Stop Noise in Its Tracks With Mass Loaded Vinyl

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Road noise is a … frustrating part of driving, and some cars are worse than others. Whether you have an expensive audio system or are tired of having to yell while driving on the highway, investing in some quality sound blocking will give you control over what you hear in your car cabin.

Modern noise abatement materials help to quiet a vehicle tremendously and will increase the comfort of your ride. Second Skin is here to assist you through your vehicle restoration project or just quieting down your daily driver.

Get to Know Noise Barriers
A good noise barrier will prevent sound waves from passing through it. For vehicles, we use the same materials and techniques that you would use to block sound in a home or apartment. Just like you'd want to avoid hearing your noisy neighbor through your walls, ceilings, and floors, Second Skin's sound blocking materials will reduce road noise and keep unwanted sound outside your car cabin.

As with anything else you buy for your vehicle, noise barriers come in a wide variety in quality of material – ranging from great to lousy (and even smelly). Second Skin Audio sells only the highest quality noise blocking products for vehicles and buildings. We also want to make sure you understand the fundamentals of blocking sound waves so that you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you. We hope we can help you get the most bang for your buck, while enjoying the best results possible for your project.

Want to Block Airborne Noise? You Need A Noise Barrier!

The manufacture of sound blocking materials is big business these days and the leading solution is mass loaded vinyl, or MLV. But everybody who buys sound blocking materials for their vehicle does not get the same results. Why?

Because the unwanted sounds you hear inside your vehicle are traveling towards you along two very different paths. To get the best results, you have to match the product to the path you want to silence. It works like this:

Structural Noise

Some sound waves travel through metal. The metal chassis, floorboard panels and body structure of the vehicle conduct sound waves as energy vibrations. In many cases, the metal panels can even amplify the sound, like the buzzing noise when you turn the bass up on your audio system.

The solution to improve your acoustics is to apply car audio sound deadening material to any metal that vibrates. As the name implies, sound deadening materials dampen the metal and mute the vibrations, much like stopping a noisy wind chime with your hand.

Airborne Noise

Other types of unwanted noise travel into the vehicle by air. The air molecules surrounding the vehicle transmit unwanted sound into the passenger compartment. These noises include the droning noise of exhaust system resonance, the roaring of road noise that comes from the tires, and even noise from air flowing under the vehicle can become wearisome to the ear.

The solution for airborne noise is to apply a barrier material that will block those sounds from entering the cabin. The idea is to create a personal bubble that rejects airborne sound waves before they reach you.

If you use the wrong products for the application, use low-quality products, or apply products incorrectly, you will get inferior results. That’s why people get widely differing results from their efforts to add sound dampening materials to their vehicles. Avoiding those expensive mistakes is easy – thank goodness you're reading up on it!

What Makes an Effective Noise Barrier?

To see how this works, let’s look at how a soundproof room is constructed. The same principles apply to soundproofing a room as soundproofing a vehicle. So, picture a recording studio – go ahead and put your favorite musician in there.

Musician's in there? Good. If you are like most people, you might be picturing a room with walls that are covered with a thick foam padding that has a pyramid-shaped texture. But that soft foam is not a noise barrier. In fact, if there was a wall made only of that soft foam separating you from another person, you would be able to converse through it because sound easily penetrates the soft foam. Then why is the foam there? Because instead of blocking noise, the soft, lightweight foam is excellent at absorbing sound and quelling light echoes. That’s all it does.

Then what prevents outside noise, like the sounds of street traffic or of the rock group next door, from entering the recording room? The actual sound barriers are installed inside the walls, floors, and ceilings where you can’t see them. Those barriers are solid, thick, somewhat heavy, and fairly flexible. Traditionally, huge sheets of lead (yes, the metal lead) were nailed inside the walls of soundproof rooms. The lead sheets covered the entire framework of the rooms end to end, and from floor to ceiling. Technology has advanced a lot since then, but why was lead used? Because to be an effective blocker of sound, a material must be 3 things:

Dense: you need at least one pound per square foot to effectively repel sound waves (and the heavier the better). Otherwise sound would travel right through it like the soft foam.

Limp: the barrier should be somewhat malleable and soft to absorb the energy of noise vibration and to prevent it from resonating

Unbroken: any gaps in the barrier are gaps that sound waves can travel through


Nowadays, MLV has replaced lead as the best sound barrier material for buildings, and it’s great for vehicles as well. Mass loaded vinyl is very dense and flexible, making it the ideal noise barrier.

The name "MLV" comes from the way the vinyl material is manufactured. To increase the mass of the vinyl sheets, heavy metal particles are mixed in during the manufacturing process. That extra weight increases the density and creates an effective sound blocker. The material is left somewhat limp, and that, like the soft lead, prevents the material from resonating as it blocks sound waves. Working together, the mass and the limpness create a strong sound barrier.

Additional Sound Blocking Information

  • Limp barriers work better than rigid ones

    The mass loaded vinyl barrier has to be somewhat limp, because the give prevents your barrier from vibrating. This is true whether you're installing the MLV inside the wall of a room in your house or under the carpet in your vehicle. Think about if you hit a sheet of lead; it won’t reverberate and ring like a rigid sheet of tin or brass would. It’s the same with mass loaded vinyl – the flexibility and softness prevent the MLV from vibrating. Because the MLV material doesn’t vibrate, you don’t hear the ringing sound.

  • What should you look for in an MLV sound barrier?

    The first thing you should confirm is the quality of the mass loaded vinyl. Two key indicators of quality are the MLV's STC rating and whether or not the company will describe it as odorless.

    • The STC rating tells you how well the MLV blocks sound waves, the higher the better. The density of most MLVs is between 1 pound per sq ft to 2 pounds per sq ft. The industry standard is 1 lb, which is what we recommend for vehicles because the denser versions of MLV are not as workable around a vehicle's curves. Most people use the 1 lb density for homes as well. For this density, you're looking for an STC in the the 26 to 28 range.
    • Being odorless indicates the quality of the materials that compose the MLV. It's possible to cut costs by making the MLV out of cheap recycled goods, but you pay for that cheapness in other ways.
  • Watch out for MLV made from low quality recycled products

    Most MLV products are made from recycled goods. We are a fan of recycling, but it's important to make sure you're getting the best quality if its going into your living spaces. You are looking for raw virgin mass loaded vinyl. Some of the problems we see with recycled MLV materials are:

    • Inconsistent thickness, which can reduce the mass per square foot and reduce the effectiveness of your MLV sound barrier
    • They can smell bad. Not in my car please!
    • Can be more brittle and less flexible. You don't want the product to rip just because you bent it a couple of times.
    • Sometimes its not even MLV! We've seen this occasionally with MLV material people buy in hardware stores.

    Just do your research before buying.

How to Install Luxury Liner Pro

You don’t have to use an adhesive if you’re using it on the floor, but we recommend one. Apply Luxury Liner Pro using the Second Skin Contact Spray Adhesive, another strong adhesive (like 3M 90), or a super strong double sided tape. Apply the adhesive to the top of your sound deadener and to the foam side of the Luxury Liner Pro. We do not recommend installing Luxury Liner Pro on the car roof or anywhere else it’ll be upside down – it’s heavy and may fall.

You;ll save time by installing Luxury Liner Pro at the same time that you’re installing your Damplifier Pro sound deadener.

Luxury Liner – our MLV Only Noise Barrier for Vehicles and Residential Use

Luxury Liner is an MLV without the layer of closed cell foam. Just like the Luxury Liner Pro, we’re very particular about the quality of the vinyl to ensure it doesn’t smell and you get consistent mass per square foot. We recommend Luxury Liner for all home soundproofing projects. The MLV should be installed inside the wall with some room to limply flop around. Staple the MLV to the studs before installing the sheetrock. Be sure to cut holes for any outlets and seal edges with acoustical caulk to ensure the integrity of your barrier.

Don’t Skip The Decoupler

Remember we said that everybody who installs sound control products does not get the same results? We always recommend using a decoupler when installing Luxury Liner MLV in vehicles.

If you use Luxury Liner on top of Damplifier, or any other sound deadener, you need to install a soft, decoupling layer (such as our OverKill Pro closed cell foam or Heat Wave Pro jute insulation). The softer decoupling material prevents the two hard surfaces from hitting each other and creating sound waves from the vibration energy.


Using MLV Around the House

Luxury Liner is an ideal solution for your typical wall, ceiling, or floor soundproofing projects. While it's best to install the MLV inside the wall attached to the studs, you can install it without taking down the sheetrock by using Furring strips (available to Lowe's or Home Depot). Use a stud finder to locate the studs, screw in the Furring strips vertically aligned with the studs, and then install your mass loaded vinyl. You can then leave the MLV exposed or sheetrock over it.

Luxury Liner MLV is used in home theater rooms or any music room. Did you buy your kid a drum set for Christmas? Want to create a soundproof booth? You’re looking for a MLV noise barrier.

Mass loaded vinyl can be used to wrap anything making noise, like metal HVAC ducts, a generator box, or plumbing pipes. If you have questions about your specific application, please give us a call.

Second Skin Is Here to Help!

Quality matters. Don’t skimp on your project. Why go through all the effort of deconstructing your car only to get subpar results?

Max out your results by installing a noise blocker on top of your sound deadener. It will create your personal bubble of calm and the purest space for you to enjoy. You’ll be glad you did.

If you still have questions, don’t go it alone! Call in for help on your project before you buy anything. We’re here to help.

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