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There are plenty of options suggested for soundproofing a room on a budget. A friend of mine recently tried out mattress foam toppers as an inexpensive method of soundproofing a room. I was skeptical, so I decided to look into it in more detail.
So, can mattress foam soundproof effectively? Mattress foam may help with echo and sound distortion, but it won’t effectively soundproof a room. It doesn’t have enough mass and isn’t designed for this kind of job.
Read my article which explains in detail the performance of foam for soundproofing and acoustics.
Just because mattress foam isn’t very effective at soundproofing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely useless in an audio management project.
Below is a list of suggestions on when you might want to use mattress foam in your project, although I’d always recommend using a specific audio management product.
Mattress Foam and Soundproofing
So, as I mentioned, mattress foam really isn’t going to do anything for soundproofing. Take a look at some mattress foam if you’ve got some (without destroying your bed, of course). You should notice that you can essentially see light through it. This means sound will easily pass through it too.
However, it’s worth noting that mattress foam does look like the stuff you see on the walls of recording studios. It’s likely that this is why people tried it in the first place. The biggest issue here is that the stuff you see on the walls of recording studios isn’t for soundproofing; it’s for audio control.
The product goes by a few different terms, but the most common in “acoustic foam”. It looks a bit like foam egg cartons, or mattress foam. This stuff is pretty good at what it does, but this isn’t soundproofing.
While recording studios obviously need to be soundproof, this is done in the traditional way: using plenty of mass in the walls, along with things like decoupling and sound absorption techniques. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll even see the soundproofing materials at all.
The acoustic foam that’s visible on the walls is for audio management, not audio blocking. This means that it combats things like echo, reverberation, and sound distortion, all of which are vital things to remove from an audio recording.
Similarly, these properties are useful in many soundproofing situations, including at-home uses like a recording studio or home theater. Including acoustic foam in your room will help with audio quality and sound distortion, but won’t help with sound leaking in or out of the room.
Along with acoustic foam, you can also get acoustic panels and bass traps. These are designed to do similar things, in that they all manage audio within the space to improve sound quality, as opposed to blocking or absorbing sound waves.
Therefore, mattress foam, much like egg cartons, is a bit of a red herring for soundproofing. However, I believe that, unlike egg cartons, there is still a place for mattress foam in a soundproofing project, particularly one on a budget. Below are some suggestions for why you might want to use mattress foam.
Is Mattress Foam worth Using for Soundproofing?
Soundproofing a room in your house can be anything from a minor weekend project to a major DIY overhaul, but this will depend on a variety of factors, most importantly budget. A proper soundproofing project can be incredibly expensive, especially if you’ve got a large space to work in.
As a result, many people look for inexpensive DIY alternatives to more traditional soundproofing products. Again, this is likely why mattress foam was suggested, particularly because of its similarities to acoustic foam.
However, the important thing to remember if you’re wanting to soundproof a room, regardless of your budget, is that mass is the best way to block or absorb sound. Limp mass like MLV (Amazon link) is ideal, as sound waves simply dissipate against it, meaning it also helps with audio management.
That said, there are plenty of reasons why you’d want to add acoustic management products to your room. For example, you might have a large home studio with a powerful surround sound system. To get the most out of your carefully placed speakers you’ll need to control echo, especially from your subwoofers.
This is where acoustic foam, or bass traps, come in. As I mentioned, controlling echo and reverberation will result in clearer, crisper audio, which is essential to the best possible audio experience.
Mattress foam, whether from a disassembled mattress or a mattress protector, is a budget alternative to the custom-purpose product. After my friend fitted some in his room (blindly before testing, I might add), I spent some time playing with it to see if it really did anything.
I found it did help improve the audio quality, albeit only by a small margin. It’s never going to be as good as proper acoustic foam, but it definitely did something. Below are my pros and cons when it comes to using mattress foam for acoustic management:
- Mattress foam is cheap and easy to get hold of, which is helpful because you’re going to need plenty of it.
- It does offer a marginal improvement to audio quality, but you need to be very strategic with placement and usage.
- Mattress foam is pretty easy to work with. If you’re handy with a sewing machine then you’ll have little problem making it more inconspicuous.
- While it offers a level of audio improvement, it’s nowhere near as effective as acoustic foam, which is specifically designed for this job.
- Most importantly, mattress foam doesn’t help with soundproofing. If you’re looking to block sound, go back to the drawing board.
- On its own, mattress foam really isn’t the most attractive product. You’ll have to spend time hiding it or making it look more suitable for the room.
- While mattress foam really isn’t that expensive, you won’t pay loads more for proper acoustic foam. And if you’re on a tight enough budget that you’re considering it, then I’d forget adding any acoustic management to your room, instead focusing on soundproofing.
Alternatives to Mattress Foam
Realistically, mattress foam isn’t the best product to use in a soundproofing project, although it’s suitable if you’re on a tight budget. There are definitely more effective DIY solutions for both soundproofing and acoustic treatment. Here are some of my most recommended:
A growing trend in the soundproofing world is to use heavy furniture moving blankets (the ones used by removal companies) to line the walls. But does this really work?
Again, we return to the issue of mass. Normal blankets will do next to nothing, although they might offer some reduction in echo. Moving blankets are much thicker and heavier, as they’re designed to protect furniture during transit.
Moving blankets aren’t going to be the most effective (or attractive) solution, but they’ll be worth trying if you’re on a tight budget. If you decide to use blankets, make sure you find the heaviest and densest ones you can, otherwise you’ll just be wasting money.
While you can attach them to the walls with nails or glue, it might be worth installing some curtain rails along the wall so that the blankets can at least be pulled back when not in use. Similarly, fit blankets over your doors and windows to cover the weakest areas.
Window plugs are basically boxes made from timber with soundproof materials stuffed inside. This can be anything you can get your hands on, but the best products to use are things like mass loaded vinyl or butyl rubber mats such as Dynamat (Amazon link).
DIY construction of a window plug explained in my article .
While these can be very effective at combating one of the weakest areas in the room, it obviously means you lose light and fresh air while they’re in use. However, the benefit of these window plugs is that they’re temporary, and so only need to be in use when you want a soundproof room.
The most expensive part of this option is going to be the soundproof materials, on which you only need to spend as much as you want. Sure, you could reduce the budget by using a DIY soundproofing product, but I’d recommend sticking with the proper materials for this kind of project. Providing your windows aren’t massive, it’s unlikely you’ll be spending loads of money.
I’ll say this first: carpets don’t help with soundproofing. However, much like mattress foam, laying carpets on the floor will definitely improve acoustic treatment. Carpets will help with echo, whereas hardwood floors will only make the problem worse.
The key is to get the thickest carpet possible as this will help reduce a sound wave’s bounce. I’d also recommend lining the ceiling with carpet too, as this will improve its effect. Just remember though, carpet is no more effective than other DIY products, and so should be used with caution regarding its efficacy.
Some Final Thoughts about Mattress Foam for Soundproofing
So, the main thing I found is that mattress foam definitely isn’t effective at soundproofing. However, it can do something for managing audio quality, much like acoustic foam. It’ll be suitable for those working to a strict budget, but if you feel you’ve got enough money to stretch to audio management products, then I’d just buy the real thing. Mattress foam will never do as good a job, so won’t necessarily be worth the money.