Between Sound Insulation and Sound
Many people don't know that sound insulation is
different from sound
absorption. So what's the difference?
If the objective is to stop sound from entering or
leaving a space, then you will most likely need
sound insulation or soundproofing. For example;
your neighbor plays loud music at all hours of the
day and night. The sound travels from their space
If the objective is to enhance the properties of
sound by improving speech clarity and sound
quality, then the answer is sound absorption. For
example, your staff or students have difficulty
clearly hearing in the conference room or
auditorium during presentations.
Is there a single material that both sound
insulation and sound absorption? No, there can't
Acoustic panels usually refer to sound absorbing
panels, while soundproofing panels usually refer to
sound absorbing panels.
If you need to keep sound from going through
apartment walls (or through a window, or from
coming in from the street). Will acoustic panels do
that? No, acoustic panels(sound absorbing panels)
won't do that. What you need is acoustic isolation
(keeping sound from one area isolated from another
Two pieces of advice on isolation are:
1. Make it airtight.
Get rid of gaps under doors, etc. Even a small gap
will let a lot of sound through. This makes a big
difference. If you make it airtight you'll reduce
mid and high frequency sounds, but still have
muffled low frequency sounds coming through.
Seal those big gaps with weather-stripping, plywood
over openings, etc. For small gaps, especially
during new construction and remodeling, you may use
noise proofing sealant that's great for sealing
cracks where sound gets through.
2. Make it rigid and decoupled.
Low frequency sound (bass) requires rigid surfaces
to bounce it off so it doesn't come through.
Concrete walls are great, but you can't just pour
one in your living room. Heavy plywood over a
window, double-layer sheetrock on a wall, anything
that adds stiffness and weight to your sound
barrier will help keep those low frequencies
Decoupled means when you vibrate one side of the
wall, it doesn't transmit the vibration through to
the other side. This is accomplished with shock
absorption in between. This is where sound
isolation products come in.
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