Have you ever tried to soundproof a room with egg crates or acoustic foam? This attempt must have failed miserably, making you question: do soundproof panels really work? And what do they even do?
Soundproof panels prevent sound waves from entering and exiting a room. Soundproofing is also referred to as “sound isolation” which literally means blocking sound with physical barriers. These panels dampen the noise and clutter within a room by limiting the transmission of inside sounds to the outside.
Typically, soundproof panels are made of a highly porous foam that, in principle, absorbs vigorously bouncy sound waves in an enclosed space. Their absorption, in combination with strategic positioning and coverage, essentially cleans the air for a balanced sonic experience.
Why Do You Need Soundproof Panels?
The most commonly recognized reason for soundproofing a room is to stop bothersome outside sounds from coming in. Usually, you can find them in recording studios, home theatres, offices, co-working spaces, and other places where an uncontaminated sound environment is an absolute necessity.
Another common reason is to stop noise from getting out of your space. Vloggers, musicians, and other sound experts who regularly make a lot of noise essentially use soundproof panels so they don’t disturb others within their vicinity.
People familiar with nuances of sound often complain, particularly about smaller spaces. Because a relatively small space usually faces amplified effects of room modes and needs proper attention, especially if there is a large sound source present.
Moreover, well-soundproofed apartments or homes increase the value of a property. You can feel the serenity and isolation upon entering such rooms. The overall sound quality also improves while you stay far away from outside noise. Privacy, comfort, and health are a few other reasons you need soundproofing in your house.
How Do Soundproof Panels Work?
Soundproof panels work by mitigating and dampening sound in a room. They’re aimed at suppressing excess sound waves from a room. But before we delve into the details, let’s discuss ‘noise’.
The Concept of Noise
Sound waves possess vibrational energy that uses a medium such as air, liquid, solid or gas to travel. These waves travel from the source in a straight line until they hit another surface. If the surface allows, the vibrational energy of sound waves moves (or tries to move) the surface with the same energy.
When such waves hit surfaces like ceilings, walls, etc. while passing through, their movement is altered and vibrations or new sound waves are produced. The new waves can be heard from outside the room in the form of muffled sounds that “escaped”. The louder it gets, the more energy escapes.
The Physics of Soundproof Panels
Soundproof panels are made of mineral wool or foam that dampen the sound waves. Their surfaces have porous openings that control reverberations and absorb sound waves. When sound travels through the foam, it starts vibrating and creates friction around pores or the fibers.
The vibrations reach a point where the sound energy is converted into kinetic energy which then dissipates in the form of heat, leaving no sound waves behind. This way, sound energy gets absorbed into the dense layers of the soundproof panel before they even reach the wall behind.
So, by mere conversion of one form of energy to another, you can contain inside sound in and isolate a room from the outside noise.
Soundproof panels work best on walls to stop noise from exiting or entering a room.
What Do Soundproof Panels Do?
Soundproof panels make sure that outside noise stays outside and inside noises stay inside! They are widely used to deaden unwanted noises in auditoriums, hotels, libraries, condos, and recording studios.
You might never notice everyday noise inside or from outside, out of habit, until you step foot into a soundproofed room. Noise from traffic, people, fans, air conditioners, computer equipment, etc. can greatly affect concentration levels and/or quality of sound.
What Soundproof Panels DON’T Do?
It’s a fairly common mistake to mix up soundproofing with acoustic treatment. Oftentimes you’ll hear someone saying they need to soundproof their studio to control standing waves or echoes. What they really mean is acoustic treatment, as soundproofing only creates a barrier to restrict the transmission of waves through walls.
Therefore, to clarify it further:
- Soundproofing equipment (panels, foam, etc.) blocks noise outside or inside an enclosed space to make it quieter. They isolate a space from outside noise or keep neighboring spaces free of sounds from inside.
- While on the other hand acoustic treatment (acoustic panels, foam, or bass traps) enhance sound quality by reducing the number of reflecting waves in a room. Such bouncing sound waves when left untreated can mess up other waves in the room. Thus, acoustic treatment targets at improving the overall sonic experience by eliminating echoes and reverbs.
Types of Soundproof Panels
There are two main types of soundproof panels. Wedge ridge soundproof panels and egg crate soundproof panels.
Wedge Ridge Soundproof Panels
This is a rather modern and stylish version of the typical soundproofing foam. You can arrange these sleek panels horizontally or vertically to match the décor. Their surfaces are covered with ridges or squares of alternating design that trap waves from any and every direction.
A wedge ridge panel is usually one inch in thickness and around one square foot. These panels come in various colors and give you the freedom to choose according to your space’s aesthetic. Wedge Ridge panels are cheap. So, if you’re just starting out, this is your best pick!
It is important to mention here that though these panels provide sufficient soundproofing, they are not enough if you wish to block out severely loud noises. You’d need thicker and denser layers for your room to be entirely soundproof.
Egg Crate Soundproof Panels
As the name hints, these panels resemble egg cartons/crates in appearance but are considered comparatively better at the job. They are around 2.5 inches in thickness and due to the use of more mass, they tend to be heavier than the thin wedge ridge panels.
Egg crate soundproof panels have a high noise reduction coefficient. Owing to their huge sizes you’d only need a few for complete coverage. They are relatively expensive and not as aesthetic as wedge ridge panels.
They arrive rolled up in plastic and take two or three days to completely expand to their max size. So, you’d have to wait for them to bloom before you install them on your walls.
Soundproof panels are confused with acoustic panels time and again. Ergo, it’s crucial to know what soundproof panels do and how they are used before you make the final purchase.
Soundproof panels are an effective solution to noise and sound cluttering. They work on the principle of absorption to deaden noise in a room. Depending on the severity of noise and your budget, you can choose from the two types available. Wedge ridges are cheap and aesthetic but somewhat meek at soundproofing in contrast to egg crate panels which are rather expensive, more effective but not as aesthetically pleasing.
All in all, soundproof panels majorly contribute towards a safer and healthier sonic environment. They DO work, and are worth your investment!