Sound Dampening – What Is It & Which Materials Are Best?

Sound dampening is also known as sound absorption, sound deadening, and acoustic treatment.

All of these terms refer to the same methods of affecting and improving the sounds within a room, limiting the noise that leaves or enters a room or building, or even helping the inside of your car be a quieter place to be while traveling.

The need for sound damping leads many people on a search for what proper sound dampening is and what the best materials to use for sound dampening is.

What Is Sound Dampening?

Sound dampening is the process of applying materials to an area to limit the propagation of frequencies within the space or to help reduce the sound that enters or leaves a space. Cotton, acoustic foam and panels, open-cell insulation, and thick carpets are all good materials for sound dampening.

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Sound Dampening – What Is It & Which Materials Are Best.

Sound dampening is different from soundproofing and is useful for other purposes. There are different types of materials that can be used for sound dampening, and the materials that should be used in each situation are highly dependant on the kind of sound that is being generated, at what frequency the sound is traveling, and the source of the sound.

Let’s take a look at what sound dampening truly is and some of the best materials to use in different situations.

Sound Dampening – An Overview

Sound dampening is installing materials in a building, room, or car to improve the way the space sounds internally and limit the amount of sound and noise that enters or leaves the space.

Sound dampening, also referred to as acoustic treatment, is often used in recording studios for the purpose of improving the way the room sounds by adding sound dampening materials to walls, corners, and other surfaces, as well as within drywall and ceiling spaces.

Using sound dampening materials to remove any unwanted echoes or reverb in the room is a fundamental process for every recording studio, whether it is used for recording music and musical instruments or even for recording podcasts.

Sound dampening is also used to insulate houses or other buildings from outside noise while maintaining one’s privacy and low levels of noise within the building. This is usually accomplished with open-cell insulation that is placed within the walls, partitions, ceilings, and floors of the house or building.

This sound dampening does not make the building soundproof. Still, it does prevent outside noise from being too loud or disturbing inside and also helps to keep loud noises from leaving the building and disturbing neighbors.

This is useful for buildings that are intended for recording, as well as facilities that will be used as workshops or workspaces where a lot of noise is generated. 

Other enterprises such as dance studios, music schools, call centers, event venues, and restaurants may also use this type of sound dampening in their building to limit disturbances from outside sound sources and help reduce the level of sound spilling out of the building as well.

If you have ever driven inside a very noisy car, you will know the need for automotive sound dampening as well.

Sound dampening is not only useful for music and noisy environments, but the inside of a car that is driving down the highway without any sound dampening is a very unpleasant place to be.

Cars without sound dampening are incredibly loud due to tire roar and wind noise from outside the vehicle as it travels at high speeds. The volumes that these sounds can reach is higher than you may expect and can even be harmful to your ears if you are exposed to them for a long time.

For this reason, sound dampening in vehicles is crucial. Sound dampening in this application is intended to reduce the amount of noise that enters the vehicle from outside sources. The sound will never be eliminated entirely, but sound dampening will reduce the noise levels significantly.

Is Sound Dampening Different To Sound Proofing?

Sound dampening is very different from soundproofing. Read my article on soundproofing vs sound dampening.

Soundproofing is the process of preventing all sound from either leaving or entering a space.

The process of soundproofing is much more complicated than sound dampening and begins from the ground up. A building has to be specifically designed and built with soundproofing in mind.

Soundproofing goes as far as eliminating all external vibrations of any kind that may generate or transmit any frequencies as sound.

Therefore, many buildings that are made to be soundproof will be built with specialized foundations that absorb vibrations, they will have soundproofing materials built into the structure of the building, as well as advanced soundproofing techniques such as leaving air spaces in between double-wall layers to help trap specific frequencies.

As well as all of this specialized construction, soundproofing is how the internal structure of the build is designed as well. The internal structures must be designed for the purpose of being soundproof, not built as they usually would be, and having sound treatment done later.

If a room is soundproof, it allows absolutely no sound or other frequencies to enter or leave the room from any source.

Sound dampening is a different process entirely.

The term sound dampening does not refer to making a space free from external noise or preventing all sounds from leaving a space, but rather to limit the sound levels and the way sound moves within an area.

Sound dampening limits the sound levels in a room, whether the sound is from an external or internal source, but it does not completely block out sound.

A room or space that has been sound dampened has been acoustically treated by the addition of materials within the room or area to make the room sound better in terms of echoes and reverberation and to make sound from outside sources quieter.

Is Sound Dampening Worth It?

Sound dampening can be an expensive and very lengthy process.

The materials that are involved are often costly, the labor that is required can be expensive, finding out the exact right materials that are needed for each surface and sound source can be challenging, and the implementation of the sound dampening materials in their correct locations and in the right dimensions can take a very long time to complete.

Many people that are considering going through the sound dampening process, for whatever the reason may be, have to weigh up the cost, time, research, and labor outlay versus the result of the sound dampening to determine if sound dampening is actually worth it in their situation.

Sound Dampening In A Room

Sound Dampening In A Room

Sound dampening in a room is the easiest, cheapest, and most simple to implement sound dampening.

All it takes to sound dampen a room is some understanding of what frequencies are being generated by what sound sources, where the sonic problem areas within the room are, and some acoustic foam or panels to resolve the problems.

The process of sound dampening in a room usually involves installing acoustic panels, acoustic foam, thick rugs, and other materials in the room.

These materials can be hung from the roof, mounted on the walls, placed in corners, and put in strategic locations to limit the propagation of sound waves in the room, eliminating echoes, reverb, and softening noise coming from outside the room.

This is not a particularly difficult process, but it can be time-consuming. There may be some financial and time outlay for acquiring the correct tools to install the materials properly.

This type of sound dampening is relatively inexpensive, and the materials used are easy to find.

If the sound dampening is being used to treat a room for recording or for dampening loud noises in a workshop, it is worth the time and effort for the sake of a better work environment and more clear and consistent recordings.

Sound Dampening In A Building

Sound dampening an entire building, such as a house or a complete workshop, is the most expensive and challenging of sound dampening projects.

This type of sound dampening is the most effective way to sound dampen a space, but it also takes the most time, effort, labor, and money.

To sound dampen, or sound treat, an entire building, there are many processes to follow, such as determining the types of sounds and frequencies that are being generated in and around the building at any time, as well as choosing the most efficient and cost-effective materials to use for the right purposes.

Sound dampening on this level requires materials to be placed within ceilings and crawl spaces, built into walls, having the floors changed, and filling every possible cavity within the structure with dense sound dampening materials.

This is not where the process ends, however. The sound dampening process has to continue on every room’s interior by installing sound-absorbing materials in every sound propagation site, such as corners and nooks.

For a building to go undergo the sound dampening process is extremely expensive, requires specialized workers to install the materials and conduct the implementation of the sound dampening, a lot of time, a lot of mess, and many calculations for determining the sound sources and the frequencies they emit.

This outlay is only worthwhile if the building will be used for its intended purposes for a very long time. All of the work that goes into sound dampening the building will yield financial returns by producing a higher quality product, such as high-quality recordings, or by increasing worker productivity in the building.

If the cost and time that it takes to complete this project will hinder the usefulness of the building for too long, or if the outlay is too high for the benefit of the sound dampening, then acoustic treatment should be conducted on the interior of each room instead of sound dampening the entire building.

Sound Dampening In A Vehicle

sound dampening vehicle

Vehicles are usually sound dampened at the factory where they are assembled. The sound dampening that is installed is generally very effective and efficient.

However, if you are rebuilding a vehicle or if you own a very old vehicle that needs to have new sound dampening materials installed, there are a few reasons why sound dampening is worth it and a few that make it not worthwhile.

Sound dampening within a vehicle is only absolutely necessary if the vehicle is going to be traveling at high speeds, if the vehicle has a loud sound system, or if the vehicle will be used on gravel roads.

Suppose the vehicle is traveling at low speeds. In that case, wind noise and tire roar are not too much of a concern, but if the vehicle is moving at high speeds or over long distances, the tire roar and wind noise within the vehicle may become deafening and unbearable.

If the vehicle in question is very old, and the sound dampening material that was initially installed has corroded away or been removed, the wind noise and tire roar within the vehicle may be a serious problem.

Installing a loud sound system in a vehicle may require some sound dampening for the sake of those outside the vehicle, as well as for improving the sound quality within the vehicle.

Extra sound-dampening may be useful if the vehicle is used for a lot of driving on gravel roads, mainly if it is driven over long distances on gravel roads.

Sound dampening a vehicle may be an expensive ordeal, depending on how much sound dampening must be done, which materials are being used, and the sounds the materials are intended to dampen.

The materials used for sound dampening may add weight to a vehicle, which is also a factor for those who hold their cars in high esteem.

If the vehicle is too old, not worth much, does not move very fast, or if the financial outlay is too great, it may be better to just live with the unwanted noises within the vehicle.

What Are The Best Materials To Use For Sound Dampening?

Sound Treatment_Acoustic Foam

While there are many materials available on the market for sound dampening, let’s take a look at the industry-standard sound-dampening materials for rooms, buildings, and vehicles:

Sound Treatment/Acoustic Foam

This specialized foam material is specifically designed to absorb or disperse sound, depending on the frequency.

This material does an excellent job of dealing with unwanted sound propagation within a room, such as echoes and reverberation. It can also be formed and trimmed to any size. It comes in a variety of thicknesses and densities and is relatively cheap to buy.

Pure Cotton Materials

Cotton is an excellent sound dampening material. It performs just as well as specialized acoustic foam while being cheaper.

This material is slightly less versatile, and much more of it is needed to be effective against some frequencies.

Cotton can be made into various shapes and sizes, such as panels, sheets, pads, and carpets. It can even be made into materials such as denim, which, when used in layers, are a highly effective sound treatment for low-frequency sound because of its density.

Cotton is heat and flame resistant, as well as cheap and versatile.

Stonewool Open-Cell Sound Insulation

This material is fascinating and highly effective for use in the internal structure of buildings and rooms.

This material is brilliant for sound absorption and is resistant to heat and moisture. It is simple to use, relatively inexpensive to buy, and readily available.

This material helps absorb sounds leaving the room and entering the room. Stonewool, and materials like it, are great for helping with overall sound dampening for a house, building, workshop or studio if applied correctly.

Dynamat For Vehicles

Dynamat is a sound dampening material that is specifically designed for sound dampening cars and other vehicles.

It is made from butyl rubber and aluminum. It has a sticky side that allows it to be stuck on verticle surfaces or adhered to a car’s interior without sliding.

This material can be used in footwells, inside door cavities, in the trunk, under carpets, behind headliners, and anywhere else it is needed.

This material is the leader in its class when it comes to dampening sounds such as tire roar and wind noise within a vehicle.

Conclusion

Sound dampening is the process of softening the noise coming in or out of a room, building, or vehicle, or the method of acoustically treating a room to sound better for recording or other purposes.

Sound dampening is not soundproofing, as it is intended to improve sound quality or reduce noise levels, rather than blocking out sound altogether.

This process is well worth the outlay if it will improve the sound quality within a car, building, or room, but it can be a costly and challenging process.

Many materials can be used for sound dampening. Still, there are a few that are preferred by experts for their excellent sound-dampening properties and applications.

When sound dampening a space, be sure to use the right materials to dampen the frequencies present, targeting a specific frequency range, rather than just adding density to a structure.

Do the research, spend the time determining the best materials for you to use, and seek the advice of sound dampening experts before tackling this project on your own!

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