soundproofing and sound absorbing
Home Improvement Safety and Security

The Difference between Soundproofing and Sound Absorbing

The acoustic properties of a building make a huge difference to the comfort and productivity of the occupants. Whether you want a private office space, a peaceful home environment or a welcoming commercial space, how you go about the acoustics of your building will have significant repercussions.

When looking to create the best acoustic conditions, two terms that often get conflated and confused are ‘soundproofing’ and ‘sound absorbing’. You might be wondering: do I need sound insulation or sound blocking products? Or both? Understanding the difference between these terms will help guide you towards the best solution for your needs.

Soundproofing vs sound absorbing

If you want to keep sound inside a contained space and stop it from moving from room to room, you are talking about soundproofing. For example, if you want to create a private space in which things said there remain there, or if you want to block out the noises from adjacent spaces, you need to soundproof your room.

On the other hand, sound absorbing products absorb sound waves to stop reverberation (that echoey sound). Sound absorption is important for improving the quality of sounds and help us to hear someone talking more clearly. Sound absorbing products don’t necessarily stop the travel of sound from one room to the next.

How to soundproof a room

One of the best ways to soundproof a room, or an entire building, is to install sound insulation. It can be installed in external and internal walls and between the floors of a double storey to create a peaceful inside environment. It will likely increase the value of your property too, and will have all the benefits that come with more traditional thermal insulation.

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Although the addition of any insulation will make a difference, sound insulation is specially designed to have high soundproofing qualities. It is typically made from glasswool (fibreglass) or polyester and is thicker and more dense than regular insulation.

What materials absorb sound the best?

When sound hits a surface, it can either be reflected back, or absorbed. The best materials for absorbing sound are usually soft and porous. Thick, porous materials are widely used because they are good at absorbing midrange frequency sounds but some nonporous materials are good at absorbing low frequency sounds. If you don’t want to overcomplicate it, a simple rug or curtains can also go a long way, softening hard surfaces and absorbing more sound.

One effective solution to increasing acoustic absorption is to install an acoustic panel. These are large panels, usually made from fabric, that are hung on the wall and improve sound quality while also being decorative. Acoustic panels are particularly popular in classrooms and office spaces where noise level and sound quality can have a significant impact on productivity.

Great blog post.

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