Are you wondering why you’re always turning up the volume to hear a movie’s dialogue? Maybe your favorite Sonata sounds much better when played elsewhere. If you have all the right equipment, then it sounds like you may need to improve your room’s acoustics.
To do this, you’ll need to consider the varying types of sound absorbing materials. These materials help prevent sound within and outside of the room from traveling. In essence, it’s a way to isolate your room, preventing sound distractions. As a result, sounds are more clear and crisp. Fortunately, we have reviewed the top seven sound absorption materials to help you in your search.
How Sound Absorbing Works
We’re always being bombarded with sound waves. These sound waves are either reflected or absorbed by the objects they come into contact with. So, when sound is reflected (also called indirect sound), it returns to the atmosphere, echoing throughout the space. Reflections change original sound, and therefore cause sound issues.
On the other hand, when the sound is absorbed, there is less sound traveling in the room. Therefore, there will be less audio distractions.
Benefits Of Sound Absorption Materials
First off, let’s not confuse sound absorption with sound proofing. While the latter often deals with materials that prevent sound from entering a space, the former deals with sound already in a room.
On a daily basis, you may hear outside noises such as muffled conversations and car engines or inside noises like the drone of the refrigerator or running water. The function of sound absorption is to hold these sounds and keep them from reflecting, or moving about the domain.
In the end, the reduced sound travel allows sounds you want to hear to be clearer.
Sound absorption materials can be found in a variety of locations, which include concert halls, classrooms, theaters and recording studios.
In general, sound absorption has been found to have the following benefits:
Types Of Sound Absorption Materials To Consider
There is an array of sound absorbers on the market. Some are more effective at eliminating the stronger low frequency sound waves while others are more suitable for high frequency. As a consumer, you should consider whether you need to reduce light, high frequency sounds or more serious, low frequency sounds.
Furthermore, materials vary in aesthetics, which can be an essential feature for some.
Each type of material can be placed into one of three major categories: Resonance absorbers, porous absorbers and panel absorbers.
These kinds of sound absorbers are equipped with oscillators and plates. The plates contain holes in them that trap sound inside. Resonance absorbers are quite efficient at absorbing low frequency, making them some of the more popular types of sound absorbers.
There are two categories of porous absorbers: open-celled foam and fibrous. The former works to absorb sound as it passes through its material. The sound is then converted into heat. Small amounts of heat are released back into the atmosphere.
Fibrous absorbers also absorb sound waves and convert them into heat. According to an article published in the National Institute of Health, these types are not typically the best absorption methods for lower to medium frequency sound.
Also called membrane absorbers, these absorbers are known for their ability to absorb low and mid frequencies. They are made of various rigid and semi-rigid materials, which include woods and plastics.
According to Soundbridge, there is a constricted space between the panel and the wall where it is mounted. This causes the fibers to flex and sound to be absorbed.
Best Sound Absorption Materials
If having three main categories isn’t enough, the list gets even more specific. This can make finding the right materials for your needs a little daunting. Luckily, you’ll find a break-down of the top seven materials below.
1. Acoustic Mineral Wool
Though soundproofing is not the same as sound absorbing, as mentioned earlier, this material can do both. This material can be installed into ceilings, walls and floors. Also called rockwool, it’s stone-based and made with Basalt salt and steel slag. It is highly capable of absorbing airborne sounds.
This material is heat tolerant, so there’s little worry of a fire hazard. Furthermore, it doesn’t absorb moisture. This feature can prevent unwanted smells and even the buildup of mold and mildew.
To top it off, mineral wool is affordable, easy to install and suitable for a number of locations.
2. Hanging Acoustic Baffles
- Instead of attaching to a wall, baffles are suspended from high ceilings.
- Baffles are often used in auditoriums, gyms, sports arenas, commercial/industrial buildings, and other large spaces.
Even easier to install are hanging baffles that you can simply hang from the ceilings. They are hung from the ceilings to add to their noise absorption effect. You may find these in a range of styles, from cone shaped to flat and square shaped.
Furthermore, they are made from different materials. Many come with a cotton, foam or fiberglass core while some are made entirely of fiberglass. Sturdier baffles are encased in a metal frame for support.
Because they are available in a few styles and made with different materials, you may be more likely to match these devices to your decor.
3. Acoustic Partitions
These partitions are likely made from polyester or cotton fabric. Their versatility is one of the reasons for their popularity. While they can be mounted to a wall, they are often purchased in large sizes and used as room separators.
Especially beneficial for office spaces, the sound absorbency coupled with the size can give you privacy and peace.
It’s highly likely you can choose from many design options as well. Therefore, they a great add for aesthetics.
4. Acoustic Foam
Next up is acoustic foam, one of the more common absorbing materials. While foam may not be the strongest in terms of frequency absorption, it’s versatile and fun. Foam can be installed wherever you desire, and its lightweight design makes installation fast and stress-free.
You might also appreciate that many brands are available in unique colors and designs, thus complementing your home’s aesthetics.
5. Sound Absorbing Underlayment
- For use with engineered wood and laminate flooring
- Provides cushion over concrete and wood subfloors
Underlayment is applied between flooring, such as hardwood and tile, and subflooring, which usually consists of plywood or concrete. The dense material is composed of rubber, foam or vinyl.
In addition to sound absorption, underlayment is also effective at blocking sound from outside. Also, it’s efficient at reducing noise from walking, as it is installed beneath flooring.
Underlayment mats are usually resistant to mold, mildew and fungi. In addition, they have high heat tolerance. You might also appreciate that many underlayment mats are constructed with recycled materials, such as recycled rubber.
6. Acoustic Cotton Batts
Acoustic cotton batts are made from one of the most natural sound absorption materials. They are usually composed of recycled cotton materials. In addition, their softness makes them less susceptible to germs, fungi, mold and mildew.
Cotton batts are also easy to install in all types of locations.
7. Acoustic Fabric Panels
Last but not least are acoustic fabric panels. They are typically made of wood frames with a foam or fiberglass wrap. These panels are some of the most effective at sound absorption due to their ability to trap low frequencies.
In addition to their effectiveness, they are available in an array of colors to complement your interior design.
Each of the above sound absorbing materials has unique characteristics to consider based on your personal needs. You may be concerned with trivial, high-frequency sounds that don’t pose much of a distraction. In such a case, options like the acoustic foam or hanging baffles may be more appropriate.
If something more heavy duty that can absorb low frequencies is your concern, then you have a few options as well. For instance, the underlayment can be quite effective, but also much more time-consuming to install. Batts and mineral wool are also great for more serious sound absorption. However, you may find their appearance less than aesthetically pleasing.
That leaves us with partitions and fabric panels. Partitions have multiple design options in that they can be hung or even used as room dividers. If I had to choose the best on the list, then the winner would be the acoustic fabric panels, preferably made with high density fiberglass, for a few of reasons.
For one, these panels are equipped to provide superior sound absorption with the ability to trap some of the lowest frequencies. This leaves you with an impeccable acoustic environment where indirect sound is prevented.
Furthermore, these panels are available in unique designs and colors. If you’re like me, having some control over a room’s appearance is almost as important as sound absorption.
In the end, the choice is up to you, and the above reviews are intended to help you make the best decision. Just remember to weigh each of your personal needs to make the right choice. Have a favorite that you’d like to share? Be sure to leave a comment below.