“Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night?” These words mark the beginning of the iconic commercial from the 1984 Ghostbusters film.
Fortunately, you don’t have to call paranormal investigators if you wish to reduce unwanted echo or reverberations in a room. Instead, a more practical solution would be to check out this list of 10 examples of best sound-absorbing materials.
What Are Sound-Absorbing Materials?
First, what are sound-absorbing materials? You’ve probably heard of “soundproof” rooms such as recording studios, but “soundproofing” and “sound absorbing” are two entirely different things.
Whereas the former is concerned with keeping outside noise out of a given space, the latter absorbs sound and improves the acoustics of a given area. To stick with our recording studio analogy, it is soundproofed insofar as it keeps outside noise from getting into the room with the musicians and singers, while also featuring interior padding and other arrangements to absorb excess sound and improve acoustics, so as to optimize the overall quality of the recorded sound.
Types of Sound-Absorbing Materials
With that vital distinction out of the way, let’s take a look at some different sound-absorbing materials. There are various ways sound can be absorbed, as evidenced by the different materials on this list.
Take porous absorbers, for example. These are materials that feature pores that trap and absorb the sound in question, converting them into heat so that only a fraction of the sound can escape and be heard. Materials with foam are an excellent example of this, as the pores which make up these materials are especially well-suited for absorbing sound. The same holds true for carpeting, curtains, and similar woven textiles.
At the other extreme are items without pores that work as panel absorbers. Doors and windows are a perfect example of this. They may not look like much, but they can absorb some sound and have soundproofing qualities, as well. Think about how shut windows and doors are able to both absorb the sound in a room while limiting the amount of outside noise that can enter the space.
List of the 10 Best Sound-Absorbing Materials
Are you asking yourself, what are the actual products you need to buy to put all this theory into practice? With that in mind, here is our list of 10 examples of sound-absorbing materials and products. All of these are available to you on Amazon.
1. Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foam is undoubtedly the most widely known and used sound-absorbing material. What makes it such a popular choice is the fact that it is super affordable and easy to install. You usually find it in the form of panels with different pattern shaping their surface (like pyramids or wedges). The design doesn’t really affect the performance, so you can pick the one that looks more aesthetic to you.
Acoustic foam doesn’t offer the highest level of echo reduction, which is why it is best suited for small to medium-sized places. You can easily apply it to a variety of locations, from homes to offices and small studios. What makes it practical is that you can use it to spot-reduce sound. All you need to know is where exactly to place it for maximum effect.
These Acoustic Foam Panels from Mybecca are great choice. They are made in the U.S. and come uncompressed, meaning you can start using them straight away. Each panel covers one square foot and is one inch thick, which means that a 12-pack of panels will cover a decent amount of wall or another surface. You can arrange them in an alternating pattern of horizontal and vertical wedges, and they will end up looking really nice.
2. Acoustic Fabric Panels
Acoustic fabric panels consist of a built-in solid wood frame that is wrapped in fabric with sound-absorbing properties. They are an excellent solution for all types of rooms, private or public. And not only are they effective, but they are also easy on the eye. In fact, the good looking texture of the cover fabric makes them suitable for all kinds of interiors.
Acoustic Panels from ATS Acoustics have an NRC rating (Noise Reduction Coefficient) of 1 (out of 1), which guarantees a superior sound absorption and makes them count among the best in our list of best sound-absorbing materials. The fabric used for these panels is jute, however, if you prefer a more elegant look, you can pick those that are wrapped in microsuede (click the link and see how they look).
They are really easy to mount to walls, basically no harder than hanging a framed painting. And to make things even easier, they come with all the necessary hardware and instructions for installation.
3. Sound Absorbing Curtains
Even though they are often called “soundproof curtains,” they don’t block as much sound as they do absorb it. Besides their acoustical abilities, they can also block the sunlight or act as thermal insulation. These features make them well-suited for bedroom windows, where you require a particular level of calm and quiet.
There are a few things you need to consider before buying your first pair. First, you need to check their weight. While heavier curtains are a pain when attempting to hang them by yourself, they actually prove to be much better at absorbing sounds then light-weight versions.
Additionally, you have to take a look at the material that curtains are made out of. Your best bet is to go for something that is tightly woven and has a soft and plushy surface, like suede or velvet.
For maximum results, you should get curtains that go from ceiling to floor and are at least a few inches wider than your window (or door, if you intend to use them for the door). Nicetown Blackout Curtains, for example, are available in different sizes, including a more extended, 95- and 120-inch versions. They come in a variety of colors that makes them easy to match your furniture and other decors.
4. Sound Blankets & Moving Blankets
You normally use heavy moving blankets to protect your walls and furniture from physical damage when you are moving house. Still, people quickly found out that you can also use these blankets as a cheap solution for sound absorption.
Like with other similar applications, you can’t expect them to absorb all of the noise; however, they can muffle it to a more manageable level. To get the best results, try these heavy U.S. Cargo Moving Blankets that weight eight pounds each thanks to multiple layers that are stitched within the product (these additional layers enable them to absorb more sound).
5. Sound-Absorbing Underlayment
Floor underlayments are designed to provide you with top-quality sound absorption while remaining out of sight. You can install this layer of fabric over a wooden or concrete subfloor, and under a wide array of floor finishes. This product can significantly reduce impact noise, such as the sound of footsteps or falling objects.
Roberts’ Sound Absorbing Underlayment boasts a Sound Transmission Loss Test score of 66, as well as an Impact Sound Transmission Test rating of 67. It is made of felt. Apart from reducing impact sound levels, this product makes the overall sound in the room softer and reduces echo through absorption.
6. Acoustic Bass Traps
Bass traps or bass absorbers are popular and sought-after sound absorption products. In contrast to all those large panels and boards we mentioned so far, bass traps are small and portable objects. Another major point is that you can use bass traps to absorb low sound frequencies, which many other absorbers allow through.
This product is made of acoustic foam. You typically place bass traps in the corners of a room, but they are also effective if you install them on flat walls.
7. Fiberglass Insulation
Acoustic fiberglass is a popular choice of sound absorbent material for DIY installation. It is rigid, weighs little, and you can cut it into the appropriate shape or size with everyday tools. Fiberglass is a porous absorber. You can find these panels in various sizes: 1, 2, or 4 inches thick, in this example product.
You can install acoustic fiberglass panels on walls or ceilings. That shouldn’t be too difficult, given the fact that you can manually alter their shape. We advise you to have the entire wall covered with the panels. Likewise, some users like to wrap the panels with fabric, such as burlap, for a greater effect.
See this product: Owens Corning Acoustic Insulation.
8. Acoustic Polyester Panels
AcePunch polyester sound-absorbing panels boast an NRC as high as 0.94. You can use them in studios, home theatres, offices, gaming rooms, and other locations. You can obtain these panels in a variety of colors, which makes it easier to fit them into your home decor.
Since they are made of polyester, these panels also serve as great temperature insulation. As an added benefit, that feature makes it possible to save as much as 35% of energy by using these panels. Besides, they are fire-rated, chemically safe, odor- and dust-free.
9. Drop-Ceiling Tiles
Acoustic panels are easy to install on walls but are not always the perfect solution for your ceiling. That is why you can choose sound-absorbing ceiling tiles as an alternative. Ceiling Tiles are ideal for kitchen ceilings, basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms or any other locations where you would find tiles appropriate
Sound absorbing ceiling tiles are usually made of PVC. They are easily washable, fire-rated, mildew- and mold-resistant, and easy to install. Keep in mind, however, that these tiles are somewhat less absorbent than thick fiberglass panels.
10. Sound-Absorbing Room Partitions
Wall and ceiling panels can be practical, but they certainly do not meet all your needs. If you want to reduce echo and dampen sound in a specific section of a larger space, room partitions are the best choice for you.
These partition curtains are made of 100% heavyweight polyester. What makes them especially useful is the fact that they block light as well as absorb sound. Thanks to these features, they provide a simple way to create privacy. You can apply them to this effect in shared bedrooms, dorms, lofts, or workspaces. The curtains are black, simple, and sleek, which makes them easy to match with any interior.