Soundproofing is the process of controlling unwanted noise using specialised materials. The type of noise produced plays a critical role in determining the most suitable materials to achieve the desired outcome.
Soundproofing encompasses a broad range of situations and solutions, from homeowners seeking relief from noisy neighbours to conscientious businesses seeking to minimise their noise impact on nearby areas.
There is a wide array of soundproofing materials available, each tailored to specific applications, with varying degrees of effectiveness based on the type and source of the noise, the construction of existing walls, the building’s structure, and other significant factors.
Understanding Soundproofing Materials
Sound is a form of energy that travels from a source, creating vibrations as it comes into contact with air or any objects in its path. These sound waves are then transmitted to the listener’s ears, where they stimulate the brain. Soundproofing materials aim to reduce the amount of sound transmitted from the source to the recipient.
In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore 15 effective soundproofing materials. Each has unique features that aid in sound reduction and possess varying degrees of noise-blocking properties. Whether you are seeking to reduce airborne sounds or sound vibrations, there are acoustic insulation solutions available to suit your needs.
15 Best Soundproofing Materials
Soundproofing materials exist in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, it is critical to understand where and how they should be used for the best results. Here are 15 soundproofing materials that can help with noise reduction and absorb or block sound.
#1 Acoustic Membrane
There are multiple varieties of acoustic membranes available, which vary both in their effectiveness as well as their weight. Acoustic membrane comes in a variety of thicknesses and is rated by different dB (decibel) reduction levels across various Hz (Hertz) frequencies.
The weight and thickness of the acoustic membrane affects its effectiveness, so it is important that you make the right choice when you are looking at this material.
Uses: a good sound insulation membrane that excels at reducing sound transference.
#2 Acoustic Mineral Wool Insulation
Open-cell insulation materials, such as mineral, rock, or stone wool, are excellent at absorbing acoustic energy (as well as being a good thermal insulator). This material is often used in stud walls and other cavities, and despite its riginess, is easy to cut to size.
Utilised in both residential and commercial constructions, it is available in a variety of thicknesses and densities, and is a good cost-effective option.
Use: soundproofing walls and ceilings, good for creating acoustic panels and bass traps, and as soundproofing insulation in domestic to commercial spaces.
#3 Soundproof Fibreglass
Soundproof fibreglass insulation has multiple uses, but is particularly used in commercial buildings, theatres, and home recording studios to create effective acoustic panels. Fibreglass soundproofing material usually comes in board or slab form, and is particularly good at reducing noise entering or exiting a room through an existing wall.
You can choose from a variety of options with varying strengths, densities and thicknesses. Some boards are better suited to eliminating high-frequency noises while others excel with lower-frequency bass noises.
Uses: in home cinemas, theatres, recording studios, and anywhere where soundproofing is needed, extremely versatile.
#4 Soundproof Plasterboard
Soundproof plasterboard differs from the common types of plasterboard (or drywall as it is sometimes known), available at most DIY stores. Possessing greater density and mass, it has good capacity as a wall soundproofing solution.
Thick drywall must be used in conjunction with other soundproofing techniques, such as tapes, sealants, membranes, and caulks, to produce effective soundproofing outcomes.
Uses: can be used in any building or room
#5 Soundproof Floor Underlay
The natural sound transmission that takes place across hardwood and engineered floors can be greatly reduced by using floor underlay.
Although there are numerous options to consider when looking at soundproof floor underlay, felt is one of the most popular used for hardwood, engineered and laminate floors. They are typically constructed from heat-treated and compressed fibres to create a material capable of excellent sound absorption.
Uses: perfect for engineered or hardwood floors
#6 Soundproof Floor Mats (Anti-Vibration)
Soundproof mats are able to block vibrations and annoyances like humming. These kinds of mats work well to reduce noise and, because they reduce vibration, they are also perfect for installation inside and beneath appliances and machinery, as well as for soundproofing cars.
In order to lessen undesired regeneration and resonance and improve audio performance, they can also provide a certain level of acoustic absorption on a surface or inside a space.
Uses: beneath or behind appliances or machines, to reduce the transmission of noise and vibrations
#7 Acoustic Plaster
Acoustic plaster has been available for a while, much like acoustic plasterboard. Performance can be boosted with use of different substances, compounds, and systems which have an impact on flexibility and weight.
Uses: restaurants, theatres, shopping centres, offices, libraries, dining areas and exclusive residences
#8 Soundproof Wallpaper
Much like soundproof paint, which yes, by the way, really does exist, it is controversial whether this option can successfully soundproof a room, especially when used on its own.
Since mass is one of the key concepts of soundproofing, utilising only wallpaper makes it challenging to achieve a thickness that is deemed sufficient. Wallpaper that is soundproof is often made of closed-cell polyethylene foam.
Soundproof wallpaper is undoubtedly more attractive than unsightly acoustic foam and simpler and less invasive to install because it is available in a variety of designs.
Uses: suitable for use in any environment, both commercial and residential
#9 Acoustic Wall Covering
Acoustic wall coverings are a composite fabric-based sheet material that is robust yet highly compressible and soft.
Applied onto the surface of a wall, it provides excellent acoustic isolation and softening.
Uses: useful for residential and commercial areas, including workspaces where there’s considerable noise
#10 Acoustic Glass
Acoustically graded windows are those that have been deliberately engineered to be soundproof. Because these windows are made of numerous layers of glass, each of which is quite thick, the level of sound that leaves or enters a space is low.
Such windows would feature air or inert gas trapped between each glass panel to further impact the flow of acoustic waves. Soundproof glass is effective and can be installed directly over existing windows if necessary.
Uses: ideal for those who experience a lot of external noise, such as traffic and city noise
#11 Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foam is a good sound absorber and comes in a variety of thicknesses, sizes, and colours. Acoustic foam is sold under a variety of brand names. Some companies also sell this material in attractive colours.
Uses: to enhance the quality of the audio in a room. Acoustic foam also helps to decrease sound leakage and is often utilised in home theatres, games rooms, recording studios and music rooms.
#12 Sound Absorber Panels
These are available in a variety of forms and colours, with the majority of them being visually appealing. Absorber Panels can also transform a room or space to make it look more visually attractive when fitted to ceilings and walls to reduce sound reverberations and acoustic reflections.
Uses: ideal for cinemas and theatres, recording studios, classrooms, games rooms and gymnasiums.
#13 Acoustic Ceiling Systems & Tiles
Acoustic ceiling tiles, like acoustic panels, can be attached to a ceiling or incorporated as a structural suspended ceiling, creating a grid system which gives excellent acoustic control.
Materials, sizes, depths, and patterns are all available. Acoustic ceiling tiles are quite a simple way to improve the acoustics of any environment.
Uses: for soundproofing ceiling areas to create a completed ceiling with a void above in which to house ducting and pipework.
#14 Soundproof Curtains
Soundproof curtains, also known as acoustic curtains or blackout curtains, are commonly used as temporary walls or privacy curtains, such as backstage at a theatre.
The thick cloth, when hanging in strategic locations, considerably inhibits the propagation and mobility of sound waves, avoiding unnecessary sound from passing from room to room.
Uses: in nurseries, bedrooms and home theatres.
#15 Soundproof Blankets
Soundproof blankets are useful in a variety of situations where sound absorption is required and provide a cost-effective alternative to more expensive soundproofing methods.
Indeed, soundproof blankets are likely the most practical alternative for someone with a limited budget looking for a temporary and portable solution. They are comprised of a thick, soft fabric that absorbs sound and prevents acoustic transmission.
Uses: can be used easily simply by hanging to walls or over doors and windows.
Best Soundproofing Material Summary
The best soundproofing material isn’t a straightforward question to answer as much depends on your building and your specific insulation requirements. As each soundproofing material possesses slightly different qualities, each can excel at a specific purpose depending on what it is that you are wanting to achieve with soundproofing.
If you are thinking about soundproofing your home, company, or a specific area like a music studio, home theatre, or workshop, or simply are just looking at the best methods for soundproofing walls or blocking sound, perhaps you can now make an educated choice on the optimal soundproofing methods and materials to utilise.
When you are not sure about the best methods to absorb sound and soundproof walls, it is always best to consult with an expert who can advise on the best ways of controlling sound transfer.