cancelling results for your environment.
Here are some of the best we came by:
There’s no doubt about it, most acoustic foam panels are not visually appealing. You may be thinking: as long as they serve their purpose, there’s no need for aesthetics, right?
Well, with this particular acoustic panel, you get to block unwanted sound while at the same time maintaining a somewhat appealing look.
These foam panels come in a pack of 12 and are of high quality. They are relatively inexpensive and will help reduce the amount of sound passing through them significantly.
Installing these panels is also quite easy. They are not self-adhesive although you can use any adhesive to attach them to the walls.
You could also decide to gun staple them to the walls. I, however, suggest using command strips to set them up.
The overall design of these foam panels was quite unique. The cuts and the foam were certainly worth the money. The panels are of high quality and are very durable as well.
What we did not like about these foam panels was that they were a bit too thin. They worked great in reducing the echoes in the room. However, they do not work that well to dampen sound from outside the room.
Another disadvantage of these panels was the fact that these foam panels cannot be used for larger areas.
In case you want to soundproof a bigger room, I suggest looking at other options.
These acoustic foam wedges are relatively cheap as compared to other acoustic panels in the market.
So, if you are working on a relatively low budget, then these are a great option.
Some acoustic foam panels may distort the quality of sound and are therefore not ideal for recording studios.
These panels, however, do not distort the sound. The wedges on the panels help to trap sound, further reducing echoes.
These panels are quite versatile and you can use them on walls, ceilings, doors, and windows.
You can actually place them anywhere, as long as you need to block out the sound in that area. They are ideal for home studios, home offices, gaming rooms, home entertainment rooms among others.
My friend tried these panels acoustic for a couple of months and they really worked great. It was certainly shocking that they did make a significant difference, seeing as they were too thin.
Although she loved them, after a couple of months, the foam started crumbling. These panels are a bit on the flimsy side and because of this, they are not quite as durable.
What's more, because they are quite thin, you may accidentally rip them when setting them up. This, therefore, calls for more attention.
If you decide to go with these panels, then be ready to do some serious cleanups. The wedges trap dust inside them. Cleaning is not much of a hassle though.
You can simply vacuum the panels and have clean wedges in a matter of minutes.
Acoustic foam panels come with a variety of surface designs.
However, the most common patterns are usually pyramid patterns and wedges patterns.
The unique egg crate design on these foam panels is, therefore, a bonus.
Because these panels are extra thick (around 2.5 inches), they are very good at absorbing unwanted sounds. I also love the fact that they are bigger than most foam panels.
At dimensions of 4 feet by 2 feet, you will require fewer panels to soundproof one wall.
For shipping purposes, these foam will come rolled up and compressed. I suggest giving them a couple of days to expand before installing them on your walls.
One great advantage of these panels is the versatility that they allow. Besides sound absorbing, you can use these panels for lining a gun case.
You could also use them for protecting any valuables that are breakable when you are moving or traveling.
Another way to use these panels is making a soundproofing box around a microphone.
If you intend to use the microphone in a recording studio, this will help you achieve the same results as soundproofing the entire room without actually having to do it.
The downside of these panels is the fact that the panels tend not to be cut properly. This makes it difficult to perfectly align the panels when installing them.
Regardless of what color you pick from the variety that these come in, you will achieve the same great results.
These panels are an open-celled acoustical foam that is of high density. It is made of high quality and you can be sure that the foams are durable.
Unlike foam panels made from cheap materials, these will not compress or crumble with time.
It is a known fact that acoustical foam tends to have a not so appealing look. However, these panels have been cut to precision to ensure the edges add to the overall appealing look of the panels.
If you are looking for panels that will absorb low-frequency sounds, these panels may not work for you.
They are best suited to absorb mid to high frequencies. They also work great to alleviate flutter echo and slap back.
When looking for acoustic soundproofing foam panels, most people do not consider fire retardancy.
Most foam panels will, in the event of a fire, spread the fires quicker. These foam panels from Auralex Acoustics are however fire retardant.
This fire retardancy property basically means that should a fire break out, the panels will slow down its spread or reduce the intensity.
Of course, you wouldn’t think of a fire breaking out in your house, but it is great to be prepared in the event it does.
A great disadvantage of choosing these panels as your soundproofing panels is the price. If you are working on a low budget, these panels may cause you a certain strain.
Is there an Alternative to Acoustic Foam Panels?
As I mentioned earlier, the classic soundproof foam panels may not be entirely appealing and may mess up the whole aesthetic look in your house.
For this reason, you may want to try out something else that works just the same.
Well, the good news is that you actually can. If you are looking for something different from the foam panels, I suggest you look at the Mutex Soundproofing Material.
Mutex soundproofing material is a unique material.
Unlike the soundproof foam panels, this is made of polymute resin that is interlocked with carbonweave. These two work together to deaden sound.
I especially love this soundproofing material because of how thin it is. It is only about a ¼ inch thick and yet still manages to significantly reduce the amount of sound that passes through to a room.
If you are considering using Mutex soundproofing material, I suggest doing so as the house is still under construction.
The best results with this material are achieved when it is placed behind a dry wall.
Because of this, installing the Mutext Soundproofing Material once construction is completed may be quite difficult.
One advantage that this material has over the acoustic foam panels is that you will probably have to buy it only once. All foam panels tend to compress over time.
However, the Mutext Soundproofing Material does not compress over time. It is, therefore, a one-time investment.
With soundproofing foam panels, you get to deaden sounds such as echoes. However, vibrating sounds such as those from dishwashers and air conditioners will still pass through.
The Mutex Soundproofing Material is especially great for deadening these sounds. The material is, therefore, ideal for all kinds of surfaces.
How to Install Soundproof Foam
With soundproof acoustic panels, the real job comes after you have decided and bought the panels. Installing your panels is where you will need all your energy.
When installing these panels, your main goal should be to get the panels up on the walls or ceiling without causing significant damage to your house.
If you have no idea of what to do or have never installed acoustic wall panels before, then you are better off asking someone else to do it.
You could easily cause irreparable or expensive damage to your walls.
Using spray adhesive, nails or staples to pin the panels to the wall will certainly cause some damage. So, how do you go about it?
Luckily for you, there are a couple of DIY steps that you can take. You will have the soundproof wall foam set up in a couple of minutes and the best part is that you do not have to damage your house.
Here is what you need to do:
1. Decide on the overall arrangement of the panels
I mentioned earlier that acoustic foam panels have different patterns on them. You could arrange these patterns in such a way that you get an overall design on your wall.
Most homeowners get to installing the panels without a clear picture of how they want them to look in the end. As a result, they end up wasting a lot of time as they put up the panels.
In worst case scenarios, you could install the sound insulating foam panels in a certain way only for you to realize that you would have preferred a different method.
Depending on the surface pattern on the panels you purchased, decide on the best arrangement pattern that you want. Should you need to, measure out the panels and try stacking them in the way that you want. You could even mark off the wall using some tape, just to be sure.
2. Mount the panels on cardboard
If you are going to be installing single panels, then you do not have to mount them on a cardboard. However, for panels that are going to be installed in groups, using a cardboard is the best way to go about it.
Seeing as it is the cardboard that you are going to mount on the wall, it is safe to go ahead and use adhesive. Apply some adhesive at the back of the panels and then mount them on the cardboard. If you do not have adhesive, you might want to try this spray adhesive.
Once the adhesive is all dried out, cut off any excess cardboard, just for aesthetic purposes.
3. Attach the cardboard using command strips
The final step would be attaching the cardboard onto your wall. For this, you can try these command strips to ensure you do not cause damage to your walls.
Although a single acoustic panel is not usually heavy, a group of about four panels will certainly cause some strain on the small command strips. I suggest trying the heavy-duty command strips for this.
Using these command strips is simple enough. All you have to do is remove the adhesive at the back of the strips and apply some pressure so that it can hold. Place the strips on the back of the cardboard and once you are done, place the whole cardboard on the wall and apply pressure so that it sticks to the wall.
An advantage of using command strips is that you can easily remove the cardboard and place it elsewhere in case you place it wrong.
If you are placing the foam panels each on its own, then small and medium-sized command strips should work just fine. In case the foam panels keep coming off, al you have to do is keep adding the command strips until you get it right.
Acoustic foam panels can be used to soundproof the ceiling as well. If this is the case for you, then you have to ensure you place enough command strips on each acoustic panel, preferably at the top and the bottom, so that they do not fall off.
Placing the acoustic foam panels
An advantage of using the acoustic foam panels for soundproofing is that you can use them on just about any surface; doors, windows, walls, and ceilings.
Ultimately, where you place the foam panels depends on how you intend to use the room.
For example, if you are going to use the room for recording, you will have to place the foam panels at specific points.
This is especially important if you're using them as bass traps.
For this, you will have to determine the points at which sound bounces off and place the foam panels there.
If you are only looking to reduce the amount of sound that gets into your room, you can place the foam panels on your door.
This will deaden the sound that comes from outside the room. Placing some acoustic panels on your walls as well will help.
You can place the panels on the ceiling if you are looking to minimize the sound that comes from the room above.
Using acoustic foam panels for soundproofing will certainly be more of an experiment. You will have to try placing the panels in several positions before you find out which ones work best for you.
The good thing is that with command strips, this becomes so much easier.
Read here for more information on hanging acoustic panels.
Acoustic foam panels vs fiberglass insulation
While checking out other options for soundproofing, there’s no doubt that you will come across fiberglass insulation.
Of course, this will lead you to wonder, ‘Which one is better, foam panels or fiberglass insulation?’
Fiberglass, by far, is better than acoustic foam panels. However, before you decide to use fiberglass instead of the acoustic panel, there are certain factors that you need to consider.
For one, using foam panels is so much easier than fiberglass, unless you have the fiberglass installed during construction.
With the foam panels, you can easily install them on your walls after construction. They are also a relatively cheaper way of absorbing sound.
Using fiberglass insulation will require a professional or someone who has some experience in construction.
However, for foam panels, you can easily set them up yourself in a couple of minutes.
Can I Use Soundproof Foam Spray?
Other than the soundproof acoustic panels, you may want to try out acoustic spray foam. However, I do not recommend using it. Here’s why.
Although acoustic foam can be great for sound deadening, using it limits you. This is because you can only spray the foam during construction or during major house renovations.
You can spray the foam just about anywhere. However, It will look awful and will leave a huge mess.
If you are planning to use it during construction, then you can be sure it will work great, especially when sprayed between floors. If this is not the case for you, then I suggest using the acoustic foam panels.
Does acoustic foam actually block sound? How does soundproofing foam work?
You probably quickly answered this with a definite ‘yes’. Well, you are wrong. Acoustic foam does not block sound.
You are probably confused at this point but let me explain this to you.
There's a huge difference between sound blocking and sound absorbing.
Sound blocking will require you to use thicker and much denser materials. These materials reduce the amount of sound, or in better terms, blocks out sound from getting into the room.
Usually, multiple layers of these materials are usually stacked together before eventually putting them up on a wall.
In summary, sound blocking will ensure that sound from outside the room does not penetrate the walls.
However, sound absorbing involves reducing the bouncing off and echoing of sound in a room. This is how acoustic foam panels work.
(Bass traps 'trap' the bass.)
The fluffy and porous materials used to make the foam panels disrupt the sound path and convert the sound energy to energy heat.
The question whether or not acoustic panels blocks sound is one that causes several arguments. You have probably seen the foam panels being used in recording studios.
Most people assume that they are used so as to block sound from outside the recording studio.
However, recording studios will usually use a couple of layers of caulk and insulation that work to block sound from penetrating them.
This is what makes them so great for soundproofing rooms that are used for recording or home studios.
Making your own soundproofing foam panels
Perhaps you have looked all around for acoustic foam panels and you just haven't found the right ones. Or maybe you just enjoy taking on some DIY projects.
Then, you will be pleased to find out that you can actually make your own soundproofing foam panels.
If you decide to make your own soundproofing panels, you need to prepare yourself adequately beforehand.
This DIY option will certainly cost you more and require more of your energy. If you are fine with this, then you can go ahead and get started on your project.
Making the soundproofing panels on your own will give you a chance to get creative and decide on what patterns, colors, and designs to for.
For this project, you will need to purchase a mineral wood board or a fiberglass board. You will also have to get some screws, adhesive and fabric cover as well.
For the fabric cover, you can play around with designs and colors to come up with something that perfectly suits your taste.
Final Note on The Best Soundproofing Foam Panels
|Acoustic Panels Studio Foam||13.2 x 12.7 x 7.4 inches||0.85 pounds|
|Acoustic Panels Studio Foam Wedges||12 x 12 x 2 inches||0.75 ounces|
|Egg Crate Panel Acoustic Studio Foam||48 x 24 x 3 inches||2.7 pounds|
|Auralex Acoustics Sonoflat Acoustic Absorption Foam||12 x 12 x 2 inches||1 pound|
When all is said and done, acoustic foam panels are among one of the cheapest methods that you can use to soundproof a room.
However, as we have mentioned, they only work to reduce the bouncing of sound and echoes within the room.
If you are looking to block out the sound from outside the room, then you are better off looking into other methods of soundproofing the room or acoustic treatment.
I had so much fun installing the foam panels with my friend. It took us a day but we were finally able to set up the room perfectly. She can now easily record her YouTube videos without unwanted echoes.
The best part is that we were able to arrange the panels to give one beautiful gigantic pattern.
Making your own soundproofing panels will take so much of your money, time and energy but it can be a fun project to work on with your family.
What’s more, you have total control over how the room turns out eventually.
Whether you want to soundproof that home theatre, recording studio or just that spare room that you want to use for band practice, look into some acoustic foam panels and try them out.
Acoustic panel foam is very popular, but you should try out acoustic panels made of different materials as well and see which noise reduction works the best.
Since no one lives in the same environment and no one has the same needs – it’s all about experimenting to get the best results for the money invested.
If you get the right foam panels, you will certainly notice and love the difference the panels make!