Some rooms emit a distinct ringing sound that vibrates through space and magnifies the volume of every activity into a loud annoying sound that’s awful. You might convince yourself that you can ignore it, but the seemingly minor disturbance turns into a brutal nightmare torturing your peace of mind with time.
These rogue sound waves reverberate to make an otherwise beautiful room less pleasant. Conversations become difficult, and speech sounds muffled and blurred. Excessive echo can also damage your ears, increase your stress levels and make you less productive.
So what’s the most effective way to tackle this acoustic issue? Luckily, we’ve experienced this problem before and found out the best ways to work around the challenge. Even better, you don’t have to spend a fortune to improve your room’s conversational and audio atmosphere. Most solutions involve things you already have at hand and won’t require spending a dime.
What Causes Echo in Your Room?
Before we get into how to tackle the overwhelming sounds in your room, let’s find out what causes your room to echo in the first place. Whenever a sound is produced, the energy within propels it in the form of sound waves. The sound waves continue to flow until the energy is absorbed by something else or it dissipates.
When the sound waves strike a hard surface, they bounce off and spread out in various directions. Since the sound waves are spreading out across several directions, they are probably also bouncing off various hard surfaces across the room in a sequence.
When the sound reflections bounce back into your ears, you hear it as an echo. For instance, when you yell in an empty hall, there are not enough soft surfaces to absorb the sound waves, so they bounce back with no obstructions, and you hear it as an echo.
All hard surfaces reflect sound waves, whereas soft surfaces act as “noise sponges” and absorb the waves and
dissipate the acoustic energy. Since no energy is reflected, no echo is produced.
Several things can worsen echo in your living space. Empty rooms generate a lot of echoes since there’s nothing to absorb the sound waves, so they spin and bounce freely between adjacent walls. Unlike small, cozy rooms, larger rooms with no obstructions produce a lot of echoes because they create more resonance.
Hard surfaces such as bare walls, stone, mirrors, or glass in windows are reflective, meaning they cannot absorb sound because of their structure, increasing the intensity of echoes. Hard floors like wood or tiles are more likely to cause a room to echo compared to a carpeted floor. Also, hard furniture like desks and cabinets can enhance the echo you hear in a room.
Long rooms and tall ceilings cause the echo to become more pronounced. This is because the sound waves travel for quite a distance, and there are fewer interruptions to absorb the waves as they travel across the room.
Although echoes are an annoyingly common problem, there are simple and proven ways to mitigate the sound. Our next section covers in detail 15+ practical and cost-saving ways to tone down the distracting sounds you’re experiencing and create a peaceful atmosphere.
The Most Effective Ways to Tone Down Echo in a Room
1. Buy acoustic foam
Acoustic foam is an insulation material that flattens sound frequencies to eliminate echoes. Once the sound waves migrate into the foam, they spin and bounce inside the small spaces. A significant amount of energy is lost; therefore, no echo is produced.
Acoustic foam is a cost-effective way of minimizing echoes in a room. While brands such as SoundAssured are on the high end, there are other options available that are affordable and function well.
There’s a wide array of colors and patterns you can choose from, including flat pieces, wedges, pyramid, egg crate, grid, and spade. Although the unique shapes absorb and scatter sound waves in various directions, all these serve the same purpose.
Also, consider the thickness when choosing an acoustic foam. Thin acoustic foams absorb only the high and mid-spectrum sound frequencies, while thick foams absorb all high, mid, and low sound waves. We suggest you go for at least 2-inch foams. However, thicker is better in this case, so you can buy up to 4-inch pieces if you’re willing to splurge.
The installation process is super easy. You can mount acoustic foam using various techniques depending on the surface they’ll be installed. You can consider using spray adhesive, strong double-sided tape, push pins, or strips for smooth and drywall surfaces. Construction adhesive is best for concrete and textured surfaces.
If you are renting and don’t want to leave the walls with holes or residue from adhesive, your go-to choice would be the 3M Command Refill Strips for hanging pictures. You can easily peel these off without leaving any dents, marks, or sticky residue on the walls.
Alternatively, you can mount them on a piece of plywood, coroplast, whiteboards, or thick cardboard with adhesive. Then hang the panel on the walls. This allows you to move the panel from one room to another.
2. Maximize on window coverings
Hard surfaces such as the glass in your windows reflect sound waves and make the echo in the room worse. Choose heavier and more ample window curtains, especially if you have large windows.
Ditch the light, gauzy sheers and opt for heavy drapery like sturdy canvas or velvets. Layering your curtains can also help reduce the echo, especially if you have blinds or shades.
Consider pairing your curtains with fabric woven shades or bamboo, as they do a better job of absorbing sounds than metal and plastic blinds. Alternatively, you can also double up your curtain panels since the more soft fabric used, the better the noise absorption. Soft fabric makes it difficult for the sound waves to reflect on the curtain.
3. Decorate with furniture
We earlier highlighted that large soft items absorb the sound waves and dissipate the energy propelling the sound. So, one of the best ways to mimic this effect is by filling the room with lots of large and soft items like furniture. Keep in mind furniture upholstered with fabric best nullifies the sound waves. And not just any fabric but soft materials such as cotton, leather, and polyester. Although “naked” furniture made out of wood or metal can help reduce echo in a room, it is not as effective as the one with soft material.
Furthermore, the size of your furniture is a deal-breaker if you want to get rid of echo. Big-sized furniture dissipates more sound waves compared to smaller-sized furniture.
You can start by adding couches which are quite effective at eliminating echo in a room. More is better. A u-shaped seat or lounge chaise is ideal if you have limited space. Plus, it also creates a warm and cozy sitting area. To ensure you don’t want to go overboard, stick to minimal pieces.
You can also move any large furniture you have into the room. However, this naturally applies to the living room and won’t be practical for a kitchen.
4. Opt for acoustic curtains
By covering your windows with soundproof curtains, you can easily and aesthetically tone down the amount of echo you’re experiencing. Soundproofing drapery also eliminates outside noise, blocks light by up to 99%, and is energy-efficient. They are fairly inexpensive, with good quality curtains going for around $50 to $100 per window.
Unlike regular decorative curtains, acoustic curtains are made of heavy, thick fabric such as velvet, polyester, or suede. They are multi-layered and have an inner porous layer that absorbs sound waves to keep a room from echoing.
It’s worth noting that soundproof curtains can be difficult to install and challenging to wash and maintain. They limit the amount of natural light in a room, making it too dark for comfort. They are also not practical to install in all rooms unless you don’t mind paying higher electrical bills.
5. Carpet floors with rugs
Carpeted spaces experience less echo compared to rooms with hard flooring. Floors made of tiles, concrete, or hardwood can act as reflective surfaces. Wall-to-wall carpeting not only adds warmth and a decorative punch to a space but also reduces echo in a room with a tall ceiling.
Rugs are an affordable and easy solution to achieve this effect. Completely cover the hard flooring using a smooth fur fluffy rug to minimize echo. For an enhanced effect, use the thickest and fluffiest rug you can find since it’ll absorb more sound waves.
However, rugs won’t reduce low-frequency echoes. Since they are not ultra-thick, they can only reduce high-frequency echoes from appliances and speech noises. On the other hand, carpeting minimizes the impact of sounds generated when people shift chairs and walk around. Therefore, fewer sound waves are propelled in the air to cause an echo.
6. Consider soft fabric blinds
Most apartments and homes come with basic hard blinds, often metal or wood. Although they are very functional and do a good job at blocking out sunlight through the windows, they add to the echo in a room. This is because hard blinds, like hard surfaces, reflect sound.
On the other hand, cloth blinds are like curtains; soft, formless, and thick. The layers of fabric plus air pockets help to muffle echo sounds. The thicker fabric is ideal for absorbing reverberating sounds.
Fabric blinds are also easy to install. Most pieces come with installation hardware. You’ll likely have to use magnets or Velcro tape, or snap-in brackets for blinds to be mounted on the inside of the window frame. Furthermore, they are easy to clean compared to other soundproofing materials. You can toss them in the washer or use a microfiber duster for a deep clean.
Switching to a fabric blind will not make your echo problems disappear magically, but when you complement it with other echo-reducing techniques, you can rest assured of a peaceful environment.
7. Hang art and tapestries
To effectively reduce echo, anything you can use to cover the hard walls will help reduce the number of sound waves reflected by the surface. Replicating this effect across all the walls in a room can make it sound better.
Paintings on canvas and tapestries serve to dull sound waves and combat the persistent and loud reverberation while elevating the room’s décor.
Sound dampening blankets are also excellent at reducing sound transmission and echo.
Ensure you position the items on parallel surfaces to disrupt the sound waves from bouncing back and forth between the adjacent walls.
Also, note that when the heavy oil paint dries, it resembles a hard surface and causes diffusion and reflection of sound waves. So, stick to softer wall arts for better results.
Anything soft on the walls will make a difference in the echo intensity in a room. It can be a simple, colorful fabric or even sound layered curtains instead of photographs or paintings.
8. Adopt room divider curtains
One of the most versatile ways to reduce echo in a room is using room divider curtains. They offer exceptional sound-deadening properties and come in a range of aesthetically pleasing patterns, colors, and designs. There are also several ways to mount these curtains to suit any situation.
You can use room divider curtains to cover a small space or an entire room. They effectively absorb reflections and echoes from windows. Furthermore, you can use them to divide your room into multiple spaces to make it smaller acoustically.
What we mean is, they act as back walls and prevent sound waves from traveling to adjacent spaces or echoing. This is great for shared rooms, studios, home theaters, or large family rooms where a person wants privacy.
Bonus tip: room divider curtains also block out light which is great if you’re sensitive to sunlight and want to sleep in past sunrise.
9. Add a variety of plants
If you’re looking for a more natural and eco-friendly approach to minimize echo, consider adding indoor plants to your room. You don’t have to buy exotic plants. Anything leafy green will help reduce the echo in a room.
Larger plants will definitely be more effective than smaller ones. The leaves are the most effective at sound absorption, so choose plants with large, thick, and fleshy leaves. Also, one plant will not solve your echo problems, so fill up the room with plants.
How you arrange the plants will affect the soundproofing outcome in the room. Placing the plants in the middle of the room won’t solve your echo problem. This is because the sound waves will be bouncing off the adjacent walls and not flow through the plants.
An effective solution is spreading the plants across the room. This way, the sound waves pass through the plants, losing their internal energy before hitting the walls. Therefore, there’s less echo in your living space.
Also, move the largest plants to the corners of the room where low sound frequencies are highest to help minimize lower frequency echoes.
Although indoor plants do not absorb sounds, they do a great job scattering sound waves. You can suspend them from the ceilings to help break up sound waves in rooms with no audio obstructions.
10. Arrange full bookshelves
A bookshelf packed with books can act as a thick sound absorber to help reduce echoes from all frequencies. Low-frequency echoes are the hardest to control, but a full bookcase effectively handles them.
Ensure you choose a large bookcase and fill it up with various-sized objects to soften and muffle echoes by forcing sound waves to scatter and diffuse across the room. When you place books at varying depths on a bookshelf, there’s enhanced diffusion, therefore, scattering the echoes.
Once you have a bookshelf full of books, you can proceed to set it up in the room with the worst echo. No bookshelf? Not to worry; here is an affordable option. You can also shop for one at other sites such as Craiglist.
When you have it, there’s no need to stuff it with new books. You can buy inexpensive second-hand ones at yard sales, amazon, used books stores, or Goodwill.
11. Try out acoustic bass traps
We highlighted earlier that lower frequency sound waves have more energy than higher frequency sound waves. This means that they require a more absorbent material to nullify their energy and prevent echo.
So adding acoustic treatments in a room can leave it worse since only the higher frequency sounds are absorbed. As for the lower frequency sounds, they multiply and sound even louder. You’ll need a thicker material to absorb and nullify the energy in the sound waves. Bass traps come in handy for this purpose.
The minimum thickness is 6″ though we recommend you go for the 12″ ones. Low-frequency sound waves are the hardest to tame and tend to accumulate in the corners of a room. Therefore, this is where you’ll realize maximum dampening of bass sounds.
These soundproofing solutions come in handy at home cinemas, mixing rooms, vocal booths, rehearsal halls, and more.
For excellent acoustics, you’ll need to place bass traps at all four corners of the rooms because these serve as hubs where low frequencies accumulate. Ensure you complement this with a technique to block high-frequency waves bouncing back and forth between the walls and high ceilings. You don’t want to reduce lower frequency echoes while increasing the resonance of high frequencies.
Buying bass traps to fill the corners of your room is not cost-effective. Consider going the DIY route and build yourself some bass traps to save cash.
12. Try DIY sound diffusers
Sound diffusers tackle echo in a different way. Instead of absorbing or reflecting the energy, diffusers scatter the waves in several different directions at a go. So, one large sound wave is split into many tiny waves with less energy. This way, no echo is loud and clear enough to reach your ears.
The good thing with using sound diffusers is that they don’t completely muffle sounds in a room. However, they create a full and complete sound for a pristine listening experience. Unfortunately, diffusers alone cannot control deep bass sound waves.
Bass sounds have very long wavelengths; they can easily penetrate outside small spaces. So you might want to use a diffuser with an absorption technique such as acoustic panels to control both high and low sound waves.
Although diffusers are effective at taming echoes, they are a major investment. These high-end equipment are best used in music production studios. Nevertheless, with a little know-how, a bit of creativity, and some tools, you can make one at home.
Other Effective Techniques:
13. Cork acoustic walls, flooring, and ceiling tiles
Cork is recyclable, sustainable, and cost-effective. However, covering an entire floor, ceiling, or wall is quite a steep investment. Cork has exceptional acoustic properties and effectively reduces echo in any living space.
The material is used as an acoustic underlay installed beneath hard flooring for better sound dampening and enhanced acoustics. Cork can also make rolled flooring sheets, floor tiles, and wood plank flooring. It helps minimize echo, vibrations, and sound transmission, giving you a better audio experience.
You can also find mountable panels and wall tiles made from cork. These come in a variety of styles, thicknesses, colors, and textures to complement the décor in your room. They are cost-effective, easy to install, and superb at enhancing the acoustics of your room.
Cork ceiling tiles drastically reduce reverberations and echoes from bouncing off the ceiling. You can easily glue them to the hard ceiling or use them as drop-in tiles to block wave reflections.
14. Switch to mass loaded vinyl
Mass-loaded vinyl is the most effective solution to get rid of echoes for good, but it doesn’t come cheap. You can add MLV to your walls to drastically curtail and absorb sound waves. The flexible membrane covers your drywall all around then another layer of drywall will be placed on top of the MLV.
MLV is very heavy, dense, and limp, and it’s not easy to work around, so you might need extra help to install it. Ensure you seal every open space completely and cover seams and cracks with acoustic caulk.
Although MLV is an effective technique to eliminate echoes, it’s also labor-intensive and time-consuming. It’s not a practical go-to for most people. That’s why we’ve included it last on our list. But, we wanted you to be aware of it in case you are willing to splurge on a more effective solution.
Experiencing an echo problem at your office or home can make it tough to have a calm and peaceful experience. Luckily, there are several effective techniques to help you squelch the sound. So choose one that suits your needs, style, and budget.
Before you settle for any of the techniques on our list, you need to find out the echo source to save on time and money. Also, consider complementing different techniques at the same time for maximum echo-proofing.