Are you looking for better sound in your studio or home theater? Does your space suffer from echo, reverberations, and generally poor sound quality? If so, investing in acoustic foam panels can be part of the solution.
In this article, we’ll be introducing you to the best acoustic panels for absorbing sound in any room of any size. With enough studio foam, placed in just the right positions, you can enjoy greatly improved sound quality during your recording or listening sessions.
5 Best Acoustic Panels Compared
*Last updated 2020-04-03 at 08:11 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Truth about Acoustic Panels and “Soundproof Foam”
The first and most important thing that you need to know is that acoustic foam panels are not the same thing as soundproofing foam. Yes, they are both used for controlling sound, but their primary functions differ.
They are for acoustical treatments – Acoustics treatments like foam improve the sound quality in a room by reducing echo, reverberation, muffling, and absorbing sound.
They are not for soundproofing – Soundproofing is the process of using special building materials to help block sound from entering or exiting a space. That is, you reduce the sound people outside a room can hear (like a music room), or reduce sound from outside a room from coming in (like road noise).
The phrase “soundproof foam panels” is actually a misnomer. Acoustic foam panels feature sound-deadening foam won’t actually block noise from outside. Instead, what they do is minimize echoes or sound reverberations within a room.
For example, if acoustic panels are installed in a recording studio, they improve the sound quality of recordings by absorbing residual noise, ensuring that only the intended audio is picked up by the microphone.
How well soundproofing works at eliminating noise depends on the quality of the material and how well it is installed. However, sound-deadening acoustic panels made of foam will not make a room soundproof.
Soundproofing materials are rigid and very dense, which is why sound can’t travel through them. Instead, sound bounces right off them. On the other hand, acoustic treatments are typically made from less dense materials, such as acoustic foam. This material is soft and squishy, which is what enables it to absorb sound reverberations.
A better way to understand this is to think of sound as water. If you throw a bucket of water at a wall covered with rigid and dense soundproofing material, like sound, the water will simply bounce off and splash back at you. If you throw that same bucket of water at a wall covered with sound dampening panels, such as an acoustic panel, the water – like sound waves – will be absorbed by the cushioned material of the panels.
If you install acoustic panels for soundproofing purposes or install soundproofing and expect the results of sound-dampening panels, you’re going to be disappointed.
Simply put, acoustic panels containing “soundproofing” foam are used for absorbing sound. This improves the sound quality within a room by reducing echo and reverberations. Unlike dense and rigid soundproofing materials, it will not block sound from entering or exiting a room.
Important Benefits of Acoustic Panels
Now that we’re clear on what acoustic panels are, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can benefit from installing it in a room.
- Reduce Noise Pollution – Sound dampening panels may not be able to completely stop noise pollution from getting into a room from outside, but they will muffle it. More importantly, they dampen noise pollution generated within a room by absorbing excess or residual noise. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t get a migraine if you live in a noisy home.
- Improve Sound Quality – If you want to enjoy improved sound quality in your recording studio, home theater, or other sound critical rooms, acoustic panels will reduce echoes by absorbing any reverberations. With residual noise minimized, you can enjoy undistorted sound that is clearer and cleaner.
- Enhance Work Environment – Less noise and better sound quality usually lead to less stress, which has the added benefit of improving focus. Being able to focus and remain relaxed in a work environment is crucial to the happiness of workers in all kinds of jobs.
Not sure where to install acoustic panels and enjoy their benefits? You can install them in any room where you’d like to keep excess noise to a minimum. They work even better in sound-critical rooms where sound quality is important.
- Condos & Apartments – Installing acoustic panels in shared residences makes them more hospitable thanks to the noise-dampening effect of the sound-deadening foam.
- Home Theaters – With acoustic panels strategically installed in your home theater, you can enjoy your sound system to the max. The sound panels will absorb most of the residual noise, leaving you with nothing but crisp audio.
- Music Rooms & Recording Studios – To avoid recording echoes that’ll spoil the quality of a sound recording, we strongly recommend acoustic panels for music rooms and recording studios.
- Libraries, Auditoriums, Churches – In libraries, the acoustic foam will absorb noises that may bounce around the room. In churches and auditoriums, acoustic foam boosts the delivery of sound by dampening background noise and allowing sound waves to travel in only one direction.
- Hotels – The sound-dampening quality of the panels can make hotel rooms and lobbies feel more peaceful, relaxing, and inviting.
How We Rated Acoustic Foam Panels
To determine the best acoustic panel to satisfy your unique needs, you need to know what qualities to look out for. Below are some of the criteria we use in determining the most effective acoustic panels.
- Acoustic Performance (NRC) – NRC (or Noise Reduction Coefficient) per ASTM C423, also known as Sound Absorption Coefficient (SAC). This rating indicates how effective a material is at absorbing or reflecting sound. A rating of 0.00 means a material is perfectly reflective, while a rating of 1.00 means perfectly absorptive. The best acoustic panel products have an NRC rating that’s between 0.70 and 1. The rating is given based on the percentage of frequencies they can muffle. Most of the top sound panels that made our list of best acoustic panels have an NRC rating of 0.80 and above.
- Physical Characteristics – Size, thickness, density are all important when selecting acoustic panels. The thicker the sound-deadening foam, the better. Most top-quality panels are at least 2 inches thick. The size and density of the material are also important as they affect how easy it’ll be to install the panels, especially if you intend on installing them in a tight corner that requires bending the material.
- Appearance – The most common colors for acoustic foam are gray and black, but depending on the brand, you can find these products in a variety of colors and patterns. While picking acoustic panels that are actually effective at sound dampening is important, it’s also important to pick panels whose color best complements the aesthetics of a room, especially if it’s a commercial establishment where you need to make a good impression on clients.
- Value – Acoustic panels are available at a variety of prices. The price is often affected by the quality, size of the panel, number of panels in a pack, and other factors. Go for an option that offers the best price without compromising on features and quality. Remember to look at thickness, not just the size of panels when comparing the cost of products.
11 Best Acoustic Foam Panels for Home & Studio
1. Auralex Studiofoam Wedges
These sound panels have an NRC rating of .75 to .80. They deliver great performance when it comes to eliminating sounding reverberation. They’re also a great value thanks to the affordable price and the number of panels you get in a pack.
Each pack contains 24 2-inch-thick, 12-by-12-inch panels that can be installed on a variety of surfaces. The 24-pack is sufficient to cover 24 square feet of surface space. There’s also an 18-pack option.
The small size of the panels makes them a versatile option for installation as they can fit on any surface. The panels are also fire-resistant. The only real downside of this product is that it’s available in only charcoal gray.
2. Pro Studio Acoustics Foam Panels
Like Auralex Wedges, this sound panel is 2 inches thick with 12-by-12-inch dimensions. Unlike Auralex, you aren’t limited to just gray panels, as you can get Pro Studio Foam Panels in blue or charcoal.
The NRC rating of this product is a bit low at 0.65, which means it’s not as sound-absorbent as Auralex Wedges. However, it’s still a great value that delivers 12 acoustic tiles in each pack – six blue and six charcoal, which can be installed in an alternating pattern or any other pattern you prefer.
Each pack is enough to cover 12 square feet. The product is verified fire-retardant to ensure the safety of your room. It comes highly recommended for installation in control rooms, recording studios, home entertainment theaters, home studios, and other sound-critical environments.
3. Auralex SonoFlat Absorption Foam
Here’s another top choice from Auralex, but unlike the Studiofoam Wedges, SonoFlat is 1 inch thick. Don’t let the underwhelming thickness fool you, though. This high-grade acoustic foam has an NRC rating of 0.95, which is far ahead of the Studiofoam’s 0.75 ratings.
Each pack contains 14 12-by-12-inch panels, and you can get them in any of three colors – charcoal, olive green, and burgundy. SonoFlat panels are a great choice for their aesthetics and sound dampening efficiency.
4. Auralex Roominator Acoustic Foam Kit
The Roominator is for those of you who like to buy in bulk. The kit contains 36 panels that are 2 inches thick and 12-by-12 inches at the sides. You get the perfect quantity to cover 36 square feet of studio or room space.
Each pack has two colors of panels. You can opt for the pack that offers 18 charcoal and 18 burgundy panels or 18 charcoal and 18 purple panels. The kit also contains its own EZ-Stick Pro Mounting Tabs, which you can use to install your panels on the ceiling or walls.
If aesthetics are just as important to you as sound quality, we recommend the very pretty AcoustiColor Acoustic Panels. You can get these acoustic tiles in a variety of colors and patterns that can either blend in with the décor of a room or stand out.
Each panel is 1.5 inches thick but still able to effectively minimize echo and reverberation in a room. You can get them in a variety of sizes, ranging from 1-by-1 inch to 3-by-3 inches. To ensure you get acoustic panels that best meet your needs, there’s also the option of getting custom shapes, images, sizes, finishing, and framing for your order.
Regardless of your order’s shape, size, or look, Audimute guarantees an impressive NRC rating of 0.95. Audimute Acoustic Tiles are top-quality, fire-resistant, and simply look amazing, making it our top choice for commercial applications where impressing customers matters.
6. Foamily Pyramid Acoustic Foam
If your primary goal is affordability, Foamily Pyramid Acoustic Foam is an option you should seriously consider. With just $20, you can get a pack of six panels. Each is 2 inches thick and is 12-by-12 inches on the sides.
The ability to buy these in a variety of colors and patterns for wall or ceiling installation is also a huge attraction. They work best in small rooms.
More from Foamily:
The Foamily range of acoustic panels is known for their affordability and user-friendliness. It’s why they are so popular among DIYers. Wedge acoustic foams from this brand are 2 inches thick and 12-by-12 inches in size. Each pack contains six panels, which is enough to cover 6 square feet of wall, floor, or ceiling.
The egg crate design of this sound panel increases its sound absorption efficiency. The fact that it’s 2.5 inches thick also contributes to its effectiveness. You can get a six-pack in red, charcoal, burgundy, and ice blue.
9. Mybecca Beveled Acoustic Tiles
These tiles are 1 inch thick, but they have an NFC rating of 0.80 to 0.90. Each pack contains 12 12-by-12-inch tiles but only in charcoal. These wedges are only 1 inch thick, but they’re definitely a potent sound absorber. Each pack contains six panels which break into 12 wedges. Unfortunately, you can only get this acoustic dampening product in charcoal. On the upside, the material is fire-retardant.
This foam is 1.5 inches thick and has an NFC rating of 0.80 to 0.90. There are 12 tiles in each pack. Each tile can be split into two egg crates. The uneven surface of the panel is great for reducing unwanted sound reflections.
Getting the Most Out of Your Acoustic Panels
How and where you install acoustic panels go a long way in determining how effective they’ll be. The most popular spots in a room to install acoustic panels are the walls and ceiling. For installation, you can use any of the following methods.
- Spray on Adhesive: 3M Super 77 or Auralex FoamTak are strong adhesives that’ll keep an acoustic panel in place for years. The only downside to using these adhesives is they work so well that they cause damage to the wall or ceiling if you uninstall the panel.
- Command Strips: Here’s another effective option that keeps your acoustic panels firmly stuck to the desired surface. Unlike spray adhesives, though, they can be easily removed. The only downside, compared to spray adhesives, is that they require more steps during installation (see the video below).
- Hanger Hooks: Some panels come with hooks to hang on the wall. If an acoustic panel doesn’t come with hooks, you can buy them separately.
- Push Pins: Pins only work if the acoustic foam is thin and light enough for the pushpin to go all the way through and into the surface behind it. The main downside with this method is the pinholes left in your drywall after removal.
If you are looking for an acoustic panel installation method that protects your wall from damage, such as that caused by push pins and adhesives, consider using 3M Command strips. Regardless of how long they’ve been installed, 3M Command strips can be peeled off with ease and leave hardly any residue or behind.
Alternatively, attach your acoustic panels to a single thick cardboard or plywood board with the help of adhesives. The board with the panels can then be leaned or hung on the desired wall. By not attaching the sound panels directly to the wall, you eliminate the risk of property damage.
Acoustic Foam Alternatives
If for whatever reason you are not a fan of acoustic foam, perhaps because of its cost or appearance, here are some alternatives to consider.
Diffusers are quite similar to acoustic foam tiles. Like acoustic foam, diffusers improve the sound quality in a room by eliminating residual sound or echoes. Unlike foam, which absorbs sound, acoustic diffusers redirect sound.
A diffuser reduces sound reflections and echoes by scattering sound waves in many directions, thus diluting residual noise.
A bass trap is a type of acoustic dampener that absorbs sounds of a specific wavelength. Unlike acoustic foam, which absorbs sounds that are of a mid/high-range frequency, corner bass traps only absorb low-frequency sound waves. This is why they are typically installed with, rather than instead of, acoustic panels.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
Mass loaded vinyl (MLV), is a non-toxic soundproofing product. Its dense material is effective at blocking sound vibrations from passing through a structure. Unlike acoustic foam tiles, which absorb sound, MLV blocks and reflects sound, making it better-suited for soundproofing a room.
The DIY Route – Building Your Own Sound Absorbing Panels
If you don’t like the look of the wedge style acoustic foam, you can easily make your own designer acoustic panels using materials easily found at home improvement stores. The process goes like this:
- Select a sound-absorbing core material. The core can be dense fiberglass or mineral wool.
- Construct a wood frame around your core panel.
- Select a sound-transparent fabric to wrap around the wooden frame. The fabric can be any color or pattern that fits into the aesthetic of the room.
- Mount the panels to your wall or ceiling with adhesives, a hook, push pin, or other material that best suits you. You could also simply lean it against your desired wall.
That’s all there is to it!
Upgrading your home studio, music room, or theater is a sound decision, figuratively and quite literally. By investing in the best acoustic foam (soundproofing foam if you will), you can dramatically reduce the echo and reverberation, resulting in a cleaner, more robust sound profile.
We highly recommend Auralex Acoustics Studiofoam Wedges and Pro Studio Acoustics foam panels for your project. Be sure to also read up on how to place and hang acoustic foam to get the best performance out of your materials.
*Last updated 2020-04-03 at 08:11 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API