Acoustic foam is a lightweight material made from extruded melamine foam or polyurethane. It’s highly porous, commonly used to enhance or alter a room’s sound properties. Despite its increased usage in acoustic treatment, the acoustic foam doesn’t perform the all-important role of soundproofing, which often leads to the question: is acoustic foam worth buying?
Acoustic foam is worth buying if you want to attenuate airborne sound waves. By attaching acoustic foam to ceilings, doors, and walls, you’ll be able to control overall vibration, noise levels, and echoes. However, acoustic foam will disappoint if you’re looking to soundproof a room.
Curious to learn more about acoustic foam and whether it’s a worthy investment? If so, then you couldn’t be in a better place. Read on as we break down everything you need to know about acoustic foam.
What Is Acoustic Foam?
Acoustic foam is a unique, open-celled foam commonly used to attenuate sound waves. These foams come in different thicknesses, shapes, colors, and sizes and are known for their importance in acoustic treatment.
The main objective of acoustic foam is to alter or improve the sound quality in a room. It does this by controlling the residual sound primarily through absorption. But for the acoustic foam to perform its role, it must be strategically placed on ceilings, floors, walls, and other surfaces to manage in-room resonance, thus giving the room the much-desired sonic qualities.
As a lightweight material manufactured from extruded melamine foam or polyurethane, acoustic foam can be easily cut into different shapes. You’ll mostly find acoustic foam in different shapes, including wedge, cone, uneven cuboid, and pyramids. Placing acoustic foam tiles on sonically reflective surfaces will absorb sound and change the sound properties, thus improving overall sound quality in a room.
What Are the Advantages of Using Acoustic Foam?
Although acoustic foam doesn’t soundproof a room or space, it does come with several benefits that can make it a worthy investment. In this section, we’ll shed some light on some of the main advantages of using acoustic foam.
Acoustic Foam Reduces Noise Pollution
Sound waves, similar to light, can pass through small holes, walls, and ceiling openings. As a result, places like churches, gymnasiums, restaurants, home theaters, manufacturing facilities, offices, and auditoriums can be great sources of noise if the sound waves from within aren’t altered or absorbed.
Luckily, acoustic foam can help reduce or alter the noise because acoustic foam is porous and can easily absorb noise. By controlling the reverberation made by sounds, the acoustic foam helps keep sound waves manageable, reducing noise.
Acoustic Foam Enhance Sound Quality
In addition to absorbing sounds, acoustic foam panels also help to enhance audio quality in a room. Depending on the application, acoustic foam usually comes in cut tiles with varying profiles ranging from egg to pyramid, square shapes, irregular cuboids, and wedge. These unique profiles allow acoustic foam panels to deal with both high and mid frequencies simultaneously.
To improve the quality of sound in a room, experts will install acoustic foam in corners or strategic areas where optimal sound mixes are required. The acoustic foam will act as a bass trap to help reduce sound echoes and the effect of loud noise in a large hall or tiny room.
Acoustic foam panels perform their function of reducing sound wave amplitude by dissipating them as heat. This explains why you need good air gaps between the walls and the panels for the acoustic foam to dissipate sound energy and convert it to heat.
Acoustic Foam Improves a Room’s Aesthetics
Besides its important role in absorbing sound and minimizing echoes and high-frequency noises, acoustic foam also helps to improve a room’s aesthetics. Acoustic foam panels come in different shapes and colors, meaning their addition to walls, corners, or ceilings will enhance the overall appearance of the space.
Acoustic Foams Are Inexpensive
Compared to other sound-improving or noise-neutralizing techniques, acoustic foams are highly affordable and easily available. Moreover, installing acoustic foams is a relatively easy process that doesn’t require much time and energy. And while some acoustic foam varieties tend to be costly, finding an affordable but still effective acoustic foam profile shouldn’t be too hard a task.
Disadvantages of Acoustic Foam
Acoustic Foam Doesn’t Soundproof A Room
You’re likely to become disappointed if you expect acoustic foam panels to soundproof a room. Put simply, the acoustic foam won’t prevent sound from leaving the four walls of a room. That means you’ll need to resort to other methods if you want to soundproof a room.
Unfortunately, since acoustic foam is primarily composed of polyurethane, it’s notorious for releasing high levels of smoke when burned. Acoustic foam, even when fire-proofed, is still likely to catch fire compared to other materials. That means you’ll have to be extra careful and set up enough fire extinguishers and emergency escapes in rooms filled with acoustic foam.
For more information, check out this article about whether acoustic panels are fire retardant.
Acoustic Foam Might Be Ineffective if Incorrectly Placed
For the acoustic foam to be effective, it needs to be placed strategically in sensitive areas. Remember, the idea is to place the panels in corners, walls, and areas where sound waves are likely to be enhanced and bounce back as echo or noise. That means that placing acoustic foam panels in incorrect locations might leave you without the noise absorption levels you’re after.
For more information, check out what are good materials to build a soundproof box.
Common Types of Acoustic Foam
Wedge Acoustic Foam
The wedge acoustic foam is known for its efficiency in noise absorption. A typical wedge acoustic foam is characterized by the wedges that stick out the base. The wedges allow for a polarized design, which allows for the absorption of sound in a single direction.
To get the maximum absorption when using this type of acoustic foam, it’s advisable to position the tiles perpendicularly to where you expect the sound to be propagated.
Pyramid Acoustic Foam
The pyramid acoustic foam is characterized by its great surface area. Besides its undoubted beauty, pyramid acoustic foam has a reputation for providing extra diffusion, which helps flatten high frequencies without completely deadening a room.
Square Grid Acoustic Foam
The square grid acoustic foam is great at absorbing mid and high-frequency sounds and adds elegance to walls and ceilings. The beauty of this acoustic foam explains its popularity in the internal décor world, especially in home theaters, listening rooms, and recording studios. In addition to reducing standing waves, this acoustic foam is vital in reducing standing waves and improving sound quality.
For more information, check out this article about what’s better between egg crate vs. pyramid foam.
Can Acoustic Foam Disappoint?
Acoustic foam could be a great disappointment if you wanted to soundproof a room. Please note that, as a porous material, acoustic foam lacks the physical properties and density to absorb sound to the extent of preventing its passage. Therefore, if you want to soundproof your room or space, it’s best to consider thick, non-porous materials with the required density.
But if your goal is to enhance the quality of sound or speech in a room, going for acoustic foam will not disappoint. These foams are usually affordable and easily accessible. Plus, their ease of installation means you can improve the sonic qualities of a room with great ease.
Acoustic foam might not be able to soundproof a room, but its ability to absorb and alter the sound for improved quality makes it a great investment. The acoustic foam also comes in various designs and shapes, which allows you to add to the aesthetics of your room or studio.
You’ll find acoustic foam panels placed in areas where sound balancing and noise reduction are required. As long as these handy noise attenuation devices are strategically placed, they’ll greatly improve overall audio quality.