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A Complete Guide to the Best Soundproofing Materials

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There’s a misconception that everyone at Second Skin loves quiet, that we’re all hermits that sit in a padded room reading Charles Dickens novels with earplugs in because we hate sound.

Frankly, that couldn’t be further from the truth, we love hosting friends and family, or watching the game too loud, or blasting AC/DC on our new stereo system. And sure, occasionally after a long day, flopping down on the couch and basking in silence can be pretty relaxing. But the point is we don’t hate sound, in fact we love sound. What we do hate...is noise. And if you think about the process of soundproofing, that’s all it really is, finding ways to target and keep out unwanted noise (actually, why isn’t it called noiseproofing? We’ll look into it).

We’ve worked with a lot of people over the years and have seen many reasons to soundproof your space, whether it’s work or home. You may live in a noisy area near construction or loud bars, or have less-than-considerate neighbors that play their TV too loudly. Or maybe you’re the noisy one and you are trying to keep sound in. Many of our clients are musicians or creators who work with power tools. Or maybe, like us, you just like to entertain and don’t want to be a less-than-considerate neighbor. When people look to us for soundproofing solutions, it’s not just about stopping noise, but to get the benefits that less noise can bring – helping reduce their stress, get better sleep, feel more comfortable, or be more productive.

Soundproofing is a simple concept but can feel really complicated and overwhelming once you start diving into it. We’re going to try and share as much as we can about what we’ve learned over the years, from the basics of sound, to defining technical industry terms. If you read though this and feel like you still have questions, or if you just don’t feel like reading, reach out to us directly and we’ll help you with your soundproofing solutions.

How Sound Works

When broken down in the most simple terms, sound is the energy that is transmitted as vibrations through a medium (solids, liquids, gases). The energy from these vibrations travels as sound waves. When sound reaches our ears we perceive the energy through interpretation by our brain. A yell is the result of your vocal cords vibrating. A loud bang is a vibration caused by two objects colliding.

We like to categorize sound as either structural noise or airborne noise. Structural noise is heard when an object makes contact with another, for example, footsteps, knocking on a door, or rattling parts in a vehicle. Airborne noise is sound that travels through the air, such as people talking, dogs barking, or the radio playing.

There are different soundproofing techniques for the different types of sound you are trying to effectively reduce, and we use all sorts of verbs to describe the specific strategy used to stop the sound waves – a partial list includes sound deadening, sound absorption, sound isolation, vibration damping, sound blocking. It can get confusing if you’re not familiar with the nuance of what each term means! A good place to start is to understand how sound travels and how to treat all types of noise you might be affected by.

Airborne Noise

Airborne

Impact Noise

Impact

Learn more about how sound works

Basics of Soundproofing

Not everything advertised as a soundproofing material is going to do a good job at blocking sound. The following three key components outline the most important elements of soundproofing products. If you know to look for these three factors, you will have a huge leg up on identifying if a material will be effective at blocking sound.

MASS

Denser objects with more mass will block more sound. There’s a simple rule of thumb called the “mass law”: every time you double the weight of a material, you improve the STC rating by about 5 points. We know this intuitively, because concrete blocks more sound than cardboard. Because you have to double the thickness to double the weight, mass law is subject to diminishing returns. At some point, doubling the material isn’t worth it and we need to build a more complex sound barrier!

Limpness

Although the density of an object is beneficial for soundproofing, you don’t want the product to be stiff. The bending stiffness and internal damping of a barrier affect how well a material can block sound. A limper material such as mass loaded vinyl is better at blocking sound than a hard and stiff one, like steel. Imagine dropping a coin on a metal table vs dropping a coin on a rubber mat. The limpness of the rubber dissipates the energy of the coin and stops the vibrations.

Airtight

The final key factor for soundproofing materials is the airtight seal. Sound is always looking for a weak point, and will easily find small gaps to travel through. This means that even if the area you are trying to soundproof has a lot of mass and is not too stiff, any gaps where the sound will create a flanking path allowing the noise to travel around the material through those air gaps. Sealing up these gaps will prevent the noise from penetrating your barrier.

Difference Between Soundproofing and Acoustics

Although at first glance they may seem like the same thing, soundproofing and acoustics are two very distinct concepts. You will commonly come across a lot of information about acoustics when researching soundproofing, and vice versa, so it is important to understand the difference between the two.

  • Soundproofing

  • Stop sound from transferring between spaces

  • Dense, airtight barriers; Isolating physical structures

  • Stop sound from transferring between spaces

  • Acoustics

  • Control reverb inside a space

  • Absorption (foam, fibrous); Diffusion to strategically scatter

  • Improved sound quality and modestly quieter

Soundproofing (Blocking sound)

If you are wanting to prevent sound from traveling from one area to another, soundproofing products are what you need to be looking at. If the material is not dense and able to be installed in an airtight manner, you are not looking at soundproofing material.

Acoustic Treatments (Absorbing Sound)

If you want to improve the sound quality of a certain room or space by reducing the amount of echo and reverb that is being heard, you should be looking at acoustic treatments.

Acoustical materials can help in soundproofing projects because they absorb sound and reduce the amount of reflected noise that is bouncing around the room.

Acoustical materials can help in soundproofing projects because they absorb sound and reduce the amount of noise that is reflected into the room. Adding more absorption to a room will decrease the overall noise level by a marginal amount, but you will still hear all those external noises. Acoustic materials do not block sound. Open cell foam is an example of a popular acoustic material that is useless when it comes to soundproofing, but often marketed as soundproofing material. The product is spongy and porous which is very helpful for absorbing sound, but that absorption is only going to be helpful for reducing reverb and echo already inside the room. If you plan to soundproof a room, you need soundproofing materials to keep the sound out.

Let’s repeat that again in it’s own paragraph to be SUPER clear. Just because the foam is labeled as "soundproofing foam” does not mean it will soundproof anything. Foam lacks the density to be a soundproofing product, and will not stop sound from transferring between two spaces. The seller is probably labeling the foam that way because they know customers search for “soundproof foam.” It's also possible they just don’t understand soundproofing. The product is “acoustic foam”, because it's designed to absorb reflected sound inside a space.

Acoustic foam can be used as a sound absorbing product, and there are two main categories. One category is melamine foam and the other is polyurethane foam.

Melamine foam is all made in Europe, and can be treated for fire resistance, water resistance, and other enhancements to give it pretty awesome acoustical and thermal properties. We love using hydrophobic melamine foam in vehicles (cars, buses, trains, planes), as our Mega Zorbe line is aerospace approved and used by companies like Boeing.

Another category of acoustic foam is polyurethane foam. We avoid this foam, because it is extremely flammable (not Class A fire rated) and cannot be used in most commercial building applications. The cheap stuff you see on Amazon is made overseas by companies that the US legal system couldn't hold accountable for burning a building down. It's typically sold to residential consumers who don’t know better and don’t have to worry about a fire marshal telling them to remove it.

Instead, we offer a variety of sound dampening panels that can be used in a variety of different spaces. These panels are more durable and better looking, while still performing well in terms of sound absorption.

Soundproofing Products

  • Luxury Liner is a heavy duty, building grade. We developed this sound blocking product to have no odor and be very bendable. Luxury Liner is a great fit for any soundproofing project in your home or even in your car. With an STC rating of up to 32, this American made product blocks noise as well as a double-paned window. The MLV comes in a variety of lengths and in two densities: 1lb / sqft and 2lb / sqft. Simply cut this MLV to suit your needs and you’ll be able to soundproof just about anything!

    Common Uses

  • Green Glue is your best friend when DIY soundproofing. Simply apply this non-toxic high-performance damping compound between two rigid layers of building materials to reduce airborne noise and improve sound isolation. This product works perfectly for soundproofing walls in a room and is by far the best option when dealing with airborne noise through an existing wall or ceiling. By adding a new layer of 5/8” drywall with Green Glue and acoustical sealant, you’ll increase the STC rating of a standard wall to over 50 (very good). Green Glue is a cost-effective product that is easy to apply, odorless, and high performance.

    Common Uses

    • New Wall Construction

    • Existing Wall

    • Ceilings

  • Acoustical Sealant is a must for almost any soundproofing project – and it’s just a few bucks! This latex-based, flexible acrylic polymer can magically improve STC ratings on almost any building material, including wood, metal, and concrete. By sealing around the perimeter of drywall with acoustical caulk, you can increase the amount of sound blocked by more than 20 dB. Acoustical Sealant should always be applied around any gaps, penetrations, or cutouts to get a massive improvement in soundproofing. Our preferred Acoustical Sealant is low VOC and comes in environmentally friendly packaging made of recycled material.

    Common Uses

    • Walls

    • Ceilings

    • Windows

    • Floors

  • Tru Acoustics Soundproof Window is a durable soundproof interior window with an anodized aluminum frame. Coming in a clear or bronze finish, this window has an STC rating of up to 56, meaning it is as soundproof as a window can be. Tru Acoustics Window is a great addition to any soundproof wall to ensure proper soundproofing of a room. The frames come pre-filled with easy snap in glass that makes it extremely easy to install. The Tru Acoustics window is a perfect fit for all sorts of interior rooms, such as recording studios and even industrial and military rooms. We offer a variety of glass options including clear, safety glass, mirror pane, and tinted making this window very versatile.

    Common Uses

    • Interior Windows

    • Recording Studios

    • Commercial and Industrial Windows

  • The American made Resilient Sound Isolation Clips have been a go-to soundproofing product for decades. They are a best-in-class solution to stop both impact and airborne sound from traveling through any structure made of wood, steel, or concrete. These Resilient Sound Isolation Clips can even support multiple layers of ⅝” drywall. By using these clips, you can easily increase the STC rating of your wall by up to 20 points. If you have impact noise from the floor above, RSIC clips to decouple the ceiling are the only option to stop the sound of footsteps. We offer the full line of RSIC sound isolation clips depending on your specific needs.

    Common Uses

    • Walls

    • Ceilings

  • Doors are the most common weak points in an interior room needing soundproofing. If you are looking for a beefy door that can block sound and essentially vacuum seal your room, then you should purchase the Sound Lock Soundproof Door. This prehung, heavy duty door is perfect for recording studios or other soundproofing projects that need some serious noise reduction. The door has an STC rating of 56, and has an attractive wood finish that’s ready to be painted or stained. The Sound Lock Soundproof Door also comes with preinstalled perimeter seals and a bottom seal that drops down when the door is closed to plug the air gap under the door.

    Common Uses

    • Interior Doors

    • Recording Studio Doors

    • Offices

    • Schools

    • Military Bases

  • These window inserts can be custom fit to turn any window into a soundproof window. The magnetic seal on the edge of the insert makes the Fantastic Frame incredibly easy to install and remove if you ever need to access the primary window. The windows in a room are another structural weak point and often let in exterior noise, and adding these inserts can reduce noise through the window by up to 80 percent. Using these inserts will quiet down your room if you live on a loud street and allow for a more peaceful sleep. They’re also excellent for thermal, and will help a commercial building reduce heating/cooling bills by 30-40%.

    Common Uses

    • Any Interior Window

    • Bedroom Windows

    • Curtain Walls

  • The Quiet Quilt 2-Sided Barrier Blanket is an industrial quality soundproof blanket that is able to reduce sound by creating a barrier around the source of the noise. The double-sided blanket is made of 1lb of mass loaded vinyl per square foot sandwiched between a quilted vinyl absorber. It has an STC rating of 29, so it is an excellent barrier for a machine enclosure or wall partition. The double sided Quiet Quilt is very durable, moveable, and easy to clean so it is commonly used in industrial applications where permanent walls are impractical.

    Common Uses

    • Soundproof Partitions

    • Fences

    • Soundproof Booths

    • Machine Enclosures

  • Control unwanted noise by installing our Quiet Quilt Soundproof Blanket. At an STC rating of 32 and an NRC rating of 0.85, this blanket is made with reinforced 1 lb mass loaded vinyl with a vinyl coated polyester absorber for maximum sound proofing abilities. This soundproof blanket is often used around commercial generators, HVAC units, and other sorts of fencing to both block and absorb noise. Quiet Quilt is customizable and can be custom cut to fit a variety of different needs. All you have to do is use the grommets to hang the blankets and Velcro to attach the sound blankets to each other. Face the absorptive side towards the unwanted noise.

    Common Uses

    • Soundproof Partitions

    • Fences

    • Temporary Barriers

  • The small cracks around your door can let out a substantial amount of noise. A standard door has around 1 square foot of airspace around the edges. Imagine if there was a 1 foot by 1 foot hole in your wall! Our Sound Lock Door Seal Kit solves this problem by turning your solid core door into an effective soundproof barrier. There is also a heavy duty option that can be used for industrial settings. The door seal kit includes 3 adjustable jamb seals and a drop down bottom seal. Depending on the density of the door that the Sound Lock seal kit is paired with, you can expect an STC rating of up to 51! The Sound Lock Door Seal Kit is the secret to turning any solid core door into a soundproof door.

    Common Uses

    • Interior Doors

    • Solid Core Doors

  • Floors are often forgotten when it comes to soundproofing.. until you notice those footsteps. A floor with no soundproofing is a nightmare scenario, and should always be considered as part of a floor-ceiling assembly. UnderBlock is recycled, rubber mat that is great for floor soundproofing. With UnderBlock installed underneath your floor, you can enjoy the perks of a hardwood or tile floor while having the impact noise reduction of carpet. The mat is made of over 90% recycled rubber and is super easy to install. Just roll it out across the base of your floor and install just about any finished floor on top of it. UnderBlock comes in thicknesses ranging from 2mm to 12mm, but we recommend the 10mm thickness option for most soundproofing applications.

    Common Uses

    • Floors

    • Washing Machines

    • Golf Mats

  • As the name suggests, BlocknZorbe Multi-Purpose Sound Panels are able to both block and absorb noise. These panels are one of the only acoustic panels that also have sound proofing abilities, boasting an STC of up to 13 points and an NRC rating of up to 0.7! As an added plus, they are DIY-friendly as they are easy to install and clean. These semi rigid, porous expanded polypropylene sound panels are waterproof, impact resistant, and tack-able. If you want to install these panels outside, no worries! The charcoal BlocknZorbe panels can be used outdoors and are UV resistant too. BlocknZorbe EZ Drop Ceiling Tiles are custom sheets of our durable BlocknZorbe panels that we cut to easily lay in to a dropped ceiling. These ceiling tiles replace existing ceiling tiles and can be used instead of a ceiling tile backer to block sound through a dropped ceiling.

    Common Uses

    • Walls

    • Generator Enclosures

    • Dog Kennels

    • Machine Enclosures

    • Soundproof Shooting Boxes

    • Pool Pumps

Acoustic Products

We offer a full line of acoustic panels to improve sound quality and reduce reverb and echo in a space. As we reviewed earlier, acoustical materials should not be used for soundproofing, but they can be used to complement the soundproofing materials you’re already installing. For a more in depth overview, check out all of our acoustical treatments.
  • If you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing sound absorbing panel that can be customized and painted to any color, the Timberwool Wood Fiber Acoustic Panels will more than meet your needs. Made from natural wood fibers, these panels not only look good but also help to absorb sound and improve the acoustics of your room with an NRC rating of up to 0.75. We offer the Timberwool panels in 1” or 2” thickness, can paint them to any color, and can cut them to any shape. Or you can paint and cut them yourself just like you would wood!

    Common Uses

    • Offices

    • Schools

    • Music Practice Rooms

    • Convention Centers

    • Restaurants

  • A lightweight, flexible, and eco-friendly acoustic panel option, the EcoVerb Acoustic Panel will really the sound quality of your room by reducing reverb and echo. Depending on your individual needs, you have the choice between the 1” or 2” cotton fiber panels that can be installed in homes, recording studios, conference rooms, and warehouses, among a hundred other uses. EcoVerb is NRC rated at up to 1.15, incredibly cost-effective, and comes in 6 different colors. These panels are easy to install and a great option for those looking for a budget and DIY-friendly option to improve the acoustics of any room.

    Common Uses

    • Offices

    • Gymnasiums

    • Churches

    • Bars

    • Nightclubs

    • Homes

  • Made of 100% polyester, PolyZorbe adds to the sound absorption of a room by reducing unwanted echo and reverb and are NRC rated up to 0.95. These decorative and tack-able acoustic panels can be installed on walls, ceilings, or even hung on the ceiling as sound baffles. They can even be used as high performance absorptive acoustic ceiling tiles. PolyZorbe is easy to install and clean, making them DIY-friendly. Coming in three different colors, these panels are non-allergenic, non-toxic, fungal resistant, with no added chemical irritants or formaldehyde. PolyZorbe acoustic panels are as attractive as fabric wrapped panels, but at a lower cost.

    Common Uses

    • Homes

    • Offices

    • Recording Studios

    • Restaurants

  • Are you looking for DIY-friendly acoustic panels, look no further! CelluZorbe is a cost-effective acoustic material that is highly rated for sound absorption as well as thermal insulation. With an NRC rating of up to 1, the CelluZorbe Cellulose Acoustic Panels can be used on walls and ceilings to improve the sound quality of any room or space. As these panels are with minimal waste and recycled materials, they are also environmentally friendly. Choose from 1” or 2” thickness to match your sound absorption needs, whether it be for a speaker box, home, gym, or even entertainment venue.

    Common Uses

    • DIY Acoustic Panels

    • Hidden Absorption in Restaurants and Bars

    • Thermal or Acoustical Backer

  • Acoustic Pro fabric wrapped panels are our most customizable high end acoustical option. They come in a huge variety of different colors and sizes to fit your needs. We wrap our Acoustic Pro panels in the high-end Anchorage fabric by Guilford of Maine and include Rotofast anchors to install them. If you’re looking for a pampered, high-end experience – look no further than Acoustic Pro. Our Acoustic Pro panels can be used for most acoustical projects, but they are perfect for auditoriums, office spaces, and other venues that want to maintain a professional look while still improving sound absorption.

    Common Uses

    • Conference Rooms

    • Offices

    • Home Theaters

    • Homes

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