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Soundproof Foam and Soundproof Panels

"Soundproof" Foam & Soundproof Panels Explained

"Soundproof" Foam & Soundproof Panels Explained

Our team at Second Skin really prides ourselves on the quality and accuracy of the information we provide. As certified noise nerds we spend the extra time to make sure we are really teaching our customers so that they can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice. Unfortunately there’s a lot of myths, old wives tales, and just flat out misinformation floating out on the internet about how to soundproof things. As if soundproofing wasn’t already hard enough! One common mistake people mistake is confusing “soundproofing” and “acoustics”. There are a ton of people out looking for soundproof foam or soundproof panels, without realizing that those products aren’t meant for soundproofing!  

Covering your room in egg cartons does nothing, many carpets and curtains do not have useful sound qualities, and no you can’t shove styrofoam peanuts into your ear and use them as earplugs. (Ok, we may have made up that last one. Don’t try it.). Thinking about foam or any sound absorbing material as “soundproof” is setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s not how the materials control noise. It’s a sad conversation when we speak to someone who bought a ridiculous amount of foam, and installed it on their wall to try and stop hearing their neighbor’s TV. Before you invest in throwing a bunch of stuff on your wall, let’s stop and make sure we talk about the function of foam, and if it will be useful for your specific situation.

Our team at Second Skin really prides ourselves on the quality and accuracy of the information we provide. As certified noise nerds we spend the extra time to make sure we are really teaching our customers so that they can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice. Unfortunately there’s a lot of myths, old wives tales, and just flat out misinformation floating out on the internet about how to soundproof things. As if soundproofing wasn’t already hard enough! One common mistake people mistake is confusing “soundproofing” and “acoustics”. There are a ton of people out looking for soundproof foam or soundproof panels, without realizing that those products aren’t meant for soundproofing!  

Covering your room in egg cartons does nothing, many carpets and curtains do not have useful sound qualities, and no you can’t shove styrofoam peanuts into your ear and use them as earplugs. (Ok, we may have made up that last one. Don’t try it.). Thinking about foam or any sound absorbing material as “soundproof” is setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s not how the materials control noise. It’s a sad conversation when we speak to someone who bought a ridiculous amount of foam, and installed it on their wall to try and stop hearing their neighbor’s TV. Before you invest in throwing a bunch of stuff on your wall, let’s stop and make sure we talk about the function of foam, and if it will be useful for your specific situation.

Free USA shipping
Free USA shipping

Popular Panels and Foam for Acoustics (not Soundproofing)


PolyZorbe™ Polyester Acoustic Panel
EcoVerb™ Cotton Fiber Acoustic Panel
Mega Zorbe Pro™ Foam Panels

Soundproof Foam Doesn't Exist

When researching soundproofing projects some of the first products you may stumble upon are “soundproof” foam and panels. They are mislabeled, and it can be very misleading. While we do recommend foam and panels in many of our noise control solutions, calling them “soundproofing” products is one way ticket to Disappointment Town, USA. To help you understand, let’s talk about the difference between soundproofing and acoustics.

Soundproofing blocks sound from getting through a barrier

Soundproofing is all about keeping noises in or out of a space. Soundproofing materials are usually heavy and installed to be airtight. You should be considering soundproofing solutions for problems like:

acoustics improve the sound inside a space

When you need to create higher sound quality and improve how well you can hear something or each other, that’s when you should be looking at acoustic solutions. These materials are designed to absorb sound or reduce echo inside of a space. Acoustics helps with things like:

soundproofing vs acoustics
soundproofing vs acoustics

Most of our customers have a mix of these problems and our recommendations include implementing both soundproofing and acoustic materials. So yes, acoustic foam and acoustic panels are excellent products, when used to solve problems they are good to solving. But if you apply the wrong solution to the wrong problem, you’ll end up spending time and money on something that will leave you unhappy.

If You Need Soundproofing... Don't Use Foam

If you decide that blocking noise from getting in or out is your biggest priority, you should focus on soundproofing solutions and not waste time with “soundproof” foam. Start by identifying ‘weak points’ that are allowing sound through. This is usually the areas that aren’t airtight like doors and windows. From there treat large surface areas that you can hear sound moving through as needed like the ceiling, walls, and the floor.

When choosing and installing materials, remember the 3 keys to soundproofing:

Density - Mass blocks sound. The heavier and denser material is, the harder it is for sound to travel through it.

Limpness - This isn’t as obvious but limp materials block sound better than something just as dense but more rigid. Imagine chucking a tennis ball at a concrete wall, where the ball’s energy is quickly redirected back at you. Sound waves are energy too. Instead, imagine throwing a ball at a heavy comforter. It absorbs the energy and displaces it, so the ball rolls slowly back at you. Science!

Airtight - Sound moves like water, finding the weakest point. If there’s a gap, noise will find its way through. Airtight construction is the best way to stop unwanted sound leaks.

For more information on specific soundproofing projects, give us a call or keep go to our section on materials that actually soundproof.

Keys to Soundproofing
Keys to Soundproofing

Use Acoustic Foam or Acoustic Panels for the Right Job

Acoustic material will help you improve the sound quality and speech clarity in any space, and while it can’t block or stop sound, it can reduce the reverberant noise build up inside a space through sound absorption. It’ll also help reduce the overall noise, with the practical maximum being about 10 decibels.

The most commonly used materials for acoustics are acoustic foam and acoustic panels (notice how we didn’t say soundproofing). These products are measured by an NRC rating which uses a 0 to 1 scale to rate how well a material can absorb sound. A material’s sound absorption coefficients at 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz are averaged and then rounded to the nearest multiple of 0.05. An open window has an NRC of 1 because 0% of the sound reflects back into the room, while a brick wall has an NRC of .05 because it absorbs virtually no sound.

Acoustic foam is very good for absorbing high frequency noise. Thicker sound absorbing material will start performing better in the mid-frequencies, but most foams are very poor at low frequencies. Some foams can be very cheap, but just like most things in life… you tend to get what you pay for. Mega Zorbe Pro hydrophobic melamine foam has some pretty awesome sound and thermal properties, such as higher NRC ratings per thickness and being class A fire rated.

We like to use foam in situations where the sound frequencies are high, aesthetics don’t matter, and the foam is not going to be subject to any wear and tear. Acoustic foam is commonly associated with recording studios, but that’s partly because people respect the walls of a studio! You don’t have any mail carts bumping the foam or children picking at it. We also like to use foam in vehicles, either behind plastic panels or above the headliner. Note that not all foam is Class A fire rated, so be sure to check that you are meeting code in your space.

Acoustic panels are what you are more likely to see when you actually begin to research acoustic products. They work well at both low and high frequencies and have a high NRC sound rating. Although panels are more expensive they are also more durable and easier to clean. Most panels are also Class A fire rated. Acoustic Pro fabric wrapped panels use designer selected fabrics, ensuring they look great in any room. The Acoustic Pro panels come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and can even be custom designed.

Here’s a rundown of our favorite acoustic panel, Acoustic Pro Anchorage Fabric Panels, and our favorite acoustic foam, Mega Zorbe:

Table of Acoustic Pro sabins
acoustic pro sound absorbing panel
Mega Zorbe Hydrophobic Melamine Foam
Table of Mega Zorbe sabins
Acoustic Pro Fabric Wrapped Panels
Table of Acoustic Pro sabins
Mega Zorbe Hydrophobic Melamine Foam
Table of Mega Zorbe sabins

Effective soundproofing and acoustics all comes down to using the right tool for the job. Hopefully we’ve helped you avoid some common soundproofing pitfalls and mistakes. We do our best to simplify sound problems for our customers, but even we’ll admit that it can get complicated. If you have questions about your specific soundproofing project, give us a call and we can walk you through personalized solutions based on your needs.

BlocknZorbe is Actually a Soundproof Panel

All that time talking about how acoustical panels don't soundproof... and here we have one that does! That's right. BlocknZorbe is one of the few exceptions to the rule, because it both blocks and absorbs sound. Cover a wall 100% of the way and it'll beef up that wall while also absorbing sound instead of reflecting it. Looking for panels to reduce gym noise, BlockNZorbe is a great option. If you live in an apartment and want to soundproof a wall with construction, BlocknZorbe is one of the few effective options.

  • One of the few acoustical materials with both an STC and NRC rating
  • Lightweight and easy to clean
  • Water resistant, impact resistance, and tackable
  • Charcoal and white color options
  • Easy to screw in to wood or drywall

Have questions about your project?

Call us at 1.800.679.8511