How to Choose The Best Acoustic Foams for Your Studio & Home

Studio and Home Studio owners know the importance of having a good audio system. Without it, you can’t mix your music or record vocals properly. Investing in acoustic foam is one way to make sure your room has great sound quality. There are many types of studio foam available on the market today, so how do you know which ones are best for you?

Whether you need absorption or reflection, there is a solution for you that will work perfectly with your room size and design style. This blog post will help break down some of the different types of acoustic foam that are currently available and tell you about their pros and cons to find out which type is right for your needs.

Hopefully, this article will give you enough information to go ahead and purchase with confidence!

The Difference Between Acoustic Panels and Soundproof Foam

Yes, these both are distinct things.

Acoustic foam is there to soak up and eliminate sound from bouncing around on all sides of a room, reducing echo, muffling, and reverberation when trying to record, mix or listen to the music.

In contrast, acoustic panels are designed to block sound from entering or exiting a room. It absorbs the sound waves and traps them inside the room (like loud music), or stops the outside noise from coming in through (like noise from traffic).

The term “soundproof foam panels” is deceptive because these panels don’t offer soundproofing. They absorb sound waves, echoes and minimize reverberations inside the room.

For example: if you record in your studio, you need acoustic foam to eliminate the echoes or reverberations of your voice bouncing back at you. If someone is doing drum recordings and hearing themselves on delay, they will hear a constant repeat of their own sound which obviously isn’t what is wanted.

The better the quality of the soundproofing material, the less echo or reverberations you will hear. Yet, sound-deadening acoustic panels won’t solve soundproofing problems.

Now back at the soundproofing materials. These materials are substantial and rigid, so they are meant to block out sound from the outside world or to keep the inside noise in.

Soundproofing materials have a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). It measures how well they can reduce sound transfer between two different areas.

Soundproofing materials are more solid and heavier than acoustic panels to prevent sound from traveling through walls to different rooms. On the other hand, sound-deadening materials are made of soft and squishy materials.

They are meant to absorb sound so that the room you are in doesn’t reverberate with unwanted noise; they can also soak up excess sound waves to reduce echo.

To help you understand the sound better, imagine it is water. If you splash a bucket of water on a wall covered with sound-dampening materials, which are soft and porous, the water will be absorbed by the material. The same thing will happen with the sound waves hitting the sound deadening material.

However, if you splash a bucket of water on a hard and rigid soundproofing material, it won’t be absorbed. Instead, the water will bounce off the wall and splash back to you.

Installing acoustic panels and expecting soundproof will be as disappointing as placing soundproofing and expecting the sound-deadening effect.

In short, acoustic panels are there to eliminate the unwanted echo or reverberation of your sound and to absorb excess sound waves to control noise within a room. On the other hand, soundproofing panels are good for keeping noise from outside or inside the room.

What are the Benefits of the Acoustic Panels?

The benefits of acoustic panels include the following:

  • Reduction of noise pollution – While these panels may not stop all the noise coming from outside the room, they have a great noise-dampening effect on your room. These panels are designed in such a way that they absorb the sound directed at them. This makes it easy for you to control the noise coming from different parts of the room and to keep your focus on what is happening around you.
  • Enhanced audio quality – acoustic panels are useful because they enhance audio quality, ensuring that the recording sounds as good in person as on paper. It also helps to avoid the problem of echoes that may distort the output.
  • Improve work environment – The less sound pollution and echo you have in your room, the more productive you will be as this avoids interruptions during work. These panels are, therefore, worth buying because they enhance focus and improve the working environment.
  • Condos & Apartments – Apart from the benefits mentioned above for sound-dampening purposes, these panels may help in reducing noise pollution caused by your neighbors. This may be also done by using decibel-rated drywall or acoustic foam to add more sound insulation properties to your walls.
  • Home Theaters – A home theater system works best when you have a sound-deadened room. Setting up a home theater can be challenging because it requires proper sound equipment and powerful speakers not to miss any part of the movie experience. These panels help in reducing echo, which improves audio quality, thus allowing for a good cinema environment at home.
  • Recording studios – Recording studios should have high-quality equipment to be able to record the best sounds. These panels are essential since they provide a sound-deadened room for recording purposes. They enhance audio quality that is similar in both live and recorded settings. They also help in reducing noise pollution and echo, which improves the quality of recordings.
  • Churches, libraries, and auditories – These panels are also important in places of worship and educational institutions such as libraries, auditoriums, churches, and classrooms. This is because they improve the acoustic quality that helps control the environment and avoid unnecessary disruptions during services or lectures. Acoustic foam enhances the transfer of sound by dampening the noise.
  • Hotels – Hotels are also prone to noise pollution that can make guests uncomfortable and reduce the quality of their stay. It is easy to control the sound in a hotel room by using acoustic panels, which absorb or reduce noise, thus keeping your guests comfortable throughout their stay.

What are the qualities of an acoustic panel?

To make shopping for acoustic panels an easier task, you need to know the qualities of an acoustic panel. Below are the most important qualities of acoustic panels:

  • Acoustic performance – Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) and Sound Absorption Coefficient (SAC) – These are the abilities of the panel to absorb and reflect sound waves. The higher the NRC, the greater ability to absorb sounds. This means that at a rating of 1, we will have maximum sound absorption, while at a rating of 0, we will have a maximum sound reflection. The best acoustic panels have a high NRC rating of 0.7-1. All of the products we selected in our list have an NRC rating above 0.80.
  • Physical characteristics – The most important physical characteristics to look after are the weight of the panel, the thickness, the size, and the density. The best acoustic panels are light enough to be easily installed by one person. The second most important physical characteristic is thickness. Thicker the better – When looking for acoustic panels, it is best to look for thicker ones than other similar products. To achieve good sound absorption, the panels should have around 3 inches thickness; 2 inches is recommended. The third physical characteristic is the size and the density of the panel. The larger the surface area, but more dense the panel is, will have a generally better acoustic performance. The other physical characteristic is the weight of the panel, but this characteristic does not influence acoustic performance.
  • Appearance – Even if we should pick acoustic panels depending on their acoustic performance, we should also look at their appearance. Do they match the style of our room? Are they esthetically pleasant? In general, grey and black are most common, but other colors are also available. It is important to choose an acoustic panel that is the right match for you and your taste so that they don’t appear as painful objects on the wall.
  • Cost – The final but no less important characteristic is the cost of the panels. We want products that are high quality and perform well, but without overspending on them. When we buy acoustic panels, we should look for something that is not cheap but still good value for money. Factors like size of the panel, thickness, number of panels in a pack, and quality of the material will influence the price.

The Best Acoustic Foam Panels for Home & Studio

Here’s a list of acoustic foam with great features.

Auralex Acoustic Absorption Foam

This Acoustic Absorption Foam is one of the best choices offering great performance at a low cost. The materials of these particular soundproofing panels are carefully chosen to reduce standing waves and flutter echoes by dampening high-frequency sound reflections that can travel back and forth between two surfaces.

These acoustic foam panels can also be used to control bass frequencies to avoid unpleasant room-shaking sounds. These sound panels have an NRC rating of 0.80, which is quite good for the sound absorption panels in terms of a higher range of acoustic frequencies offered.

Each pack includes 24 pieces of panels with a total surface area of 24 square feet. Each panel has dimensions of 12  x 12 inches, providing a total size of 24 x 2 x12. The small size of the panels makes them appropriate to fit into even the most intricate and creative designs in any room.

Pro Studio Acoustic Wedge Foam Tiles

Pro Studio Acoustic Wedge Foam Tiles provide acoustic sound absorption necessary for recording studios, control rooms, and home studios. The tiles feature an uncompressed foam that is not warped or damaged from highly compressed packaging.

Like the previous product in our list, these acoustic panels are 2″ thick and 12×12 inches. Unlike the previous product, Pro Studio Acoustic Foam comes in two colors – charcoal or blue. With a low NRC of 0.65, these panels are not as sound absorbent as Auralex but are still a great deal. The package includes 12 acoustic panels – six blue and six charcoal, covering 12 square feet.

Pro Studio Foam Tiles are made in the USA. The Pro Studio tiles also have a class A fire-resistance rating, perfect if you’re worried about fire hazards.

Auralex Acoustics SonoFlat

Another great solution from Auralex Acoustics, the Sonoflat, is a 1″ thick slab of multi-purpose acoustic foam. Don’t let the thickness fool you because it’s made up of high-quality sound-absorbing foam with a firm backing that will not sag. With an NRC rating of 0.95, these panels provide even better soundproofing than the Auralex Studiofoam.

The Acoustics SonoFlat is a high-density, open-celled acoustical foam panel. It controls how reflective a room’s ambiance will be by absorbing high/mid-frequency reflections. The Sonoflat also alleviates flutter echo and slap back because it’s designed not to resonate.

The package contains 14 12×12 inches panels, and each one is CNC-cut for a precise fit. These sound panels come in three different colors – burgundy, charcoal, and olive green. The panels are flame retardant and meet flammability standard UL 94 HF-1, so you don’t have to worry about it catching fire.

Audimute AcoustiColor Tiles

When aesthetics are important for your acoustic treatment, Audimute AcoustiColor Tiles are an excellent choice. These tiles are made of 1.5 inches thick acoustic foam with a wide variety of colors. The smooth design and clean lines look great in different environments from the studio to the home.

Even if the panels are not 2 or 3 inches thick, they have an NRC rating of 0.95, which is quite a spectacular noise absorption rating. These acoustic tiles are top-quality and fire-resistant and can be used as an effective and affordable noise barrier.

Audimute acoustic tiles are always 1.5 inches thick, but they come in different sizes ranging from 1-1, 2-2, and 3-3 inches. For those of you with special requirements about the shape and size of the panel, this manufacturer has special order options. You can also customize your AcoustiColor Tile Panels if you prefer – send an email, and they will be happy to help you create the perfect color combination.

Foamily Pyramid Sound Absorption

There are many different types of sound-absorbing materials, and it can be hard to choose the right ones for your needs. But if you’re looking for a quality product that will work well in most situations, then Foamily Pyramid Acoustic Foam is the way to go.

This product is pretty affordable, considering how well it works. At just $20 per package, you’ll get six sound panels that are 2 inches thick and 12-12 inches on the sides, which is a good value for your money.

One of the best features is that it’s a long-lasting material, which means you won’t have to buy other acoustic foam anytime soon.

These panels come in ice blue and charcoal colors ad works best for small and medium rooms. In addition, this product is easy to set up and does not require any complex installation work because it’s very lightweight. You can put it on the ceiling or on the wall without any problem.

Achieving the Best Acoustic Performance

It matters how and where you install acoustic foam to achieve the best performance. It is not enough to place a piece of foam with little consideration for the room’s acoustics, your intended use, or how it will function in the space. How the sound panels are mounted in the room also matters.

To have a high level of acoustic control, you should use foam panels that cover enough wall and ceiling surfaces as is needed for your particular space – not just one or two random pieces here and there. For the installation, we recommend using these materials:

  • Sprays or Adhesives3M Super 77 and Auralex Acoustics FoamTak are high-quality adhesives that will not deteriorate foam over time. These are easy to use and help create a strong bond between the foam and its mounting surface. Here we should mention that the adhesive bond to the wall is so strong that when you decide to remove the sound pannel, it will cause damage to your walls or ceilings.
  • Command Strips – Command Strips are great for temporarily mounting a sound panel. They’re easy to use and require no glue. They won’t destroy your walls or ceilings and leave no residue behind. The downside here is that using strips requires a few more operations during the installation of the sound panels.

VIDEO HERE

  • Hanger Hooks – Hanger Hooks are another good option for mounting foam. They’re easy to use and cost-effective. But, they require a little more planning in the installation process. Hanger hooks are included in some acoustic foam packages. Either way, if the foam you choose doesn’t have hooks, or you need more, you can buy them separately.
  • Push Pins – Using push pins can be effective, but only in some cases. The sound panel should be thin enough so that the pushpin can penetrate it and the surface behind it. The downside is that you will have to remove the pin when you’re ready to move or change the position of a piece of foam. And, they will leave holes in your walls and ceilings.

After we covered the most common ways of installing sound panels, we should say that the easiest method is by using command stirps because they allow you to quickly and easily change the position of a sound panel. You can also use spray or adhesive if you plan on leaving them in their place for good.

A good alternative is attaching your sound panels to plywood or thick cardboard with sprays or adhesives. Then you can hang or lean the panels as needed. This will give you great flexibility in how the sound panel can be used, make it very easy to change the panels’ position when needed, and, most importantly, remove the risk of structural damage to the walls and ceilings.

Alternatives to Acoustic Foam Panels

When acoustic foam is not a solution for you, you have plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Acoustic diffusers

These diffusers have a lot of similarities with the foam tiles. They also improve the sound quality of the room by helping with sound reflections and echoes. Unlike sound foam, which absorbs sound, acoustic diffusers redirect it. They disperse the sound waves, making them softer and more balanced.

Bass Traps

This acoustic solution is directed at lowering the low sound frequencies in a room. By using them, you improve your room’s bass response and, thus, its overall sound quality. We already know that acoustic foam covers mid and high frequencies. To better improve the sound quality of your home studio, you need to have a combination of acoustic foam and corner bass traps instead of using them as a replacement. In this way, you will be able to control room resonances and destructive reflections in all frequency ranges.

Mass Loaded Vinyl

MVL is a high-tech insulation material that is used in the construction industry for soundproofing. It can be installed between the studs and joists or right next to the wall surface.

Mass-loaded vinyl is very dense, and instead of absorbing the sound, it simply reflects it so that it does come back into the room. These qualities make MVL a great soundproofing notion. That’s why you’ll still need additional sound absorbers (foam tiles, acoustic diffusers) when using MVL as an alternative to acoustic foam panels.

How to DIY Your Own Sound Absorbing Panel

When the look of the sound-absorbing panels matters the most, the DIY option is a good choice. We have to admit that DIY acoustic foam panels are cheap (yet effective) solutions when you have limited space and money but want to improve your studio’s acoustics. Here we’ll cover the whole process of building the panel from scratch, so you can make one for your room and get better sound at a low price.

  1. Choose the sound-absorbing material. It could be mineral wool or low-density polyurethane foam, depending on your needs and the space you have.
  2. Create a wood frame for the material of your choice
  3. Choose a sound transparent fabric in a color that matches your needs
  4. Mount the DIY panel on the wall or ceiling using some of the methods mentioned above

Conclusion

Now you know what to look for when choosing an acoustic material and the most common ways of installing sound panels.

Remember that materials with good acoustical qualities need to be mounted properly to be effective.

Sound absorbing material needs to be placed in the right places, and it is essential to consider the room dimensions when installing panels.

It’s necessary to combine acoustic foam, diffusers, and bass traps for better sound quality.

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