How Acoustical Foam Improves Soundproofing

Acoustical Foam is Ideal for Music Rooms and Home Theaters

By Mark J. Donovan

If your house design includes a home theater or music room you may want to consider including acoustical foam in your plans. Acoustical foam improves sound quality and provides some level of soundproofing. Likewise it helps to prevent unwanted sounds from entering the room.

The only cost effective way to soundproof a room, at least from an area standpoint, is to install objects with mass in or on the walls and ceilings. Sound absorbing objects, such as acoustical foam panels, cutoff and dampen the transmission of sound waves both entering and exiting the room.

Common alternatives to using acoustical foam include the construction of secondary walls to create air spaces, and the use of heavy curtains and fabrics mounted on the walls and ceilings. Also there are acoustical blankets that can be mounted on the walls to accomplish the same effect.

The chief purpose of acoustical foam is to enhance the quality of sound within a musical studio room or home theater. It works best in absorbing high and mid frequency sound waves. The absorption of lower frequency sound waves is more difficult to accomplish with acoustical foam. As a matter of fact acoustical foam is partially rated based on how low of a frequency it can absorb. Thickness is another major rating factor associated with acoustic foam. The thicker the acoustic foam, the wider range of frequencies that it can absorb.

Typically acoustical foam comes in thickness from 1 to 4 inches. The thicker the foam, the better it is at absorbing lower frequency sound waves, however the higher the price. Also, the higher the fire safety rating, the higher the price.

The acoustical foam is normally attached to a wood frame of various dimensions to create acoustical panels. The panels are then mounted up near the walls and ceiling. Generally they are spaced a couple of inches away from the walls and ceilings to help increase sound absorption.

Acoustical foam can be constructed out of a number of materials, however the most common acoustical foam types are manufactured out of fiberglass, polyurethane and melamine and are porous. It is the porousness that helps them make effective soundproofing material.

Compressed fiberglass is most commonly used and it has a fire safety rating of Class 1, and thus commands a higher price.

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The commercial compressed fiberglass products also include sand embedded into the fibers making it the highest in fire safety. Polyurethane acoustical foam, on the other hand, has a lower safety rating, Class 3, and thus is the least expensive type of acoustic foam. If you plan to use polyurethane acoustic foam it is important to make sure there is multiple ingress/egress from the room due to the higher fire concern.

Melamine is a ceramic based product and is used in Class 1 ceiling tiles. It has high sound absorption properties and is ideal for soundproofing. It is a very pliable material and can be worked into many types of applications. It is, however, much more expensive than polyurethane.

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