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Sound Board vs Drywall? Which Is Better?

When it comes to DIY soundproofing projects, there is a variety of different materials available to you. However, in most cases, you’ll be choosing between sound board and drywall. Which one is more effective at soundproofing?

Drywall is a standard wall construction material that can offer much more flexible and effective soundproofing than sound board. Sound boards are usually used in conjunction with drywall construction for soundproofing.

Sound Board vs. Drywall

This article discusses the basics of soundproofing and how these apply to the two materials: sound board and drywall. I’ll also compare these materials and answer why one may be better than the other.

Also read: Brick vs. Drywall – Which is Better for Soundproofing?

Basic Soundproofing Principles

Before comparing the effectiveness of sound boards and drywall, we need to understand the basic principles of soundproofing.

  • Decoupling. Sound travels through the means of vibration, being conducted through the air or solid pathways. Decoupling means cutting this pathway so that sound cannot be conducted.
  • Absorption. Air cavities in walls, ceilings, and floors can conduct sound. Applying a medium-density insulating material can help absorb the sound instead of reflecting it.
  • Mass. Sound caused by vibration. Materials do not easily vibrate if they are heavier, denser, or have more mass. Increasing or adding mass to your wall or sound barrier makes it more difficult for sound to move through it.
  • Damping. Sound damping uses a material to remove the vibration energy from a system. A material’s ability to dampen sound relates directly to its damping coefficient.

Sound Board

Sound board is a light, somewhat spongy, and porous material made from various materials like lumber waste material or synthetic fibers. Sound boards are usually sold in panels about an inch or so thick (25mm or wider) and are easy to cut.

Let’s see how it fares when applied to the various soundproofing principles.

Decoupling

Decoupling is a significant part of reducing the contact area between structures or systems, which decreases the pathways sound can take. Using sound boards doesn’t take advantage of this principle, as they increase the surface area sound can travel through.

Absorption

Soundproofing materials for absorption need to be porous and of medium density. After this point, as density increases, sound absorption is reduced. Sound boards are often too dense to absorb sound, which is why they offer almost no absorption when compared to drywall.

Mass

For sound to travel through a wall, the wall has to vibrate very slightly—and the heavier a material is, the less likely it is to move. Though sound boards may appear quite dense and thick, they are actually lightweight. They weigh much less than your standard ⅝” drywall and, as such, won’t offer much in adding more mass to your wall.

Damping

Sound boards are somewhat damped, but not significantly so. When a sound board is used to damp other materials like drywall, they aren’t very effective.

Sound boards can be installed during wall construction. They work similarly to a layer of insulation in the space between drywalls, with the goal of providing some soundproofing. They can also be applied on existing walls like acoustic panels.

Though regular sound boards don’t score well when it comes to damping, specialized soundboards, like ProSound SoundBoard4, can provide a very good amount of added mass and sound absorption.

However, these are much pricier and usually require a professional to be installed.

Drywall

Drywall is a standard wall construction material. Drywall or gypsum board panels are usually installed on vertical wall studs to create a wall.

Let’s take a look at the effectiveness of drywall in each of the soundproofing principles.

Decoupling

The studs can be staggered during wall construction to lessen the contact area between wall studs and either side of the drywall. The additional use of resilient channels and soundproofing clips contributes to more effective soundproofing.

Auralex RC8 Resilient Channel (available on Amazon.com)  works with all standard soundproofing clips. It can be used to decouple drywall from the stud structure, reducing sound transmission through walls. You can use this in conjunction with Resilient Sound Clip with Mounting Screws from Amazon.com for easy installation.

Absorption

Drywall is constructed with space between panels, so insulation needs to be installed to stop noise from bouncing and echoing between the two wall surfaces. However, drywall does have the right density to absorb some sound, and you can make it quite soundproof with some extra treatment.

Mass

A ⅝” panel of drywall provides more mass than a sound board. Adding even more mass and density to your wall through double drywall makes it thicker and more difficult for sound to travel through it. Meanwhile, sound boards can have only half the weight of a drywall panel of the same size.

Damping

Drywall can provide damping when you add a second layer of drywall, using a damping compound as an adhesive between the two layers.

One of the best, most effective damping compounds is Green Glue Noiseproofing Sealant (Amazon.com). The caulk is white and can easily be painted over if needed, making for easy touch-ups after your DIY project.

Specialized soundproof drywall can also be found on the market. However, it can be three or more times more expensive than regular drywall. Soundproof drywall can also need professional installation. Luckily, regular drywall already provides good quality soundproofing if you’re on a budget.

Sound Board vs Drywall

Looking at how each material works based on the basic principles of soundproofing, it is apparent that drywall is the superior soundproofing material when compared to sound boards.

Drywall gives you more flexible options for soundproofing your space, and you{re moe able to adjust it to your budget.

During drywall construction, you can apply decoupling and absorption methods for better soundproofing. If your budget allows for additional soundproofing or if you are working with an existing wall, you can add mass and damping with additional layers of drywall and using Green Glue.

Even if you use regular drywall materials, you can get a good amount of soundproofing.

Unless the type is specifically designed for soundproofing, a sound board is not that effective at blocking or absorbing noise.

Final Thoughts

Drywall is a better soundproofing material than sound board. Drywall offers flexible soundproofing options that can be scaled up based on your budget. Unless you are willing to spend extra on a specialized soundboard, regular sound boards are not a very effective soundproofing material.