Acoustic absorption and diffusion are integral elements of soundproofing a physical space or making a room more recording-friendly. Generally, soft, porous, or pliable materials are used to achieve the ideal audio environment. How well your recording studio absorbs sounds or diffuses them depends on the materials being employed for the purpose.
A pyramid foam helps absorb sound so that it doesn’t reflect and mix with the audio produced. An egg crate helps with sound deadening or echo reduction, to an extent. It can’t significantly reduce audio noise or enhance audio quality in any space. Pyramid foam is, therefore, best for recording studios.
If you would like to learn more about the role egg cartons play in sound reduction, how they compare to acoustic foam, etc., keep reading.
A Brief Intro to Egg Crates
Bearing a strong resemblance to typical acoustical foam, egg crates are pieces of cardboard made to cradle or cushion eggs so that the eggs don’t break during transit. Unlike acoustic foam, they were not made to be used as sound-reducing or sound-absorbing items.
However, thanks to its pyramid foam-like appearance, the idea that an egg crate is equally effective at blocking and absorbing sound as your typical pyramid foam has been doing the rounds for quite some time.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to see the carton being used in “amateur” recording studios.
Egg Crates and Noise Reduction
Theoretically speaking, egg crates or cartons can be used for soundproofing a space by preventing sound waves from infiltrating walls. They are capable of diffusing sound waves via their shape and the materials they’re made of.
Egg cartons, however, aren’t ideal or truly cut out for soundproofing. An egg crate doesn’t absorb, deaden, or diffuse sound – at least not to a detectable level. The popular belief that egg crates soundproof a room is also not correct. However, as mentioned above, they defuse soundwaves by distributing them and changing their movements or path.
When tested for their noise reduction capabilities, egg crates scored 0.4 on the noise reduction coefficient (NRC) scale – which means it absorbs sound waves by up to 40%. The remaining 60% enters or exits the room or reflects.
The 40% absorption may seem substantial. Unfortunately, it is not. Sound-absorbing materials should have NRC ratings of at least 0.75 for them to be considered highly absorptive.
The thicker the egg crates, the marginally higher the score will be on the scale. For context, a 2.5-inch (6.35 cm) thick egg crate scores 0.60 on the scale. That, however, is still not good enough.
To hit the 0.75 number on the NRC scale, you might need multiple layers of egg crates on your walls. Going that route will be arduous, time-consuming, and unnecessary, especially with the cheaper and more effective alternatives (discussed below).
Installing Egg Crates to Improve Room Acoustics
Despite everything said above, egg crates are not complete busts. Though reasonably minor, it has its place and maybe purpose too. If you would like to know how to attach egg cartons to your walls, here are the steps:
- Open your egg carton and trim off the flap and lid with scissors, leaving a 0.5-inch (1.27 cm) lip on both sides. You’ll need multiple egg cartons for this purpose.
- Place the crate against your corner walls, starting from the bottom. The dome-shaped side should be toward you. The cartons can be positioned horizontally or vertically, but horizontal placement helps better with the stacking.
- Staple the egg cartons to the wall, on both sides, through the lips.
- Repeat the stacking and stapling process for other cartons, overlapping the lips of the cartons. If required, you may attach the egg cartons to your ceiling as well.
What Is a Pyramid Acoustic Foam?
Pyramid acoustic foams (or just acoustic foam) are engineered sound-reducing products. Unlike egg crates, they are purpose-made to improve the sound signature of a room. The foam attenuates sound waves, decreasing their amplitude, and helping reduce and control noise.
Acoustic foams can be attached to your walls, ceilings, and even doors for controlling noise levels, echoes, and vibration in a given space. For safety reasons, acoustic foams are usually treated with fire retardants or dyes. An egg carton is usually not, which makes it slightly hazardous.
Difference Between Acoustic Foam and Acoustic Panels
Acoustic foam and acoustic panels are pretty much the same things, but they may vary in their sizes and shapes/designs. Unlike acoustic foam, acoustic panels do not necessarily bear the egg crate-like design. They could be flat, have ridges or lines across them, etc.
Also, they are usually bigger, helping cover a much wider area at once. If you want to treat your studio or room’s ceiling with foam, an acoustic panel will be a much better option.
And if you need some help with installing foam panels on your ceilings, watch this video:
Acoustic foams can be used in place of acoustic panels. Still, they won’t look as aesthetic or pleasing. It would also take time to put them in place as they are comparatively smaller in size and usually don’t come in sizes bigger than some of the most extensive acoustic panels.
What an acoustic foam does better, however, is complement acoustic panels. Since acoustic panels are relatively big, you might have a hard time attaching them to corners or small sections of your space’s walls. Acoustic foams can be used to fill in those gaps.
Due to most acoustic panels’ sheer size, they are usually reserved for large rooms or private entertainment spaces. They are not very commonly used in home studios or small spaces where work gets done.
Alternate Soundproofing Materials/Methods
If you’re not very sure about using egg crates to enhance your room’s acoustics, there are cheaper and less time-consuming alternatives.
Note: The following are no real substitutes for acoustic foam, by the way. They, however, complement a pyramid foam well or make the foam’s job easy.
Soundproof curtains are not your regular curtains. They are made of unique sound-absorbing drapes for effective sound absorption. Traditional curtains can also absorb sound to a degree but are not comparable to purpose-made curtains. If you would like to buy a few curtains for your recording studio, the Nicetown Blackout Curtains are worth taking a look.
Soundproofing blankets, or moving blankets, are large insulating fabric pieces that look like blankets. Besides decreasing vibration and insulating materials, these blankets also help reduce audio noise in different ways. They are commonly used to safeguard pianos, cellos, and other large musical instruments. Take a look at this Stalwart Store Moving Blanket if you need a recommendation.
If your studio’s door is hollow or it produces echo, replace it with medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Unlike typical indoor doors, MDF doors have a solid core. Thanks to this density, MDF doors are a lot more effective at blocking noise than regular doors.
Here are a couple of other items or materials to improve the acoustics of your studio:
- Door sealing gasket: The gasket prevents noise from seeping through to other spaces or entering via under-door cracks, unsealed areas around your windows, etc.
- Mineral wool: Mineral wool looks and feels very much like matted sheep wool. It’s not actual wool but made of mineral materials, such as silica and stone.
To conclude, egg crates are no competition to acoustics foam if perfect room acoustics is what you’re trying to achieve. The cartons can reduce echoes and nothing more than that. If you plaster your walls with cardboard, the same echo reduction effect can be achieved.
Not to mention, cardboard is easier to procure than saving up egg crates for months together. It’s cheaper too. Long story short, egg crates are not the most effective at soundproofing, and they also do not bring anything unique to the table.