Do Acoustic Panels Keep Sound Out or In?

Whether you’re getting acoustic treatment for your residence, office, studio, theatre, or anywhere else, you’ll find yourself asking the same question: “Do acoustic panels keep sound out or in?” or “Do acoustic panels block sound?”

Acoustic panels do not block any sound and are not designed to keep sound in or out of a space. Acoustic panels work for sound absorption which is not the same as sound blocking. Though some people have had contrasting experiences, if you’re looking to entirely block sound in or out, you shouldn’t rely solely on acoustic panels.

It’s confusing and equally hard to pin down what will work the best for your space if you’d like to block sound. In this article, we’ve attempted to clear some common concerns when it comes to the effect of acoustic panels on sound.

When Do Acoustic Panels Keep Sound In?

To keep all sound inside a space, you must handle every low, mid, and high-frequency sound produced inside or coming from the outside. Acoustic panels, however, only work on high and mid frequencies. They are usually made from porous material which can trap only a certain amount of air that carries sound waves.

For instance, if you have a recording studio and want to maintain creativity, aesthetics, and high sound quality within, acoustic panels would do the job perfectly well. They can prevent most (not all) noises and other commotions from outside. However, if you’re acoustically treating a room to play drums in, you’d need proper soundproofing instead of just acoustic panels to block sound in. 

Difference Between Sound Absorption And Sound Proofing

It’s a common mistake to tie the term soundproofing with anything that has an impact on sounds. These two are undoubtedly the most confusing yet largely interchanged terms revolving around sound. To clear up the misconception, you need to know what each of them means and their uses.

Sound Absorption means the gradual loss of energy as a sound wave passes through dense material. Sound absorbing materials such as foams, panels, and fabric are used to prevent sound waves from bouncing off of hard surfaces. The reduced reflections consequently eliminate echoes, reverberations, and noise in a space. This phenomenon will work only to dampen the sound produced inside a room.

On the other hand, soundproofing refers to resisting sound waves from traveling through a surface. Dense substances create a barrier and obstruct sound in a place. They block sound from coming in or going out of a room.

How Do Acoustic Panels Work To Keep Sound Out Or In?

Acoustic panels work simply by absorbing or taking in sound waves that would otherwise create echoes and reverbs recoiling around the room. This tames mid and high-frequency sound waves to a great extent but won’t do much with low frequencies due to their porous composition. This is why acoustic panels cannot entirely keep sound in or out of a room.

Foam acoustic panels may trap considerable amounts of air making them seem like they are soundproof. But they primarily work to enhance the quality of sound in a closed space. They balance sound resonance if placed strategically around the room but can’t keep all outside noise from coming in. 

Do Acoustic Panels Work Both Ways?

We have gathered mixed reviews on acoustic panels working both ways. As discussed above, some have had success in keeping sounds outside or inside a room using just acoustic panels. This product can still manage to reduce noises going out or coming in, although it wasn’t conceived to work both ways.

Hence, acoustic panels can work both ways when it’s about noise reduction. The material and composition of acoustic panels impact soundproofing effects as well. However, the best way to keep sound out or in a room is to soundproof it!

There’s a bright chance that it’ll work both ways when both sides of the wall are treated with acoustics. This might as well soundproof the room! Commercial properties largely utilize acoustic panels in the same way and for the same purpose.

What Do Acoustic Panels Ideally Do? Keep Sound In Or Out?

Ideally, acoustic panels are used to create a richer sound experience in a room, but they can mitigate noise and disturbances to some extent as well. If we have to compare whether they’re better at keeping sound out or in, we’d say they’re slightly more effective at keeping sound in.

Why? Because when you add acoustical absorption inside a space, it reduces the overall decibels from escaping into the outside environment. Moreover, echoes produced in a room tend to travel more through walls, and controlling them will drastically impact the sounds that leave a room.

What Is The Best Way To Enhance Sound In A Room?

Now that we’ve got answers to common queries like “do acoustic panels keep sound in?” or “are acoustic panels soundproof?”, let’s see the best way to actually keep sound from traveling through walls.

The best way, perhaps, is to use a combination of soundproofing and acoustic panels/foams in your room. Soundproofing material will isolate and keep the sound outside or inside the room, whatever you aim for. Whereas, acoustic panels will absorb all the unnecessary sound waves to prevent reflections and distortion.

The result is a high sound quality within a closed space. Such spaces are perfect for speaking, listening, recording, or playing an instrument. However, keep in mind that for acoustic panels to work, they need to be placed at the right spots in the room. Correct placement will allow them to “catch” sound waves at the right time and place.

Conclusion

Do acoustic panels keep sound out or in? From the discussion above, we can conclude that these panels can “conditionally” keep sound in!

What many people fail to understand with acoustic panels is that they work as sound-absorbing equipment more than soundproofing. These panels are pretty light to act as a sound barrier. However, if you’re able to ensure that the foam material used is angled, soft, and porous, you can reasonably expect to keep sound in or out of a room.