In a world where everything makes noise, sometimes you need some silence. There are MANY sound absorbing materials on the market today. These sound absorbing materials, at their best, work great.
At their worst, however, it can still feel like you hear EVERYTHING you’re trying not to hear.
Because of this I was curious about just what are the best sound absorbing materials available in today’s market and compiled a list that makes finding the right choice for you easy and quick.
But, First, What Exactly Are Sound Absorbing Materials?
Sound absorbing materials, again, are materials that prevent echoing and the reverberation of sound.
They don’t reflect or block noise, but instead absorb the noise. This gives you a quieter, but clearer noise in the area that they’re used.
Many sound absorbing materials are comprised of fabrics, foams, and other perforated materials.
Most of the sound-absorbing materials available in the marketplace are porous. They work by converting the energy found in sound waves into heat energy.
They’re the best at dealing with the mid-range frequencies that our ears can pick up on!
Sound-Absorbing Materials vs. Soundproofing Materials
Before deciding what choice is right for you, it’s important to understand what exactly sound absorbing is versus what soundproofing is.
They are NOT the same!
Soundproofing materials stop sound from entering or leaving a certain room or area.
Soundproofing materials block loud noises from entering or escaping a room.
This is a key difference from sound-absorption materials that don’t work in that way. Sound-absorption materials reduce echoing in an area.
This means that soundproofing materials are better for spaces where you don’t want to hear noises from outside spaces, or let the noise you create in that space escape.
A great example for what to use soundproofing materials for is blocking out the noise from your loud next door neighbors or noise from a busy street outside your home.
Sound-absorption materials, on the other hand, will absorb noise. They’re better at reducing the noise created by echoing.
In other words, sound absorbing materials improve the sound in a room.
For example, if you’re listening to loud music in a room with sound-absorption materials, your music will be quieter than in a room without those same materials. The music will also be much clearer because there will be virtually no echo.
What’s great about these two types of materials is that they can used together to get great results.
But, if you’re bothered by just echo and reverberations (and not necessarily noise escaping/entering rooms), all you need is great sound-absorbing materials.
Types of Sound Absorbing Materials
Sound absorbing materials, again, are materials that prevent echoing and the reverberation of sound. They don’t reflect or block noise, but instead absorb the noise.
This gives you a quieter, but clearer noise in the area that they’re used. Many sound absorbing materials are comprised of fabrics, foams, and other perforated materials. Generally they fall into three categories.
1: Porous Absorbers
Most of the sound-absorbing materials available in the marketplace are porous absorbers.
They work by converting the energy found in sound waves into a very small amount of heat energy.
Porous absorbers are the best at dealing with the mid-range frequencies that our ears can pick up on!
2: Membrane Absorbers
Membrane absorbers are non-porous and non-rigid materials. They include windows, doors, floors, tables, chairs, closets, and other types of furniture and building materials.
While none of these may look like sound absorbing materials, they do absorb bass range frequencies that help control the noise in an area.
3: Resonance Absorbers
Resonance absorbers are what you can consider to be the “high tech” sound absorber materials. They’re designed specifically to absorb sound.
Most resonance absorbers work because they include an acoustical oscillation system that traps sound and locks it into place.
They are capable of doing this because there is typically a solid perforated plate on one end with tight air space behind it.
The holes in the plate allow sound waves to enter the system and, once they’re in the system, they’re trapped.
The majority of affordable sound absorbers for sale are porous systems - simply due to the fact that membrane absorbers aren’t necessarily sold for noise absorbing purposes and resonance absorbers can be more expensive.
List of 10 best sound Absorbing materials useful to you
There are a wide variety of sound absorbing materials available in today’s marketplace. So many that it can seem hard to choose!
I know that before I did my own research, I had no idea what choice was right for me.
Luckily, the examples below are all GREAT sound absorbing materials and you’ll be able to find the right one that meets your needs in no time!
1: Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foam is the most popular sound absorbing material on the marketplace.
Why? Because it’s affordable, easy to install, and it works.
Plus, all you need is a small amount of acoustic foam to get great results. You just need to know where to place it and you can cover small to medium sized areas in no time.
My favorite acoustic foam are the Sound Addicted - Studio Monitor Isolation Pads.
I use them to improve the sound quality I get from the speakers on my stereo system and I’ve had great results ever since purchasing.
While I can’t imagine using them for a larger space (or purpose), they work great for getting the best out of your stereo system and you’ll be supporting a small business at the same time.
For larger areas, I’d recommending buying a 12 pack of the Acoustic Panels Studio Foam Wedges 1” x 12” x 12” also available on Amazon.
They’re available in multiple colors (I like the plain black the best) and work well even in professional environments.
Plus, they’re made in the US
2: Acoustic Panels
Acoustic panels are solid wood frames that are wrapped in fabric. As a result, they usually look more like decor than like sound absorbing materials.
In my books, their appearance is a HUGE plus!
Another huge plus is how easy they are to install. You basically hang them on the wall like any other painting or wall decor.
Even better, I’ve never found an acoustic panel that doesn’t come with all the necessary hardware for installation.
Personally, I like them even better than acoustic foam - even if they are a little pricier.
If you’re interested in acoustic panels, I recommend looking into ATS Acoustic Panels.
They are available in a variety of colors, are EXTREMELY well made, and were absolutely amazing at absorbing unwanted sound.
Again, these panels are available on amazon, but keep in mind they’re sold as single panels - not sets. The picture can be a bit misleading!
3: Acoustic Polyster Panels
Whereas the majority of acoustic panels are made from sound-absorbing fabrics, polyster panels are made of polyster.
This might sound a little strange, but that’s actually an extra bonus.
Polyster panels are great at sound absorption and can serve as an extra layer of insulation in your home!
The Dense Polyster Soundproofing Acoustic Panels Designed for Sound Absorption made by SoundAssured are a perfect option for those considering polyster panels.
They’re easy to install, attractive, and made out of recycled materials!
Plus, unlike other sound absorbing materials, these panels come in a 6 pack. This helps to make it one of the more affordable options!
4: Acoustic Curtains (“Sound Deadening”)
Many of the brands that sell “soundproofing” curtains actually sell sound absorbing curtains.
They’re a great option for people who want a product that absorbs sound, blocks sunlight, and can act as another layer of thermal insulation.
I actually have some acoustic curtains hanging in my bedroom! (If you're looking to buy here I put together a list of Best soundproof curtains you can check)
I live on a busy street and the NICETOWN Blackout Curtains Panels work perfectly to block out the noise.
Plus, they’re honestly made of the nicest fabric I’ve ever seen used for affordable curtains.
I’ve been considering buying more of these curtains for the rest of the house and I truly think they’re the best buy when you’re shopping for new curtains, not even just when you’re looking for sound absorbing materials.
5: Acoustic Bass Traps
Acoustic bass traps are small, portable sound absorbers. They’re best placed in the corner of a room and sometimes on flat walls, but work well to absorb a wide variety of sounds.
Many are even better at catching low frequencies than larger sized absorbers are!
However, you should always remember to check that these are made out of acoustic foam. The products that aren’t don’t work nearly as well.
The FidgetGear Corner Acoustic Foam Bass Trap are a great option for acoustic bass traps.
6: Acoustic Quilted Panels
Acoustic quilted panels are one of the more expensive options when it comes to sound absorbing materials. This is because they’re high quality and designed for professional use.
However, while they are high quality, I don’t recommend them for use in homes. Many of the brands that offer them send out disclaimers about how they may be carcinogens.
If you are interested in purchasing one, they do provide wonderful absorption and are easy to install.
One panel can cover almost an entire wall!
A great brand to consider is MSC Singer Safety Fiberglass Quilt Panels. They may be expensive, but they offer a higher quality of sound.
7: Acoustic Cotton Batts
Acoustic cotton batts are exactly what they sound like.
They’re natural cotton fibers used to absorb sound. As such, they’re probably the most nature friendly out of all of these options!
My personal favorite as far as this product goes is the ATS Acoustical Cotton Batts sold on Amazon.
They come in a pack of six, have excellent sound absorption, and, unlike other products, cause no skin irritation or negative health effects!
8: Acoustic Mineral Wool
Acoustic mineral wool is a product with dual purposes. It is a soundproofing and sound absorbing material.
- Is Fire Resistant
- Is Water Repellant
- Serves As Thermal Insulation
- Has A Very High Nrc Rating
- Is Personalizable
Most of the acoustic mineral wool products is delivered as large rigid boards that can be independently covered in fabric, if desired.
The Roxul Rockboard Acoustic Mineral Wool is a great example of mineral wools that come with those features.
Additionally, this product is easy to cut which makes it easy to install. I think they’re best to use around loud appliances, like trash compactors and dish washers, to reduce noise.
9: Acoustic Caulk/Sealant
Sound waves are incredibly small. That means they can slip through even the smallest of gaps.
Applying acoustic caulk and sealant is just the fix for sound slipping under doorways or through boards and panels!
You should consider ordering sashco big stretch acyrlic latex high performance caulking sealant or green glue noiseproofing sealant.
Both of these products come with great reviews, easy to follow instructions, and amazing results!
10: Heavy Moving Blankets
Using heavy moving blankets as sound absorption devices are almost the “Do-It-Yourself” DIY Project of sound absorbers.
Normally, you’d use these blankets to protect walls and furniture while moving. But, when you’re looking to muffle loud noises, they’re a great option!
Keep in mind when buying these that they heavier they are, the better they’ll be at absorbing sound.
US Cargo Moving Blankets work great for this because they’re eight pounds each and have many layers to absorb sounds with.
Here are few alternatives to consider
All of these options are great at absorbing sound. Other options not included in the top ten are sound absorbing underlayments, fiberglass installation, and sound dampening partitions are some great examples of sound absorbing materials which actually works.
You may also want to consider purchasing strips for underneath doors or in-between sound absorbing panels.
Soundproofing kits that offer adhesive weather strips, such as the one offered on amazon , make your sound absorbing materials shine.
Sound absorbing materials work even better when they have a little support!
Frequently Asked Questions About Acoustics
Q: There’s So Many Options! Can I Choose More Than One Type To Put In My House Or Will They Negate Each Other?
Putting two or more sound absorption materials in a room with lots of noise actually isn’t a bad idea at all!
A lot of these materials have certain talents and specifications and can build on each other as far as suppressing unwanted noise.
Q: I Purchased One Of These Products And Didn’t Get The Results I Wanted. What Should I Do?
To be honest, you could have one of two problems (or both). Either the product you purchased isn’t rated high enough for the size room you’re in or it’s placed incorrectly.
Try moving your product to a new location as advised on your directions and if that doesn’t work you might want to consider a stronger product or buying a couple more of the same product. Just keep adjusting until you get the results you want!
In conclusion, sound absorbing materials work by absorbing sound, not by blocking it. This makes sound absorption different from soundproofing.
Yet, the two often work incredibly well together! They build upon each other to help control the noise in your area.
Personally, my favorite type of sound absorption material are acoustic panels and curtains. I think you get the biggest bang out of your buck when you get more than one purpose out of one product!
However, keep in mind that no matter what your choice is… It has to be installed correctly!
Read the directions provided (and maybe a helpful article on this website or two) and you should be set to go!
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.
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