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What is an Acoustic Foam? – For Better Sounding Rooms!

Ever wondered if your room could potentially sound better? After some years of being a “bedroom producer”, your fairly seasoned pair of ears should be able to identify the need for improvement. If you are looking for a way to avoid spending a fortune for a complete room makeover, then you need to find out what is an Acoustic Foam!

I think we can agree that the overwhelming majority of home producers do not have the resources to convert their cosy bedrooms into professional recording studios. Hence, these specially designed foam panels provide an affordable alternative when it comes to optimizing the acoustics of your recording space!

Acoustic Foam – Is It Just Sponge?

The open-celled foam that is often used for acoustic treatment of rooms is called an acoustic foam. It functions by increasing the air resistance in order to attenuate airborne sound waves. As a result, the amplitude of the waves will be reduced, and the energy is dissipated as heat. Acoustic foams come in a variety of different colors, sizes and thickness.

Acoustic Tile

An acoustic foam tile / Photo by Trevor Cox / CC BY-SA 2.0

Acoustic foams in the market are typically designed to be attached to walls, ceilings, doors, and other features of a room to control noise levels, vibration, and echoes. In general, acoustic foam products are treated with dyes and/or fire retardants.

Sound Enhancement

In essence, acoustic foams actually help to remove residual sound in any space, thus improving the overall sound quality of a room. However, in order to maximize the effectiveness of acoustic foam panels, they must be strategically placed on walls, ceiling and floors. This ensures the elimination of unwanted resonances within a room.

Recording Studio Acoustics

Black rectangular acoustic foam panels in a recording studio / Photo by VACANT FEVER / CC BY-SA 2.0

Do keep in mind that the purpose is not to completely eliminate resonance, but to reduce it. The primary objective is to improve speech clarity by enhancing the acoustic properties of a room. Acoustic foams are also often used in recording studios, where similar sized pieces, usually in the shape of cones or triangles, are placed on opposite walls.

Design Principles

Acoustic foams are lightweight and made from polyurethane, polyether or polyester, and also extruded melamine foam. You will often see them being sold in tiles of pyramid or wedge shapes, which makes them suitable for placement on walls of a typical room with flat surfaces. They function as a “sound absorber”, thus enhancing a room’s sound quality.

When sound waves bounces off the walls in a room, they may cause excessive reverberation. By using acoustic foam panels to control this reverberation, echoes and background noises can be greatly reduced. This method of acoustic treatment is different from soundproofing, which is used to prevent sound from “leaking” out or into a room.

Concert Hall Acoustics

Acoustic panels attached to the ceiling of a concert hall / Photo by Daderot / CC BY-SA 3.0

This is why acoustic foams are usually installed in large rooms such as in churches, synagogues and concert halls. These rooms have large, flat surfaces and there will definitely be a lot of sound reflections within them. Thus, these sound absorbers will help to improve the acoustics of the room, ultimately reducing the overall noise.

Take note that most of the acoustic foam panels that you see on walls, are designed to handle the mid and high frequencies. If you have problems with lower frequencies, you will need much thicker pieces of acoustic foam that are called “bass traps”, and often placed in the corners of a room.

That’s about all the information I have for today. Do you use acoustic panels in your room? Or maybe thinking of using some?

Let me know your thoughts down below, and do share this article!

Farhan

When I'm not rocking out to great music, I'd prefer to be sleeping on a field on a windy day =)

2 Comments

  1. That is a cool post I didn’t know that even a small room might benefit from acoustic baffling. I have a friend who did it for his floor by using rubber balls underneath it. Kind of an inventive way but probably not very practical. Are Bass Traps more expensive than their acoustic baffle brothers or are they about the same in expense?

    • Hi Rick!

      It really depends on the manufacturer that you are buying from. Some will be more expensive than others, depending on the overall quality. For example, a high quality bass trap will cost more than a lower-end acoustic wall panel (and vice versa).

      Thanks for dropping by!

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