In this day and age, it’s not difficult to encounter sound at levels that can cause adverse health effects. In a single day, if you are living in an urban setting, you can experience a whole gamut of sounds in numerous locations, be it the shopping mall, schools, the workplace, recreational centers, and of course, your very own home.
Even once-quiet locales have become infected with noise. As a matter of fact, it’s difficult today to escape sound completely. Whether it’s noise from the neighbors that are keeping you from focusing on the work at hand, or vehicles passing by, honking their horn at ungodly hours, it’s become evident that you should look for practical solutions to your noise problems.
Rather than feel resigned to your fate of subpar work or sleepless nights, you should respond accordingly! Take a look at this list of the best soundproofing materials that you could use to stop noise from entering or leaving the space you are living in.
But before you go on and pick which one suits your situation best, let’s first take a good look at what exactly is soundproofing material?
Table of Contents
Don’t want to read through our whole guide? You can use our table of content to jump to the part most relevant to you!
- What is the Definition of Soundproofing Material?
- What’s the Difference Between Sound Absorbing and Soundproofing Materials?
- What are the Principles of Soundproofing?
- What are the Kinds of Soundproofing Materials?
- What are the Best Soundproofing Materials?
- The Bottom Line
What is the Definition of Soundproofing Material?
Before plunging straight into the list of the best soundproofing material, it’s prudent to first learn the essentials of what exactly is a soundproofing material:
what they are, how they work, and how effective they can be with regards to the current issue that you are facing. To fully grasp how soundproofing materials function and how exactly they can help you, you have to understand sounds first.
Sound is a kind of energy, the energy that comes from the vibration of matter. That energy has to go somewhere and so it travels away from its source, and during the process, it makes objects and the air around us vibrate. Then, the energy reaches your ears; there, it vibrates as well, and you are able to register the sound in your brain.
So, a sound begins at its source, makes its way through an array of media, reaches your ears, and stimulates your brains. If you want to stop the sound somewhere along its journey, you have to somehow disrupt the chain of events.
And so, soundproofing is any method that reduces the sound pressure with regards to a particular source of the sound and its receptor; and without soundproofing materials, soundproofing wouldn’t at all be possible.
There are many different construction materials that supposedly feature noise reduction capabilities. However, you should choose the ideal one depending on different transmission modes and noise frequencies. Additionally, the location that needs soundproofing also has a significant role when it comes to making the choice of material.
What’s the Difference Between Sound Absorbing and Soundproofing Materials?
People often mistake sound absorption as the same as soundproofing. In reality, absorption is one of the key elements involved in the process of soundproofing. The primary difference between a sound absorbing material and soundproofing material is that the former is often used to boost the acoustics of the room, while the latter keeps sound from going in or out.
Sound absorbing materials diminish reverberations and echoing of sounds that already exist in the room; they cannot prevent sound from entering or leaving. And so, excellent sound absorbing materials might night be of good use if your goal is soundproofing.
But if you want total sound isolation, it is ideal to mix these two types of materials as they have shown the ability to compliment each other. However, if you don’t mind the reverberations and your only issue is sounds, you better stick to soundproofing.
What are the Principles of Soundproofing?
Some people that claim to be experts on the subject make it seem like soundproofing is a foreign language, that it’s a complex matter, that it’s confusing and should only be undertaken by those well-versed in the subject.
The reality is it is not.
The fact is that there are only four soundproofing principles based on the physics of sound transmission. Combined with the methods and materials used for soundproofing, these are more than enough to do the job for you.
All solid materials that are dense and thick will block sound. People who are irritated by airborne sounds, like voices, find this tactic to be the most effective. If you’d like to give this a try, you can just make use of the furniture to add mass to the walls. You can also attach Mass-Loaded Vinyl under or over your drywall. On the other hand, the mass principle doesn’t work as well when you are trying to deal with impact noise.
Damping is made possible with the help of damping compounds. These compounds have a unique property that lets them convert sound energy into heat, making the sound suddenly stop. The ideal example of damping material is Green Glue, although silicone caulk also has an identical effect. In addition, even some automotive soundproofing materials make use of this soundproofing principle.
For it to work as well as you would like it to, the damping compound has to be placed in between two rigid panels, like drywall or plywood, which are then attached together. So, when sound reaches the system, it activates shearing forces between the rigid panels that generate friction in the damping layer, and as a result, convert sound energy into heat. Damping is found to be most effective when you are tackling low-frequency noise.
When sound makes its way through the structure of a building, it is prudent to use decoupling. When gaps are introduced in specific parts of the structure, stopping sound vibrations becomes much more manageable.
However, it is ideal to implement decoupling when you are still constructing a building. When done, later on, it would be a much more complicated procedure because you would have to take down existing walls, floors, or ceilings.
If you’re in the market for a soundproofing material that would be most ideal for decoupling your drywall from the structure of the building, you can seriously consider resilient channels. They actually work very well in dealing with the low frequencies and even influence noise because sounds end up vibrating hopelessly against the channels rather than pass through walls.
Even though it is highly effective, decoupling needs careful planning and professional consultation. Doing it inadequately or wrongly can actually worsen low-frequency noise by making a “room within a room” effect.
Lastly, there is absorption, which was mentioned earlier in this guide. Although it plays a role in soundproofing, its impact isn’t nearly as effective as the previous ones discussed.
Chances are, you are already familiar with the most absorbent soundproofing materials. If not, then it’s worth mentioning that it is acoustic foam. It comes in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and colors, but it’s mostly useful for augmenting the audio quality inside of a room, rather than preventing sound from seeping out or coming in. Aside from acoustic foam, soft pieces of furniture can also be effective for sound absorption.
These four principles work individually, but they also complement each other. So, if you have tried one but you are still not content with the effect, think about trying another one. The combined effects of these four principles just may be what you are looking for.
What are the Kinds of Soundproofing Materials?
Moving on, let’s discuss the most used soundproofing materials. Now each class features different best use scenarios. Each of these falls into one of these categories, namely sound absorbing, sound insulation, sound dampening, and decoupling.
Acoustic Foam – This material, often called Studio Foam, has a particular wedge or pyramid shape that is very effective at absorbing sound. They stick to walls as panels, hang from ceilings as baffles, or sit in corners as bass traps.
Sound Insulation – Sound insulation are batts composed of mineral wool, rock wool, and fiberglass made to fit in between the studs of walls. The batts fit tightly between studs to take up airspace that can transport sound.
Acoustic Panels/Boards – These are decorative types of sound insulation and sound absorbing foam. They come in many different colors, patterns, and fabrics to function a dual purpose in the home and workplace.
Acoustic Fabrics – Acoustical fabrics are denser and heavier than other fabrics and utilized in theater curtains, blackout curtains, and studio blankets.
Acoustic Coatings – Materials like Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) is a thick and dense rubber like material, utilized in many situations such as car soundproofing, machinery, appliances, and as an underlayment. The mass of the material mainly functions as a sound barrier.
Floor Underlayment – Soundproofing a hardwood or tile floor needs the decoupling of the flooring surface and the subfloor to lessen the noise transmission. Cork, felt, and polymers are mostly used as underlayment materials.
Architectural Soundproofing – This group includes anything used in the structure of a building, such as soundproof windows, soundproof walls, doors, and decoupling products used to install them.
What are the Best Soundproofing Materials?
And so we have finally reached the part where you’ll finally see what the best soundproofing materials are. Carefully study this list of products and you can easily find the best soundproof materials to complete your project start to finish, and remain within the budget you have set.
1. Mass-Loaded Vinyl Sound Barrier
Mass-Loaded Vinyl is the essential tool for supplementing the mass to your walls, floors, and even ceilings without putting on unnecessary bulk. This synthetic material is made to be considerably thin and flexible while keeping its latent functionality. Aside from the vinyl, which is the primary ingredient, there’s often another high-mass compound.
The main goal of materials that add mass is to totally block sound or reflect it. MLV does that very easily. As a matter of fact, you can even use it to soundproof pipes, air ducts, or construct window plugs. However, this kind of effectiveness comes with a hefty price so carefully weight this option if it’s really what you and your living space needs.
In terms of the most revered manufacturers of this specific item, one brand has stood above the rest for quite some time — the Trademark Soundproofing MLV — which has been very tough to nudge off its lofty reputation as the best in the market when talking about sheer quality. These days though, there are other products that can compete with the aforementioned one like the product Soundsulate makes.
2. Acoustic Mineral Wool Insulation
Did you know that the best soundproofing projects actually begin from within? When you’re constructing your house, you would want to include some kind of insulation inside the walls and ceilings. Although the main purpose of insulation is not to soundproof but to keep air from leaking through the surface, you’d be astounded at how often those two goals are linked.
If air can get through your walls, doors, or windows, then so too can sound. Therefore, the places that let air to move in or out are also the culprits behind that noise coming in. Because most kinds of insulation are going to put on mass and absorption to your walls, they’re almost always going to soundproof the surface as well as keep air leakage from happening. Still, batt insulation is your best choice if you want the maximum soundproofing value.
When it comes to insulation, it’s in your best interest to use the best soundproof insulation brands available today. So look for Roxul’s Rockwool Acoustic Mineral insulation and Owens Corning 703 Fiberglass Boards.
3. Green Glue Soundproofing Compound
When it comes to the soundproofing material that’s the best one out there if you’re depending on the sound damping principle that was previously mentioned above, Green Glue is the one.
Sound damping materials are the most efficient when they’re sandwiched between two hard surfaces. The two surfaces, which are often drywall or plywood, are then connected to each other. So when sound reaches one of the layers of drywall, it causes the panels to vibrate against the damping compound, which then alters the vibrations into heat.
The one benefit of Green Glue over other damping composites is that you don’t need to make use of screws to link the two surfaces. After all, as its name states, it also functions as an adhesive as well. You can use it to put on another layer of drywall to your current one or even link the acoustic foam to walls. Of course, it’s especially effective if you utilize it to fuse two pieces of soundproof drywall.
Green Glue is distinctive than the rest of the products mentioned on this list because it’s essentially the work of one manufacturer. Still, the company makes it in different sizes, from 5-gallon buckets to 28-ounce tubes, so you can use the product as an acoustic sealant also.
4. Resilient Sound Channels
Resilient channels are the main way to decouple your drywall from the internal structure of the building. Essentially, they’re just another means to bolster the noise-blocking capabilities of your walls and ceilings. However, these pieces of sheet metal are not a necessary addition to your soundproofing projects.
If you want to put up resilient channels, you can do so only if you have not placed the finishing layer of drywall on the walls or ceilings. If you want to add them to a room, you’ll need to take down the drywall first and replace it with a new one.
Once you have your soundproof insulation in the wooden grid inside your walls, you would screw the channels into the studs, perpendicular to their direction. If you were working on walls, you would place them horizontally. Then when you install your drywall, your screws would pass through the resilient channels instead of the studs.
Now, this may sound like an easy enough operation, but the thing is, you actually have to be very careful not to drill into the studs because if you do, you would be canceling out the decoupling. However, if you do it right, any sound that’s looking to pass through the wall would vibrate uselessly against the sheet metal, and never reach the structure of the building.
5. Soundproof Drywall
Many people don’t realize that drywall could actually be an effective part of the soundproofing procedure. Now you may be asking, “could such a thin layer actually contribute to soundproofing walls or ceilings?” Yes, it can! As a matter of fact, there are five different kinds of drywall that serve different purposes. These are:
- Regular drywall is the cheapest all these, but it’s also the most likely to develop mold and mildew growth.
- Mold-resistant drywall is a way better choice for kitchens and other rooms with a lot of steam.
- Moisture-resistant drywall can even endure direct contact with water, so it’s a remarkable base for bathroom tiles.
- Fire-resistant drywall won’t keep a house from burning down, but it will buy you some time should one break out. That’s why it’s a great choice for stairwells and garages.
- Soundproof drywall, on the other hand, has a higher sound transmission class than the ones that were just mentioned. Of course, its usefulness would rely on the soundproofing techniques you apply before installing it. It’s available in a number of thicknesses. Because as you know, when it comes to soundproofing, thicker is king.
6. Acoustic Caulk/Sealant
After installing your drywall, and after adding all of the soundproofing materials, the last thing you need to do is add some finishing touches. This is where acoustic caulk enters the picture.
Sealants come in 28-ounce tubes with long and sharp tips. These tubes can be placed into a caulking gun, which can squeeze them out. The sharp applicators can restrict the amount of sealant and its placement. So why do you need this product?
Sealants are made to seal off or plug cracks. If air can pass through a crack, then so too can sound. That’s why it’s crucial to take care of these cracks and crevices as soon as you see them, lest they become bigger and bigger.
After you screw in new drywall, some of the major cracks you would need to worry about are the ones where two pieces of drywall meet. However, most times, cracks in the walls start in the corners between two walls or along the line where the walls and the ceilings meet.
Additionally, acoustic caulk can be used for soundproofing doors and windows. Whether it’s caused by poor installation or normal wear and tear, the walls around the doors and windows usually develop faint air gaps. Since those two areas are difficult to soundproof, acoustic caulk can at least partly take care of the problem.
Aside from Green Glue, the Sashco Big Stretch Acrylic Latex Sealant is also worth considering. That caulk comes in different colors — although that’s not a feature you should be concerned about. After all, most caulking products can be painted over.
7. Soundproof Foam Panels
When talking about soundproofing, chances are you have come across acoustic foam. But to be perfectly honest, I can’t say that this is the best kind of product for blocking noise from coming into your space or even going out.
Acoustic foam only offers you absorption. Therefore, it’s handier for boosting audio quality as opposed to blocking out the sound. That’s why you’re likely to see it in recording studios.
Even if you don’t know much about acoustic foam products, you may still recognize the most famous shape pattern it comes in: the egg crate or the pyramid one. However, that’s not the only pattern this kind of foam can come in. There are also wave panels, maze ones, and even ones with basic and simple lines. But according to experience, the shape of the foam product bears little to its effectiveness. It’s the thickness you should be wary of and the total surface area you decide to cover.
You really don’t have to line your walls with acoustic foam to get optimal results. You just have to keep them where you often find the source of the noise. For example, if your speakers are on a wall, you may want to have the foam panels on the opposite wall.
8. Soundproof Blankets
Aside from acoustic foam, one more material that you often see in recording studios is soundproof blankets. Before the advent of soundproof blankets, however, we had moving blankets. Both of these are essentially the same thing and in fact, musicians often used moving blankets to line the walls of their studios before firms began making and marketing blankets for the sole purpose of soundproofing.
These items are thicker, denser, heavier, and all-around sturdier than the regular run of the mill blankets. They’re usually about 80 inches long and 72 inches wide, which wouldn’t cover a whole 7 or 8-foot tall wall.
One primary difference between moving blankets and soundproof ones is that the latter at times come with grommets along the edges. You should be made aware though that this is not the most attractive answer to your noise concerns. Still, they’re efficient, and there are endless ways to use them. And even if they’re not quite there aesthetically, you can always conceal them with soundproof curtains.
9. Soundproof Curtains
What soundproof blankets lack in style, soundproof curtains make up for in spades. Like the previous product, soundproof curtains tend to be thicker, denser, and heavier than your regular curtains. Many of these use triple-weave technology — which basically means stacking three layers of woven materials on top of each other, with the middle layer being a high-density black yarn.
Because of their density, several soundproof curtains can also function as blackout shades if you’re not too fond of sunlight seeping into your space. I recommend using them to cover hard surfaces such as wardrobes. The curtains can absorb sound waves before they can bounce off the bulky furniture.
However, I also recommend using soundproof curtains all along the walls, especially if you want to conceal unattractive soundproofing solutions.
One of the best benefits of this kind of soundproofing product is that it can really raise the look of the space. There are soundproof curtains that look like velvet and ones that look like linen. Some of them have grommets, and others have a tube you can push the curtain rod through.
Weatherstripping tape is arguably the most significant tool for soundproofing doors and windows. It’s composed of various materials and comes in many shapes and sizes:
- Hollow rubber weatherstripping tapes compress when the window or door is shut, creating a tight seal
- You can get thick or thin foam tape for bigger or smaller gaps
- I’ve also made use of felt tape to attain identical results
All of these products have a peel-off layer in the back that guards the adhesive, which makes them hassle-free to apply. Make sure to clean the frame of the door or window you’re trying to soundproof, preferably with an alcohol-soaked rag to pick up all of that dirt.
Afterward, you can just peel and stick the tape, rolling it out along the edges where the window or door meets the frame. Some of these tapes aren’t flexible to stick around the corners, so you can cut them at that point.
You will definitely appreciate weatherstripping tape once you realize all the money and trouble it saves you. After all, it doesn’t only keep noise from coming in — it’s mainly used for weatherstripping. That means that this was really made for the purpose of temperature regulation. It has consistently kept my heating bill within reason.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, the best soundproof materials that you can use for your soundproofing project. Surely, there’s one or even a few that you can mix and match to resolve your noise woes and help you gain back some peace and quiet in order to be more productive at work or just gain some much-needed zzzsss.