When it comes to reducing unwanted noise entering spaces like a home theater or recording studio, almost everyone turns to a soundproofing solution. And in terms of soundproofing, the cheapest option that is easy to install is soundproofing foams. But does this material really work?
Soundproofing foams do work, but not how you think it would. If your goal is to eliminate the noise pollution in your room, you can’t rely on foams. But if you need a sound absorber, soundproofing foam is highly capable of absorbing sound waves.
Check out my article where I bring out the difference between soundproof foam and acoustic foam.
That said, how well soundproofing foams will work will depend on your needs. But apart from that, there are some other myths about soundproofing foams that need to be debunked.
Does Soundproofing Foam Really Work?
The most common misconception about soundproofing foams is that they can soundproof a room. However, many people do not have enough understanding of the differences between soundproofing and sound absorption.
Of course, it is entirely normal for people to think that materials like foams can stop sound waves, leaving no sound to escape the room.
But the reality is that sound waves are not the same as a liquid that can be absorbed and trapped by porous materials like foams.
Sound waves are a form of pressure waves that tend to vibrate when they strike a surface. These vibrations will bounce off of hard surfaces, resulting in reverberation.
Contrary to what people think, soundproofing foam will not block these noises from entering or leaving your room. Instead, the material will absorb sound waves, preventing it from producing echoes and reverberations.
Moreover, soundproofing foam is suitable for sound absorption because it is light and porous. These pores, along with the soft nature of the material, help prevent sound waves from bouncing around your room.
For this reason, if you make a noise in a vast room with soundproofing foam installed, the foam will eliminate the echo by preventing sound waves from bouncing.
That said, it is safe to say that soundproofing foam works. However, it does not work the same way most people think. While many individuals think that soundproofing foam block sound, what it does is it absorbs noise and prevent it from echoing.
The Difference Between Soundproofing And Sound Absorption
People who have an issue with noise know that soundproofing can solve their problems. For some, they only need to lessen unwanted noises. On the other hand, others need to eliminate it.
But as mentioned, the term “soundproofing” generally encompasses every home acoustic solution. However, soundproofing and sound absorption are two completely different things used to control one’s sound environment.
Soundproofing is the term used for blocking sound from entering or leaving a space. Materials for soundproofing are generally heavy and solid, allowing them to block sound physically.
Additionally, soundproofing materials need to be dense to reflect and keep sound waves in an enclosed space.
Meanwhile, sound absorption is the act of lessening the noise and echo within a room. Sound-absorbing materials, such as foams, have soft materials that allow them to soak up sound waves as they hit the surfaces.
So, if a room has excessive noise that you want to reduce, or if you do not want much noise to escape your space, you can install soundproofing foams.
Debunking Soundproofing Foam Myths
Soundproofing foams are created to help people improve the sound quality of a space by reducing excessive noises. Reducing too much background sound will cause this sound to collapse, thus restoring the quality of the original sound.
Moreover, there are some common myths about this soundproofing material that needs to be debunked.
Soundproofing Foam Lasts Seemingly Forever
This soundproofing material is chemically based. So, regardless of how high the quality of your foam is, it will never last most of a lifetime.
The truth is that soundproofing foams have a shelf life. A class A foam can last for about seven years. The foam will start to flake and spread dust particles into the air as the years’ pass.
When the foam begins to deteriorate, it will affect your ventilation system. But more than that, deteriorating foams can no longer capture and eliminate echoes.
Musicians Use Foam Panels In Recording Studios To Block External Noises
As mentioned above, soundproofing foams cannot wholly eliminate sound nor prevent it from entering and exiting a room. So, the idea that musicians use this material in recording studios to catch the noises from outside their space is a hoax.
In reality, these musicians use soundproofing foam to diffuse the audio that they are recording. This way, they will be able to record a better, clearer sound.
That said, if you try to stop the noise that you make from leaking out to your neighborhood using soundproofing foam, your efforts will be futile.
Soundproofing Foam Is A Bass Trap
Another common misconception about soundproofing foam is that it acts like a bass trap. However, the truth is that you cannot consider any acoustic material as a bass trap.
The reason is that wavelengths ranging from 30- and 40- cycle waves around 35 to 40 feet long cannot be trapped by anything.
Meaning you will not be able to contain bass sound. Instead, what you can only do is manage it, like reducing its amplitude, for instance.
Bonus: How To Soundproof A Room
If you are one of the many people who thought that soundproofing foam would soundproof their room entirely, do not worry because there are soundproofing alternatives.
- Add wall mass – You can achieve walls with more mass by adding high-density materials like mass-loaded vinyl (MLV). It is also ideal to use multiple high-density or high-mass materials for your room.
- Decouple your walls – decoupling is a method used for spaces where loud and powerful sound energy is produced. This method will allow you to block powerful vibrations from traveling through neighboring structures.
- Soundproofing, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soundproofing
- Anshuman Shrivastava, Plastic Properties and Testing, Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/sound-absorption/
- 3 Myths About Acoustic Foam, Control Noise, https://www.controlnoise.com/2013/10/08/3-myths-about-acoustic-foam/
- Denise Foley, 4 Acoustic Myths That Should Go Into the Garbage Can, Audiophile Review, https://audiophilereview.com/room-acoustics/the-top-4-acoustic-myths-that-need-to-be-consigned-to-the-garbage-can-forever/