People often confuse acoustic foam with acoustic panels and vice versa. Both of these materials absorb and reduce sound waves, though neither of them is completely soundproof. If you’re thinking about adding sound insulation to your home, studio, or anywhere, it’s essential to know the difference between these two items.
Acoustic panels are better because they reduce all incoming frequencies, whereas acoustic foam specifically targets higher frequencies. Additionally, acoustic panels are denser, which means they provide optimal soundproofing. Acoustic foam is much cheaper, making it a budget-friendly option.
Throughout this article, we’ll explain the pros and cons of acoustic foam and acoustic panels to help you find out which one is better for you. We’ll also dive into a handful of frequently asked questions. Enjoy!
- 1 Pros and Cons of Acoustic Foam
- 2 Pros and Cons of Acoustic Panels
- 3 Which Acoustic Soundproofing Method is Better?
- 4 Do Acoustic Panels Keep Sound In?
- 5 Does Acoustic Foam Make Music Sound Better?
- 6 Can You Combine Acoustic Panels and Acoustic Foam?
- 7 Final Thoughts
Pros and Cons of Acoustic Foam
While acoustic foam usually isn’t as effective as acoustic panels, it’s still worth trying for some people. If you’re looking for a low-cost at-home soundproofing solution, acoustic foam is more than worth trying. That being said, you should know all of the pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right choice for your home.
Below, we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of acoustic foam.
Advantages of Acoustic Foam
- Acoustic foam is quite inexpensive. You don’t have to break to the bank to soundproof a room with this cheap DIY solution. While acoustic foam might not be the most effective treatment, it’s much better than having exposed drywall in a podcast studio or an entertainment room.
- You can place acoustic foam in the walls. Acoustic foam comes in several shapes, which means you can easily fit it inside nearby walls. Layering acoustic foam over sound insulation foam can make a world of difference. These foam pads can be compressed without getting damaged, so you don’t have to worry about harming them in the wall.
- Acoustic foam drastically reduces higher frequencies. If there’s a lot of treble in your music or you have children and pets, you’ll love acoustic foam. These panels absorb higher frequencies, making them much less noticeable in your recordings and speakers. Furthermore, they limit outgoing noise quite well.
- You can choose from varying densities and thicknesses of foam. Acoustic foam is made with small air pockets to improve sound insulation. However, you can choose higher-density foam that has smaller air pockets. Acoustic foam often ranges from a ½” to 3 inches thick.
- Acoustic foam lowers noise pollution. Quiet Life Pro explains that acoustic foam is extremely effective when it comes to lowering noise pollution going into and out of a room. In other words, you won’t have to hear too much white noise from fans, HVAC units, or anything going on outside of the building.
Disadvantages of Acoustic Foam
- Acoustic foam isn’t great when it comes to mid-range and low frequencies. If there’s a lot of bass in your music or recordings, you’ll have trouble balancing the frequencies. Acoustic foam doesn’t have enough density to handle these tones, which means your recordings might sound a bit lower than they are in real life.
- It’s not nearly as durable as acoustic panels. Acoustic foam is made of cheap foam. It’ll last a couple of years, but it’s not resistant to humidity, extreme temperatures, or direct force. You can’t remove and stick acoustic foam to new spots too many times without ripping the foam apart.
- Acoustic foam doesn’t provide the same sound deadening as acoustic panels. Regardless of its density, it’s made of a type of foam that isn’t as effective as acoustic panels. This is one of the many reasons acoustic foam is much cheaper than acoustic panels, but it’s still worth it for DIY enthusiasts.
Pros and Cons of Acoustic Panels
Acoustic panels almost always win the comparison. They come in multiple sizes, and they’re the best in terms of all-around sound deadening. There’s no denying their high price point compared to acoustic foam, but many people find that they’re worth it. If you’re interested in learning the reasons you should consider acoustic panels, you’re in the right place.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of acoustic panels:
Advantages of Acoustic Panels
- Acoustic panels are some of the best sound insulation tools you’ll come across. They’re often used in professional recording studios, movie theaters, and many other buildings that require the highest level of sound control. If you want top-shelf soundproofing, acoustic panels should be at the top of your list.
- They come in multiple shapes and sizes to fit almost any space. Acoustic panels come in square and rectangular models, both of which use several dimensions to suit your needs. We recommend choosing acoustic panels that cover as much space between the studs in the walls as possible.
- Acoustic panels absorb high, medium, and low frequencies. Overtone Acoustics claims acoustic panels are very efficient when it comes to managing all frequencies (unlike acoustic foam). This is because they absorb every sound rather than rippling, reflecting, or dispersing the sound waves.
- You can choose from multiple materials with varying densities. They’re often made with fiberglass, cellulose, acoustic foam, mineral wool, and many other materials. Most acoustic panels are wrapped with wooden frames to support the sound insulation inside the panel. Some materials are more expensive than others because they’re denser.
- Acoustic panels reduce unwanted white noise in audio recordings. White noise can ruin music, vocals, and many other sounds. Acoustic panels work wonders when it comes to getting rid of excess sound waves from people, pets, fans, HVAC systems, echoes, and so on. They’re even more effective if you use acoustic glue and caulking.
Disadvantages of Acoustic Panels
- Acoustic panels can be much more expensive than acoustic foam. You’ll have to pay significantly more if you want to outfit a whole room with acoustic panels. They’re made with much better materials, not to mention their top-notch soundproofing and frequency reduction. It’s up to you to decide if the price hike is worth it.
- It’s difficult to place acoustic panels next to each other without having a small insulation gap. Insulation works best when there are little to no gaps. Since foam panels are wrapped around the edges, you’ll always have a tiny gap between them. However, this isn’t always a downside for those who don’t mind a little bit of white noise.
- Acoustic panels are much heavier than acoustic foam. While acoustic foam often weighs less than a pound per one-foot pad, acoustic panels often weigh between five to ten pounds. This means you might have trouble mounting them to loose paint or flimsy walls. Again, this isn’t a downside for those with durable floors, walls, and ceilings.
Which Acoustic Soundproofing Method is Better?
Acoustic panels are better for soundproofing and sound deadening. Acoustic foam is still worth it for many at-home studios, podcasts, and home theaters. Just because acoustic panels offer better perks doesn’t mean they should be the only soundproofing method you go with. It’s important to know everything about panels and foam before choosing.
Ask yourself these questions to know if you should get acoustic panels or acoustic foam:
- What’s your budget? If you don’t have a lot to invest in your soundproofing project, it’s best to choose acoustic foam. You can set the rest of your budget aside for soundproof caulking, acoustic glue, and soundproof rugs or curtains. Those who have a high budget can opt for acoustic panels with the rest of their setups.
- What are you soundproofing? If you only need to soundproof a small microphone box for streaming or vlogging, you can use acoustic foam. It’s perfect for higher frequencies, making it an excellent match for pop filters and uni-directional mics. However, those with home recording studios and podcast rooms should use acoustic panels.
- Is the drywall soundproofed? If the drywall is soundproofed, you can use either acoustic panels or acoustic foam. They’re both quite effective when paired with soundproofed drywall. Professionals often soundproof drywall by adding sound isolation clips between the studs or resilient channels to reduce the vibrations.
- Do you want to eliminate white noise? If your goal is to get rid of as much white noise as possible, nothing will beat acoustic panels. They work on all frequencies, not just higher frequencies. Since most white noise is caused by mid-range and low frequencies, the acoustic foam won’t be nearly as effective in most scenarios.
- How long do you intend to use the room as a studio, entertainment space, etc.? If you only want to use the room for a few months for a short project, you should choose acoustic foam. It’s good enough to get the job done without costing nearly as much as acoustic panels. Those with long-term projects should opt for acoustic panels.
Do Acoustic Panels Keep Sound In?
Acoustic panels keep sound in because they dampen and absorb sound waves. This process means most of the frequencies can’t leave the room, especially if all of the walls have acoustic panels on them. Proper placement at the same level as the speakers and other audio equipment ensures the panels keep as much sound in the space as possible.
The ATS Acoustic Panel is a 24” x 48” x 2” acoustic panel that comes in multiple colors to match your room. It’s made with fire-resistant, soft fabric that absorbs sound frequencies to promote a high-quality, soundproofed environment. Each panel is filled with mineral wool, which is well-known for its lightweight construction and top-notch sound insulation.
- Panels covered with top name-brand Guilford of Maine fabric, manufactured to ATS Acoustic's specifications
Last update on 2022-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
All acoustic panels are great when it comes to reducing unwanted echoes and improving audio clarity. Part of maintaining a soundproofed room is ensuring the sounds don’t leave the room but that they don’t echo, either. With a good set of acoustic panels, you won’t have to worry about hearing muffled audio or disturbing anyone outside of the studio.
Does Acoustic Foam Make Music Sound Better?
Acoustic foam makes music sound better because it limits the echoes and reverberations in a room. Music often sounds cloudy or muffled if there are too many echoes. Optimal sound clarity is created by lowering the repetition of each sound wave. Using acoustic foam will ensure the sound waves slow to a halt before interfering with the music.
Acoustical Solutions explains that acoustic foam drastically reduces sound reverb, preventing it from ruining soundproofed buildings. Whether you’re producing live music, recording it, or listening to it through speakers, adding acoustic foam will make a world of difference compared to dealing with bare walls.
The Donner Soundproof Foam Panels come in a 12-pack of 12” x 12” x 1” panels. You can place these high-density panels next to each, cut them down to size, or install them within the walls for improved sound insulation. You can also choose bulk packs with more panels or thicker foam (up to two inches) for better results.
- 【 Wedge Surface & Perfect Sound Absorption】Donner acoustic panels are designed for sound absorption and isolation. The wedge-shaped surface increases the contact area with sound waves to prevent sound from continuing to bounce and echo throughout the space by attenuating excess sound waves, thereby improving sound quality.
- 【High-quality Flame-retardant Material】Soundproof foam panels have high-density polyurethane material. It is made of flame-retardant and environmentally-friendly materials that passed the test of SGS. NOTE: Before using acoustic foam in an enclosed space, it is recommended that you ventilate to remove the odor of the flame retardant.
- 【Easy to Use & Install】Soundproof wall panels can be soaked in water for a while and then air-dried for 24-48 hours to restore the original shapes. Please make sure the wall is flat and free of foreign matter such as powder when you post. If your wall is rough, you can use acoustic foam spray adhesive. NOTE: Not included Stickers and acoustic foam spray adhesive.
Last update on 2022-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Can You Combine Acoustic Panels and Acoustic Foam?
You can combine acoustic panels and acoustic foam by installing the foam inside the walls. The panels shouldn’t be installed in the walls because they can damage the fabric or wooden frame. However, soundproof drywall insulation (spray foam, insulation clips, etc.) is much more effective when installed inside of a wall compared to acoustic foam.
Another way to combine acoustic panels and acoustic foam insulation is if you want to use them for vlogging or podcasting. Building a small soundproof music box for your microphone with acoustic foam. Then, layer the walls with acoustic panels for the aforementioned perks.
That being said, it’s better to layer the walls with acoustic panels rather than mixing acoustic foam between each panel. You’ll get more bang for your buck, not to mention the uniform appearance.
Acoustic panels and acoustic foam both offer numerous benefits. They’re both worth adding to your soundproofed room, but you should choose one rather than combining them (unless you place foam in the walls). Acoustic panels are undoubtedly the better choice, but that doesn’t mean acoustic foam won’t get the job done for many people.