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How to buy acoustic foam - a comprehensive buying guide

Posted on May 26, 2016

Do walls really have ears? Certainly not! If echo or sound reflection is related to this idiom, we have to conclude that walls have mouth too! Anyways, this idiom can clearly be linked with air and its property to propagate sound. Air has the natural tendency to pass sound acoustics, and we cannot stop it! But, there is a sure shot way to absorb it. Acoustic foam is the perfect sound absorption solution that can counter this traditional idiom and create an echo-free environment. But, “What is acoustics?” it’s nothing else but sound!

Whether you are going to record your own music or planning a home theatre, you need an environment without extra sound reflection or echo which should also be acoustically pleasant. Acoustic foam can create the majestic ambience which absorbs maximum amount of sound acoustics leaving only what is needed to record astounding music. These foams are made from high density materials to reduce excess reverberations and reflections and keep your sound clear from echoes inside your room. It can be really effective in improving the acoustics and vocal clarity in your room. In fact, it is an excellent sound diffusor.

Ideal for both professional recording studios and home theaters, acoustic foam allows you to freely play your instruments, watch movies to the highest volume and sing as loud as you can without disturbing others. It can effectively enhance the properties of sound by improving sound and speech qualities.

 

Exploring the uses of acoustic foam

Acoustic foam has many implications. Some of them are:

  • It is commonly used to improve recording studios' acoustics. The intent is to reduce, not completely eliminate resonance within the room.
  • Home musicians and recording studios often attach acoustic foam to the walls of a room in order to reduce echoes and buffer sound. It certainly enhances home sound acoustics.
  • It also keeps outside noises from coming inside the room.

Acoustic foam is available in a variety of sizes and can be easily attached to the walls, doors, ceilings, and corners of the room to control echoes, vibrations and noise level.

 

Sound Proofing v/s Sound Absorbing - The basic Difference

A lot of people confuse sound proofing or sound blocking with sound absorption. But, both of them deal with the same thing in different manner, that is, sound. Sound proofing and sound absorption treat the sound in different ways. Products that are designed to block sound from leaving or entering space within a room are termed as sound proofing products. They are mostly found inside the wall construction and are dense, heavy, cumbersome, and/or designed to act as a barrier within the wall so that sound waves cannot be passed from either sides.

Whereas, sound absorption products are intended and designed to absorb the sound echo within a room. They are light, fluffy and generally feel soft to the touch. They are designed to reduce the echo and soften up the spaces within a room for better sound quality. Acoustic foam falls into this category and is used to absorb echo or reverberations.

So now when you have decided to buy acoustic foam and are looking the answers for “How to acoustically treat a room”, you should first know the types of acoustic foams.

Major types of acoustic foams

  • Eggcrate/ Convoluted Toppers: If are looking for acoustically treating a room, then you must know this one! This type of acoustic foam is great for people who want the sound absorption qualities of 1 and 2 inch foam within an affordable price. The foam style keeps the price low, yet allows it to absorb sound extremely well. It is known for its thickness and is a perfect solution for recording environment. It can also help in enhancing the acoustics and vocal quality of the room. If you are planning to cover your sound absorption foam with acoustic cloth or wanting to create an affordable home studio acoustics foam, the eggcrate/ convoluted foam is the perfect pick!

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  • Wedge Foam: Wedge foam provides sound installation, offers a professional appearance, helps eliminate echoes, requires minimal installation effort and is an outstanding studio foam. It is considered one of the most sought about and best acoustic foams. It is nearly identical side by side and provides a professional appearance, minimal installation investment and outstanding sound absorption qualities. These foams provide better sound absorption as compared to that of Eggcrate shaped foams. They are highly fire retardant, easy to store, and can be easily attached to a surface with the help of glue, nails, staples, etc. They are one of the most sought about options for acoustic room treatments.

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  • Pyramid Foam: An affordable solution to sound deadening requirements, Pyramid foam is high-performance and long lasting solution that is a bit different from wedge foam. It has greater surface area and four sides rather than two which offer slightly less absorption and extra diffusion - both desired characteristics for different usage and styles.
  • Acoustic Spade Foam: With a rippling, non-angular look and a free form appearance, acoustic spade foam accompanies exceptional sound absorption and clarifying qualities. Spade foams are available in 2 piece interlocking set and exhibit an edgeless style and finished outside border. The acoustic spade foam are usually large in size, which makes them exceptional foam for efficiently treating huge sections of a room at once. To give a distinct look to the room, a uni-directional look or an altering mirrored appearance can be created.
  • Acoustic Grid Foam: This type of foam usually creates a tiled appearance and helps to clarify and improve sound in the room by absorbing the bouncing waves. With an edgeless style, finished outside border, and exceptional size; it is perfect for treating large sections of a room at once. The edgeless paneling of acoustic grid foam features the cut-out appearance and frame-edged panel displays a stand-out design.
  • Acoustic Wave Foam: How about creating a striking visual effect while clarifying and absorbing sound? Acoustic wave foam can be mounted in any space that requires sound treatment. To meet your aesthetic preferences with effective mix and match options, the bordered panels of Acoustic wave might include three whole raised ripples, while the non-bordered panels feature four full ripples.
  • Corner Bass Trap Acoustic: This type of acoustic foam is known for low frequency sound absorption and excess noise reduction properties. It is thicker and heavier and is ideal for any recording environment.
  • Metro Acoustic Foam: This type of foam has highly dense acoustic foam structure which improves the acoustics and vocal clarity inside the room. It can be used within home studios or professional sound recording studios.
  • Flat Acoustic Foam Ceiling Tile: Flat Acoustic Foam Ceiling tiles are made up of various porous materials and are used on the ceilings of professional studios, home theatres and other places where the echo of high frequency sound needs to be minimalized. It is majorly used where acoustic foam placement for ceiling is required.

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How to use acoustic foam?

Where to place acoustic foam?

Simple! Acoustic treatment placement is important but not that difficult. You can place or stick it on the walls or ceiling of your home or professional theatre with the help of nails, adhesives, staples, tacks, screws, glue, or Velcro.

Features to look for while buying acoustic foam

By now you are well-versed with the information on major types of acoustic foams. So, the next question is, “How to select an acoustic foam as per its features?” “What all should I consider before the final acoustic treatment of home studio?” When shopping foam online as well as offline, five key features are commonly compared. They are: thickness, density, surface pattern, dimensions/Count, and NRC Rating. Confused? Take a look at the importance of each of these:

  • Thickness: Acoustic panels are typically available in 2” or 4” thickness. As a rule of thumb, the thicker it is, the better is the sound absorption. Thicker panels are better sound absorbers.
  • Density: The density of acoustic foam is also important consideration and plays decisive role in its absorption qualities. The denser it is, the higher will be its absorption.
  • Surface Pattern: Most acoustic panels have some sort of pattern on their surface; pyramid, eggcrate and wedged being the three most common ones. Considering the fact that the exact pattern can affect the performance, the differences are negligible. Moreover, there is no single pattern that over-performs all others, it just depends on your taste and requirements. It is an important consideration before making the final acoustic panel placement.
  • Dimensions/Count: Acoustic foam bundles are normally available in the packages of 6, 12 and 24. The possible dimensions of these foams are 1 ft2, 2 ft2 and 2 ft. X 4 ft. Size and count together make up the total surface area of wall coverage. If you are going with the smaller sizes, you will require more packages. Keeping this in mind, you can make the selection and get the right acoustic diffusers for your room/studio. It also depends on where you want to place the acoustic panels.

For typical home studio where wall damage is a big concern, using smaller panels is highly advised. They are lighter and can be easily mounted with the use of non-permanent adhesives.

  • NRC Rating: “Noise Reduction Coefficient Rating” ranges between 0 and 1 and measures acoustic foam’s effectiveness at absorbing sound. The higher the NCR Rating, the higher the absorption. But, the test to determine this number only measures absorption at 4 frequencies: 2000 Hz, 1000 Hz, 500 Hz and 250 Hz, which means nothing below 250 Hz is measured.

You must be thinking that we have missed out another important feature that you usually look for, that is the colour of the acoustic foam. But, there is no direct relation between the colour and noise absorption abilities. Though coloured acoustic foams can add a jazz of liveliness to the place where it is installed.

 

Jagged surface - an important consideration:

Acoustic foam typically comes in sheets or squares that vary in size depending on the size of the room that needs to be soundproofed. Most of them feature a jagged surface because even surfaces tend to act as a soundboard for vibration, while the jagged ones absorb or dampen the sound waves, act as a diffuser and dampen them even before they can echo.

 

How much acoustic treatment you should use?

Most of the rooms fall in the 25% to 75% coverage range. It generally depends on the ceilings and walls and also on the design of your room. It might be surprising to you, but acoustic treatment also highly depends on the style of music. In general,

  • Acoustic rooms for pop, rock, rap, R&B, Hip Hop, MIDI, country and techno music can be well treated with 50% to 70% of coverage
  • Acoustic rooms for jazz, choral, art (classical), world, acoustic and other forms can be well benefitted with 35% to 50% of coverage
  • Acoustic coverage for live rooms may vary strikingly. It may range from 20% (or even less) to 50% coverage
  • Isolation booths demand the highest coverage, i.e. about 75%.

At the end, it all depends on the technique too!

 

Exploring other implications:

The application of acoustic foam is not limited to musical purpose only.

  • It is also used in industrial settings to deaden the sound not only for the benefit of surrounding businesses and homes, but also for the health of their employees.
  • Acoustic foam can be used at concert halls and live venues to improve acoustics and absorb echoes while hosting a variety of events
  • A home theatre system can produce an excess of sound that can disturb the neighbors and passersby. Sound can also create strong echoes and leach into other rooms, thereby decorating sound quality. Acoustic foam can help minimize the echoes and vibrations to enhance the sound quality of home theatre system. It also prevents sound from seeping into other rooms.
  • Large rooms may often witness strong echoes irrespective of the use of high end furniture. Attractive application of acoustic foam in such rooms will not only absorb the excessive sound and audio but also improve the walls’ visual appeal.
  • Synagogues, churches, temples, etc. often have huge space that can accommodate large audiences. Such large spaces often include large areas of flat walls, which conduct the echo and vibration extremely well. Using acoustic foam into such large spaces can help buffer some of the vibration and prevent sound from travelling far enough to cause echoes.

Acoustic Foams for Noise Control in Vehicles and Equipment

While sourcing acoustic foam for noise control in equipment and vehicles, there are many other factors (apart from the normal acoustic foam ones) that come into consideration. Though, you will not find this variety of acoustic foams on our website, still we want to share this piece of knowledge with you. While buying acoustic foam for noise control in equipment and vehicles, compliance with published standards, sound treatment and absorption across specific frequencies, and other product specifications such as density, color, and sheet size are vital to compare. These type of foams are supplied in sheets or rolls that can achieve tight tolerances and avoid material waste. You should also ensure:

  • Right compound Selection: Some compounds are known for outstanding resistance to temperature, moisture and chemicals while some fabrics may also resist tearing, fire or abrasion. You should look for the ones that possess right quality for your industry type and requirements.
  • Published Standards: The published standards for acoustic sound foam vary by application and industry. For example for some industries the acoustic foam placement should meet specific smoke, flame and toxicity standards while for other they might be required to meet certain standards that resist microbial growth.

The final say about sound treatment:

After getting acquainted with all the terminologies that might come handy before acoustic foam placement, you should also consider the following factors. Acoustic foam should:

  • Have high density cell structure for thoroughgoing noise absorption
  • Reduce reverberation and flutter echoes and render great acoustical value
  • Minimize sound acoustics reflection for the desired range of frequencies
  • Improve room acoustics and vocal clarity
  • Be easily attached on the wall with nails, adhesives, staples, tacks, screws, glue, or Velcro
  • Ideal for use in home theatres, recording studios, office etc.

No matter how much you spend on the speakers, amps, instruments and recording gear, you still need to pay attention to the space in which you use them.

Still confused about making the right purchase? You can contact our customer support team and gain expert advice on making the right purchase.


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